London is notoriously expensive, and even most locals are on the constant lookout for good deals. However, there are ways of visiting the UK capital without going broke. Here are a few ways to do it:
Eating out is a major part of any holiday, and despite England’s undeserved reputation for horrible food, London is one of the world’s top fine dining spots. However, if you want to save a bit of cash, there are a few cheap options. A lot of travelers suggest buying cheese, meats, and bread at a supermarket as a way of cutting costs. While this is an excellent idea if you are staying in a hotel or hostel with a fridge, or if you’re traveling in a group, it’s not so great if there’s just one or two of you, as you’ll probably end up buying more than you can eat. The nice thing about London is that pretty much all of the supermarkets, as well as the local chain of chemists (drugstores) Boots sell delicious pre-boxed sandwiches, that can often be combined with chips (known as crisps) and a drink for a “meal deal” price. Moreover, they include some traditional combinations of cheeses and meats (vegetarians should try the Ploughman’s type sandwich, based on the quintessentially English pub cheese platter). If you’d prefer something warm, there are usually lots of stalls selling filling Cornish pasties (essentially savory pies for one) at London’s train stations.
One of the best things about London is that most of its sites are free. The national museums here, from the British Museum to the National Gallery, are supported by public funds, grants, and donations and don’t charge admissions (except to special exhibits). Many of the city’s other well-known sites, including its many piazzas, churches, and bridges are also, naturally, free. Select holy sites, such as Westminster Abbey, usually charge entry fees, but if you come during a service, you won’t have to pay (although you won’t be able to walk around taking photos, either).
London is a very expensive place to get around, but there are a few ways of cutting your rates back. First of all, make sure you get an Oyster Card, which is essentially a refillable travel card, as soon as you arrive. Traveling using this method is a lot cheaper than using individual tickets. Also, in the central parts of town, namely the West End, tube (underground train) stations are actually a lot closer together than they appear, and it’s usually easy enough to walk rather than take the tube if you’re only going a stop or two. With tube rides starting at over £2, transport costs can really add up, and this is a good way to knock them down. Another way to save a bit of money is by taking the bus rather than the tube, as fares are usually at least 50 pence less. Moreover, you’re charged per ride rather than a rate that depends on what zones you are traveling in (as is the case with the Tube), so you can save a lot if going longer distances. You may also opt to rent a “Boris Bike” through the Bicycle for Hire program. Bicycle stations are set up across the city and you can remove and deposit bikes at different spots. Your credit card will be charged for the amount of time you use.
Lodging is still one of the more expensive aspects of a London trip, but you can reduce your costs by staying in one of the city’s many hostels, most of which are open to travelers of all ages. Vacation rentals can also be found on websites like Airbnb and the local listings site gumtree.com. If you’re visiting in the summer, many universities, including University College London, rent out their student accommodations on a per-night basis. Most rooms are private, but you may have to share a bathroom.