May 31, 2023

“However isn’t London tremendous costly?” has bought to be the most typical query I get requested as an ex-city boy when speaking about journey to the UK’s capital. And, whereas it may be a shocking reply, I all the time reply that low-cost could also be a stretch – however London on a funds? Completely!

There are heaps of suggestions and tips you may comply with to chop your prices and make a keep in certainly one of England’s finest locations to go to extra inexpensive. Take it from an ex-local who survived on this metropolis as a waiter for quite a lot of years, you may make your pound go a lot additional if you understand how.

After all, all the standard stuff applies; go to within the low season, keep away from dates when enormous occasions imply costs spike, and contemplate hostels or further-out lodging. However, slightly than specializing in the apparent that may apply anyplace, I’ve tried to focus extra on London-specific suggestions and methods I’ve personally tried to do London on a budget whereas residing right here.

So earlier than even fascinated by all the very best issues to do in London – together with all these improbable free museums – listed below are among the funds fundamentals you must know when planning and through your journey.

London Eye
Views from the London Eye

1. Flying to London (or not)

Firstly, let’s take a look at essentially the most important preliminary price: flights. London has two main airports (Heathrow and Gatwick), one city-centre airport that primarily caters to enterprise travellers (London Metropolis), and two additional massive airports (Stansted and Luton), which primarily serve European and funds flights. There’s additionally London Southend Airport, which I’ve used as soon as for a package deal vacation; nonetheless, it’s tiny, and much away, so I’ll ignore it right here. To be honest, most of those airports aren’t actually in London, so the way you get into town centre from these airports (see level 5) can be a price to consider.

So, the very first thing you’ll need to do is seek for low-cost flights to all of those airports. Skyscanner is nice for this, as you may put in your place to begin after which ask it to search for flights to London (Any) and see which airport is most cost-effective. You may even seek for a complete month, or from all of your close by airports, to seek out extra choices.

Should you’re coming from Europe, then chances are high that funds carriers like Ryanair (primarily Stansted), and easyJet (primarily Luton and Gatwick) will provide the most affordable fares. Simply needless to say on these no-frills airways, baggage and sure extras do price extra, so issue these in.

From additional afield, corresponding to Australia or the USA, you could need to contemplate different choices. Whereas a weekend in London will imply you’ll want to fly on to town, should you’re as an alternative utilizing London as a place to begin to discover Europe’s hidden gems, it could be cheaper to start out and finish your journey elsewhere on the continent.

I’ve travelled to Amsterdam or Rome to take long-haul flights prior to now as a result of it has been as much as £250 cheaper every manner. London has excessive taxes, and direct fares should not all the time that aggressive, so take a look at flying into a special European metropolis first, saving some bucks for an evening or two there after which leaping on a funds flight – or a Eurostar practice – to London. Alternatively, take a look at airways which supply ‘stopover’ offers or connecting flights, as these will also be cheaper to achieve the UK whereas additionally permitting you to see one other metropolis. Two well-known choices embody TAP Portugal’s Lisbon stopover and Norway-based Norse, which launched in 2021.

Should you’re coming from america and need to go to London on a funds, you may additionally need to enroll in one of many low-cost flight electronic mail companies to be notified when offers or error fares can be found. I’ve additionally written intimately about find out how to discover low-cost flights utilizing Skyscanner.

You too can use your flights to save cash on lodging should you ebook an in a single day arrival and late-night departure – basically supplying you with two full days. There are a great deal of locations to ditch your baggage for the day in case your lodge or condo doesn’t provide this service. LuggageHero is fairly low-cost and has a number of totally different storage areas.

Changing of the Guard
Plan in free cultural moments such because the Altering of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

2. E book your tickets and actions prematurely

If you’re planning your low-cost journey to London, you’ll possible have already made a listing of all of the sights and actions you need to go to. After all, many of those is not going to price a penny, corresponding to seeing the Altering of the Guard or visiting a free-entry museum; nonetheless, the truth is just not all the pieces will likely be so pockets pleasant.

So, to cut back and handle these prices, search for offers and reductions so you may ebook as many actions as attainable prematurely. Chances are you’ll assume that reserving straight will assure the very best costs, and whereas that is true more often than not, it isn’t all the time the case. There are many coupon and low cost web sites within the UK, and you may usually discover among the capital’s finest sights listed with offers.

Some web sites value checking earlier than reserving embody Voucher Codes, which shares low cost codes to make use of at checkout, and Groupon, which has each discount codes and offers on sure actions and accommodations. For theatre tickets, contemplate web sites corresponding to Love Theatre – but additionally take into account day tickets and the West Finish lottery talked about under. Should you’re travelling to London by practice, you can too normally get respectable attraction offers on National Rails’ Discount website when utilizing your practice ticket.

You may additionally need to contemplate one of many varied London Passes. Some bundle 2-7 sights collectively for a reduction, whereas others are for particular durations and embody transport. I do know these are actually widespread for web sites to suggest as they pay us a pleasant fee payment for every sale; nonetheless, they’re solely cost-effective should you actually take advantage of them.

So, contemplate what sights you’ll definitely see in London – many museums and galleries are free – after which work out if certainly one of these passes will truly prevent cash earlier than shopping for it. If it would, nice, snap it up. Should you solely plan to go to one or two sights, it may be higher to ebook individually and discover offers on these particular actions.

Many of London's best museums are free
Lots of London’s finest museums are free

3. Discovering inexpensive London lodging

No matter search engine you utilize, I promise you one factor: low-cost doesn’t normally imply cheerful in London. While there could be some bargains to be discovered the additional out you go, you’ll have slim pickings in central London.

In addition to looking on hostel or lodge comparability web sites like Trivago, check out the web sites of funds accommodations corresponding to Tunes, Straightforward or The Z, which normally provide central lodging at a reasonably affordable value and can assure a sure customary of hygiene and services. Additionally, some funds accommodations, corresponding to Premier Inn, aren’t listed on comparability web sites and needs to be searched and booked straight.

Alternatively, keep additional out and use it to your benefit. London is a super-connected metropolis, and we actually have a evening metro on weekends now so to lease any certainly one of London’s high-quality short-term rentals and also you received’t miss out on a factor. The bonus of staying in zones 3 and 4 is that not solely is lodging normally cheaper, however meals and drinks also can drop dramatically in value, and also you’ll get a extra ‘native’ expertise.

Should you plan to remain in London for greater than an evening or two, you may additionally need to contemplate housesitting. This tends to work finest for barely longer stays – generally every week or extra – as you’ll be taking care of somebody’s house (and doubtlessly pets or crops) whereas they go on vacation themselves.

There are a number of totally different platforms which assist potential sitters and hosts join. Many of those platforms require a subscription, so you could need to learn a firsthand TrustedHousesitters Review earlier than making the preliminary cost. Nevertheless, when you’ve secured your first housesit – particularly in a metropolis like London – the financial savings will shortly add up.

London's main attractions
Take a free strolling tour to see London’s important sights

4. Lease a automobile solely once you want one

It may be tempting to lease a automobile the second you arrive in London, particularly should you’re planning to discover different elements of England or highway journey Scotland, however should you’re seeking to do London on a funds, this isn’t sensible. Firstly, you simply received’t use your automobile a lot once you’re within the metropolis, and secondly, by the point you account for automobile parking and any congestion expenses, these prices will rack up.

As such, it’s higher to choose up your automobile on the day you propose to start out your highway journey. Alternatively, in order for you some wheels for the day to go off to some close by locations, contemplate a service like Ubeeqo. This car-sharing web site presents quick access by way of an app to native vehicles by the hour or day, already together with gasoline and insurance coverage. They’ve round 100 parking areas in London, and vehicles could be rented as far afield as Hertford or Cambridge, so it saves on practice fares should you’re staying outdoors the capital and driving in, or vice versa.

Views from London's South Bank
Strolling alongside the South Financial institution is principally a free ‘historical past tour’

5. Don’t get scammed in your airport transfers and trains

“Categorical Trains” should not one thing you can find me on. Typically, these companies solely shave a couple of minutes off the journey time and are available at a hefty premium, and there are far more cost-effective methods to achieve London’s centre.

These categorical trains function from Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, so once you’re planning find out how to attain the capital itself, examine the costs and timings of those companies with the common routes – you’ll be amazed at how a lot additional you’re paying when the distinction could be as little as 10 minutes. That stated, the categorical companies provide some superior tickets at a closely lowered value, so it’s all the time value checking to see should you can ebook certainly one of these.

From London Metropolis and Heathrow, you can too use the tube or DLR – Heathrow even has entry to the brand new Elizabeth Line – as these are normally cheaper than rail. Nationwide Categorical coach companies from Luton or Stansted will also be cost-effective options relying on the time at which you arrive. The underside line is there are many choices, and relying on the place within the metropolis you’re staying, the categorical trains won’t be essentially the most direct or most cost-effective choice to arrive to London on a funds

6. Stroll, cycle and get contactless

London could appear scarily huge once you take a look at a map – or particularly a tube map – however strolling round central London truly doesn’t take too lengthy. Actually, strolling between some tube stations could be faster than taking the metro once you add up on a regular basis. So, my tip to you is that when the climate is sweet, do as a lot of London on foot as attainable.

We even have the Santander Cycle scheme – customary and e-bikes – which you will discover dotted across the metropolis and entry with an app or financial institution card. Whereas these aren’t as low-cost as they as soon as had been – customary bikes now price £1.65 per half-hour – they provide a very nice approach to get round London. Should you’re planning to remain within the metropolis some time and make heavy use of the scheme, the £20 month-to-month choice could also be interesting.

You could have heard of the Oyster card, which is cheaper than shopping for particular person journey tickets for the underground and bus community because it has a capped each day value and cheaper particular person fares. Fortunately, this profit additionally applies to paying with a contactless bank card, so that you don’t must buy an Oyster card to take pleasure in the identical value cap. If utilizing a international card, you’ll simply need to verify that your financial institution is not going to add a further change payment every time; in that case, get the Oyster or discover a higher journey card corresponding to Sensible or Revolut.

Take a clipper tour of the Thames

7. Use public transport for sightseeing

Public transport in London is fairly respectable and a each day prevalence for many of us, so if you’re from a rustic/metropolis that requires a automobile to get round, overlook it – TFL can develop into your finest buddy when visiting London on a funds.

Whereas the Tube is nice, if somewhat crowded, heading underground will imply lacking among the best Instagram spots in London. So, make use of the buses and sit on the highest deck to get that hop-on hop-off vacationer feeling with out spending a fortune.

If you wish to expertise the River Thames with out paying for a river tour, you then’ll need to make use of the Thames Clipper, London’s public ferry service. From as little as £4.80 for the standard single – or £18.90 for a full-day move – you may take a jaunt alongside the river and spot among the metropolis’s most well-known sights on the best way.

Tower of London
Spot the Tower of London from the Thames Clipper

8. Take a look at the free sights

London could also be an costly metropolis, however most of the finest sights truly price nothing. Studying how to travel the world for free is a positive artwork, and right here you will have loads of it to apply.

A few of London’s finest free sights and museums embody the British Museum, St Paul’s Church (not the cathedral), The Tate, The Nationwide Portrait Gallery, strolling via Covent Backyard, individuals watching at Borough Market (I do know lots of people suggest this for affordable eats, however in actuality, many stalls are fairly boutique) and taking within the views from Greenwich. There are additionally loads of stunning parks to take pleasure in.

Then there are the cultural sights corresponding to watching the Altering of the Guard, exploring the road artwork in fashionable neighbours corresponding to Shoreditch and heading as much as one of many free rooftop viewpoints corresponding to One New Change and the Oxo Tower – they won’t be as excessive as The Shard, however they’re lots cheaper!

9. Skip the Shard and get views free of charge

The Shard often is the most well-known of London’s skyscaper viewing platforms, nevertheless it’s not the one choice.

My favorite spot is definitely discovered throughout the river – the bonus is you may see The Shard – within the SkyGarden. Not solely will you get some far-reaching vistas throughout London’s finest landmarks, however the area is unimaginable, with loads of inside foilage.

You do must book your visit online in advance to get free entry – the tickets are batch launched each Monday – however that little little bit of ahead planning will save you an identical money. Alternatively, you may ebook a desk at one of many eating places, however this turns certainly one of London’s finest free sights right into a extra pricy expertise.

Rooftop views in London
Rooftop views on the SkyGarden in London

10. Search for free occasions and gigs in London

London’s cultural scene is all-encompassing, and there’s no denying this is likely one of the finest cities on the earth for music, arts, theatre and different inventive pursuits. Fortunately meaning there are many free – don’t overlook to drop some cash in appreciation – occasions to take pleasure in all year long.

Regulate web sites like Secret London, which hold a good and up-to-date calendar of free events in London so to plan forward – or go last-minute – to a unprecedented occasion. They cowl something from buskers in Covent Backyard and free Royal Opera Home performances to church choir performances and Friday evening events on the Tate Trendy.

11. Chain eating places should not the enemy

Yeah yeah, I’m most likely going to get slated for saying this – particularly as somebody that loves supporting unbiased companies – however there are some fairly respectable chain eating places within the UK which may present inexpensive offers in respectable areas, ideally suited for a fast, simple and inexpensive lunch.

A few of my favourites embody Pizza Categorical (they usually run 2-for-1 offers), Wahaca for Mexican meals, and chain pubs corresponding to Greene King or Fullers for decent-priced British grub and pints. Most of those chains have apps with low cost offers. For a barely extra upmarket choice with good-quality British dishes, head to one of many Browns Bar and Brasserie’s throughout town, the restaurant group the place I labored for a few years.

Should you’re going to spend some time in London, then the Style Card could also be value contemplating as after a specific amount of makes use of, the reductions will greater than pay for themselves.

Afternoon tea in London
Web sites like usually have Afternoon Tea offers

12. Hunt out set menu offers

Set menus, particularly on quieter evenings (like Sundays or Mondays) and through lunches are fairly widespread in London. These are the instances when eating places should not too busy, and also you’ll almost certainly discover the very best offers.

When you’ve got a restaurant you actually need to go to while you’re right here, name or verify the web site to seek out out if they provide a set menu – it would normally prevent a good chunk on the À la carte value.

Do needless to say the areas you’re looking at will possible change the obtainable offers. For instance, in monetary districts such because the Metropolis of London or Canary Wharf, lunches are normally their prime time with workplace staff which means offers aren’t possible throughout weekday lunches. On the flip facet, within the Theatre District and round Soho or Covent Backyard, Prix-Fixe menus are normally early night to get diners out and in shortly earlier than a present.

London in Spring
Seize a picnic and revel in a park or backyard

13. Picnic on a meal deal

If you wish to go tremendous low-cost – and customarily ‘reside like an workplace native’ – then seize your self a meal deal. It’s not precisely fancy, nevertheless it’s a approach to reduce your journey prices and do London on a funds.

These easy lunch offers are one thing of a staple within the UK and are provided in locations corresponding to supermarkets and even well being retailers corresponding to Boots. Normally costing between £3-£4, you may seize a sandwich, crisps (or fruit and different snacks) and a drink. Take these to one of many stunning parks in London, and you’ve got a cut price picnic lunch in your palms.

Look for last-minute deals to West End shows
Search for last-minute offers to West Finish reveals

14. Try to get final minute theatre tickets

West Finish theatre tickets can run into triple digits, particularly for the very best seats on the hottest reveals. But, there are a number of methods to save cash past the voucher web sites I discussed beforehand. After all, these choices aren’t ideally suited should you want a selected present on a specific day – for that, it’s finest to just accept the value and ebook prematurely – however in case you have some flexibility, contemplate the under.

Firstly, there are almost all the time last-minute tickets up for grabs straight from the field workplace. These could also be returns or simply tickets which were held again for varied causes. On my final go to again to London, I scored nice tickets to Miss Saigon for £20 about an hour earlier than curtain up.

Another reveals additionally provide a ‘lottery’ somewhat earlier than the efficiency begins. For instance, the E book of Mormon even runs a lottery daily for £20 tickets if you wish to gamble each day 2.5 hours earlier than the efficiency. This can be a nice approach to take pleasure in London on a funds and respect the unimaginable cultural scene.

Old meets new in Manchester
E book practice tickets to different cities, corresponding to Manchester, prematurely

15. E book practice fares prematurely

This isn’t a lot a London on a funds tip, however it would apply should you plan on leaving London to go to different elements of the UK, corresponding to Cornwall’s sights, Scotland’s capital metropolis of Edinburgh, or the buzzing metropolis of Manchester.

The very fact is rail journey within the UK may be very pricey. You would possibly assume these excessive practice costs imply glorious companies, however that additionally isn’t all the time the case – generally a seat isn’t even assured – and you could end up standing for a lot of the journey. As such, you’ll need to ebook prematurely on-line.

Not solely are you able to normally rating a seat reservation this fashion, however you may generally save as much as 50% or extra from on-the-day ticket costs.

Whereas particular person practice firms (we don’t have one rail firm) permit reserving on their web sites, The Train Line is a superb place to start out as it would search all operators on that route and present you the very best costs. Nevertheless, they cost a small reserving payment, so if you wish to save a pound or two extra, when you’ve discovered the deal go to the operator’s web site to attempt to ebook straight.

Should you plan to journey to among the most stunning elements of the nation, corresponding to visiting the Cotswolds, these advance fares will likely be your greatest cash saver. Additionally, take a look at Nationwide Categorical, the UK’s long-distance coach firm. These busses are almost all the time trendy, comfortable, and good worth – offering a further choice to achieve locations maybe not served by the trains or at a fair cheaper price.