How to visit London on a Budget

London on a Budget? It’s no secret, that England’s Capitol city is a pretty expensive place. But a day out in London doesn’t have to cost lots of money. There are plenty of free attractions, cheap restaurants and bargain places to stay. Welcome to the Anekdotique Travel Guides to London for every kind of travel style – on a budget, on a medium budget and let’s say spending all your money.

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London on a Budget: Westerminster with the Big Ben

Activities in London on a Budget

London is filled with pleasures that won’t cost you much. Visit the prime meridian based at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, take a stroll through beautiful Green Park and Hyde Park or visit one of the picturesque flea markets, such as the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill (Spitalfields and Camden are all good options, too!).

London on a Budget: The Hyde Park
London on a Budget: Explore all the parks and gardens 

If the weather should be bad, and that is not unlikely, London is full of world-class museums and galleries that are free to visit: The Tate Modern and the British Museum are just two great ones, which would definitely cost at least 15 Euro in most other countries.

London on a Budget: The Tate Modern Museum
London on a Budget: Most museums are free of charge!

Sightseeing in London on a Budget

If you’re keen to do some cheap sightseeing, the best idea is not a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus, that costs a pretty penny, but the normal London busses. Just jump on any red bus passing by, go to the upper deck, sit in front of the huge window front and watch the streets of The City passing by. As there will always be busses driving the other direction, it doesn’t even matter where you get off.

My best tip: London Bus no. 4 is a good one to catch. It drives past Waterloo, Houses of Parliament, Fleet Street, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Barbican.

London on a Budget: A London Red Bus
London on a Budget: Have a cheap bus tour with the local bus – the best way to see the city fro up above

Eats in London on a Budget

When it comes to eats, there is a huge variety of budget choices London offers travelers. If you fancy to have lunch in a creative neighborhood, one really nice option is Shoreditch, a district in the East End of London.

There’s are two famous and long-established Bagel shops close to each other: Brick Lane Beigel Bake and the Beigel Shop: Tip: a must-eat is the salted beef with pickled cucumber and mustard!

London on a Budget: The Brick Lane in Shoreditch
London on a Budget: Shoreditch is the hipster place to be

London on a Budget: The Beigel Bake Baker on Brick Lane
London on a Budget: Check out the delicious Bagels at Beigel Bake

London on a Budget: Th Beigel Shop in Shoreditch
London on a Budget: Don’t miss the bagels at Beigel Shop, those are just as good!

But there are also a bunch of other great eateries in this place. Not to forget the food stands at the Sunday Up Market in the Old Truman Brewery or the food market on Brick Lane every Sunday. Here you can get freshly cooked stuff from all around the world for about 3-4 p per plate and in the midst of the most hip, creative and multiculti atmosphere.

Nevertheless, the most traditional way for breakfast, lunch or dinner are London’s pubs that have ever since been a place to enjoy an inexpensive meal and incomparable atmosphere. Besides all the good old-fashioned pubs that one can find in every district of London (Just ask any local!) there are two good chain pubs that tend to be cheaper than the rest. Those are Wetherspoon and Walkabout.

Another great option if you are around Soho, Oxford Circus and Regent Street, is the Carnaby area. On and around London’s iconic Carnaby Street are many quite affordable Indian, Korean, Chinese and other restaurants.

For dinner, visit the area around Leicester Square, where you should avoid the pricier restaurants right on the square and check out Chinatown all around Gerrard Street instead. Here, you’ll find loads of cheap Chinese eateries.

London on a Budget in Chinatown
London on a Budget: Get lost in the streets of Chinatown and find a cheap Chinese meal 

Going out in London on a Budget

Ok, let’s say it straight: a cheap beer is hard to find in London. You won’t get a pint for less than £4. In case you want to stay in Central, a nice pub is right at the corner of Carnaby St and Great Marlborough St called O’Neill’s, where they have good live music every weekend.

But be aware of the drinking habits of the British. They start at five o’clock, are wasted at around eight o’clock and go home at ten. So better come early to take part in the party. Otherwise you will have the same experience that I had back on the Whitsunday Islands in Australia last June.

London on a Budget: A pub in Central London
London on a Budget: Find a cheap pint in one of the cities pubs

Places to stay in London on a Budget

Well, most London hotel rooms are undersized and overpriced. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of good possibilities to spend less that you might expect.

Of course, you can stay in a hostel, and believe me, there are hundreds of good ones (and those with carpets that smell of bygone times). One that was pretty ok was the Keystone House close to Kings Cross Station (a lot of good tube connections), that offers dorm beds from 16 Euro but also privates for about 30. And trust me, this is a good price. We talk about London price level, folks, this is not Bangkok’s Khaosan Road.

Besides all the bed & breakfasts, you could also rent an apartment. One option for that is GowithOh, where they offer flats in many districts of London (Note: This tip is presented by GowithOh).

Find flight deals to London

London is Europe’s unofficial capital of budget airlines. There are six major airports in Greater London that serve thousands of commercial flights a day. So it shouldn’t be hard for budget travelers to snag a bargain air ticket.

London on a Budget: The view out the plane over London
London on a Budget: Fly in with a low-cost carrier to one of the many airports

Chances are good you will land either at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted. Budget carriers such as EasyJet or Ryanair offer affordable airfares from nearly every European country. In some cases you will have to accept bad departure times, either very early in the morning or very late at night.

London Transport

If you’re coming in from Heathrow Airport, the best way to get to Central London is not the Heathrow Express (£16.50 oneway) that is advertised on huge billboards in the arrival halls, but London Underground. The Piccadilly Line offers low-cost travel from all terminals to London (about one hour).

London on a Budget: Underground entrance at Piccadilly Circus
London on a Budget: Use London Underground to get from A to B

What’s the cheapest way to get around London? Well, the Tube is still the most efficient and economical option. It takes you to just about any part of London and the prices are quite reasonable.

The best way to get a cheap ticket is to get the Oyster Card first, a pay-as-you-go smartcard, which can be used to pay for all public transport of London. Buy it at the counter and top it up when there’s not enough credit left on it. Each route will be much cheaper than buying a ticket without the Oyster Card.

London on a Budget: A signpost showing directions
London on a Budget: Need directions? Not at all.

And here’s the best advice you can get:

Walk around London! And as in any other city, the best idea is to take a stroll through the little streets, markets and neighborhoods. The best part of travel is to get lost.

Planning a trip? Check out my favorite London travel guides:

Have you been to London on a budget? Any other advice? Leave a comment!

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  1. Avni Kensington Hotel says:

    London is a most attractive place in world. I have seen a lot of tourist places on budget in london.

    Reply
  2. herr stiller says:

    On saturdays you should visit the Broadway Market. Good and cheap food. On other days try to find a Pieminister – you won’t regret it. Oh, and if possible – just go by train. It’s not that expensive and you save the money from/to the airport. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Graeme Voigt says:

    Nice post man!!!
    London is a crazy city – so much to see and do. You would need a life time here to get to half of it. I’ve been living here for about 6 months now after leaving Australia and am loving it! (But yes, it can be quite expensive!)

    Reply
    • Clemens says:

      I’ll post the second article about London on a medium-budget pretty soon. So maybe you’ll find some advice in it, even though you live in London. I hope so!

      Reply
  4. Anna says:

    I am big advocate of walking. In every city, big or small! Bus No 14 is a pretty good too (if I remember well). I have friends in London so my stay is cost-free. A budget friendly (and good) restaurant is Nando’s in many places all over London.

    Reply
    • Clemens says:

      Hi Anna, you’re right. Of course, staying at a friends place is the best option you can have. And you would a local at you side that can show you around. That’s actually the best that can happen! I’ll try bus no. 14 on my next trip for sure! Thank you for that advice!

      Reply
  5. Mina says:

    Ein sehr schöner Artikel. Ich war das letzte mal als Schülerin in London und kann mich nur zu gut daran erinnern, dass für uns alles übermäßig teuer war (da hatte ich im Gegensatz zu heute natürlich noch nichts über für Freivergnügen wie Mussen und Galerien ;D). Ich nahm in der Woche sogar über 2kg ab *lach* Vor allem den Tipp mit der Transportmöglichkeit per Tube vom Flughafen werde ich mir merken. Danke.

    Reply
    • Clemens says:

      Du hast abgenommen, Mina? Hahah, sehr gut! Freut mich, dass der ein oder andere Tipp für dich dabei ist! Sag gerne Bescheid, wenn ich irgendwo helfen kann bei der Planung.

      Reply
  6. Ethan Cresdee says:

    Alternatively, young couples have a bunch more options when it comes to spending the summer in London , ranging from rising a smart child to finding a productive job for the future.

    Reply
    • Clemens says:

      That sounds true Ethan. London must be a great city for parents. There is so much to do in the city and the surrounding areas.

      Reply
  7. Grant says:

    One thing to add on the Oyster – once all your journeys hit the same price as a travel card (one day ticket) then the rest of your journeys are free for the day. Tokyo and several other cities could learn from that!!

    Reply
  8. Olivia R says:

    Great post mate! I left London 2 months ago after living there for 6 years. Your article reminded me how cool this city is. Really miss it!
    Alexandra palace is a cool place to hang out too. You’ve got a pretty awesome view of London from the top of the hill and there’s a cute market on Sundays with good cheap food.
    Brixton village is also a place to check out: cheap and cheerful food and chilled atmosphere.

    Reply
    • Clemens says:

      Oh great to hear that from someone who lived in London for so long. I’m a bit jealous now! I’ve been to Brixton before (great place) but neverto Alexandra palace. I sounds really cool and will have to do that next time for sure. Guess it will be in autumn at least.

      Reply
  9. It’s not an easy city to visit on a budget, but like you say it can be done to some extent. Great suggestions for places to eat!East London is a good shout for cheaper everything really.

    Reply
    • Clemens says:

      Good to hear that you like my advice I give in this post Katie. Can’t wait to go back and some more great places!

      Reply
  10. Ron Willams says:

    I usually have to do all of the price-checking before we go somewhere, so you’ve saved me the hassle.

    Reply
  11. Jason Hall says:

    I love London, it’s definitely one of my favourite cities to visit. For cheap accommodation I find the best methods are either using Airbnb, or staying at an EasyHotel which are scattered all over London!

    Reply

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