London on a Funds: 15 Low-cost Journey Suggestions
“However isn’t London tremendous costly?” has received to be the commonest query I get requested as an ex-city boy when speaking about journey to the UK’s capital, and whereas it is likely to be stunning, London on a funds is doable.
Okay, perhaps on a funds is a stretch, however there are heaps of ideas and methods to observe to chop your prices and make your keep in probably the greatest locations to go to in England extra reasonably priced. Take it from an ex-local who survived on this metropolis as a waiter for quite a lot of years, you can also make your pound go a lot additional if you know the way.
After all, all the same old 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, quite than specializing in the apparent that may apply anyplace, I’ve tried to focus extra on London-specific ideas and methods I’ve personally tried to do London on a budget whereas dwelling right here.
So earlier than even serious about all one of the best issues to do in London – together with all these improbable free museums – listed here are a few of the funds fundamentals it is advisable to know when planning and through your journey.
1. Flying to London (or not)
Firstly, let’s take a look at probably 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 bundle 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 also be a value to think about.
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 start line after which ask it to seek 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 search out extra choices.
If you happen to’re coming from Europe, then likelihood is that funds carriers like Ryanair (primarily Stansted), and easyJet (primarily Luton and Gatwick) will provide the most cost effective fares. Simply understand that on these no-frills airways, baggage and sure extras do price extra, so issue these in.
From additional afield, akin 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, for those who’re as a substitute 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.
Relying on the place you’re coming from, you’ll need to contemplate flights to all of those airports. If you happen to’re coming from elsewhere in Europe and desire a funds airline, then Ryanair (primarily Stansted) and easyJet (Luton & Gatwick) would possibly provide one of the best offers.
I’ve travelled to Amsterdam or Rome to take long-haul flights up to now as a result of it has been as much as £250 cheaper every method. London has excessive taxes, and direct fares will not be all the time that aggressive, so take a look at flying into a unique European metropolis first, saving some bucks for an evening or two there after which leaping on a funds flight – or a Eurostar prepare – to London. Alternatively, take a look at airways which provide ‘stopover’ offers or connecting flights, as these can be cheaper to achieve the UK whereas additionally permitting you to see one other metropolis. Two well-known choices embrace TAP Portugal’s Lisbon stopover and Norway-based Norse, which launched in 2021.
If you happen to’re coming from the US and need to go to London on a funds, you may additionally need to enroll in one of many low-cost flight e mail providers 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 can too use your flights to economize on lodging for those who guide an in a single day arrival and late-night departure – primarily 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 numerous totally different storage areas.
2. Guide your tickets and actions prematurely
Whenever you’re planning your low-cost journey to London, you’ll doubtless have already made a listing of all of the points of interest and actions you need to go to. After all, many of those shall be free issues akin to seeing the Altering of the Guard or visiting a free-entry museum; nonetheless, the truth shouldn’t be every little thing shall be free.
So, to cut back and handle these prices, guide as many actions as doable prematurely. You might assume that reserving immediately goes to ensure one of the best costs, and whereas that is true more often than not, it isn’t all the time the case. There are many coupon and deal web sites within the UK, and you’ll typically discover a few of the capital’s greatest points of interest listed with offers.
Some web sites value checking earlier than reserving embrace Voucher Codes, which shares low cost codes to make use of at checkout, and Groupon, which has each low cost codes and offers on sure actions and lodges. For theatre tickets, contemplate web sites akin to Love Theatre but in addition have in mind day tickets and the West Finish lottery talked about under. If you happen to’re travelling to London by prepare, you may as well often get respectable attraction offers on Nationwide Rails’ Low cost web site when utilizing your prepare ticket.
You may additionally need to contemplate one of many numerous London Passes. Some bundle 2-7 points of interest collectively for a reduction, whereas others are for particular durations and embrace transport. I do know these are actually common for web sites to advocate as they pay us a pleasant fee price for every sale; nonetheless, they’re solely cost-effective is you actually take advantage of them.
So, contemplate what points of interest you’ll definitely see in London – many museums and galleries are free – after which work out if one among these passes will really prevent cash earlier than shopping for it. If it can, nice, snap it up. If you happen to solely plan to go to one or two points of interest, it is likely to be higher to guide individually and discover offers on these particular actions.
3. Discovering reasonably priced London lodging
No matter search engine you utilize, I promise you one factor: low-cost doesn’t often imply cheerful in London. While there may be some bargains to be discovered the additional out you go, you’ll have slim pickings in central London.
In addition to looking out on hostel or lodge comparability web sites like Trivago, check out the web sites of funds lodges akin to Tunes, Simple or The Z, which often provide central lodging at a reasonably cheap worth and can assure a sure normal of hygiene and amenities. Additionally, some funds lodges, akin to Premier Inn, aren’t listed on comparability web sites and ought to be searched and booked immediately.
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 with the intention to lease any one among London’s high-quality short-term leases and also you gained’t miss out on a factor. The bonus of staying in zones 3 and 4 is that not solely is lodging often cheaper, however meals and drinks can even drop dramatically in worth, and also you’ll get a extra ‘native’ expertise.
If you happen to plan to remain in London for greater than an evening or two, you may additionally need to contemplate housesitting. This tends to work greatest for barely longer stays – generally per week or extra – as you’ll be taking care of somebody’s house (and probably pets or crops) whereas they go on vacation themselves.
There are just a few 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 Assessment earlier than making the preliminary cost. Nonetheless, when you’ve secured your first housesit – particularly in a metropolis like London – the financial savings will shortly add up.
4. Lease a automobile solely if you want one
It is likely to be tempting to lease a automobile the second you arrive in London, particularly for those who’re planning to discover different components of England or highway journey Scotland, however for those who’re trying to do London on a funds, this isn’t sensible. Firstly, you simply gained’t use your automobile a lot if you’re within the metropolis, and secondly, by the point you account for automobile parking and any congestion costs, these prices will rack up.
As such, it’s higher to select up your automobile on the day you propose to start out your highway journey. Alternatively, if you would like some wheels for the day to move off on a highway journey, contemplate a service like Ubeeqo. This car-sharing web site provides quick access by way of an app to native vehicles by the hour or day, already together with gas and insurance coverage. They’ve round 100 parking areas in London, and vehicles may be rented as far afield as Hertford or Cambridge, so it saves on prepare fares for those who’re staying exterior the capital and driving in, or vice versa.
5. Don’t get scammed in your airport transfers and trains
“Categorical Trains” will not be one thing you will see that me on. Typically, these providers solely shave a couple of minutes off the journey time and are available at a hefty premium, and there are rather more cost-effective methods to achieve London’s centre.
These categorical trains function from Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, so if you’re planning find out how to attain the capital itself, examine the costs and timings of those providers with the conventional routes – you’ll be amazed at how a lot additional you’re paying when the distinction may be as little as 10 minutes. That mentioned, the categorical providers do provide some superior tickets at a closely decreased worth, so it’s all the time value checking to see for those who can guide one among these forward of time.
From London Metropolis and Heathrow, you may as well use the tube or DLR – Heathrow even has entry to the brand new Elizabeth Line – as these are cheaper than rail. Nationwide Categorical coach providers from Luton or Stansted can be cost-effective alternate 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 probably the most direct or most cost-effective choice to arrive to London on a funds
6. Stroll, cycle and get contactless
London could seem scarily huge if you take a look at a map – or particularly a tube map – however strolling round central London really doesn’t take too lengthy. In truth, strolling between some tube stations may be faster than taking the metro if 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 doable.
We even have the Santander Cycle scheme – normal and e-bikes – which yow 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 – normal bikes now price £1.65 per half-hour – they provide a very nice method to get round London. If you happen to’re planning to remain within the metropolis some time and make heavy use of the scheme, the £20 month-to-month possibility could also be interesting.
You’ll 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 every day worth and cheaper particular person fares. Fortunately, this profit additionally now applies to paying with a contactless bank card, so that you don’t want to truly buy an Oyster card to get pleasure from the identical worth cap. If utilizing a international card you’ll simply need to examine in case your financial institution goes so as to add an extra alternate price every time; in that case, get the Oyster or discover a higher journey card akin to Clever or Revolut.
7. Use public transport for sightseeing
Public transport in London is fairly respectable and a every 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 greatest buddy when visiting London on a funds.
Whereas the Tube is nice, if slightly crowded, heading underground will imply lacking a few of the greatest 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 a few of the metropolis’s most well-known points of interest on the way in which.
8. Take a look at the free points of interest
London could also be an costly metropolis, however lots of the greatest points of interest really price nothing. Studying find out how to journey the world totally free is a nice artwork, and right here you might have loads of it to apply.
A few of London’s greatest free points of interest and museums embrace the British Museum, St Paul’s Church (not the cathedral), The Tate, The Nationwide Portrait Gallery, strolling by way of Covent Backyard, folks watching at Borough Market (I do know lots of people advocate this for affordable eats, however in actuality, many stalls are fairly boutique) and taking within the views from Greenwich. There are additionally loads of lovely parks to get pleasure from.
Then there are the cultural points of interest akin to watching the Altering of the Guard, exploring the road artwork in fashionable neighbours akin to Shoreditch and heading as much as one of many free rooftop viewpoints akin to One New Change and the Oxo Tower – they won’t be as excessive as The Shard, however they’re quite a bit cheaper!
9. Skip the Shard and get views totally free
The Shard often is the most well-known of London’s skyscaper viewing platforms, however it’s not the one possibility.
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 greatest landmarks, however the house is unbelievable, with loads of inside foilage.
You do must guide your go to on-line prematurely 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 guide a desk at one of many eating places, however this turns one among London’s greatest free points of interest right into a extra pricy expertise.
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 greatest cities on this planet 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 get pleasure from all year long.
Regulate web sites like Secret London, which hold an honest and up-to-date calendar of free occasions in London with the intention 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 Fashionable.
11. Chain eating places will not be the enemy
Yeah yeah, I’m in all probability going to get slated for saying this – particularly as somebody that loves supporting impartial enterprise – however there are some fairly respectable chain eating places within the UK which may present reasonably priced offers in respectable areas, ideally suited for a fast, simple and reasonably priced lunch.
A few of my favourites embrace Pizza Categorical (they typically run 2-for-1 offers), Wahaca for Mexican meals, and chain pubs akin to Greene King or Fullers for decent-priced British grub and pints. Most of those chains have apps or low cost offers. For a barely extra upmarket possibility 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.
If you happen to’re going to be spending some time in London, then the Style Card could also be value contemplating because it after a certain quantity of makes use of, the reductions will greater than pay for themselves.
12. Hunt out set menu offers
Set menus, particularly on quieter evenings (like Sundays or Mondays) and through lunches are fairly frequent in London. These are the occasions when eating places will not be too busy, and also you’ll most probably discover one of the best offers.
When you’ve got a restaurant you actually need to go to while you’re right here, name or examine the web site to search out out if they provide a set menu – it can often prevent a good chunk on the À la carte worth.
Do understand that the areas you’re looking at will doubtless change the accessible offers. For instance, in monetary districts such because the Metropolis of London or Canary Wharf, lunches are often their prime time with workplace employees that means offers aren’t doubtless throughout weekday lunches. On the flip facet, within the Theatre District and round Soho or Covent Backyard, Prix-Fixe menus are often early night to get diners out and in shortly earlier than a present.
13. Picnic on a meal deal
If you wish to go tremendous low-cost – and customarily ‘stay like an workplace native’ – then seize your self a meal deal. It’s not precisely fancy, however it’s a method 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 supplied in locations akin to supermarkets and even well being retailers akin to Boots. Often costing between £3-£4, you may seize a sandwich, crisps (or fruit and different snacks) and a drink. Take these to one of many lovely parks in London, and you’ve got a discount picnic lunch in your arms.
14. Attempt to get final minute theatre tickets
West Finish theatre tickets can run into triple digits, particularly for one of the best seats on the hottest exhibits. But, there are just a few methods to economize past the voucher web sites I discussed beforehand. After all, these choices aren’t ideally suited for those who want a selected present on a selected day – for that, it’s greatest to just accept the worth and guide prematurely – however in case you have some flexibility, contemplate the under.
Firstly, there are almost all the time last-minute tickets up for grabs immediately from the field workplace. These could also be returns or simply tickets which were held again for numerous 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 exhibits additionally provide a ‘lottery’ slightly earlier than the efficiency begins. For instance, the Guide of Mormon even runs a lottery day-after-day for £20 tickets if you wish to gamble every day 2.5 hours earlier than the efficiency. This can be a nice method to get pleasure from London on a funds and admire the unbelievable cultural scene.
15. Guide prepare fares prematurely
This isn’t a lot a London on a funds tip however will apply for those who plan on leaving London to go to different components of the UK, akin to Cornwall’s points of interest, Scotland’s capital metropolis of Edinburgh, or the buzzing metropolis of Manchester.
The actual fact trains within the UK are very expensive. You would possibly assume these excessive costs imply glorious providers, however that additionally isn’t 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 guide prematurely on-line.
Not solely are you able to often rating a seat reservation this manner, however you may generally rise up to 50% or extra discounted from the on-the-day ticker costs.
Whereas particular person prepare firms (we don’t have one rail firm) permit reserving on their web sites, The Prepare Line is a wonderful place to start out as it can search all operators on that route and present you one of the best costs. Nonetheless, they cost a small reserving price, 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 guide immediately.
If you happen to plan to journey to a few of the most lovely components of the nation, akin to visiting the Cotswolds, these advance fares shall be your greatest cash saver. Additionally, try Nationwide Categorical, the UK’s long-distance coach firm. These busses are almost all the time fashionable, cozy, and good worth – offering an extra possibility to achieve locations maybe not served by the trains or at a fair cheaper price.