Welcome to London, a glittering historic city that never sleeps! Enjoy your hard-earned holiday in this iconic world capital! It’s full of the world’s best theatre, restaurants and attractions…and we hope you’ve budgeted well because after the first day it will have you looking at your credit card history in astonishment.
But don’t fret – it’s well-known that London is a very expensive place, and Londoners have come up with plenty of ways to enjoy yourself without breaking the bank. You just need a few minutes on Google and a little urban savvy to stroll through the city in the knowledge that you’re paying much less than the tourist traps want you to.
First: the attractions. Some are free, of course: there’s always plenty to see and do in Hyde Park, and window-shopping on Oxford Street comes with no obligations to pay – though you’ll want to. You can snap a great photo of Big Ben for no charge at all by standing on the street outside, and the British, Science museums & Natural History Museum are always free to enter. However, if you want to see inside the Tower of London, Madame Tussaud’s or ride the London Eye, you’ll be paying through the nose. If you plan to hit all the big attractions, the London Pass is a single-payment pass that gets you free fast-track entry to London’s top 10 attractions as well as discounts on many more. You can buy one online before your trip and never worry about ticket prices again.
If dining out is your thing, Groupon and Timeout are two of the best places to find restaurant discounts. They will usually be limited – say, a set meal and a drink for two – but you can feel free to add on anything extra from the menu that takes your fancy. Just hop online, find something you like, and buy: the coupon will be emailed to you and you can print it out using your hotel’s facilities. For really fancy places, look for midweek set lunch deals. The restaurants advertise these to bring in diners during their slower periods, so you know you’re getting excellent value as well as dining in one of London’s hotspots.
West End theatre tickets are the third major money sink for London visitors – good seats at the most popular shows can cost well over £100 each. If you’re not picky about your seats or what shows you want to see, stop by Leicester Square’s discount ticket booths, such as TKTS. They might look like a scam but they’re completely legitimate places to score half-price seats at your favourite shows, usually for that same night. Some of the biggest shows also run “ticket lotteries” – you put your name down a few hours before the show, then return in about an hour and cross your fingers. If they pull your name from the hat, the seats are yours for a heavy discount. If not, engage your back-up plan or take a short walk back to the Park Grand London Hyde Park and try again tomorrow.
The last thing you’ll find yourself haemorrhaging money on in London is transport. Not only do those shiny black cabs charge incredible fares, but individual tickets on the Underground can run you several pounds per journey. The easiest way around this is to do what the locals do and get yourself an Oyster card. You can pick these up at Heathrow airport or any tube station for a £5 deposit, then top them up – a adult week-long travelcard for zones 1 and 2 costs £32.40 and will save you far more than that. They work for the Underground, DLR, Overground, buses and even ferries on the Thames. In fact, if you don’t have a contactless credit card and plan on taking a bus, Oyster cards are a necessity – London buses no longer carry or accept cash. So not only will you be saving money, you’ll also save time by just touching in at every journey, as well as going one small step towards blending in with the locals. And if you need to take a cab, do the sensible thing and call an Uber.