No trip to the United Kingdom is complete without visiting its capital London. Whether you’re visiting England for a week, a month or even a year, London will likely be your first or one of the main stops. Here, you can see some of the country’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Buckingham Palace (the home of the Queen of England), Big Ben, and a whole host of other famous attractions in this incredible city. Not only is it a great place to visit in its own right, but it’s also the perfect base for exploring the rest of the British Isles. However, there’s a catch.
With a long list of interesting things to do, London is one of the world’s most visited but also most expensive cities, and it can be eye-wateringly expensive when planning a visit here. But it doesn’t have to be! In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how to visit London on a budget.
Hopefully, these money-saving tips will make it easier for you to plan your trip and really make the most of the British capital! There are also lots of affordable vacation rentals in London which will be mentioned below for you to relax after every adventure on your vacation.
Oyster Card/Tap on Tap off Source
The London Underground has been running since the mid-19th century and it’s one of the oldest and most reliable public transport systems in the world. And aboveground, you’ve got those iconic red buses! Both of these are excellent ways to get around the city and see all the attractions on your itinerary. However, don’t make this mistake that many tourists do! Buying a day or week pass can be very pricey, and it’s likely you won’t use its value. Instead, get yourself an Oyster card. You can use it on the Tube, buses, and trains, and it’s available from any underground station. Sometimes, this halves your spend and it’s got a daily cap. If all that’s not enough, it helps you skip the queues too!
Cycle around the sights
The underground may be famous and iconic, but it’s not like you can see a lot from deep down under the British capital. Prefer to take things at a more leisurely pace and discover the city yourself? How about taking a bike? The Santander Bike scheme (also known as Boris Bikes, from his time at London Mayor), allows locals and travellers to navigate their way across London from as little as £2. On a summer’s day, there’s nothing better than cycling through London’s many parks or along the gorgeous canals, before stopping off for a well-earned pint!
Visit the free museums
London has some of the best museums in the world – they’re absolutely world class. And what’s even better? So many are free! The Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the Victoria and Albert are all open 7 days a week, and they’re completely free! You can see dinosaurs in the Natural History, and incredible art in the V & A. There are many more free attractions in London too – walk along the Thames to get a look at the London Eye and the iconic Big Ben. On the South Bank, you’ve also got the Tate Modern, one of the leading art museums in the UK. And you guessed it, it’s free!
London is one of the best shopping cities in the world. It’s got everything from designer boutiques and famous department stores to bargain-basement souvenir stores. Harrods is one of the most iconic luxury stores in the world, while Fortnum and Mason sell the most indulgent food and drink. Both of these are frightfully expensive, but it costs nothing to window shop! And taking a look around these stores is a must – they’re an attraction in themselves! Of course, when you want to pick up souvenirs, it’s best to get them slightly out of the main tourist areas by the way. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying a fortune!
Eat out at markets
Just like shopping, London is an incredible place for eating out too. There are 70 restaurants with Michelin star restaurants, but they’re probably a little out of the reach of your average budget traveler. Instead, it’s a good idea to search out variety. Several markets serve food from across the world – one of the best can be found on a Sunday in Brick Lane. With food from all corners of the globe, you can sample Japanese gyoza, African curries, and South American Arepas, while still having change from a £10 note! And we can’t mention markets without a journey to Camden – it’s the biggest market in town and it’s open every day. Yup, that’s right, you don’t have to visit London for Christmas to see picturesque street markets. As well as delicious street food, you can get lots of other goods at reduced prices!
Hunt for budget accommodation
London might be a 24-hour city, but most people need to take a break and bed down for a while. Central London is awash with five-star hotels, and the prices will make your eyes water! Thankfully, there are lots of alternatives. First of all, hostels. There are 6 hostels in the center of London run by the Youth Hostelling Association, and countless more private-run establishments which offer both dorms and private rooms. If hostels aren’t your favorite thing, then head a little out of the city center to zone 2 or 3 – easy to access on public transport. There, you can find Vrbo properties at reasonable prices – either private homestays with locals, or your own entire flat.
Visit the parks
Last but not least, let’s talk about the city’s green spaces. London has more than 3,000 parks which cover almost 1/5 of the city – that’s more than all the roads and railways combined! It’s a great way to escape from the bright lights and hustle and bustle of the city. You can really disconnect for a little while! Head to Hampstead Heath to see parakeets and muntjac deer or catch a performance at Regent’s Parks’ open-air theatre. St James’ Park is right by Buckingham Palace and it’s always a treat seeing the local pelicans, which were brought here during the 17th century. With the park being free of charge, you can definitely stretch your budget to an ice cream or a refreshing drink!
Free Walking Tours
Most cities have free walking tours, and that’s great. However, London really goes above and beyond! There are ghost tours, Jack the Ripper Tours, royal tours, Harry Potter tours, and street art/graffiti tours. And the best bit? They’re all free! You’re sure to find a free walking tour to suit you as you visit London on a budget! And that’s not the only free thing you can find in London. There are a lot of free things to do for all age groups from senior citizens to families traveling with a baby.
And while we’re at it – more free stuff!
There really is no end to what you can do to visit London on a budget. We’ve already covered free walking tours, parks, and free museums. But if you’re really committed to visit London on a budget, here are just a couple more free options for you!
- Ride the singing elevator at the Royal Festival Hall
- Watch the Changing of the Guard
- Recreate the famous Beatles’ album cover at Abbey Road
- Explore the Olympic Park
- Check out the Kyoto Japanese Garden in Holland Park
- Hear poetry and challenging speakers at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park
How to find cheap flights or trains to London
If you’re travelling from another part of the UK, you won’t need to fly to London. The easiest way to get around is by train. However, trains in the UK can be eye-wateringly expensive! The best way to keep the cost of your tickets down is by checking out the Trainline or Red Spotted Hanky. Train prices in the UK are much cheaper if you purchase in advance, so don’t leave it to the last minute. You’ll absolutely have to visit London on a budget as all your money will have gone on your tickets!
And what not to do when you visit London on a budget
Last of all, when visiting London on a budget there are a few things to know so you don’t needlessly throw money away. Although it’s known for food and offers cuisines from every corner of the globe, don’t eat out for EVERY meal. That’ll get really expensive! Instead, cook in your hostel kitchen or in your vacation rental. Also – make sure you get your tickets in advance if you are going to visit paid attractions. Being turned away won’t affect your budget, but it might put a dampener on your trip! And remember, you can get passes which will save you time and money when booking paid attractions.
Helpful resources to visit London on a budget
If you’re looking for a cheap flight to London, check out Qatar Airways’s Oh-La-La deals and save up to 20% on your flight. And you can save even more by combining your points and miles from different airlines with points.com.
For some great accommodation deals, use my Booking discount voucher and get the best prices on all properties in London.
If you’re planning to rent a car in London, compare prices from all dealers and save up to 30% by using this special offer by AutoEurope.
For some great budget-friendly tours in London, use this special offer to get 10% off on all Get Your Guide tours in town.
Travel insurance is mandatory when traveling to the UK. If you’re looking for a reliable travel insurance provider, I recommend World Nomads. Sure, they’re more expensive than most other providers but they’re by far the most reliable company I’ve come across and they have you covered for absolutely anything that can happen to you on the road.
So, now that you know how to visit London on a budget, you probably feel a bit better about your upcoming trip.
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