London has a reputation as one of the most expensive tourist destinations right now. However, there are ways in which you can plan a trip to this city without spending a fortune. If you know where to go and what to avoid beforehand, you will soon discover that London can be cheaper than many other cities.
Photo Credit: Big Ben by flavio.leone, on Flickr
The first thing that you should start looking for, other than flights, is accommodation. Everyone’s first impulse is to quickly book a hotel room and move on to think about other matters. However, hostels in London are affordable, and there are so many of them competing for tourists’ attention that you’re bound to find something within your price range.
Another thing you should consider is where in London you plan on staying. Many might want to book a room in famous areas like Covent Garden, or on Oxford Street, but these options are actually among the pricier ones. Instead, consider staying in areas such as Hammersmith or Bayswater, which are cheaper, but also safe. Also, you will save money on food and drink, since there are many pubs and restaurants in the vicinity. A costly accommodation usually means pricy food.
Speaking of food and drink, a great idea would be to be careful where you eat when you’re out sightseeing. Try and avoid touristy areas like Leicester Square, as the prices are always higher. Non-touristy regions have much lower prices for basically the same type of meals. Edgware Road, for example, has an abundance of affordable restaurants which never close early. The same applies to drink, where you can easily enjoy a cheap pint just a few blocks away from a popular tourist area. You can also head off to supermarkets such as Tesco to save up money on both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Photo Credit: London Underground Oyster card tube fare increases 2011 by London Chow, on Flickr
Transportation is also an important part of any trip to London, especially if you plan on sightseeing. Cabs are typically expensive, so you have to rely on public transportation to get around. Bus fares are usually lower that those for the tube, but you can make up for that by purchasing an Oyster Card and gain access to all types of public transport. By buying this card, you won’t have to waste money and pay for each individual fare. You simply purchase the card and then charge it with how much money you think you’ll spend. As an added bonus, you’ll also avoid standing in line every time you want to take the tube or the bus.
When in London, without a doubt you’ll want to go sightseeing. Many tourists make the mistake of paying a lot of money to go on the popular bus tours, though they won’t get to see as many things as they hope (and the guide is pre-recorded to boot). A great alternative is picking a free walking tour. Sandemans New London Free Walking Tours is part of a large chain of guided tours that show tourists the best parts of the city for free (the guides only work for tips, so you can give them as much as you like – even one or two pounds work). The tour lasts around three hours. This form of touring is cheaper by far than the traditional bus tour.
Photo Credit: London Eye by Adriano Aurelio Araujo, on Flickr
When it comes to visiting the main attractions, it is important to know what is worth picking. Watching the Changing of the Guard might be free, but the area is very crowded, so you will have to come really early to get a good spot. That way, you will spend a lot of time waiting instead of seeing something different. Another attraction you can easily avoid is the overpriced London Eye. Instead, you can climb and reach the top of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral and spend less for the same view. Additionally, you can also visit the cathedral itself. The Tower of London and Madame Tussauds also pretty expensive to visit (not to mention crowded with queues that stretch as far as the eye can see), so instead you can pick free attractions such as the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Tate Modern. By researching beforehand, you can easily find lists of the museums you can visit for free.
Photo Credit: The London Underground - Piccadilly by Stuck in Customs, on Flickr
Finally, if you’re interested in watching a show, the cheapest alternative is to purchase tickets only from the Leichester Square TKTS booth. This book is the only one run by the Society of London Theatre, which means that the half-price offers independent ticket booths might have can be deceiving. You can also buy tickets from the London Theatre official website. However, it is crucial that you purchase your ticket ahead of time for the best seats and offers. If you want to buy the tickets directly from Leichester Square, do that on your first day in London, so that you can get the best deals and also end your trip with a memorable performance. Alternatively, if you don’t mind standing up, you can watch a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre at a low cost.
As you can see, despite London’s reputation as an expensive city, there are many ways in which you can enjoy yourself without going over budget. All you need to know is where to stay and what to visit.
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