It's no secret that London is an expensive city. From food to sightseeing to shopping and to something as simple as conveyance, London can be pretty heavy on the pockets. However, allow me to break the myth here. Budget travel isn't easy when it comes to London. But... You can travel around London without breaking the bank.
That's right people. Take it from someone who has travelled around London for over 4-5 times. Once solo, once with family and a few other times with friends, I have seen and done London the expensive way and the budget friendly way. All you need is to keep a few things in mind so you know where to save and where to splurge!
1. Be willing to walk. A LOT.
London is a gorgeous city. Yes it is super commercial, but at the same time, it has amazing things to offer to every kind of traveller. Whether you are a tourist, a millennial traveller or a crazy explorer, London is best explored on feet.
London is a well expanded city with tourist attractions well spread across different zones. But it is fairly easier to get around the central attractions on foot. For instance, one can get off at Westminster station and stroll around the Westminster abbey, the Waterloo bridge, the London eye and walk by the river Thames and reach the London Bridge and the tower of London. Sure each of these have underground stations respectively, but the fun lies in walking across the streets of London like it's your home and strolling into contemporary pubs and cafes en route. One can also take on the Camden walking tour, or check out the tiny lanes on the Covent garden walking tour. London has crazy pub crawls to offer for the late night adventurists and some beautiful afternoon tea tours for the leaf lovers.
2. Take free guided city walks - my best budget friendly hack
Awaken the explorer in you. Walk across the city with the numerous free city guided walks. My most favourite ones were getting lost in Notting hill, Covent garden, Portobello road. These awesome people at Strawberry tours give a wide range of free guided walking tours. Its a great way to go easy on the pockets yet see some of the best spots in the city.
3. Stay within the inner boroughs.
Many out there will probably disagree with me. But take it from someone who has stayed in 4 different zones of the city, STAY WITHIN THE INNER BOROUGHS. This not only saves you time, but also saves a whole lot of money on conveyance. Which is why, I recommend staying in or around Hammersmith, Chelsea, earls court, Westminster or Southwark. Also an important point here, pick a stay which has quick underground access. You wouldn't want to run miles to take a train ride or waste your precious London time on transit.
4. Save up on stays.
Instead of hotels, Dutch your money on cosy Airbnb's within the city. Again that depends on who you are traveling with. If it's family, I'd suggest you opt for Airbnb's and if it's a bunch of pals, I'd rely heavily on travellers hostels. London has plenty hostel accommodations both funky and quirky at the same time. I have dedicated an entire article on hostels in London to look out for here!
5. Use local transport.
I cannot emphasise on this more. It's a personal habit. I always, ALWAYS take to the local transport. It gives me the feeling of being a localite in unknown land. It's fascinating really.
When it comes to London, hear me out loud - YOU DO NOT WANT TO TAKE THE CABS. They are an absolute rip-off. I know the feeling of sitting in that black ambassador taxi. But it feels like your wallet is stolen when you have to pay 200 pounds afterward. The London underground gives you easy access to all spots in the city. Even easier and budget friendly way to travel around London is by taking the busses. The oyster card gives you access to each of these. Which brings me to the next point...
6. Use the Oyster card.
One of my most favourite parts of traveling in London is taking the underground. The first time I was in London, I had no clue about the oyster card. A friend lent me his card and asked me to recharge it. An oyster card allows travellers to get a cheaper fare for tickets than buying them at each station. If you have access to the London pass, you can use the oyster card to get around with ease. There is pre-loaded credit in the card which you just have to recharge once it gets over. I found it super cost saving.
F.Y.I - you can also buy a London travel card for durations 1 day/7 days/ 1 month/ 1 year. It covers the underground network, the Local red bus, the railway network in greater London, TFL railway and overgrown railway. I have used this too, and I'd pick this option over the oyster card for my longer durations in the city.
7. THE LONDON PASS!
This was a game changer for me. I used the 3 day London pass for my five-day itinerary with my family as it allowed me to visit more attractions than otherwise. The London pass not only saves time (the really really long queues), it gives you fast track entry and a wide range of options to look out for. The pass includes a whole bunch of free as well as paid sights across the city. It also includes a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. For more details on the inclusions check their page here!
Is the London pass worth your money?
· If you want to see everything in London.
· If you hate long queues outside tourist spots.
· If you want to save upon your 'London time'
· You have a short squeezed in itinerary
· If you don't want to see the obviously crowded tourist spots.
· If you prefer to explore on your own.
· If crowds-like-cattle upset you and you hate going moo.
8. Local markets - indulge in some budget shopping
If you aren't too brand conscious, skip the fancy malls and high-end stores for the cheaper more localised shopping markets. London is known for its authentic local markets. From food to deserts to clothes to souvenirs, they've got them all. Markets on brick lane, Camden, Covent Garden etc. have everything covered from fashion to household stock, fresh food, international food, desert stalls, all at super cheap prices. And guess what, the later you go, the cheaper the bargain.
9. Happy hours.
I don't have to say this, but take full advantage of the happy hours. In London happy hours exist not just with respect to alcohol, but also with food. Some of the bars to offer crazy happy hours in the hub are -
Adam&Eve (Homerton) - 3 pound beers with added food, weekdays! Simons Kings cross (Holloway) - 2.5 pounds for most of the drinks and cheaper wine bottles Sun-Fri 4 to 9pm! Dirty bones (SoHo) - weekdays 3 to 6pm, two bottles of beer @ 6 pound and more! The drunken oyster (St. James park) - daily 4 to 7pm, 9 pound pizza and a drink and more!
10. And finally, know where to eat!
London is super heavy when it comes to food. Even tiny cutesy cafes on the corner of the streets may end up ripping your wallets off. Do some research about where to eat and what cuisines to look forward to. Some of my favourite dishes I go back to London for are - Crepes (we don't get the best ones here in India), Hash browns with cheese and black pepper as well as their Jacket potatoes with red beans and sour cream. the afternoon tea, Toffee pudding are some siders to opt for. And things you absolutely shouldn't miss are a meal in 'Tibits' (pay for how much your plate weighs), Diwana's lunch buffet and so many more options!
For the vegetarian freaks out there (like me), I am adding up a list to the best vegetarian and vegan restaurants to check out in the city soon, because nothing is more important than great food. WATCH OUT!
So this is my awesome list guys. There are quite many ways to run London on a budget, but these are my top 10. Also, always always plan much ahead in time. Chances are you might end up with some great deals. Check out Booking.com for some crazy deals and options on stay.
If you have any more ideas to go budget friendly in London, post your suggestions on the comment section below!
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