Those who know me well know that London is one of my favorite cities. Although it is not cheap (and the exchange rate to the US dollar doesn’t help), knowing a few tricks can help save some pence:
- Ride the tube and busses. It may seem daunting at first, but I promise that it is the best (and cheapest) way to travel. You can get weekly rates with an Oyster Card that will save you much more money than buying one-way passes or even daily passes for the tube (London’s subway). They’re also good on busses! There are machines in the stations where you can buy passes or top-up a card you already have. If you’re going to be staying for more than a week, I’d go up to a service window and ask for a pass for the specific time you’re staying.
- If you’re planning to go sightseeing, get the London Pass. If you do this option, you won’t necessarily need to buy an oyster card– you can choose to add it on with the pass for the number of days you’ll be sightseeing. You can buy the passes for 1, 2, 3, 6, or 10 days and the price varies from £62-188.20 for adults. It seems like a lot of money to spend upfront, but each admission can cost at least £15-50, so the savings will add up quickly. Check out the list of attractions on their site to best decide how many days you’ll want to to sightsee. Some of them are just outside of the city, so keep that in mind when you’re planning your days– you might not be able to see as much as you want in a day when you include the travel time.
- You all know how much I love hostels. If you’re up for spending the night with strangers and saving money, there is no other option. Staying in the city is so expensive, with hotels ranging from $150-400+ a night. In a hostel, you can snag a bed for a fraction of that. Most hostels have options for private rooms, which are obviously more expensive than a bed in a room with 15 other people, but still can save you a lot of money. There are hostels all over the city, but I have only stayed in The Dictionary (multiple times) because it gives good vibes and I like the area. If you book directly on their website, use the code “Dictionary” to save £2 off a night. If you’re still not convinced that hostels are for you, check out my post on why I love them so much here: A Beginner’s Guide to Hostels.
- Eat as much street food as possible. London is fuuuull of great markets, food trucks, and street shops, so if you’re visiting on a budget, skip the expensive (though equally delicious) restaurants and see what you can find on the street. Not literally on the street because that’s disgusting. One of my favorite markets to visit on Sunday mornings is the Brick Lane Market. Brick Lane is known for its curry restaurants and eccentric street art, and on Sunday, the streets are filled with carts of food from all over the world. The food is relatively cheap, so you can binge and try all types of food and not feel like you’ve made a dent in what you have budgeted for food.
- If you’re taking trips outside of the city to any neighboring towns, check to see if you can travel by bus instead of train. Although they take a little bit longer, you’ll often save enough to make it worth it. I have gone as far as Edinburgh, Scotland on a bus and although that was a looooong trip, I went overnight and saved a lot of money on both the fare and a room. I have also traveled by bus to Oxford, Brighton, and Dublin (well, bus & ferry) using National Express and Megabus. London’s main station is Victoria Coach Station, which is a quick walk from the Victoria tube stop.
- If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll definitely need to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour just outside of the city to see the props used in the movie and try butterbeer, but there are also plenty of locations in the city of London where scenes were filmed. Download an offline map of London if you’re not using data abroad and do a self-guided Harry Potter tour. You can pay to go on them as well, but save yourself some cash and go alone– you’ll avoid having to wait for other people to take pictures at the locations!
- There are walking tours all over the city, including the Jack the Ripper tour and Ghost Walk for £10-12.50 per person. There are also plenty of free walking tours to choose from, which you can find by doing a quick search online. If you’re going to be sightseeing using the pass above, I’d suggest doing a ghost or Jack the Ripper tour, a street art tour, or the Camden tour– they’ll take you to places in the city that aren’t quite as touristy.
An overall rule for spending less is to stay outside of the central areas of the city. In London’s case, there is plenty to offer outside of central London. Do some research to design a trip that is exactly what you want it to be and follow the tips for saving money above, and you’re set to have a great trip to the United Kingdom!