7 Tips to Save Money Exploring London

London is notoriously expensive, and I’m sad to admit that since I moved away whenever I go back I’ve turned into one of those ‘How Much?!’ people. I’m pretty sure I won’t be living there again in the future. I’ll definitely be visiting though, possibly monthly (when I’m in the country).

So from 7 years of living in the Big Smoke, and a lifetime of popping in, here are my top 7 tips to save money exploring London.

1. Contactless debit and credit cards are Oyster cards

Don’t bother spending money on Oyster cards or tourist price tube journeys, you can simply swipe your debit or credit card at the gates to get in, and use the same one to get out. Remember that if it’s a foreign card you might get charged more by your card issuer though, bringing up the price, but for anyone with a UK bank account, go ahead. It works on the buses too.

2. Walk overground, rather than tubing underground

London money saving tips

If you’re travelling around the centre of London keep in mind that some of the stations are not actually that far apart. You could definitely save some money by exploring the city on foot, rather than underground. For example, Covent Garden and Leicester Square are less than half a mile apart, and Charing Cross and Embankment are pretty much next to each other. Check out this map of ‘minutes walk’ between stations before you decide to spend money on expensive transport. Having a better understanding of how the city fits together will save you money and time in the future too.

London walking

If you arrive in London in rush hour, or just have loads of stuff, you can store your luggage with Stasher until a more convenient time.

Then you can go back and get it later – knowing it’ll be safe. 

3. Eat in parks

Explore Primrose Hill

If you’re on a real budget buy from supermarket chains like Tesco etc, although keep in mind that long term they’re ruining the economy for small businesses right now. A better suggestion is to grab some lunch from a chain free lunch place you happen to see and enjoying the great outdoors in one of London’s many parks and outdoor spaces. If you do eat inside remember that you will be charged more, thanks to David Cameron’s ‘Pasty Tax’.

4. Book attractions before you arrive

Exploring Camden

Attraction companies like the London Pass mean you can pay upfront for your activities and so you know exactly how much you’ll spend – you can see my breakdown of whether I thought the London Pass was worth it here. Websites like lastminute.com offer cheaper West End Shows and similar entertainment, and if you book in advance you’ll get it even cheaper. Booking on the day is pretty much the most expensive way to do it.

5. Avoid tourist central

Money saving tips for London

You can save yourself a few pennies on food by getting out of the centre. You can also save money by looking on discount sites but that will usually mean you going to some sort of chain restaurant, rather than just seeing what takes your fancy. It can be worth it, but I’d suggest going for a curry on Brick Lane, it’s the cheapest, most delicious way to eat in the capital, and you can bring your own booze, which saves even more.

6. Go to Sam Smith pubs

Sam Smith pubs

– Not actually a Sam Smith pub, it’s the only pub photo I have

If you’re looking for a pint in the Big Smoke find yourself a Sam Smith pub – nothing to do with the pop star – it’s a local brewery that serves the beer for a lot less than the big chains. You’ll also have a more interesting experience as many of them are in olde style pubs that have retained their pubby character rather than selling out to the hipsters and bankers.


TIP: Look for other voucher codes on dealsdaddy to help save even more. 


7. Accommodation

If you’re footloose and fancy free – I like that phrase even though I sound like an old dear – then London has some excellent hostels. I’d recommend either the SoHostel in Soho, Wombats in Limehouse, or YHA just off Oxford Street.

If you’re not a hostel kind of person then I’d recommend you get your hotel reservation in asap, if you want to save money on your accommodation. London hotels are notoriously expensive, and if you want somewhere a bit decent near the centre then I’d say you were looking at at least £100 per night. You could also try sites like AirBnB too.

I hope all that helps to make your London holiday dreams a bit more achievable. 

London has a reputation for being one of the world’s more expensive cities that doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t enjoy a cheap trip to London – it really is possible. Here you’ll find ten of the UK capital’s best free things to do, so you have no excuse not to visit!

10 FREE Things to Do in London 

British Museum

Not only is this museum free, but this is one of the city’s top attractions. There is something on display here from just about every civilisation that ever walked on Planet Earth and you could easily spend an afternoon here. With many interactive features, the kids will be fascinated too!

Hyde Park

The grassy parks of Hyde Park are the best place to be on a warm summer’s day. Stroll the beautiful park for free and even prepare a picnic to take with you. It’s really incredible how such a large green space has not yet been turned into houses and car parks, so make sure you make the most of it.

Changing of the Guard

You simply have to see this military tradition during your London stay. Just behind the gates of BuckinghamPalace you will see the Queen’s Guard change every day at 11.30pm during the summer (and every second day during winter). Start your day off by heading over to the Palace to take in the spectacle.

Changing of the Guard

Markets

London is home to several top markets, all of which are worth a visit to soak up the atmosphere. At the top of most people’s lists you’ll find Camden Market, with Greenwich and Portobello markets also rated highly by locals and tourists alike.

Science Museum

The ScienceMuseum will appeal to everyone, with kids entertained by the colourful and interesting exhibitions and talks, while adults will appreciate the rarity of some of the artefacts on show. Adults can even enjoy a night at the museum without children every last Wednesday of the month, where special talks are given just for adults.

Platform 9 ¾

Any Harry Potter fan will know of the famous platform from the movies and you can actually check it out for yourself at Kings Cross station. Well, the spot where it would be is marked by a sign – it’s up to you whether or not you want to find out if you can really go through to it!

Natural History Museum

Nothing says London like a diplodocus dinosaur! Well, maybe not. But this museum is packed full of interesting creatures that would be worth a visit in any city in the world. The dinosaur skeletons at the entrance are phenomenal and the history you’ll learn further in make this a great and interesting day out.

Natural History Museum

Photo at Abbey Road

Getting your picture taken at the zebra crossing on Abbey Road with three friends is one of those free things in London that every fan of The Beatles has to do. You can recreate the iconic album cover yourself and get that photo that you’ll almost certainly put straight on Facebook.

Stadium crawl

For fans of football, London is one place where you can check out several magnificent stadiums in one day! While you’d have to pay to get inside and see a match (sometime’s at ridiculous prices…) you can still see the outside of the stadiums and even set yourself the challenge of getting around the city to see the stadiums of the six London Premier League clubs as well as Wembley, Twickenham and the Olympic Stadium.

Street performers

No matter where you go in London you’ll find street performers out in force. From jugglers to guitarists to people swallowing fire, London is ready to entertain you. Try Covent Garden for a spot full of performers or even any tube station with more than one line. This is another free thing to do in the city, although it’s always nice to give a little change if you’re left impressed!

Free things to do in London

So there you have it, there are plenty of free things to do in London and these 10 are just the tip of the iceberg – you’ll come across much more during your time in the city. And if looking to save money on your accommodation, then book yourself into one of the cheap London hotels available in the city.

How to find a hotel in London

If you’re planning a trip to London anytime soon chances are you’re on the hunt for some top quality accommodation, at a great price.

There are a few things you need to take into account though, before you commit to booking anything to ensure you find the best hotel in London for your needs.

Finding Hotels in London

What does ‘best’ mean to you?

For me it’s being as cheap as possible, with my own bathroom (now that I’m getting old) and close to where I want to be. You need to define what ‘best’ means to your requirements before we go any further. Have your list and be prepared to compromise.

Set yourself a budget, and question it

Work out what you can afford, and then how much time you’ll spend there. If you’re in the Big Smoke to party there’s no need to fork loads of money out on a swish hotel. If you want somewhere lush to relax after sightseeing it might be worth splashing a little extra cash for a room with a view that you can enjoy. Don’t look too far above your budget as you’ll only set yourself up for a fall, but take a look a bit cheaper, you never know what diamonds in the rough you’ll come across on Hotel Direct.

Open your mind

Do you really need to stay in a plush hotel right next to the attractions or will a cheapie one do just outside the central location you want? Buses are only £1.30 a trip with an Oyster and once you’re actually on the London Underground all trips are priced by zone with a few pence difference.

You can also save money by sharing facilities. Sharing things like bathrooms and self catering facilities in hotels can save you money on your hotel costs, and your food.

Check the location

Why are you coming to London? If you’re here for the bright lights of Oxford Street and Leicester Square you’ll want to be near the centre. Anyone wanting the crazy and unique Camden markets will want a fun pad near Chalk Farm, and if you’re here for some gig at Wembley or the O2 you’ll be needing some nearby accommodation. Get it wrong with those two and you’re looking at a 10 mile trip cross the city. Expensive, and not fun.

It may sound obvious, but London is a big place. If you’re only here for the weekend it could be worth paying that little bit extra to be near your number one destination, but for a long trip it could be worth staying away from the most popular areas. You never know what you’ll find further out.

Do your research, but not too much

There are lots of websites and companies offering the cheapest hotels in London but it really comes down to luck and research. Knowledge is power when it comes to finding the best hotel prices. Having said that, don’t spend too much time on it. Another idiom for you is that time is money. If you spend five hours looking for a great price you’ve actually just added to the cost. That’s five hours you could have spent enjoying yourself – unless you’re like me of course – I genuinely love looking at hotel prices. True story.

Let me know if you have any more tips in the comments box below!

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17 Comments

  1. by Anwar on December 31, 2015  1:25 am Reply

    You should do a day in the lovely markets in London too ... Starting with Borough, Spitalfields, Whitecross, Camden, portobello road - they're all free and have a charm. Really good way to enjoy London, and experience real London for free ....

    There are loads more markets - but these are the popular ones!!

  2. by Ersie Courea on January 1, 2016  10:09 am Reply

    I like the idea of supporting small businesses when travelling!

  3. by Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren on January 2, 2016  2:01 am Reply

    Between this and all the free museums, I think London can be pretty budget friendly...for a quick trip, haha! Great post, thanks for sharing.

    Happy travels :)

  4. by Claire on January 4, 2016  6:00 pm Reply

    Some great ideas here. Parks are a godsend in the city.

  5. by Maggie on January 5, 2016  11:01 am Reply

    Such a useful blog! I'm glad I stumbled on it while browsing the web.Great tips to explore london and saving money. thanks for sharing such an informative content.

  6. by Keri @ Ladies what travel on January 7, 2016  3:09 pm Reply

    Attractions-wise you can't beat London's big museums - for travellers with kids, you could easily spend a full day exploring either the Natural History Museum or the Science Museum. First went when I was 4 or 5 and still love them now at 37! ;)

    • by Vicky on January 10, 2016  11:41 am Reply

      Still haven't been to either! I need to go on holiday in London and do all these things I was too busy working to explore. That city is neverending!

  7. by alexiajack on January 8, 2016  10:10 am Reply

    Helpful instructions to discover the London and keep tour inexpensive. Cheap Taxi hires service in all over the London for all kind of transfers at 24/7 online.

  8. by London Airports Transfers on November 14, 2017  4:46 pm Reply

    I am planning a budget trip to London this year. I am nervous about staying in a hostel. But that is what I need to do to keep the budget! This post has encouraged me to try it, all the arrangements look cool like food, tourism places, and the décor.

    • by VickyFlipFlop on November 20, 2017  8:54 pm Reply

      Oh that's great to hear :) I'm glad I've inspired you!

  9. by Vouchers Tree on June 8, 2019  7:07 pm Reply

    Enjoyed reading the article above , really explains everything in detail,the article is very interesting and effective.Thank you and good luck for the upcoming articles

  10. by Tim paigee on December 18, 2019  6:41 am Reply

    I really love this beautiful city and wish to travel one day. overall thanks for sharing.

  11. by Mark coblin on December 30, 2019  7:26 am Reply

    London is one of my best. thanks for this great blog.

  12. by Olivia Hartley on January 17, 2020  4:04 pm Reply

    I must say this is one of the best money saving tips article i have ever seen, I really appreciate your work and good luck for you future post.

  13. by lilly daplyn on March 18, 2020  2:42 pm Reply

    Great tips mentioned here! I lived in London move in 2019 and i am totally agreed with the above content.

    • by VickyFlipFlop on April 22, 2020  9:19 am Reply

      Oh that's good. Great that I know I'm on the right lines then!

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