Getting Around London on a Budget
London is one of the easiest cities to travel to and across. The city is served by a number of airports – six in fact! But don’t let that daunt you, as whichever airport you fly into around London will have quick and easy transport links into the city. The largest and most popular Airport is London Heathrow, and a single Underground cash fare into the center of the city will cost you just £6.00. Perfect for getting to into the center of London on a budget! But it’s even cheaper if you buy an Oyster card…
One of the best pieces of advice for any traveler venturing into London is to buy a London Visitor Oyster Card. These cards can be used on all modes of transport in London – whether that be the Underground System, buses, and even riverboats. Buying this Oyster Card will also give you discount and reduced fares for your journeys. With your Oyster Card, you can reduce your Heathrow – London tube from £6.00 to £3.10 during off-peak times. Bonus!
London’s Underground System is one of the most popular forms of transport around the city. It’s quick, it’s simple, easy to crack and one of the best ways to travel around London on a budget. The Underground System is split into zones, ranging from 1 – 9 so you’ll need to ensure your Oyster Card or ticket is valid for your specific travel destination. But if you get lost or confused, we’d always recommend using the London Tube App for your Smartphone to check the line service and to plan your route.
Most tourists who go to London choose to use the Tube over any other transport because of its efficiency. But this also means it gets incredibly busy. If you want to take in the tourist attractions at your own leisure without squeezing into a tin of fellow Sardines (sometimes the tube can feel like that) then you can always take the bus. It will of course be slower, and may not take you exactly where you want to go, but it is another option under your Oyster Card – where each single bus fare will cost you £1.50, anywhere in the city. For up to date maps, click here.
And there’s also another option: walk. Okay, So you might not want to go on vacation to walk everywhere – but if you want to travel around London on a budget this is one of your best ways to see the city, and spend less. If you’re street savvy and follow your nose, you can walk from London Victoria Station past Buckingham Palace, through Green Park, watch the Horse Guard’s Parade and the Changing of the Guard, walk past Nelson’s Column and Trafalgar Square, walk down The Mall, past the London Eye and up to the Houses of Parliament in less than an hour – without even working up a sweat! If you don’t fancy walking by yourself, London offers a variety of free walking tours, enabling you to see the sights and learn so much more about the city. But they’re not just your normal walking tours. You can start off with the London Graffiti and Street Art Tour in the morning, take a well-earned break with a London Food Tour and finish off with London’s Theatreland: From The Globe to Covent Garden. And the best part? You don’t spend a penny. Check out more from the free walking tours here.
Budget Accommodation In London
There are so many accommodation options in London that finding the right place for you and on a budget can be a daunting task! But there are some simple ways to find the perfect place for you during your budget trip to London. You just need to know where to look. We’re going to be looking at three budget accommodation options in London to help you out: Hostels, Hotels and Airbnbs.
Because London is such a tourist trap, hostels are becoming increasingly popular, and are perfect for the solo traveler wanting to stay in London on a budget. Most hostel set-ups mean that you have to share a dormitory with fellow travelers (normally around eight to a dormitory), but that’s all part of the traveling experience! Shared dormitories normally start from around £10-£25 for the night depending on the area. Most hostels also give you the option of renting a private dorm for one or two people – but this will bump up the price. Check out http://www.hostelworld.com/hostels/London for the latest prices and availability, but here’s a few options we’d choose.
Rest Up London, London
From £12 per night, per person
If you’re looking for a hostel with a bit more British history, then Rest Up London is the place to be. In 2016, it was awarded as the best hotel for groups – so grab your mates and pack your bags because you’re going to London! The hostel is close to all of the best landmarks and is just a short walk away from Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye – all from just £12 for a 33-bed mixed dormitory, or £16 for a 4-bed mixed dorm. It’s one of the cheapest hostels in London, so we don’t mind sharing…
Smart Hyde Park Inn Hostel, London
From £13.99 per night, per person
Okay, so the Smart Hyde Park Inn Hostel is pretty basic – but it has everything you need if you just want somewhere to lay your head, and for £13.99 per night per person for a 13-bed dorm, you can’t really complain, because this is another one of the cheapest accommodation options in London. And judging by the TripAdvisor reviews, you couldn’t get better staff if you tried. So no need to worry about getting lost!
Wombats City Hostel, London
From £20 each per night, per person
Considering The Wombats City Hotel is slap bang in the center of London (just a five minute walk away from Tower Bridge!) and has been awarded the crown for the most popular hostel in London in 2017, it’s the perfect accommodation in London on a budget, although it is a bit pricier than the others. For just over £20 a night you can stay in an 8-bed dorm complete with ensuite. And it’s pretty fancy for a hostel, too.
Because they are so in-demand, hotels in London are normally quite pricey, and in most cases you’re looking at around £60 – £150 a night for your basic Travelodge. But if you’re looking for something a bit fancier than a hostel, and with all of your home comforts, room service and mini-bar, you can definitely find cheaper hotels if you’re savvy with your search. Voucher websites such as Groupon and Wowcher often have deals that are worth taking a look at:
Hotel ibis Styles London Kensington ***
From £61.00 per night
If you’re used to the finer things in life (but without the hefty price tags) the ibis hotel in the fancy Kensington district can give you everything you need. With its upmarket furnishings and stylish decor, the hotel has everything you need from your basic 3.5* hotel (as reviewed on TripAdvisor) – just don’t expect caviar and spa treatments because this is one of the cheapest hotels in London!
Premier Inn London Tower Bridge ***
From £80.50 a night
The name kind of gives it away here! This hotel is slap bang in the center of London and just minutes away from some of the biggest landmarks. Although it is more expensive than other budget hotels in London, all of the rooms are kitted out with king size beds and 40-inch TVs and everything else you could want from a modern hotel chain, and you couldn’t get a better location if you tried.
London Finsbury Park Travelodge ***
From £69.00 per night
This hotel is located slightly out of the center of London in the peaceful parkland of Finsbury Park – but you can just hop on the Victoria or Piccadilly lines and be there in under 20 minutes. Or you can take a walk through the beautiful park at your own leisure! Each of these rooms comes with a king size bed, the perfect place to rest your head (and snore the place down) after a day of sightseeing, and is perfect for your budget London trip.
Airbnb is becoming an increasingly popular form of accommodation, and it can be a much cheaper alternative to hotels and a perfect way to keep you within your London travel budget. The idea behind AirBnb is for hosts to rent out their rooms or whole apartments to you for the duration of your stay – and what you choose is down to you. Either you go for the cheaper, basic options of a private room, normally staying with your host, with a shared bathroom and communal facilities. Or, you opt for a whole apartment all to yourself or your family. Of course, location and size and time of year will affect your price, so don’t just go for the first one you find!
Here are some cheap Airbnb examples in London:
If you’re traveling solo or really want to save your pennies, it is always cheaper to stay in a private room – meaning you normally share with the rest of the flat or house with your host or other guests. This private room is located within a pre-1900s historical building and is just a few minutes walk away from Tower Bridge, The Shard and the riverside – and you even get your own sofa and victorian fireplace for just £39 per night!
If you fancy your own space on your budget holiday to London, renting out an entire apartment for you and your significant other could be the best option for you! For just £52 per night for the whole apartment, you get a large double room, bathroom, kitchen, living room and balcony ALL TO YOURSELF! What could be better? Oh yeah, the fact it is a five minute walk to the London Eye!
If there’s a group of you going, renting out a cheap Airbnb in London and splitting the cost is your best bet. This duplex is just located in the bustling area of Soho (and just two mins away from Chinatown!) and has three double bedrooms, meaning it can sleep up to six people. You also get a huuuuuuge living area and kitchen, all for just £50 per night. Split that between three couples and that’s just over £16 per couple, per night! What a steal.
Top Tips for finding the best accommodation on a budget
- If you can, try and stay outside of Central London when looking for cheap London accommodation, as this will bump up the price. With all of the amazing transport links, wherever you are on the outskirts, it will only be a short journey into the center.
- Check out all of the reviews. When it comes to sites like AirBnb, it is always important to look at previous reviews. There is nothing worse than spending money for what could be compared to a public toilet (yep, it has happened).
- Make sure there are no hidden costs. Many AirBnbs in London, cheap hostels or London budget hotels may charge you for things like cleaning, baby cots, hairdryers etc. As a requirement, they have to put these hidden costs on the website, but make sure you read the fine print before you spend any money.
- Plan ahead. Basically, the further ahead you choose your accommodation – the cheaper they are. If you’re booking last minute, you’re looking at a bigger budget.
- Try and be flexible. One big thing about London is that accommodation sites also bump up their prices at the weekend – as this is their busiest time, and the demand is higher. If you can, try and go midweek, and you’ll find yourself spending less.
- Compare your prices. If you’re completely bogged down with accommodation options in London, try using a comparison site. You can reset your filters based on location, reviews, and price to find the best deal. We recommend the likes of Expedia, Booking.com and laterooms.com.
Eating & Drinking on a Budget in London
Just like everything in London, there is just SO much choice. You could spend half your time trying to decide when and where to eat in London that you miss out on everything else the city has to offer! So we’ve broken it down for you, with some of the best and cheapest options for every meal – because who doesn’t want to eat cheap in London?
If you’re coming to London on a budget, and especially if you’re coming from another country, there is only one option for breakfast – the good ol’ English fry-up! The typical English fry-up consists of bacon, sausage, eggs (fried/scrambled/poached/however you want), baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns and black pudding. But of course, this depends on the restaurant or cafe. On average, you should expect to pay around £6 – £10 on breakfast. Here’s a few options:
What you get: A full english of your choosing. You get to create your very own DIY fry-up from over 20 items on the menu – all for £6.50. That’ll be enough to fill your bellies before you explore the city, that’s for sure.
What you get: A full English fry-up in the cafe that inspired the 1993 St Etienne song, ‘Mario’s Cafe.’ Culture, music and food? Cor, London does spoil us. Oh, and don’t forget to try out all the different varieties of English tea. You can’t come to London and not try Tea. We recommend the Earl Grey…
When visiting London on a budget, sometimes it’s better to have lunch on the go, rather than sitting down to eat. Throughout London, there are food stalls everywhere. We suggest taking a trip to the eclectic Camden Market, in Camden Town, where you will find hundreds of food stalls. For on-the-go food, you can expect to pay between £5-15 each. Check out this list for all of the food stalls: https://www.camdenmarket.com/food-drink
Whether you call it dinner, tea or supper – finding the right meal to end your day of fun can be a tough job, especially when you want to eat dinner in London on a budget. The English pride themselves of their traditional English pubs, and they are the most popular drinking holes in the country. There are hundreds of these traditional pubs scattered across London, meaning you can try out the famous pub grub – because you can’t leave London without eating in a pub! So here’s a breakdown of where you can find some cheap eats in London pubs.
Price Range: Cheap
What you get: The George at Southwark is located on the edge of the River Thames and is the oldest pub in London! The pub is owned by The National Trust but leased out to give its punters the best pub grub in a medieval setting. And their sausage and mash is to die for with REAL British sausages. Yummy. Considering it’s London, the prices at The George are fairly reasonable, and they have some of the finest ale’s around. They also serve a traditional Sunday Roast on sundays with all the trimmings…
Price Range: Cheap
What you get: The Anchor pub is steeped with history – it was once a bull and bear baiting pit, it was the site of a Roman grave and it was also a plague pit, but don’t let that put you off (it’s had a fair few cleans since then and now has a 4.5* TripAdvisor review). Because of its history, the Anchor is full of character and serves some great food to boot. Although the food is reasonably priced, the drinks aren’t. You will have to pay upwards of £6 for a beer…
Price Range: Very Cheap
What you get: If you just fancied a bit of food on the go, and wanted to sample some of England’s famous fish and chips, Johnny’s Fish Bar is the only place to go for traditional fish and chips. And the best part is, you get the whole experience – newspaper and all! For a cod and chips you’d expect to pay around £6, and you can then go take them on a walk along the Thames…
London is the kind of city that doesn’t really sleep – it gets about 2 hours kip a night! And this means that the nightlife is constant. Wherever you go in London you will find buzzing nightlife, bars, clubs, comedy clubs, acoustic nights, casinos, theater and more. So here’s the lowdown on the best cheap nightlife options in London (but be prepared to get just 2 hours kip yourself afterwards!).
Price Range: Cheap
If you’re looking for a cheap bar in London, THIRST Bar is one of the best. Open til 3am Tuesday to Saturday (and open until 12:30 am on Mondays) you can dance and drink the night away in London on a budget – because the drinks are super, duper cheap. A glass of wine will cost you just £5, cocktails during their ‘stupid hour’ (i.e during the day when you shouldn’t really be drinking, but hey, you’re on holiday!) start from £6 and if there’s a group of you, you can buy a bucket of a dozen beers for £40 – that’s just over £3 each!
Price Range: So cheap it’s free!
What you get: The Angel Comedy Club in Camden is the perfect spot to start off your cheap night out in London. Every day, the club puts on free shows for its punters, meaning you don’t have to spend a penny! For the free shows, make sure you arrive early as entrance is based on a first come first served basis (the shows start at 8pm, so aim to get there between 7:15 pm and 7:30 pm).
Price Range: Cheap
If you’re looking for a bigger night out in London, why not finish your evening off in a club? The Roxy in Leicester Square is a basement style club that is always packed to the rafters – so don’t worry, you won’t be awkwardly dancing alone on the dance floor. If you can, get there before the club fills out to take advantage of their Happy Hour (Monday – Friday 5pm – 8.30 pm, Saturday 6.30pm – 10.30pm). You can get half price cocktail pitchers for £8.50, and 2 for 1 on Kronenberg got just £3.70!
Cheap or Free Attractions in London
There are so many things to see and do in London during a short stay that don’t cost an arm and a leg! Many of the attractions in London are perfect for those wanting to explore London on a budget. Take a look at the best budget London attractions – without messing out on the best bits.
- Buckingham Palace – Seeking out the palace where the Queen of England resides is a must if you go to London. The beautiful building and gates are a sight to behold, and looking doesn’t cost a penny! If you want to see a bit more, the palace opens for tours during July-August and September-October and will cost you £23 per adult.
- The London Eye – The London Eye is the best place to see London from above. You get a 360 tour of the city, with breathtaking views and photo opportunities. The best way to get the most out of your London Eye ticket is to buy the Eye-Popping Days Out ticket. For £39.00 per adult and £28.00 for a child, you get to ride on the London Eye and entry into another attraction from a list of: Madame Tussauds, London Sea Life Aquarium, The London Dungeons and Shrek’s Adventure! It’s a whole load of fun rolled into one.
- Tower of London – Ever wanted to see the Crown Jewels in front of your very eyes? Entry between 1 March 2017 and 28 February 2018 will cost your £28.00 at the gate, or £24 online for an adult, and £13.00 at the gate and £11.00 online for a child.
- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament – Big Ben is one of the most famous monuments in the city of London and is a definite must-see. The building and clock tower is easily seen from the road – meaning you won’t have to spend a penny! Alternatively, there is the option to pay for a tour:
- Go to a West End Show. Like New York and Broadway, London is famous for its West End. Here you can see shows like Wicked, The Lion King, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera and more. Get your singing voices ready…
- Southeastern 2-4-1. If you find yourself travelling to London via train, see if your travel route is available through Southeastern Railway. When you buy a train ticket with them, you are automatically valid for 2-4-1 tickets for attractions in London, and are well worth using for your trip to London on a budget.
- Visit the free museums! There are over 200 free museums in London, so if you’re strapped for cash, soak up some culture for free. Here’s a list of all of the free museums in and around the city: https://www.timeout.com/london/museums/free-museums-in-london
- Street artists. If you can’t afford to see a West End show, take yourself to the Thames Embankment to check out the street artists that perform there day and night.
- Go to the park. Of course, walking doesn’t cost anything, and neither does visiting a park! There are hundreds of parks throughout the city – but we’d definitely recommend Hyde Park for its Speakers Corner.
- Take a free walking tour – there are so many to choose from! http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/london-tours/
- Try to book online before you go. Many attractions have reduced ticket prices if you buy them online – rather than paying at the gate. The best way to visit London on the cheap is to get discount wherever you can!
- Book last minute West End tickets. Seeing a show in the famous West End is something many people want to do, but often can’t afford. But you can buy discounted tickets on the day from – you need to buy these tickets in person at their booth in Leicester Square, but they will cheaper than buying them in advance and with the theater itself.
Final Top Tips for Visiting London on a Budget
All in all, London is the ultimate travel destination and perfect for a city break – but trying to pack everything into a short space of time and money can be difficult. But if you follow these tips, you’ll be leaving with some spare change in your pockets, because here is everything you need to know to visit London on a budget:
- Buy a London Visitor Oyster Card and save yourself some money while you see all of the sights and attractions! It will (literally) pay off in the long run.
- Book your cheap London accommodation wisely. Remember to check reviews, location and hidden costs. Accommodation in the center of London is going to be more expensive. Aim to stay on the outskirts – it will never take you longer than 20 mins to get into the center!
- Make sure you plan your routes, where you want to go and what you want to see in London in advance so you get to see as much as possible, and don’t miss out. There is so much to see in London, you don’t want to leave without seeing the best bits.
- Take advantage of free London attractions – like all of the free museums! There are over 200 free museums in London to take advantage of and soak up some culture.
- Research vouchers for hotels, meals, attractions beforehand. Typing ‘London Vouchers’ is always the first step. There will be too many to choose from!
- Taste the street food in London (and to save money on a sit down meal). If you’re fussy, head to Camden market where you’ll be spoilt for choice. Try and find a quaint little English pub for some cheap pub grub on a budget.
- Book London attraction tickets in advance. Attractions like the Tower of London will charge you a reduced fee if you buy online.
- And lastly, have fun! Enjoy your time in London, and most importantly, enjoy visiting London on a budget! You can save the change for a drink on the flight home…