How to do London on a budget
With the recent drop in the Aussie dollar, it feels like your budget needs to be positively elastic to stretch to any overseas holiday, but in particular the United Kingdom.
If your destination is the capital, there are plenty of creative ways to experience this amazing city without having to take out a second mortgage. Here are some valuable tips for how to do London on a budget.
Save with a London Pass
For ideas on how to do London on a budget, the London Pass comes in at the top of the list. It gets you discount entry and skip-the-line access to a host of attractions, with flexible 1,2,3 and 6-day passes. And although the initial outlay may sting a little, the savings add up to a pretty attractive consolation.
There are a few cheap and not-so-nasty ways to sleep for less in London. Generator Hostels are revolutionising the concept of hostelling with their brand of hip, contemporary accommodation, while Airbnb has hundred of host properties on offer across the city.
If you’ve got friends in cold places, you can always fall back on the great Aussie tradition of couch surfing (or ‘dossing’ as it’s fondly known).
Grab an Oyster
As soon as you touch down at Heathrow, get an Oyster Card and you’ve already saved on your transport into central London (just jump straight on a Piccadilly Line tube). You can top up with any amount at ticket machines, stations or shops all over the city and use your card on the entire transport network (trains, buses and the Underground). Plus your Oyster will always get you the cheapest possible fare.
You can also save a few dollars by collecting any unused credit on the way out, along with the card deposit (note: if you purchase a ‘Visitor Oyster Card’ online before arriving in London, the deposit is non-refundable).
Double your fun
You can fork out for one of the ubiquitous open double-decker bus tours, or you can create your own for a fraction of the price! Swipe your Oyster Card and climb aboard the bus route of your choosing (Route 9 between Hammersmith and Aldwych will give you a great taste of city sights).
Or just wing it and go on a mystery tour on the first double decker that comes along. Doing London on a budget was never so much fun!
Get arty for free
For a city that can eat up your daily budget in one breakfast, it’s hard to believe it serves up so much of its art and culture for free. Excluding major exhibitions, the Tate Britain, Tate Modern, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, British Museum, Saatchi Gallery, Serpentine and many others will cost you absolutely nix – allowing you to truly appreciate art for art’s sake.
Snap up a free tour
Here’s a chance to get to know more of London for nix! Undiscovered London offers a free walking tour of ‘Royal London’, which provides a great introduction to the lie of the land around Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and Westminster. The tour leaves from Green Park twice daily, and there really is no catch. Do spread the love though, and tip your guide to show your appreciation.
Go ‘off’ West End
You can see some top West End shows at discounted prices by lining up at the official TKTS booth in Leicester Square, but you should also check out the independent theatres, where you can pick up a ticket for as little as $10. This is a top tip for how to do London on a budget.
Cheap doesn’t mean low quality though, and you can enjoy gems like La Boheme and Fawlty Towers in quirky, out-of-the-way theatres with plenty of character.
Phone home on a local sim
While you can use your Aussie phone in London, you’d be crazy to do that for anything other than texting (and even that can be expensive). Basically, not switching off your data roaming is a red-carpet invitation to travel bankruptcy!
Instead, go in to one of the mobile phone shops on any high street in the capital and purchase a pre-paid sim from O2, Vodafone or 3UK and you’ll be instantly connected at a reasonable price.
Free Wi-Fi is also widely available in London. Check Timeout’s handy guide.
Walk the walk
You know it’s true. The best way to explore London really is on foot. If you’re old-school, grab a free tourist map and head off in whatever direction takes your fancy. Or for techno junkies, any of the London apps, like Citymapper, will see you swaggering about the place like a local in no time.
Enjoy cheap eats
Let’s get one thing straight: if you want to eat ‘out’ in London you’re going to have to pay dearly. So get creative! Ttry places like Brick Lane for an authentic curry with attitude; Chinatown for a delightfully confusing array of cheap Asian food; and Borough Markets for, well, pretty much a global celebration of anything your taste buds desire!
Have you travelled to the United Kingdom? We would love to hear your tips for how to do London on a budget. Please leave us a comment.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Julietta Henderson is a travel and feature writer. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying 10 years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy and France. She has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind and an open-ended ticket. Apart from travel, she writes on subjects as diverse as photography, business, and well-being, and is halfway through her first novel. An avid lover of cold weather, Julietta’s master travel plan of never having to sweat again has somehow slipped out of synch and she’s currently on her third consecutive year of non-stop summer.