Doing London on a Budget

As a Londoner I have had to learn the best ways to save money in this expensive city. So whether you’ve just moved to London or are travelling here for a visit, here are my top tips for saving some money!

1. Meal Deals

We have some brilliant restaurants here but on a budget you can get a great lunch at many of the supermarkets and shops around that offer combo meal deals for around £3.25 (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Boots, and Superdrug to name a few). These stores are everywhere and usually offer you a broad choice of drinks, sandwich/ wrap/ pasta/ salad and a snack such as crisps, chocolate bars or dried fruit. It’s a great way to eat on the go and save some money.

2. Don’t overuse public transport

If you are visiting London and staying in a hostel or hotel, it is likely you will be situated pretty close to the city centre, where most of the attractions are within walking distance of each other. Buses are confusing and the underground can be expensive so plan your day to make use of public transport sparingly. For example, Leicester Square (M&M World) is only about a ten minute walk from Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. There are signs and people will point you in the right direction if you ask, but it’s best to have a map (the tube map works if you know the station of your attraction) or gps system at hand so you don’t risk getting lost.

3. Spend time in the museums

Unlike many other major cities, most of London’s art galleries and museums are completely free to enter. They are very varied but always interesting and worth spending a day or two in. The best museums can be found in South Kensington (SW on the Piccadilly, District or Circle line). If you’re in to fashion check out the V&A museum, the Natural History museum for biology and animals, or the Science museum which is very large and filled with all kinds of scientific exhibitions. The National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery (Charing Cross on the Bakerloo or Northern line) have the best selection of historical artworks. The Tate Modern (Southwark on the Jubilee line) has the best selection of modern artworks. Just make sure you avoid the expensive cafés and gift shops!

4. Be selective with the big Merlin attractions

This covers the London Eye, the London Dungeons, the London Aquarium and Madame Tussauds. An individual entry ticket to any one of those can cost around £30, and although they offer combo prices, savings are not massive. So if you’re intending to visit these, look for two for one deals, the hotel you stay at may have something available, or book online before you go which will save you some money. Personally, I would recommend The London Eye as the unmissable one, since the aquarium is small, and the dungeons and Madame Tussauds are attractions available in other cities. If you’re buying your ticket on the day be prepared to queue as it can get busy during summer, but all of the attractions are impressive and enjoyable. Having done them all, I would rank them from best to last: the Dungeons, Madame Tussauds, The London Eye and the Aquarium, but it of course depends on your group and the attractions that most appeal to you.

5. Don’t buy the Hotel’s WiFi if it’s not free

This may be an obvious one, but there are many cafes (Costa, Caffe Nero, Starbucks etc.) that offer free WiFi, which allow you to stay in there as long as you wish, which is good enough if you don’t need constant access to the internet.

6. Stick to cheaper areas when buying

As a rule Knightsbridge (the home of Harrods) and the surrounding area (South West London) are expensive places; the stores and cafes there will charge you a lot more than those in East London, and even parts of central London; Oxford Circus and Chinatown can be surprisingly cheap places to buy and spend time in. Just brace yourself for the crowds!

7. Spend some time in the parks

London’s parks are beautiful and plentiful, Hyde Park, St. James’ park (next to Buckingham Palace) and Greenwich Park are my favourites; they are peaceful places to relax in, usually with a great view of the surrounding attractions.

8. If you need the toilet/ bathroom, go in to McDonald’s or Starbucks

My last tip, but one I have to share; it’s not worth buying an expensive coffee or meal in a restaurant just to use their facilities when you can walk right in to McDonald’s or Starbucks or even any pub purely to use their free toilets and no one bats an eyelid. Don’t be overly obvious mind, since there may be someone brave enough to call you out on it, but the chances are slim.

And that’s all I have to offer! This is by no means an exhaustive list but hopefully it’s given you some tips you can use. Have a great time in London and make sure you get lots of photos!

2012-06-19 19.17.08


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