London is expensive. We knew that. But before we left, no one could really tell us just HOW much we would need. “it depends on what you want to do” or “just make a budget and stick to it” doesn’t really help.
So below I have listed some of the money saving tips we picked up during our trip to London in 2016 in the hope that it may help others planning a similar trip.
We wanted to see most of the major attractions, a good meal each night without spending hundreds of dollars, but didn’t want to scrimp unnecessarily either.
Food and drink
Throughout our week in London, we found the most economical lunch option was to pop into one of the many ready made sandwich chain stores, where you can quickly grab a sandwich, salad or ready made lunch and a drink for around £10 each (AUD 18) Still not cheap by Australian standards, but the cheapest option when you consider that an average counter meal will cost around £25 (AUD 45) without drinks.
We enjoyed the typical counter meals – pie n chips, burger n chips, fish n chips at the local pubs, but were disappointed to find that there was no variety – the menus were standardised by the same franchise in every pub we visited and were around double the cost of a counter meal in Australia (AUD 45 without drinks). A glass of wine and a middy of beer cost around £12.50 (AUD 22)
We also grabbed a few essentials – bread rolls, cheese, water, fruit and wine from the local supermarket and packed snacks in our backpack each day.
Our one extravagance was to book two guided tours – one a whole day in London and one to Windsor Castle, Bath and Stonehenge. At AUD170 each these were not cheap, but we felt we got our value for money, as these also provided entry into the main attractions we wished to visit, as well as transport to those out of London on the second tour.
A hop-on hop-off bus provides a cheaper option if you want an orientation of London.
Purchase a London Pass before you leave home, which will give you significant savings on the local attractions.
A ferry ride along the Thames from Westminster is included on your Oyster card and can provide an economical alternative to a designated tourist cruise.
The Tube Navigating “The Tube”may sound daunting at first, but is surprisingly easy and very cost efficient. Purchase a prepaid Oyster card before you go – we bought two £30 cards, travelled multiple trips per day and did not run out of fare.
Walk. Get fit before you go and walk as much as you can. London is very flat so walking is easy. We came across many interesting things we would have missed if we were in a cab or travelling by Tube or bus.
Cheapest isn’t best. The worst mistake we made was the cheap flight from Stanstead airport to Berlin. Yes, the flights were a third the price. But by the time we got up at 2am, paid £200 for a two and a half hour shuttle to Stanstead airport, paid the excess baggage, paid for lukewarm coffee and a soggy croissant, I honestly think we would have been better off opting for the 10am flight from Heathrow, with tea, coffee and a snack provided.