London is known to be one of the most captivating cities in the world. With so much interest surrounding the capital city of the UK, it is no surprise that we have seen extreme price hikes in the last decade to make the most out of eager tourists and their open wallets. While it may have a reputation for being an expensive destination, with a little ingenuity and savvy planning, you can experience the best of London on a budget. We have compiled a list of Londoners and tourists alike who know the city inside, and more importantly, how to make the most of the cost-effective and free events the city has on offer.
In this guide, we’ll reveal insider tips and tricks to help you make the most of your visit while keeping your wallet happy.
1. Plan and Research
Planning is the key to a budget-friendly trip to London. As with any holiday or trip you make, you should have a clear impression as to what currency you need, and also how much money will be necessary based on the time you stay there. Start by setting a realistic budget and researching free or discounted attractions and activities. Take advantage of online resources and travel forums to gather information on affordable accommodations, transportation options, and budget-friendly dining establishments. Also, create an itinerary that maximises your time and minimises unnecessary expenses such as transport.
2. Embrace Free Attractions and Museums
London offers an impressive array of free attractions and museums that showcase its rich history and cultural heritage. Visit iconic landmarks such as the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace (admission to the State Rooms is paid, but you can witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony for free), and Westminster Abbey (entry fee for the abbey, but you can admire its stunning exterior for free). Explore world-class museums like the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Tate Modern, all of which offer free entry.
3. Utilise Discounted Tickets and Passes
Make use of discounted tickets and attraction passes to save money during your London adventure. Consider purchasing the London Pass, which grants access to 90+ attractions at a discounted price! Opt for the Visitor Oyster card or contactless payment methods to benefit from reduced fares on public transportation. Keep in mind that most places in London do accept apple pay, however, you should always have cash and a card on you to plan for any disasters. Additionally, check online for discounted tickets and special promotions for popular attractions like the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, and the Tower Bridge Exhibition. Usually, any promotions for these top attractions will be displayed on their websites and social media, so keep on checking for updates in the lead-up for your trip.
4. Explore Neighbourhoods Beyond the Tourist Hotspots
London has a lot more to it than the excessive tourist attractions that are hosted in the city centre. The surrounding towns and various neighbourhoods in London offer a completely different perspective on London. Seeing London’s past tourism is a much more in-depth and culturally awakening experience that is not one to be missed out on. Venture beyond the well-trodden paths of central London and explore neighbourhoods like Camden Town, Brixton, and Shoreditch. These areas offer a wealth of cultural experiences, street art, independent shops, and budget-friendly eateries. Uncover thrifted gems such as short dresses in the vibrant markets of Camden and sample international cuisine at Brixton’s diverse food scene. Take a stroll through the artistic haven of Shoreditch, where you’ll find street art and trendy shops. Keep in mind that some areas can be dangerous for obvious tourists, so visit these areas with people who know them well.
5. Savour Budget-Friendly Food Options
London is home to some of the most renowned street food stalls and bustling communities making delicious meals, catering to all budgets. Opt for affordable dining options such as street food markets like Borough Market, where you can sample a variety of cuisines at reasonable prices. Visit ethnic enclaves like Chinatown and Brick Lane, where you’ll find authentic and affordable eateries. Also, take advantage of the city’s numerous cafes and pubs that offer affordable lunch specials and early bird dinner deals. Even better, you might consider packing your lunch to enjoy one of London’s most scenic gardens such as Hyde Park.
6. Make the Most of Free Walking Tours
Many visitors who tour London don’t realise that there are free walking tours readily available. Several tour companies offer informative and entertaining walks through popular areas like the City of London, Covent Garden, or the East End. Knowledgeable guides will provide insights into the city’s history, culture, and hidden gems. While these tours are technically free, it is customary to tip the guide at the end, based on your satisfaction. You may also create your walking tour, as London is well-connected and easy to get around should you choose to cover most of the ground during one full day of touring. You are sure to get all the sights completed, as well as thousands of steps in one day!
7. Utilise Affordable Transportation Options
London’s comprehensive public transportation system offers a cost-effective way to get around the city. Confide getting an Oyster card or use contactless payment methods to take advantage of discounted fares on buses, underground trains, and the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). On the other hand, you might consider walking or cycling short distances, as many attractions are within a reasonable distance from each other. The city offers rentable bikes and e-bikes for getting around which are especially handy for both tourists and London residents. For a unique perspective of the city, hop on a Thames Clipper riverboat, also referred to as the ‘Uber Boat’, which offers an affordable and scenic mode of transportation.
8. Affordable Accommodation
Affordable accommodation in London can be a tricky part of the trip to tackle. There are some hostels available for students who are travelling to London and are also a good option for tourists. Alternatively, explore home-sharing platforms like Airbnb or consider staying in serviced apartments, which often provide more space and the ability to prepare meals. Set different filters such as the maximum price you wish to pay, how many rooms and what area of London you are looking in to find something that suits your budget faster. You might consider staying slightly outside of London’s main centre hub, as this can be the most expensive area. Find somewhere to stay slightly out of the centre which also has great transport connections.
Visiting London on a budget might seem impossible when looking at the prices, but with a lot of digging and getting the most up-to-date tips from frequent visitors, it is possible to visit London whilst spending as little as possible. By taking advantage of free attractions and discounted tickets, you can experience the best of London without breaking the bank. Embrace affordable dining options, join free walking tours, and utilise the city’s efficient transportation system to make the most of your budget-friendly adventure. London’s captivating history, cultural richness, and vibrant atmosphere await you, ready to be explored without breaking the bank.