London was recently confirmed in a study by expatistan.com as the world’s most expensive city to live and travel in. Cue this sound of the UK’s capital being scratched off the itineraries of all but the most extravagant of travellers… but with a little local knowledge, it is very possible to have a great time in Europe’s liveliest city without breaking the bank.
Moving around the City
One of the biggest expenses for tourists in London is transport; the city is huge, and its many sights often require long treks by bus and tube. However, ticket prices can be cut by 50% when you get a pay as you go oyster card. These blue cards can be obtained from all tube stations for a refundable £5 deposit, and will save the thrift traveller a fortune.
Cost of Accommodation
Accommodation is also a big wallet-breaker; hotels in London charge a premium for the unexceptional, with service often straight out of Fawlty Towers, with prices from the Ritz! To avoid a rip-off, look to rental websites like airbnb.co.uk; even if you’re only in town for a short while, renting an apartment is often much cheaper than getting a hotel room – prices in central London start from as little as £50 a night.
Any visitor to London will want to sample the city’s unique and celebrated food scene. Quite simply, there is nowhere else on the planet with such a variety of cuisines and styles: you can be eating Ethiopian doro wat in a cool Shoreditch café one night, and French haute cuisine in a glamorous restaurant the next. To make the most of this opportunity, take advantage of the many online deals to cut the cost of your restaurant bill. Every day restaurants across the capital release vouchers online, on sites like moneysavingexpert.com, which can give you as much as 50% off your bill. My personal favourite is toptable.co.uk, which gives huge discounts at some of London’s most fashionable and exciting restaurants. With all these offers, it’s well worth doing a little research before sitting down to eat, and definitely avoid the big chain restaurants around Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus – these are prime tourist traps, which will empty your wallet, but not fill your stomach.
Only in need of a snack?
Another way of saving money on food is to use the big British supermarkets for snacks and drinks – prices in Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s are rock-bottom – this is where Londoners themselves do their shopping.
One of the great joys of London is its world class collection of museums and galleries; in one day you can see the famous Rosetta stone at the British Museum, magnificent Rembrandts at the National Gallery, and awe-inspiring dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. Amazingly, entry to all these attractions is absolutely free; visitors can experience some of the world’s greatest sights without having to open their wallets.
On a summer’s day, a great way to enjoy the rare London sunshine is to head to one of the many large parks that surround central London. While formal St James’s Park is popular for its beautiful fountains and genteel cafés, a lesser-known alternative is Hampstead Heath; this huge wild space is popular with Londoners looking for a bit of the countryside in the city, and the views across town are truly spectacular.
London may be pricey, but you can still visit this great city without completely emptying your wallet by following these tips!
Alex Bradnum works on behalf of Home From Home Management who specialise in vacation rental apartments in and around London. Alex is passionate about all things travel related, he often reads writes and shares about anything to do with travel.