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
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.
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
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
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
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
– 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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.