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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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: 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: 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: 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: Shoreditch is the hipster place to be
London on a Budget: Check out the delicious Bagels at Beigel Bake
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: 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: 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: 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.
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: 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: 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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This post is also available in Deutsch.