You’re about to travel to London on a budget and need some useful tips to be able to enjoy without breaking your piggy bank? There are always good and affordable options and here are 8 of them, based on my own experience.
Stay away from the tourist hot spots
Might sound obvious but if you’re a newbie to London, just know that the touristy areas are really expensive. You’ll want to stay away from there if you want to save some cash especially when it comes to accommodation! You’d better sleep in neighbourhoods like Castle, Bayswater or Kensington. They are not located downtown, but they will make taste the local scene way more. Plus, they’re very well linked with easy transportation to the main spots of the city.
Hostels & university rooms
When it comes to the actual accommodation, hostels are the cheapest option (if you’re one of those travelers who really needs your own space). The staff is usually very friendly and can will recommend cool spots to visit (which are not the Big Ben and the guard change!). Another option will be to rent a university room – try universityrooms.com – when students are away. It’s very affordable and it’s an easy place to meet new people during your trip (they tend to have large social areas to chill out!).
Relax in London’s parks
One great thing is that they are all free. You have, from north to South, a very large offer of green spaces in London for you to chill out, make a picnic, take a run or just get away from the frenetic city centre. In the Greenwich Park, blossom trees are almost magical; in the Battersea Park, you can find options like spotting the Thames, visiting its Dogs and Cats Home or heading to the Buddhist London Peace Pagoda; and the Clapham Common, which is a haven of peace in South-London where summer concerts take place and you have plenty of cafés around, besides from a skate park and the largest bandstand in London.
Get the Oyster card
Of course public transportation is always the way to go when saving cash traveling. And… you’re not polluting as much by avoiding cabs and similar! The Oyster card is a transit pass that you have to recharge according to the times you’re planning on using it. It saves you money in transportation (sometimes up to 50% in subway tickets) and offers discounts in some restaurants and shops. Just remember to pack light, so you can move around easily once you’re there. Planning a trip thinking this kind of stuff beforehand is the way to go, believe me!
Ride a bike!
This is always a win. Central London is a gem to discover by bike! Imagine this part of the city in the rush hour. Map out all the spots you want to visit that are not too far away from each other and go for it! If I may recommend you something that’s typically “London style”, just make a route around the best places for pies. It’s a 100% traditional dish and you can find it in so many different versions: steak and kidney, bacon, oysters, jellied eels, mushrooms and a lot more! Tastes as great as it sounds!
As I just said, busy hours in London are insane, so walking is a suitable (and cheap) alternative. Plus, it’s a way for you to take this trip more casually. A different kind of walk you can take in London is the one that goes from the Parliament to the Millennium Bridge, which offers a more relaxed kind of afternoon, while allowing you to see many of the main stops of the city! An interesting and free tour is the one you can do around the London street art locations. The masterpieces really get to your soul and wake up your emotions. Something really worth the walk! Alternatively, you can visit 20+ of London top sights in an eco-friendly way with Geoff (who supports NGOs on top of his great itinerary!)
Brick Lane Market on Sundays
If bargaining is your thing and you love vintage items the Brick Lane Market is going to be your way to go on Sundays. Prices are really convenient compared to other well-known streets in the city. Delicious food from all over the world, clothes, shoes, vinyls and all kinds of classic stuff like sunglasses or sewing machines. I know, pretty random, but very cool to see.
Check out Chinatown
Who doesn’t love a good Chinese bite after having walked half the city? I do! That’s why if you’re visiting London on a budget, in Chinatown you’ll be able to try very tasty East Asian (mostly) dishes for not that much money. Bars, cafes and shops are all over the place and I can tell you all Chinatowns in big cities are something pretty cool to visit and more affordable than other commercial areas.
Pro-tip: When thinking about drinks, which is a quite big part of the Londoners culture, always go to the haunt for happy hours at bars. Prices are actually much lower than usual (3€ a beer and two cocktails for 7€!) and the environment is pretty cool, relaxed and fun.
Hope you’ve noted down how to move around London on a budget. These tips have worked for me and I’m pretty sure they will work for you! And for those who really want to live the local experience, remember to take a look at this amazing website that lists local activities to book and that uses its profit to fund local NGOs! And if you want to go muuuuch deeper and know all the ins and outs of London, check this ultimate guide. Enjoy London!
Main photo by Lucas Peng