Let’s not kid ourselves: London is an expensive city, especially when you’re travelling on a budget. Thankfully, a lot of hack exist to help you save money when you are exploring the city! Here are five ways to cut down expenses when visiting London.
Make the best of your Oyster card
The Oyster card only costs £5, and you can get your money back at the end of your stay in any tube station. Forget the daily and weekly Travel Cards; it’s in the pay-as-you-go that you want to put your money. It’s less expensive, which is all you need to know, and the daily cap is still lower than any day pass you could buy. Just add £20 at a time, and see how far it will take you. No doubt you will save a lot of money on your transports that way.
If you don’t mind traffic, and are planning to say for a week, a more advantageous option can be to take a bus pass. At around £20 per week, it allows you unlimited access to all the London buses and it goes with the kind of view you wouldn’t get from inside a tube. If you are not too picky about times and long commutes, this may be the option for you.
Or forget public transports altogether
Even though London is a big city, you will be surprised to discover that most of the touristy places are from a short walking distance from each other. Unless you get caught in a British downpour (it happens!), you can cut down on expense really easily by walking instead of taking the public transports. Not to mention that it sometimes is faster to walk from point A to point B.
Load a map of the city on your phone or go old school with a real map, and go exploring! You will get to admire all the wonderful architecture London has to offer, and discover places you never would have found otherwise. It’s especially handy during rush hour, when the tube is oversaturated by tourists and locals alike. And you don’t want to get in the way of a Londoner trying to go home, believe me!
(And even if you decide to still use the tube, don’t take it between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Just… don’t. It’s stupid. Don’t do it. Walk. Just freaking walk.) (You’ll thank me later.)
Take advantage of the free museums
It doesn’t matter if you like art, history, sciences or technology, there will always be a museum for you in London, and chances are that museum is free! Who needs to go to the over-priced, over-creepy Madam Tussaud and its never-ending queue, when you could instead go to the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Modern Tate, all that for free?
Most of the time, only the temporary expositions ask for an entry fee (and they get sold out quickly, so be careful if you’re interested in one of them) and the free galleries are worth a pretty penny. You can see a lot of famous painting for nothing, so it would be a shame not to take advantage of it. Especially since a lot of museums are close to each other, so you can do more than one in one day.
(Though it will take you a very long while to go through the British Museum alone.) (How do I still find rooms I’ve never visited even if I went there two dozen times, I’ll never know…)
Meal deal? You said meal deal?
My main problem when travelling, money wise, is how expensive food can get really quickly. Even eating in a little café can be pricey, and it adds up super-fast until it leaves a hole in your wallet. That’s why we invented the meal deal!
Most grocery stores in England propose a meal deal, for a price between £3 and £4. You get a sandwich or a salad, a drink and a snack for the price, and it literally is life-saving. I always get a meal deal from Tesco when I am travelling around the UK or when I’m wandering Central London, because their pasta salad is just the best. Not to mention really filling, which always helps. Nobody wants to explore a city on an empty stomach!
You find those stores around every corner, so no excuse as to why you went for a more expensive option instead!
West End for less
If you’re coming to London, chances are you will want to see a musical or a play. They are, after all, quite magical. But quite pricey too. Good thing is, there are a lot of ways to pay less money for theatre tickets, and I only ever pay full price now if I don’t have any other option.
Of course, just like for Broadway, you can buy tickets on the day at Leicester Square. Be careful to do your homework first, though, because the booth sometimes sells tickets for a higher price than the theatre. And be aware than if a show is sold out, it’s sold out. Phantom of the Opera, for example, is one of those shows that is so popular it’s sold out for every show, and so you will not find any cheap tickets for it, unless you’re really lucky.
You can also try your hand at the daily lotteries, if you are not too picky or if you don’t mind not seeing a show. If you’re only in London for a few days and absolutely want to see Les Misérables, the lottery isn’t the best option for you. Let’s be honest here. (This girl has been trying for months to win the Hamilton lottery, and yet…)
My go-to for everything cheap tickets is and forever will be TodayTix though. You simply need to download the app to your phone, and it offers you a plethora of shows to choose from. You get cheaper tickets on most shows, but also lotteries and rush tickets (where you can buy cheap tickets on the day at 10am). Rush tickets saved my life and my wallet more than once, but they can be tricky to get for highly popular shows. After all, who doesn’t want the best seats for £30 or less?