Historic, rainy, beautiful, and dynamic — London is many things, but people don’t often think of it as cheap. So, you’ll be happy to know that there are a few ways to save money while still enjoying a capital experience during your next trip to London.
Here are a handful of ideas for budget-conscious travelers.
See the sights
There’s no better way to explore London than via walking tour. The city is massive, so you might want to limit yourself to a specific neighborhood. That way, you can easily see several sights in a single afternoon. If you need inspiration on where to go, check out our favorite Instagram spots around the city, then grab your camera and don a comfortable pair of shoes.
If you’re a museum lover, you’re in for a treat. London is home to many incredible options, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, Tate Modern, the National Gallery, the Wallace Collection, and Tate Britain. Better yet, all the museums we just listed (and many more) are free — so, a trip to London might be the least expensive way to get up-close-and-personal with artwork and artifacts from around the world.
There are also beautiful green spaces scattered throughout the city, which makes a lot of sense when you think about the amount of rain that falls on its ground. Explore Kensington Gardens to check out beautiful landscaping, views of Kensington Palace, and a Peter Pan-themed playground. For a laidback afternoon, rent a lawn chair in Hyde Park, Green Park, or St. James’s Park (where you can also watch visitors feed the park’s iconic pelicans). Just remember to cross the street and take a look at Buckingham Palace on your way out of Green Park or St. James’s Park.
And, of course, London is famous for its shopping. Visit Columbia Road to explore one of the largest flower markets in the world — the heavenly fragrances are free, and a bouquet only costs a few pounds. You could also browse antiques at Portobello Road Market, located just around the corner from picturesque Notting Hill.
Catch a show
London’s impressive theatre tradition dates back several hundred years, so you’ll want to see a show when visiting the British capital. Luckily, there are several inexpensive ways to find tickets!
First, try visiting the TKTS booth in Leicester Square for last-minute discounts on popular West End shows. You can only purchase these tickets in person, so keep in mind that while the “queue” can get long, it usually moves quickly.
For an authentic 16th-century experience, invest in a standing-room ticket for a Shakespearean play at the Globe Theatre. These tickets cost only five pounds each, but you’ll have to pay more if you want a seat!
Finally, if you have a London Pass (which combines admission to many famous London attractions into one, three-day ticket), you’re eligible for up to 40 percent off on West End tickets.
Eat your heart out
You can find nearly every type of cuisine in London. And with a huge array of delicious international options in the city, many of them come fairly cheap!
Bao is famous for selling steamed Taiwanese buns that cost less than five pounds, so your lunch won’t have to set you back very far at all! If you’re in the mood for burritos, try Daddy Donkey. Or, if only Indian food will satisfy your appetite, check out the Delhi Grill for their mouth-watering street food.
You can also eat your fill at the city’s many markets. There are hundreds of stalls and restaurants at Camden Lock Market, but Borough Market is the true destination for foodies and hungry travelers. There, you can chow down on food from around the world, and even purchase a few groceries while you’re at it.
Another tip is to keep a sharp eye out for restaurants you’d like to try when walking around the neighborhood you’re staying in. Many of them have menus taped to their windows, making it easy to scope out cheap eats.
Speaking of where to stay — accommodation is usually the first detail you figure out when it comes to planning a trip, and if you’re looking for an unbeatable price at a good location in London, you’ll want to start looking as soon as possible.
Hotels.london is a great place to start your search. You can filter hotels by price, rating, facilities, neighborhood, and even cancellation policy, making it easy to customize your booking. Other options include staying in a hostel, a bed-and-breakfast, or an Airbnb. Couchsurfing is also a valid option — who knows, you might end up staying in a neurosurgeon’s 30th-floor spare bedroom!
No matter where you stay, be sure to weigh the price against the distance from London’s city center. It’s great to save money by staying farther away, but you’ll have to spend more time and money going into the city each day.
And, finally, accommodation will almost always cost more for solo travelers, so keep that in mind as you book. The only exception to this is booking a single bed in the dorm room of a hostel.
London has an extensive public transportation system, making it fairly easy to navigate your way around the city. However, there’s a dizzying amount of ticket options, so you’ll want to make sure that you purchase the right one!
The Visitor Oyster card is your best bet. While the reloadable card costs five pounds, the return on investment is huge — you’ll save 50 percent on single fares. What’s more, your daily spending will cap, so you’ll never spend more than seven pounds per day, no matter how many trips you make across central London. Note that London’s public transportation system doesn’t accept cash, so you’ll have to buy an Oyster card no matter what!
You can purchase an Oyster card online, or you can pick one up at any train station in the city.
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Cover photo by @shadz_ig