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Travel to London on a budget

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  • Post last modified:February 18, 2024
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Introduction
Whether you’ve visited already or not, most people are aware that London is one of the pricier destinations you can travel to. That being said no one should be missing out on this diverse, creative and buzzing hub of a city! Each borough contained, is brimming with its own unique life and character. Catch one bus or train across the city and experience a completely distinct destination from the last. You will never run out of things to do here. It’s an absolute must on my travelling bucket list and there’s honestly no place quite like it. So for anyone who’s feeling drawn to this bustling cosmopolitan paradise but is strapped for cash, then I’ve got you covered! Here’s my city guide on how to make the most out of London on a budget.

Travel to London on a budget

Getting there
London has several airports you can fly into. Heathrow is accessible by tube so tends to be the most convenient for the journey from airport to your accommodation. Due to this convenience, flights tend to be a bit pricier to this airport. If you have the time to spare you can save money by catching flights to Luton or Stansted instead. Both are slightly further out and will require you to catch a train or coach to the centre but will likely save you a worthwhile amount on flights.

Where to stay
London is huge so you won’t run out of choices of places to stay here. Hotels can be pricey but there are more affordable options. Stay at a hostel for a sociable, low maintenance trip and likely meet other travellers to explore the urban jungle with. Or for a bit more privacy and authenticity, get an air bnb and live like a local in a home! Air bnb’s are usually a much cheaper option, not to mention you can save lots of money by hitting the supermarket and cooking some of your meals in.

Different areas of London vary dramatically in price and personality. Picking the wrong place could land you on the wrong side of an hour-long commute to where you want to be. London is huge so do expect a lot of transport needed but since you’ll likely be catching a tube or bus either way, you might as well save money by staying a bit further out. My tip would be to not worry about how central you are but be sure to locate yourself close to a useful tube stop – anything on the central or victoria tube line will put you in a great position to travel to a lot of London’s hot spots.

Where to eat
You’ll be spoilt for choice with where to eat in this mesmerizing city and it might be easier than you think to get some bang for your buck when dining out. In a city so large with so much choice you can expect a lot of great deals if you look out for them.

Hit up a BYOB restaurant for a cheap and cheerful dinner date. These usually charge £0-1.50 corkage per bottle so cut out the main expense of alcohol. My favourite BYOB is Marie’s cafe in Waterloo – a low key Thai restaurant doubling as a greasy spoon in the daytime. Do not be deceived by its rough exterior. This tiny cafe has rave reviews and long queues extending down the street anyday by the time it hits 7pm.

Another way you can eat like a king on a budget here is sourcing out the all you can eat restaurants. Great value and no risk of disappointment from the dreaded stingy portion sizes. My favourite all you can eat restaurant is located in South London, Battersea and called Sushi Cafe. Here you can enjoy up to 18 dishes per person for £17.99! Do not be discouraged by the portion limit, trust me, you will not come close.

Where to grab a drink?
There are plenty of places to grab some low-price pints in London. Simons and Wetherespoons are the two budget pub chains here which serve pints for as little as £3. Or for a more boujee experience, catch one of the many cocktail happy hours scattered across most highstreets. Wherever you are in London there will likely be a bar nearby which runs a happy hour on weeknights, allowing you to sip on mojitos for as little as £5. A quick google search will help you find any nearby bars but my favourite is located in the must-visit Soho. It’s called Salsa Bar! and runs a 2 for one cocktail happy hour every single day of the week from 4-8pm. With a fairy lit beer garden and amazing tapas deals you can’t go wrong. And if you’re partial to a cheesy night out then head downstairs for free daily Salsa lessons at 7:30pm. Other cocktail bars which run frequent happy hours are all bar one and tequila mockingbird, so definitely worth checking these out if you’re up for a drink and a boogie.

What to do?
Finally the most important part, activities! Considering it’s reputation as an expensive city, London offers a remarkable amount of free activities to enjoy. You won’t have to look far for a free gallery or museum. Head to Kensington to be stimulated by The Science Museum or have your jaws dropped by dinosaurs at The Natural History Museum. For galleries, head to The Tate Modern by the popular Southbank, or head to east for The Whitechapel Gallery.

For affordable evening entertainment head to two of London’s most famous comedy clubs which put on daily shows for free. Secret comedy club is in Soho and Angel comedy club is further north. These shows allow performers to test out new materials before their bigger shows in a relaxed and intimate setting.

You can’t visit London without wondering through the many markets it has on offer. Visit Portobello, Camden or Shepherds Bush for clothing, fabrics or trinkets. Or for the foodies, hit up Borough Market or Spitalfields in East. Some of these markets only take place on Saturdays so be sure to plan your itinerary accordingly.

Take a pit stop at the park! Despite being an Urban city, London has a surprising amount of greenery to enjoy. Wherever you are there will likely be a huge park nearby where you can grab a coffee and take a stoll. In Summertime grab a takeaway and have a picnic in the sun, or enjoy one of my favourite budget modes of transport – rollerblading! Close to the entrance of Hyde park is Slick Willies skate shop who let you rent a pair of blades for an astonishing £10 for the whole day. If skating doesn’t excite you then you can always grab one of the rental bikes stationed on every street corner which offer you 30 minutes free cycling or if you want a proper London experience then jet across the Thames on the river boat which can take you from Putney to Greenwich with fares as low as £5 using contactless or Oyster Card.

Whether you’re looking for inexpensive eats, affordable activities or low-cost cocktails you will be sure to find it in London if you know where to look. Get the most out of this city without sacrificing quality for cost and remember the best things in London are priceless!