Some of you might be wondering how you can visit London on a budget. From living in London for over 10 years, I have gained a lot of expertise on this! Here’s a list of tips to help save a few pennies during your trip to London.
1. Walk where you can
I know this sounds like a stupidly easy one to put on the list but London is such a walkable city that spending money on travel could be a waste. Yes, of course, if you are heading from one side of the city to the other you’ll need to get some form of transport but if you’re staying central you’re probably better off walking. What I love about walking in London is that every corner you turn there is another beautiful building to see, a food market to smell or a very talented busker to hear – it’s an experience you just don’t get when you’re stuck on public transport. TFL have this very helpful walking map which shows you which stations are quicker to walk between rather than getting the tube.
If you’re coming to London just to see one or two sights then the London Pass isn’t for you! However, if you’re wanting to see all the iconic sights and keep yourself super busy then the London Pass is for you. If you haven’t heard of it before, The London Pass is a sightseeing credit card which gives you entry to London’s top attractions for one set price and can potentially save you a lot of money.
3. Seek out cheap theatre tickets
London is famous for its theatre scene however tickets can be quite expensive. Day seats are approximately 6-10 seats in the theatre that the show holds off to sell at a reduced rate. What’s the catch? Well, these seats are only available at the theatre box office on the day of the performance you want to see. The box offices usually open at 10 am but I’d recommend getting there early to secure your place in line and your ticket. Check out this blog for more information on theatre tickets.
4. Find the cheap eats
In my opinion, London if the food capital of the world. If you’re visiting London you’ll want to try out all the good food it has to offer but at the same time not spend ridiculous amounts of money. Lucky for you London has some brilliant cheap eats. Here are some great suggestions. It’s worth noting that London is still quite expensive compared to other parts of the world so bear that in mind when considering your budget.
5. Take advantage of the Free Stuff to do
There’s so much free stuff to do in London that you really don’t need the biggest budget to have a good time. You’ll find loads of suggestions on my list of 100 free things to do in London.
6. Use OpenTable or Bookatable
I imagine you’ll want to eat out a few times whilst you’re in London. If you do but haven’t got the biggest budget check out Opentable or Bookatable. They are both a restaurant reservation apps who do offers and set menus at a reduced rate to a usual menu. Worth checking them out before you head out to eat to see what they have to offer.
There’s a bit of a catch to this one because Airbnb can be very expensive – that’s if you look for entire houses. If you’re really on a tight budget there is the option to stay in a room in someone’s house and it can be a lot cheaper. If you think about it, when you’re on holiday you’re actually not in the hotel very much anyway & mostly only there to sleep.
8. Take advantage of happy hour
Alcoholic drinks in London are expensive. Happy hour takes place in lots of pubs and bars across London and between certain hours of the day they offer drinks at a discounted price.
10. Use the bus as your sightseeing tour
Instead of buying an expensive open-top bus tour ticket use the regular bus as own personal tour guide. TFL have designed this brilliant key bus route map which shows which bus routes go past all the iconic sights such as Big Ben, Downing Street and The Royal Courts of Justice.
11. Make a plan & do your research
Before going on a trip I always research what I want to do, see and eat and then make a plan accordingly. One of the reasons I do this is so I see everything I want to see during my trip. Another reason is so I only spend on the things that I consider worth it. Think about it – what if you walked straight out of the hotel, found a random breakfast place and spend £15 on something not great when you could’ve done a bit of research beforehand and found the cafe around the corner that was a lot better and a lot cheaper. I’m not saying you have to plan every second of every day but just have an idea. My blog on how to plan your trip in 4 easy steps should help!
12. Don’t take a taxi. Use public transport.
Taxis can get very expensive very quickly. Not to mention you will probably be stuck in London traffic for a long time. Don’t spend £10 on one single journey when you can buy an unlimited travel card for just under £8.
13. Don’t eat at ‘tourist’ places
Eating in London’s more ‘iconic’ locations are usually highly inflated in price and in my opinion not worth the money! Instead, you could go to a more interesting and independent location and get much higher quality for less money! I’ve got some great suggestions here.
14. Get the right travel ticket
Imagine it’s your first day of sightseeing. You get up and want to head straight to Buckingham Palace. How do you get there? You could buy a single ticket from the machine for £4.90 or instead you can buy a travel card which gives you whole days unlimited travel for £8. Another option would be to use an Oyster or contactless payment card which acts the same as an Oyster Card. Check my guide to London transport for more info.
15. Avoid peak travel times
London has peak and off-peak travel times which means certain times of the day are a lot cheaper than others to travel. Peak time is anytime before 9:30 am and between 4 pm and 7 pm. Avoid these if you are using your card as pay as you go. If you’re using a travelcard this won’t affect you or if you’re travelling within zone one.
16. FIND SNEAKY WAYS AROUND THINGS
Rather than pay for an activity like The View from The Shard experience, instead, visit Aqua Shard . Aqua Shard is the bar a few floors down from the official viewing gallery. The bar is free to visit and you can see the view and buy a drink for the same price (if not cheaper) then The View From The Shard experience. Alternatively, you could visit the Sky Garden which has just as good views but its free!
17. ADD A RAILCARD TO YOUR OYSTER CARD
If you’re a student, a family, an OAP or a 25-30-year-old you can buy a railcard that you can attach to your Oyster card/Travelcard that will give you approx a 1/3 off your fare.
18. BRING YOUR OWN COFFEE MUG
Most coffee shops in London will offer around a 20p discount on your coffee if you bring your own coffee travel mug.
19. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EARLY BIRD OR PRE-THEATRE MENUS
Many restaurants in London offer a cheaper version of their menu if you can get there a bit earlier/later. When I say earlier, that’s usually anytime between 5 – 6:30 pm or 9 pm – 10.30 pm. Also, some restaurants offer what they call a pre-theatre menu (usually 2 or 3 courses) for a cheaper price than if you bought from their regular menu, again if you eat at a certain time. Remember, you don’t have to be going to the theatre to buy from the pre-theatre menu.
20. EAT LEFTOVER’S FROM TOGOODTOGO
ToGoodToGo gathers leftover food from different food establishments around London and sells it through their app at a knockdown price. The words ‘leftovers’ doesn’t sound too appealing but what they mean by that is when places have made too many sandwiches or boxes of sushi or baked too many doughnuts that can’t be eaten the next day, they give them away at a discounted price so they don’t go to waste. All you have to do is download the app and be ready to collect from the store when things become available. Isn’t that a great concept? You’ll be helping your wallet and also doing your bit for the food waste and the environment.
21. USE FIRST TABLE
First Table seems too good to be true, but it’s not! The idea is you book the ‘first table’ of the day/night and you get 50% off your food bill. It costs £5 for the privilege of signing up, but what’s a fiver when you could potentially save a lot of money. There are so many good restaurants available too and the process is very simple.
22. See AMAZING VIEWS OF London for FREE!
Who doesn’t love a good city view? The London skyline is so beautiful, but £30 for a ticket to the London Eye? £25 for a ticket to The Top of The Shard? I don’t think so. I will admit, I went on the London Eye with my parents when they came to visit, and while it was nice, there are other views in London that I have enjoyed much more that are significantly cheaper! Or even free! Check out my list of Best FREE views of London.
23. Find FREE Walking Tours
Free Tours By Foot is a pay-what-you-can tour that operates in tons of cities around the US and Europe (so great if you’re travelling elsewhere too!). They have so many tour options and you can book a spot on their website for free! Once the tour is over, you have the option to pay, in cash, what you believe the tour to be worth.