Traveling London on a Budget

Full of culture, history and class, London is at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists. The city is also touted as one of the most expensive cities in the world, but if you take the right precautions, it doesn’t have to be.

Here are my tips on how to do London on a budget!

The Tube

The Oyster Card

The Oyster Card is a quick pass into the public transport system. You can load the card with multiple rides within the zones you’ll be traveling. Depending on how many rides you pre-pay, it can be more than 50 percent cheaper than single ride tickets. The other plus side is that it grants you rides the on the bus and light rail systems as well.

Without this, you can easily spend £15 or more per day on transportation alone.

GoPro London

Find the Free Things

One of the benefits of a city as huge as London is that there are loads of free things to see and do. There are lists and lists of free attractions, museums, spectacles, and what have you—as long as you keep your eyes open.

The Tate Modern, National Gallery, Museum of London, and British Museum are all—you guessed it—free! Wander around the beautiful outdoors at Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, and Hampstead Heath.

The Changing the Guard, a fun and historical event that nobody should leave London without seeing, will cost you nothing.

London Tower Bridge

There are also loads of free events throughout the city. Keep your eyes and ears open for art exhibitions, bookshop readings, and lunchtime concerts—all without a price tag.

And don’t miss East London’s street art scene. While Banksy may be Britain’s most famous street art export, there are also a series of street art pieces situated in locations around East London, including the distinctive mushroom sculptures of Christiaan Nagel.

The Time Out app is a great resource for local events and festivals. Or you can wander aimlessly in the streets of London—there’s always something going on.

London Pubs

Eating on a Budget

Cheap eats are everywhere—be on the lookout for traditional cafés and delis where you can pick up premade sandwiches, as well as food carts.

Dive into English eateries by stopping at Caff, a blue-color diner with simple food. An all-day breakfast costs between £3 and £5; you can get the fried mashed potatoes and cabbage for just £4.

London Borough Market

On a bright and sunny day, buy a handful of fresh groceries from one of the local markets like Borough Market. Fruits, veggies like celery or carrots, wine, cheese, and a bottle of olives make for the perfect picnic in one of the city’s many parks.

My favorite London-inspired styles!

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Big Ben

Get the London Pass

If you’re a museum nut, invest in the London Pass. This tourist card will set you back £79, but it is good for two days and grants you access to 32 attractions and free public transportation.

It includes many of the London highlights, such as Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Britain at War Museum. If you do a lot of indoor sightseeing, individual museum tickets can add up.

London Eye

Save money by getting a London Pass for your first one to two days in the city. If you want to hit the big leagues, you can also do it inexpensively: Buckingham Palace is just £11, the art deco Eltham Palace is £6, and John Keats’ home is £3.

london europe

Airbnb

From the swanky hotels in the West End to nice budget accommodation, London can be quite an expensive city in terms of accommodation costs even at the lower end of the market.

So, hunt on Airbnb for discount accommodation. There are hundreds of flats and shared apartments available; you just have to look around.

Decide where you want to stay, and be aware that it doesn’t always pay to be in the heart of the city—farther off is considerably cheaper, and with your transport card, you can hop on the Tube straight to Piccadilly Circus (or wherever you want to be).

Try to find an apartment with a kitchen and cook at home a few nights—this is a great way to save money.

Airport Transfers

How you get into the city from the airport depends on your budget. You can catch the Tube (aka London Underground) for as little as £5 but you’ll have to deal with your bags.

If you pack light, it’s not a problem—otherwise, you may want to arrange a taxi to meet you upon arrival. Try not to catch one directly from the airport—these are often expensive.

Helpful Tip: If you want a little more comfort, opt for the Heathrow Express, which costs about £22 for the trip. The earlier you book, the cheaper your fare can be!

London Street Art

Free Walking Tours

Take a free walking tour—both Sandemans and Undiscovered London offer free tours of the city. Though the guides are not professional, they are local and are usually enthusiastic students and volunteers who love taking travelers on a trek through their city.

This is a terrific introduction to the highlights in town, and it is often coupled with a few anecdotes and hidden spots from your guides. Remember to tip them afterward!

london phonebooth

Read Next: The Ultimate London Travel Guide

 

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Kiersten Rich
Kiersten Rich is the bikini-obsessed author of award-winning solo female travel and lifestyle blog, The Blonde Abroad, featuring travel tips, fashion, food, festivals and photography from around the world.