We’ve all been there, yeah? You’ve been longing to explore London, you’ve discovered where to find the best views in London and even planned which of the London markets to explore. That being said, you’ve got to visit London on a budget – after all, that money doesn’t come for free.
Its happened to me countless times that I’ve now chosen to forget.
At the time, all those ‘it’s fine, we’re on holiday’, or ‘we don’t splurge every day’ and the best, ‘we can pay it back next month’ mentalities really do bring on a case of the cold sweats as they’re my usual excuses I use to pay over the odds for something that I really want to do. I love the experiences but hate the financial heartbreak once getting back to reality!
This is exactly why it’s important to visit London on a budget that suits you.
Today, I’m gonna cover off the many ways to save money in our fabulous city, inspired by the awesomely thrifty and savvy, Milou of Explorista, who knows a few things about how to visit London on a budget.
Best ways to visit London on a budget
With that in mind, take a look, below, at the best ways to visit London on a budget.
1.) Travel-savvy with an Oyster Card
Any visitor worth their weight in financial savviness will choose to take the Underground while visiting London. The Underground network is comprehensive, convenient and relatively cheap compared to a Black Cab. That’s why so many of us Londoners travel by it each day (even if we do moan about it once in a while) :-).
One thing to remember is to grab yourself an Oyster Card from your departing tube station. There is a small deposit of around £5 (refundable before you leave) and you can load credit onto it to travel across the Transport For London Network consisting of; The Underground, buses, trams, and even the Thames Clipper (boats).
By having an Oyster Card your fares are not only reduced for the day, they actually become capped at a certain daily amount of around £8. This means that you can never overspend and any other travel that day is totally free. It really is one of the easiest ways to visit London on a budget.
2.) Watch a discounted West-End show
A West End Show is a popular jaunt for most visitors of the city. With a range of options from old school theatre favourite like Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera to newer funny shows like The Book of Mormon – there’s always a good show going on.
Now, some people forget that you can actually secure seats for the show at half the normal price and really visit London on a budget. For instance, head to the official TKTS both in the centre of Leicester Square to see what availability there is for unsold seats for the day’s shows.
From here, you can decide on the best west end shows and find the right seats. Choices can be limited on weekends as shows fill up faster – so do check first thing in the morning at the booth.
3,) See London from the air for FREE
If you want an incredible view of the city, head to the Sky Garden in London.
The Sky Garden is on top of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ skyscraper, right in the heart of the city and it’s totally FREE to visit! You’ll still need to book a slot so make sure you plan ahead and book here.
It’s great for views and an epic way to visit London on a budget.
Just don’t forget to take your camera.
4,) Cruise the Thames for a fraction of the cost
A boat cruise across the Thames can be a costly experience if you’re saving money when visiting London Town. One way to cut costs by 70% is to ride the Thames Clipper – It’s a commuter boat network that goes up and down the Thames that is owned and operated by Transport for London (TfL).
You will see the same sights as the Thames cruises and you’ll literally pay a fraction of the cost. It’s one of the easiest ways to get around and visit London on a budget.
Don’t forget to use your Oyster Card to board the boat – tickets become even more discounted using that with a ride from any station to the other costing around £5.
5.) Visit London’s Museums for FREE
All publicly owned museums in London are FREE. They won’t cost you a single penny but you are of course welcome to give a donation if you wish.
If you find yourself in London with time on your hands, you should definitely spend a day exploring the British Museum, The National History Museum or The Imperial War Museum… to mention but a few.
Honestly, the museums are just amazing and a perfect way to visit London on a budget. I mean, you don’t have to spend a penny!
6,) Catch bus no.453 for the best tour of London
Want to take a bus tour of Central London but worried about the hefty costs of a tour? Well, take an original double-decker London Bus that’s part of the transport network. Hop on London Bus no.453 from Marylebone and take it all the way south (you can get off just before Lambeth North station).
You’ll pass through Oxford Circus, Regents Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, Big Ben and The Houses Of Parliament, The London Eye and The Imperial War Museum.
The bus journey will take about 1 hour and only cost you around £1.80 – a hefty saving against the £30 price tag for some hop-on-hop-off tours. The no. 453 bus is also 24 hours and runs every 5 minutes or so.
This really is one of the best ways to experience and visit London on a budget (Without those high tour costs).
7.) Enjoy the stunning royal parks
London has some of the most beautiful parks in Europe but then again I’m biased. These parks are many a Londoner’s favourite pastimes and are only made better by a gloriously sunny day.
One of my favourite things to do in summer is to grab some strawberries, some clotted cream and a bottle or two of Prosecco and head to the grassy expanses of St. James’s or Greenwich Park.
You’ll be joined by hundreds of other Londoners (me included) so grab your spot fast.
8.) Arrive late at one of London’s many markets
The food markets of London are a favourite spot for visitors and locals alike to gorge on some delicious treats. From hot cider, homemade cakes, organic foods to rather global cuisines – London Markets have it all.
That being said, if you plan to try it all, costs can significantly pile up.
One way to save a little money is to head to the markets 30 minutes before they close – often many traders will halve their prices so that food isn’t wasted and your tummy is filled. It’s such a great way to grab a bargain and visit London on a budget.
9.) Barter in Brick Lane
Most food venues in London offer fixed price eating but if you head to Brick Lane which is famed for its delicious Indian restaurants you’ll find a whole new world of food where you can actually set the price for what you’d like.
There are literally hundreds of curry houses vying for your attention and you agree on the price before you venture in. Another added service many of the restaurant’s offer is gifting wine to your table – all in the name of securing your hungry mouths from their competitors on the street.
10.) Book train tickets in advance
If you’re planning to visit some other picturesque places outside of London, like the Cotswolds or even if you’re just looking to book your Heathrow Express tickets, make sure to book in advance. By choosing set times in advance to catch the train, you can lower your costs by over 60%.
A great saving when you’re looking to travel to other places in Britain. (Oh, and we’ve got more ways here to help you save on train tickets). It’s a totally easy way to visit London on a budget and even explore more of the UK.