London on a Finances: 15 Low-cost Journey Suggestions

“However isn’t London tremendous costly?” has acquired 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 may be a stunning reply, I all the time reply that low-cost could also be a stretch – however London on a price range? Completely!

There are heaps of suggestions and methods you’ll be able to observe to chop your prices and make a keep in certainly one of England’s greatest locations to go to extra inexpensive. Take it from an ex-local who survived on this metropolis as a waiter for various years, you can also make your pound go a lot additional if you understand how.

In fact, all the same old stuff applies; go to within the low season, keep away from dates when large occasions imply costs spike, and think about hostels or further-out lodging. However, relatively than specializing in the plain that may apply wherever, I’ve tried to focus extra on London-specific suggestions and methods I’ve personally tried to do London on a budget whereas dwelling 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 here are a few of the price range fundamentals you should 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 value: 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 price range flights. There’s additionally London Southend Airport, which I’ve used as soon as for a bundle vacation; nevertheless, 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 the town centre from these airports (see level 5) can also be a price to consider.

So, the very first thing you’ll wish to do is seek for low-cost flights to all of those airports. Skyscanner is nice for this, as you’ll be able to 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’ll be able to even seek for an entire month, or from all of your close by airports, to seek out extra choices.

In case you’re coming from Europe, then likelihood is that price range carriers like Ryanair (primarily Stansted) and easyJet (primarily Luton and Gatwick) will provide the most affordable fares. Simply take into account that on these no-frills airways, sure extras do value extra.

Fortunately, in case you play the sport, yow will discover good offers in your flights to London – simply you’ll want to know the primary issues that gives you shock charges on the airport. The primary is to grasp the distinction between a carry on vs personal item, as on airways corresponding to Ryanair, the latter is free, whereas the primary can get you a hefty shock cost in relation to boarding. The second main level that lots of people fall afoul of just isn’t doing their check-in on-line; to do it at an airport normally means a relatively eye-watering payment.

From additional afield, corresponding to Australia or the USA, chances are you’ll wish to think about different choices. Whereas a weekend in London will imply you’ll want to fly on to the town, in case you’re as a substitute utilizing London as a place to begin to discover Europe’s hidden gems, it might 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 up to now as a result of it has been as much as £250 cheaper every means. London has excessive taxes, and direct fares will not be 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 price range flight – or a Eurostar prepare – 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.

In case you’re coming from the US and wish to go to London on a price range, you may additionally need to join 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 learn how to discover low-cost flights utilizing Skyscanner.

You can too use your flights to economize on lodging in case you guide an in a single day arrival and late-night departure – primarily providing 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 completely different storage places.

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

Once you’re planning your low-cost journey to London, you’ll probably have already made an inventory of all of the points of interest and actions you wish to go to. In fact, many of those is not going to value a penny, corresponding to seeing the Altering of the Guard or visiting a free-entry museum; nevertheless, the fact just isn’t the whole lot will likely be so pockets pleasant.

So, to cut back and handle these prices, search for offers and reductions so you’ll be able to guide as many actions as attainable prematurely. Chances are you’ll assume that reserving instantly 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’ll typically discover a few of the capital’s greatest points of interest listed with offers.

Some web sites price 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 inns. For theatre tickets, think about web sites corresponding to Love Theatre – but in addition bear in mind day tickets and the West Finish lottery talked about beneath. In case you’re travelling to London by prepare, you can even normally get respectable attraction offers on National Rails’ Discount website when utilizing your prepare ticket.

You may also wish to think about one of many numerous London Passes. Some bundle 2-7 points of interest collectively for a reduction, whereas others are for particular durations and embody transport. I do know these are actually well-liked for web sites to advocate as they pay us a pleasant fee payment for every sale; nevertheless, they’re solely cost-effective in case you actually benefit from them.

So, think about what points of interest you’ll actually 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’s going to, nice, snap it up. In case you solely plan to go to one or two points of interest, it may be higher to guide individually and discover offers on these particular actions.

Many of London's best museums are free
A lot of London’s greatest museums are free

3. Discovering inexpensive London lodging

No matter search engine you employ, I promise you one factor: low-cost doesn’t normally imply cheerful in London. While there will 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 price range inns corresponding to Tunes, Straightforward or The Z, which normally provide central lodging at a reasonably affordable worth and can assure a sure normal of hygiene and services. Additionally, some price range inns, corresponding to Premier Inn, aren’t listed on comparability web sites and ought to be searched and booked instantly.

Alternatively, keep additional out and use it to your benefit. London is a super-connected metropolis, and we also have a evening metro on weekends now with the intention 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 may also drop dramatically in worth, and also you’ll get a extra ‘native’ expertise.

In case you plan to remain in London for greater than an evening or two, you may additionally wish to think about 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 doubtlessly pets or crops) whereas they go on vacation themselves.

There are just a few completely different platforms which assist potential sitters and hosts join. Many of those platforms require a subscription, so chances are you’ll wish 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 principal sights

4. Lease a automotive solely if you want one

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

As such, it’s higher to select up your automotive on the day you intend to start out your street journey. Alternatively, in order for you some wheels for the day to go off to some close by locations, think about a service like Ubeeqo. This car-sharing web site provides quick access by way of an app to native automobiles by the hour or day, already together with gas and insurance coverage. They’ve round 100 parking places in London, and automobiles will be rented as far afield as Hertford or Cambridge, so it saves on prepare fares in case you’re staying exterior the capital and driving in, or vice versa.

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

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

“Specific 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 way more cost-effective methods to achieve London’s centre.

These specific trains function from Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, so if you’re planning learn how to attain the capital itself, evaluate the costs and timings of those providers with the common routes – you’ll be amazed at how a lot additional you might be paying when the distinction will be as little as 10 minutes. That stated, the specific providers provide some superior tickets at a closely diminished worth, so it’s all the time price checking to see in case you can guide certainly one of these.

From London Metropolis and Heathrow, you can even use the tube or DLR – Heathrow even has entry to the brand new Elizabeth Line – as these are normally cheaper than rail. Nationwide Specific coach providers 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 might be staying, the specific trains may not be essentially the most direct or most cost-effective choice to arrive to London on a price range

6. Stroll, cycle and get contactless

London could seem scarily massive if you take a look at a map – or particularly a tube map – however strolling round central London truly doesn’t take too lengthy. In truth, strolling between some tube stations will 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 nice, do as a lot of London on foot as attainable.

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 have been – normal bikes now value £1.65 per half-hour – they provide a very nice method to get round London. In case you’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 applies to paying with a contactless bank card, so that you don’t have to buy an Oyster card to take pleasure in the identical worth cap. If utilizing a overseas card, you’ll simply wish to test that your financial institution is not going to add a further alternate payment every time; if that’s the case, get the Oyster or discover a higher journey card corresponding to Smart or Revolut.

Take a clipper tour of the Thames

7. Use public transport for sightseeing

Public transport in London is fairly respectable and a every day incidence for many of us, so if you’re from a rustic/metropolis that requires a automotive to get round, neglect it – TFL can turn out to be your greatest good friend when visiting London on a price range.

Whereas the Tube is nice, if somewhat crowded, heading underground will imply lacking a few of 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, then you definitely’ll wish 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 cross – you’ll be able to take a jaunt alongside the river and spot a few of the metropolis’s most well-known points of interest on the best way.

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

8. Try the free points of interest

London could also be an costly metropolis, however lots of the greatest points of interest truly value nothing. Studying how to travel the world for free is a fantastic artwork, and right here you’ve gotten loads of it to observe.

A few of London’s greatest free points of interest 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 advocate this for reasonable eats, however in actuality, many stalls are fairly boutique) and taking within the views from Greenwich. There are additionally loads of lovely parks to take pleasure in.

Then there are the cultural points of interest 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 may not be as excessive as The Shard, however they’re rather a lot 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, but it surely’s not the one possibility.

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

You do have to 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 a similar money. Alternatively, you’ll be able to guide a desk at one of many eating places, however this turns certainly one of London’s greatest free points of interest 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 greatest cities on the earth for music, arts, theatre and different inventive pursuits. Fortunately meaning there are many free – don’t neglect to drop some cash in appreciation – occasions to take pleasure in all year long.

Keep watch over web sites like Secret London, which hold a good and up-to-date calendar of free events 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 companies – however there are some fairly respectable chain eating places within the UK which might present inexpensive offers in respectable places, excellent for a fast, simple and inexpensive lunch.

A few of my favourites embody Pizza Specific (they typically 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 possibility with good-quality British dishes, head to one of many Browns Bar and Brasserie’s throughout the town, the restaurant group the place I labored for a few years.

In case you’re going to spend some time in London, then the Style Card could also be price 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 typically 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 occasions when eating places will not be too busy, and also you’ll more than likely discover the very best offers.

You probably have a restaurant you actually wish to go to while you might be right here, name or test the web site to seek out out if they provide a set menu – it’s going to normally prevent a good chunk on the À la carte worth.

Do take into account that the places you’re looking at will probably change the out there offers. For instance, in monetary districts such because the Metropolis of London or Canary Wharf, lunches are normally their prime time with workplace employees which means offers aren’t probably 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 usually ‘dwell like an workplace native’ – then seize your self a meal deal. It’s not precisely fancy, but it surely’s a method to lower your journey prices and do London on a price range.

These easy lunch offers are one thing of a staple within the UK and are supplied in locations corresponding to supermarkets and even well being retailers corresponding to Boots. Normally costing between £3-£4, you’ll be able to 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 fingers.

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

14. Attempt 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 just a few methods to economize past the voucher web sites I discussed beforehand. In fact, these choices aren’t excellent in case you want a selected present on a selected day – for that, it’s greatest to simply accept the worth and guide prematurely – however you probably have some flexibility, think about the beneath.

Firstly, there are almost all the time last-minute tickets up for grabs instantly from the field workplace. These could also be returns or simply tickets which have been 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 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 every day 2.5 hours earlier than the efficiency. It is a nice method to take pleasure in London on a price range and recognize the unimaginable cultural scene.

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

15. E book prepare fares prematurely

This isn’t a lot a London on a price range tip, however it’s going to apply in case you plan on leaving London to go to different elements of the UK, corresponding to Cornwall’s points of interest, Scotland’s capital metropolis of Edinburgh, or the buzzing metropolis of Manchester.

The actual fact is rail journey within the UK may be very expensive. You may assume these excessive prepare costs imply wonderful providers, however that additionally isn’t all the time the case – generally a seat isn’t even assured – and chances are you’ll end up standing for a lot of the journey. As such, you’ll wish to guide prematurely on-line.

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

Whereas particular person prepare corporations (we don’t have one rail firm) permit reserving on their web sites, The Train Line is a wonderful place to start out as it’s going to 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 try to guide instantly.

In case you plan to journey to a few of the most lovely elements of the nation, corresponding to visiting the Cotswolds, these advance fares will likely be your largest cash saver. Additionally, take a look at Nationwide Specific, the UK’s long-distance coach firm. These busses are almost all the time trendy, cozy, and good worth – offering a further possibility to achieve locations maybe not served by the trains or at a good lower cost.