Visiting London on a Budget – A London Travel Guide
So, you want to travel to London. Well, I don’t blame you! What originally drew me to London was its charming ambiance and magnificent history, it truly is an amazing city. That massive and intricate labyrinth they call “the tube’ will transport you to almost anywhere in the Greater London area. Not to mention there are so many things to do and places to visit, including the Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, and several different museums (a lot of which are free…yes, free!) London is truly something else, and everyone should have a chance to experience it, at least once.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “I want to go to London! But, I just don’t think I can afford it”. Well, that’s understandable; London can be quite expensive and not everyone can afford a vacation there, but there is a way that you can have the experience of a lifetime without dropping your entire life’s savings.
The first thing to do is to set a general budget for yourself. A budget of about $60-$70 per day should be sufficient. If you know where to go and you’re smart with your money, this can cover your food, transportation and a bit of entertainment. There are plenty of ways to visit London without spending hundreds of pounds each day!
Second, I would recommend staying in a hostel as opposed to a hotel. Hostels are much cheaper than hotels, and a lot of them offer free breakfast and a communal kitchen so that you can cook your own food. And that my friend is how you travel on a budget.
As far as food goes, London can be very expensive but if you know where to go, you’ll be able to save some money. Just walking around London, especially in downtown London, you’ll find a lot of little restaurants that won’t break the bank. This includes areas such as Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, etc. You can find restaurants of all different varieties, including traditional British pubs, Mexican restaurants, Italian restaurants, and the like. Since London is (obviously) a very touristy area, many restaurants like to display their menu outside so that potential customers can view what they have to offer, as well as the prices.
When getting around London, I strongly recommend not taking a taxi, just because they can be very expensive. It is much more cost-effective to take the Tube (London’s underground subway system) or a public bus. London’s public transportation system is excellent, and will get you almost anywhere. The Tube especially is very clean and very efficient. A smart thing to do would be to purchase an Oyster Card, which you can buy at most (if not all) Tube stations. You can use your Oyster Card both on the Tube and on public busses, and it will save you a lot of money as opposed to buying a single ticket each time. These cards are reloadable, and you can purchase one that’s good for one day, or a week, etc.
You will be amazed how many different things there are to do in London. I was there for two weeks, and I still didn’t feel like I was able to do or see everything! Some activities can be a little pricey, but I’m going to let you in on some things that are inexpensive (and sometimes even free!).
One thing that you must do when you’re in London is visit some of the museums. There are so many different museums, and believe it or not, a lot of them have free admission. Here are some of my favorites:
TATE MODERN: The Tate Modern is a huge art museum; it’s actually one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world! As indicated by its name, it contains modern art pieces, from 1900 to present day. I could’ve spent several hours just walking around and absorbing the atmosphere. Another cool thing about the Tate Modern is its location – it overlooks the River Thames, which offers some mesmerizing views at sunset. And guess what? It’s free admission!
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM: Honestly, the Imperial War Museum was probably my favorite museum in all of London. Even if you’re not into history, you’re sure to have fun. This is a museum that exhibits stories and artifacts of wars starting from World War I till modern day. On the ground floor, there are tanks and other military equipment, and throughout the premises there are several different exhibits to explore. Unique atmosphere, useful information, and a lot of history… A must visit! Oh, and…it’s free admission!
MUSEUM OF LONDON DOCKLANDS: This was another really cool museum. It has a nautical vibe, which makes sense, considering it’s a museum that tells the history of the River Thames! And one more thing that you’ve probably already guessed…it’s free!
Besides museums, there are a ton of other things to do in London. One thing that you must do is watch the Changing of the Guards outside of Buckingham Palace. To my understanding, this occurs every morning at about 11:30 AM. After that, it’s nice to just walk around and explore the area around the Palace. The best part? It’s all free! It does cost money to take a tour inside of the Palace, but these tours are only available in the summertime and you probably have to book way ahead of time to secure places.
Another must-do in London is the London Eye, or the huge ferris wheel that offers amazing views of London. This is one of the pricier things on this list, but with all the money you’ve saved, you’ll be able to splurge a little bit! If I remember correctly, a ride of the London Eye cost me about 25 GDP. But honestly, it’s worth it. The views of London are spectacular, especially as you near the top. It’s not a quick ride around, either; it’s about a 45-minute ride. You get amazing views of the river, as well as Big Ben and much of the city of London. A trip to London really isn’t complete without riding the London Eye at least once.
Westminster Abbey is another must-do in my book. The Abbey is a gorgeous church, and has been the site of many royal burials and coronations. This includes the marriage of William and Kate! It’s free to enter the Abbey, as long as you are worshipping or going for a service. Otherwise, it will cost you a small fee.
And, of course, we can’t forget about the famous Trafalgar Square! Truly the heart of London. It is bustling with people, and there are so many things to do in close proximity. Honestly, it’s fun to just walk around and absorb the culture of London. And, you know what that will cost you? Absolutely nothing!
For the more adventurous or those looking for more off-the–beaten-path activities, here are a couple of places to check out:
SOUTHALL: Southall is located in west London and easily accessible by public transportation. This area is not as touristy as other parts of London. Southall has a large Indian population, so there are many different Indian restaurants and shops for you to explore. You will get a much different vibe than other areas of London, it almost feels as if you’re in a different country! The restaurants also tend to be more affordable than the other touristy areas.
NOTTING HILL: Notting Hill is an area full of history. Just like Southall, it is easily accessible by public transportation. It’s fun to just walk through the different streets and look at the beautiful, colorful houses in the area. You’ll find several little restaurants, as well as small museums/art galleries. There are also markets that are fun to browse, and maybe you’ll find something that you can bring home! Notting Hill is a very charming area that you really should check out. Another thing you might consider when visiting Notting Hill is setting up a walking tour, so that a tour guide can take you around and show you the real gems of the area, and indulge you in some history.
This article only scratches the surface of the intricate web of the city of London, and to really experience its essence you need to discover it yourself… Walk around its streets and soak up the energizing atmosphere. That’s the way to really live London.
Recommended Places to Stay:
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