London is known for being a cosmopolitan city and, thanks to its strong currency, the Pound, it is known for being a particularly expensive city (living there I can only confirm!). Most visitors find it difficult to keep travel low cost when exploring the English capital, but there are some tricks to contain them … and in this article I will give you some tips that will help you stay in the budget! In previous articles I had told you about some things that can be done for free in the capital, including walking along the Regent’s Canal from Little Venice to Camden Town, visit one of the wonderful mews or visit the world’s leading travel bookstore.
But now let’s see in detail how to travel London on a a budget.
TRANSPORT IN LONDON
CONTACTLESS E/O OYSTER CARD
The biggest expense that you will face will be that of public transport, but there are some ways and tricks to save some money if you travel by bus, subway, tram, DLR, overground and urban trains. Instead of taking the single ticket, which is not very convenient, and if you will stay less than 7 days, I advise you not to buy the Oyster Card which costs £7. If your credit/debit/rechargeable card has a contactless function, you can use it and the same rates as the Oyster Card will apply. It is very easy to use, in fact, just place it on the readers, both incoming and outgoing, and it will work in “pay as you go”, so even with this type of card you will have the daily cap. For example, moving to zones 1 and 2, where the major attractions of London are concentrated, you will have a cap of £ 8.10 in 24 hours (ranging from 4.30 in the morning until 4.29 the following day) and if you decide to stay a week there will be a weekly cap. Once you reach the maximum daily or weekly amount, you will not be charged anything. If you don’t have contactless, you can buy the Oystercard. It is an electronic ticket that can be recharged on consumption, allowing you to travel on most of the public transport in the capital. In fact, it can be used on subway, overground, bus, tram, DLR and on boats along the Thames. You can decide to recharge your card only for the necessary trips (adopting the so-called ‘pay as you go’). The Oyster Card is available at all metro stations, in the Visitors Centre, at the airports but also in some newstands. As already written, it costs £7.00, an amount that is no longer returned. It is very easy to use thanks to the technology touch, you can touch in and touch out (for those who move in the meter) resting on yellow readers located next to the individual gates (underground entry and exit) and in front of the front door of the bus.
The London rail network is divided into nine different charging zones. You can decide whether to use the contactless card or activate a daily, weekly or monthly pass using the Oyster card, based on how long your stay in the capital will last, based on where your accommodation is located and the areas you will go to visit.
If you plan to make two to four trips a day for a couple of days, or if you want to visit outlying areas of the city then the contactless card or Oyster card will be the most convenient option. If, on the other hand, you have planned to stay in London for at least a week and plan to travel in the central zones (zones 1-2 or 1-4, for example) and make about four journeys a day, then a weekly pass with the 7 Day ticket Travelcard is the cheapest option.
Another very convenient alternative, as mentioned above, is precisely the ‘pay as you go’ very useful if you plan to move less frequently during your holiday. The cost is £2.80 (off peak) and £3.40 (peak time) one way instead of £6.70 (single ticket rate without paper). In addition, for zones 1 and 2 your fare will be capped at £8.10 in 24 hours, the equivalent of a day ticket.
Another way to save something is to travel outside peak time (peak time). These times are from 6.30 to 9.30 and from 16:00 to 19:00 from Monday to Friday. It may seem irrelevant, but the costs of individual routes are rising in these times. Be careful!
You can still save money by travelling only by bus (the famous red bus, symbol of the capital), instead of by metro. Instead of taking the expensive hop-on hop-off buses, consider the buses that go to the most iconic places in the city, such as the nr. 9 (which passes through Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Somerset House, Harrods, the Royal Albert Hall) or number 15 which passes through the Tower of London to St Paul’s and is a good way to see the city from other points of view. A bus journey with contacless card or Oyster Card will cost you £1.75 (in this case it doesn’t matter the rush hour and your fare will be limited to £5.25 per day, so once you reach this amount you’ll travel free for the rest of the day! ).
CRUISE ON THE THAMES
Are you thinking of taking a cruise on the Thames to see the city from other points of view? The most economically advantageous solution for navigating the river is to use the transports of Thames Clipper. A network of commuter boats going up and down the Thames, from O2 to Battersea Power Station with all the intermediate stops,in this case you will see the same attractions of the cruises but you will pay a small part. The boat is very large and with large windows that allows you to see very well.
Another way to visit the city is to rent the Santander bike which are located in many points of central London. To use it is very easyin fact just download the Santander Cycles app or go to one of the terminals with your credit card and touch the screen. Then you must follow the instructions in which you will be sent a release code to take the bike. It costs £2 to access the 24-hour service and the first 30 minutes of each trip are free. After half an hour of use the cost is £2. If you return your bikes every 30 minutes, you can continue cycling all day for only £2. You only have to wait 5 minutes between rides. To return your bike, take it to one of the many terminals and wait for the green light to appear.
FREE WALKING TOUR IN LONDON
In every city there are free walking tours and, of course, this is true in London. It is a good way to absorb information about the city directly from the tourist guides, ready to offer you even culinary advice if necessary! I suggest Sandeman’s New Europe Royal London Tour, which starts from the Apple store in Covent Garden and covers Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Trafalgar Square (they are only a part of the stops – the tour takes about 2.5 hours). You will find that the various attractions are not so far from each other and you can easily walk through them on foot.
FREE ATTRACTIONS IN LONDON
There are plenty of free attractions in London, including the city’s most famous museums, including the Tate Modern, the National History Museum, the National Gallery, and the British Museum. As an alternative to museums there are also other attractions that you can visit without spending a single penny:
- Covent Garden
- Trafalgar Square
- Sky Garden
- Tower Bridge
- Piccadilly Circus
- Hyde Park
- the changing of the guard
- Camden Town Market
- Regents Street
- Big Ben and Parliament
- a walk along the Thames
- Shard at the bar
- Borough Market
- Brick Lane
In short, a lot of attractions that will fully fill your days… you are spoiled for choice!
SAVING ON PAID ATTRACTIONS
London may not be a cheap destination for visitors as the costs of a trip here can escalate rapidly. However, there are some tricks you can take to save money on the various attractions, although this depends on whether you are traveling alone or are two or more people. If you are a solo traveller, you can buy the London Explorer Pass which allows you to choose the number of attractions you want to visit during your stay, free admission including the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Shard. The best advice I can give you is to understand exactly what you want to see and then add up the various costs and, based on this, evaluate the best choice.
If, on the other hand, you are 2 people or more, you can take advantage of the agreement stipulated by the British railways (National Rail), with which it is possible to enter many famous London attractions by paying only one ticket for every 2 people; moreover, the same offer is also valid for some restaurants and theatres. The 2×1 offers, therefore, represent an advantageous way to save as much as 50% on many entrances to the main attractions in London such as Madame Tussauds, London Zoo, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St. Paul, Hampton Court Palace, the most Stadiums, just to name a few. You can take advantage of the offer if you have rail tickets to and from London’s main airports. If the ticket is a one-way ticket, you can only take advantage of the offer on the day of the trip, while if it is a return ticket, the offer will be available for the entire duration of your stay.
EATING AND DRINKING IN LONDON ECONOMY
In the UK is traditionally tap water (that is, the free tap water that, in addition to being drinkable also allows you to save several pounds – especially in the center, where even a bottle of water has a cost not to be underestimated). For lunch the cheapest solution is to go to supermarket chains such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Mark and Spencer, well distributed throughout the city, and take the lunch menu which consists of a sandwich, a pack of chips or fruit and a drink at a cost of only £3.00 (this is the typical English lunch – think that one of my colleagues one day told me that for her even preparing a simple coffee means knowing how to cook!). If you are lucky enough to find a day of good weather, you can think about visiting some beautiful parks (one thing that certainly is not missing in London are the parks!). If this solution does not satisfy you and you prefer a hot meal, I recommend Pret À Manger, at a cost of about £5.00. If you feel like going to a typical London market (and do it because it’s really worth it), you can go to Borough Market, Camden Town, Brixton Village or Portobello Road.
SHOPPING IN LONDRA
If you want to buy a dress or a particular item without spending a fortune in London there are the Charity Shops. They are pretty shops where clothes and objects are donated to charity to various organizations (Cancer Research Uk, Save the Children etc.) and then resold. Inside you will find clothes but also bags, shoes, home books, toys, old vinyl records, furniture and much more. The prices are very low, you can find some designer clothes for a few tens of pounds. The entire proceeds are donated entirely to charity and the working staff is made up of volunteers. Surely among these shelfs you will find something original that is right for you.
As you may have noticed, there are plenty of options that allow you to enjoy a nice low-cost vacation even in a popular city like London. You just need to know how to move.