Since London is recognized as one the most expensive cities in the world, people can be rather hesitant when they are told that you can travel the city on a budget. Lucky for travelers on the cheap, there are several ways around the outrageous prices in the city, making it possible to visit the capital without leaving you completely broke. For an affordable vacation in this pricey destination, be sure to follow these handy tips.
Editor’s Note: Check out our Where to Stay in London to see our personal recommendations on hostels and hotels.
Purchase an Oyster Card
Paying regular fees for the tube and other sorts of public transport can quickly eat into your budget, so save yourself a few pounds a day and buy a Visitor Oyster Card and have it delivered to you before you travel to London. That way, you can take advantage of the discounted travel rates as soon as you arrive at the airport. The alternative to the Oyster Card would be a Day Travel card for the different zones, but that by comparison is much more expensive. The Visitor Oyster Card can be used with the underground Tube, London Overground, DLR (Docklands Light Railway), TfL Rail, and most national rail services. Other than the daily capping you’ll receive with the card, you’re also eligible for discounts and promotions all around town. Some of the offers include up to 25% off on museum entrance, complimentary champagne at certain establishments, and two-for-one West End theater tickets.
Read: 5 Ways to Save for Travel
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Arrive at a Major Airport Instead of a Regional Hub
There are lots of hidden fees when it comes to booking your ticket and one of the extra costs associated with London is which airport you touch down at. Regional airports are generally cheaper to fly into in terms of airfare, though if you factor in the time and money required to travel into the city, there isn’t much of a difference. For airports like London Heathrow, which is the busiest airport in the UK, more people are probably willing to take a bus or the Tube into the city center because of its close proximity. Compare that to other airports further out that have fewer transport options into the city and more onsite parking services due to the distance. Plus those hubs mainly operate short haul flights, so the chances of you flying into the likes of Stansted are quite slim.
Read: Why I left the UK to Travel in my 20’s
Plan Where to Stay Ahead of Time
Like in most places, leaving accommodation to the last minute can get pricey. If you book ahead of time, you have loads of options! Check out sites like Hotels Combined which compares various booking platforms to get you the cheapest deal. Alternatively, we also recommend looking into Air Bnb which is often a fraction of the price of hotels. In case you haven’t tried Air Bnb yet, here is a FREE $27 travel credit to get you started. We personally LOVE Air Bnb and use it all the time. Not only do we save money as most of them come with kitchens, we also get awesome local recommendations.
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Buy Groceries Instead of Always Eating at Restaurants
If you stay in a hostel or an Air Bnb place, you can really make use of your money by grocery shopping and making your own meals. Even if the particular dorm you’re staying at offers daily breakfasts, you can save a ton if you make packed lunches or snacks for the day, so that ideally you would only be spending on one meal out per day. Of course, there will be days where you will be too lazy to cook, and after all, you are on vacation and should treat yourself to a nice meal. Though if you’re reluctant to spend too much, deals with the Tastecard can give you up to 50 percent discount on selected restaurants. Another option for eating out is checking out the famous street markets, so while you’re getting some shopping done, you can sample some authentic British dishes as well as other food from around the globe.
Given those tips, we hope you can still explore London to your heart’s extent, even if you’re in a tight budget!