London is rumored to be notoriously expensive and even travelers from countries with a strong currency sturggle to keep their costs low on a visit to the city. There are a few secrets, however, to travlieng on the cheap. So keep these five things in mind and traveling London on a shoestring should be within your reach.
Stay in a hostel
Accommodation is the most expensive aspect of London, for locals and visitors alike. Forget a four star hotel and consider staying in a hostel instead. Beds in a dorm room cost as little as €12.50. If shared dorms aren’t your thing, many sites like Hostelworld offer private rooms within hostels as well as B&Bs starting at €33.00 and hotels starting at €22.50 per night. With the help of a website like Hostelworld you can also easily find out where the hostel is located and read other travelers’ reviews, which you can do in your native language, such as the Hostelworld page in Italian.
The Oyster Card is the cheapest way to get around London, shaving your costs down as low as possible within the city limits. The card can be used on any type of public transport, from the Underground to red Double Decker buses, trams, trains, light railway trains and even on the river boats. Paying a one single trip on the ‘Tube’ costs £4.30, but using your Oyster card, it is only £2. When you run out of money, just top up at any of the thousands of machines throughout the city, but no matter what, if you hit £8.40 in a day, you won’t be charged again until the next morning. You can buy day tickets for certain forms of transport, and if you start your day after 9.30am, the day ticket is only £7. Our top tip here is get your Oyster card immediately at the airport as soon as you get to the Underground station. Head straight to the Transport for London (TfL) booth, pay the deposit of £5 (which you get back at the end of your trip), put some money on your card and get into town. Never pay full fare for public transport in London.
Unlike other cities, London’s main attractions are free for everyone, and not just at obscure times on random weeknights. World class museums like the Science Museum, the British Museum, the Museum of London, the National History Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Museum of London Docklands, galleries such as Tate Britain and Tate Modern, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, and the Saatchi Gallery and all those famous sights like Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park, Big Ben, the Horse Guards and the Changing of the Guards, walking along the River Thames on the Southbank, strolling through the Camden markets or sitting on Trafalgar Square are all free and authentically London experiences. You can even go on a free London walking tour!
Eating out can cost a fortune in London but it sure doesn’t have to . Many popular restaurant chains offer 2-for-1 coupons and specials which they will tell you about in the free papers handed out at all Tube stations. Pick up breakfast and lunch at Tesco or Sainsbury’s, who have countless 2-for-1 or cheap lunch deals including a sandwich, a drink, fruit or a yogurt for around £3! Even Boots, the pharmacy chain, has healthy lunch deals for about £3. Another place for inexpensive food are London’s fantastic markets, which you should check out anyway – for example Portobello Road Market on Saturdays, Spitalfields Market or the Borough Food Market on Fridays and Saturdays.
Hop-on hop-off tours are a great way to see London, but they can cost an arm and a leg. Instead, there are several London bus routes which pass right by the most iconic sights, which are all included in the price of your day ticket or Oyster card (though there are no headsets, so you might need to do a little background research yourself.
One of the buses that goes by many of London’s sights is bus number 9 and you can hop right on in Piccadilly Circus. The bus will pass Trafalgar Square, Somerset House, Harrods, the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall in West London, and finishes at St Paul’s Cathedral in West London.
Another great route for sightseeing is bus RV1 which runs between Covent Garden and Tower Gateway. You can get on it on either end and the route follows the Thames passing the South Bank with the London Eye, London Bridge and even goes right over the Tower Bridge.
Keep up with us! Get monthly updates, stories we don't share on the blog, future travel plans, plus we'll answer reader questions and arrange some pretty sweet travel giveaways, too!