Doing London travel on the cheap

March 2, 2011 | Posted By: Miss A | Categorized in: Travel

I love London. It is such a fun and fab city where there is always something to do, a new thing to explore and great food to be eaten - it covers all the areas you would expect from Britain's capital city. While London is just an hour and a half drive, the locals from city in which I live never seem to pop over to London to catch up with what's new and what's changed. If they do, it's for a big event involving an obvious club, an overpriced hotel, and a crushed bank balance. Sadly, many tourists visiting spend more time exploring the city than those of us living in the surrounding towns. London is expensive. Having lived in London in the past. I have put together a collection of hints for anyone from anywhere who wants to enjoy the city on the cheap. The key is to pay for the things that you want to pay for and minimize the cost of the things that you don't.

Transport for London

You get to London and want to see it all, but getting from one place to another includes a variety of confusing and expensive tubes and buses. Here are some tips to make things easier and cheaper:
  • Oyster card
    As soon as you arrive, get yourself an Oyster card. This electronic pass, valid on the London Underground, buses, and more, is an obvious choice for a local but not always so apparent for visitors. It is definitely worth the cost of 3 as it will cut your fare in half. Public transport is the sensible and green way to get around. By getting on Oyster card, you have taken the first step to limiting your budget. (Make sure you always tap in and tap out as forgetting will result in you being charged the highest travel fee, which is a frustrating feeling.)

  • Plan and research
    London is full of fun areas and corners that deserve your attention. Instead of racing round from one end to the other, slow it down and explore each area at an enjoyable pace. If you are heading west for a day of shopping and sights, start at the furthest point and make your way back by foot. Experience the city in the chilled British air, rather than in an underground stressful heap. By using this approach, you may only need to spend the fare to and from each area.

  • All aboard!
    Before you even get to London, you need to pay to get there which can be another rip-off. Driving is not a desirable option due to parking, the congestion charge, and traffic build-up. Getting the train is the next best thing, if you want to think about your carbon footprint! To save on your journey, don't leave it until the last minute by paying at the station. Book online, and be sure to book in advance if you can. Single tickets online work out to be the cheapest option. Even if you are planning a last minute trip, you will get at least a third off the price you would pay at the station. Another even cheaper way to travel is on the bus. Although this can be a long journey, it can prove practical for students - get your reading and work done on the journey so you enjoy your city break guilt-free.

Hitting the shops

Shopping and big cities go hand-in-hand. If you have a tight budget but still insist on retail therapy, London is brimming with shopping spots for a range of pockets.
  • Let's get vintage
    Amazing vintage shops are scattered all over the city. However, beware of the rip-off boutiques that melt your heart while emptying your pockets. Shops like Beyond Retro and Absolute Vintage have stock just as good as the boutiques; they just require more of a rummage. Get involved!

  • Designer only
    Shopping for designer purchases is not necessarily the most appropriate way of keeping your costs down. However, where there is a will there's a way. In this case, the way is second hand stores in posh places. Head on down to South-west London and go rooting around the Loros's, Salvation Army, Right Street Kensington or Kings Road. In order words, think of any over-priced street, renowned for its designer stores, and head over to the charity shops that surround it.

Eating and drinking

London is thriving with gorgeous food from all over the world. You can find anything you want, but the price can vary greatly on where you eat and what you know.
  • Avoid eating central
    As it goes in any big city, highly populated tourist areas include eateries where food doesn't come close to matching its price. Going all out on an amazing meal at a top restaurant that you have been recommended is one thing, but getting hungry and sauntering into the first place that looks good is another. Imagine the disappointment when the bill arrives after an un-enjoyable feast.

  • Sample local treats
    Local neighborhoods are great places to find delicious food in London. More residential spots offer a number of fantastic places with reasonably-priced great food. Head over to local gastro pubs for chalk written specials and yummy nouveau English-style concoctions in a great British atmosphere.

  • International cuisine
    Indian? Vietnamese? Turkish? If this sounds good to you, then you will no doubt be enjoying a gorgeous dinner at a great price. These international restaurants are scattered all over London. The east end is renowned for it. Head to Kingsland Road for Turkish and Vietnamese, or Brick Lane for Indian. An added bonus with these restaurants is a number of them allow you to bring your own alcohol, lowering your bill further!

  • Quenching your thirst
    Drinks in pubs and bars can be another sure-fire way of dwindling down your budget at a fast rate. So, why don't you join the rest of London and get down to a park. Providing it isn't raining, Londoners love nothing more than a day relaxing with friends on the little patches of grass that are on offer. On a sunny-ish day, you may think you have walked onto a concert or festival from the crowds of people milling around. But no, it is simply the local park where workers go to enjoy the outdoors. Think shop-bought alcohol, picnics, barbecues, people watching, and an atmosphere that will make you want to book a return trip, quick.

As you can see, there are a number of ways of cutting down the city costs. Do some research and go have fun!

Guest contributor Miss A works as a Social Media Consultant for Kranichs, purveyors of Mothers Rings, Bridal Sets and much more!
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March 3, 2011 | Posted By: ger16
I'm not sure it's common knowledge that the best place to change your currency into British Pounds, then back again is at the Banc Exchange in the Post Office. They exchange for the current (that day's) exchange rate, and no fees. Just a straight exchange.
March 5, 2011 | Posted By: bernedyou
thanks posters!
March 12, 2011 | Posted By: frank10b
sure royal mail is great if u can still find a post office since they closed so many down in the efficiency/privtizing moves.
the pubs are now all owned by 2 debit financed groups gunnis and green tree and so even rundown neighborhood pub is owned by a multi-national and run by tenants who have to pay really high rents. some but not all cheat on the food, which the corporate HQ encourage.
ethnic shops out of central london are only places to consider.
some markets discount food %50 or more at end of day, but u gotta be quick.
shopping...forget it
food cheaper and better in france
london is best for cultural offerings, some of best in world are free, but the super shows at museums can be as muc as $45 dollars usd a tkt!
avoid the trains (all private monopolies slower than they were in 19C and really expensive, underground is really expensive like almost $5 a trip one way, buses only about 2-3 dollars one way.
london is a very expensive place, the new and old center of international capitalism for the world (when u go u will know what I mean)
there is also some free food avail but thats a secret!!!
March 18, 2011 | Posted By: freedwoman
I just got back from three weeks in the U.K., mostly in London but with side trips to Cardiff and Cornwall.
Did the math and found that I spent an average of 17 pounds a day for food, transit, donations to museums and money given to homeless people. I used my credit card only a few times, for tickets to events and to treat my Cornwall hosts to dinner out. The rest of the time it was cash-only.
My biggest savings: Staying in a hostel (Piccadilly Backpackers Hostel, EXTREMELY basic but right off Piccadilly Circus), eating most of my meals from the Tesco Metro, walking a lot instead of automatically taking the Underground or a bus, and taking the Megabus to Cardiff (a little over $10 USD round-trip) instead of the National Railway.
Cheapskate? Heck, yes. How else could I afford to stay for three weeks? But it was a great three weeks. I'm already hoping to get myself back there as soon as possible.
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