London is notoriously expensive, yet it is one of the most visited cities in the world. Tourists flock to London in droves and in 2018 alone, London attracted almost 21 million visitors. Considering the cost of living in London and the strength of the Great British Pound as one of the strongest currencies in the world (even after the years of Brexit upheaval), many travelers are concerned with how to visit London on a budget. Well, having visited a number of times and with inside information from local friends of ours who live there, we’ve got some tips for you!
If you’re planning to visit Europe and want the cheapest flight option, fly into London. London and Ireland are typically the cheapest destinations to fly into for Americans, so definitely take advantage of that plus these budget travel tips to at least visit London as a long stopover.
Rather than taking the overpriced trains that get you into the city a few minutes faster, take the slower trains or the Tube (depending on what airport you fly into).
London’s hotels are like closets that cost $300+ a night. Rather than squeeze into a tiny, cramped, hotel room, book an Airbnb. Sign up for Airbnb and you’ll receive a travel credit!
Book an Airbnb with a kitchen and you can visit local grocery stores to get food to cook at your Airbnb. London even has a Whole Foods, so American travelers will feel right at home and will find plenty of organic options.
Hostels are also a great option for solo travelers. Places like Astor Hyde Park are super nice and not expensive.
We always highly suggest that you walk as much as possible while traveling as it’s one of the best ways to stay healthy and fit while traveling. London is a very walkable city, however, it is often cold and rainy, and the city is quite large. If you need to go across town, invariably the best option is to take the Tube (Lonodn Underground).
It’s ironic that London is infamous for having “bad” food when London has some of the best restaurants in the world. If you want to visit London on a budget, however, you’ll need to avoid The Ritz and Ramsey’s crown jewels. Rather, opt for local options like a good pub that serves fish and chips or a hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant.
You can always visit spots like Nandos as well if you’re looking for a good cheap meal.
Do the FREE touristy things if you feel so inclined to see tourist attractions. Visit London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Prince Albert Bridge, and walk outside of Buckingham Palace for the change of the guard. Have a picnic in Hyde Park, walk around Kensington, and visit Westminster Abbey.
Other free sites include the British Museum, St Pauls Church (not the cathedral), The Tate, National Portrait Gallery, Picadilly Circus, Covent Garden, Borough Market, Greenwich, Platform 9 3/4, and all parks throughout the city.
Avoid the touristy London eye, and instead, go to the bar at the Shard or the SkyGarden instead. You’ll enjoy better views, fewer tourists, and best of all, they’re free if you’re dressed nicely! Be sure to wear nice shoes – no trainers.
Rather than spending a small fortune in a nightclub for cocktails or bottle service, opt for some of the best pubs in the world. London’s pub culture is awesome! You can order a pint, and go stand outside and drink on the street with your mates. It’s such a fun culture and a great way to have a night out without spending a ton of money. Of course, you could avoid alcohol and save money.
Avoid shopping and definitely avoid souvenirs if you want to visit London on a budget. Let your memories and photos be your souvenirs and don’t let the myriad of fancy shops lure you in like Scylla and Charybdis.
You can get a local SIM card from Three, Vodafone, and many other companies and spend no more than £20-25 for a month of data and unlimited minutes. Local SIM cards are cheap compared to those that we are used to in the States.
For more information on London, check out our London Travel Guide!