London is one of my favorite cities in the world when it comes to travel. The only problem is that it can be expensive if you’re not careful with your spending.
In this post I want to share some of my helpful tips on how to visit London on a budget. Planning ahead can help make the trip more reasonably priced, especially if you’re planning on splitting costs with a travel partner.
There’s no doubting that the lovely English capital city is one of the most expensive places to visit in Europe. Thankfully, there are quite a few ways you can get by without spending that much.
Ultimately it’s up to you how much you’re able, and willing, to spend during your time visiting London. The spectrum is wide when it comes to what your daily costs are going to be.
Some people are able to get away with spending less than £40 to £50 per day. Others might have trouble keeping costs below £150 to £200.
It really depends on what your interests are, the different sights and attractions you want to check out, where you’re interested in eating, where you’re staying, and how you’re getting around the city.
Each of these different factors can be managed to keep costs low. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose control of your budget and things could spiral out of control.
In this post I want to share with you how you can visit London without having to use up your entire travel budget. So go ahead, pack your bags, and get ready for your upcoming trip to the beautiful English capital!
Tips for Visiting London on a Budget
Pick Up an Oyster Card
One of my favorite London budget travel tips has to be recommending the Oyster Card.
Uber and taking the black cab taxi is expensive in London. Plus, it’s unnecessary thanks to the amazing public transportation system.
It can seem daunting at first although you can definitely get the hang of it. Using the tube and other forms of public transportation in London is the best way to get around the city for the least amount of money.
To use public transportation you have to pick up something called a Oyster Card. These are available from various ticket machines throughout the main train stations and most tube stations in the city.
It’s possible to order an Oyster Tourist Card beforehand to use for your trip. This is easier than showing up and having to do it somewhere you’ve never been before.
All of the machines take credit card and if you’re having trouble finding out where to buy the Oyster Card just ask someone that’s working.
Using the Oyster Card you’ll pay a maximum of £6.80 to use the Tube underground rail system in zones 1 and 2. This is for unlimited rides and it’s the best value you’ll find for getting around town.
To keep costs down picking up an Oyster Card to use for public transportation is one of the best things to do.
Pick Up a London Pass
I’m a big fan of city tourist cards. They can definitely help to save you money if you want to visit more than one or two different attractions.
During my trip to London I used the London Pass for a few days. It made it easy to check out some of the best London tourist sites. With the pass I never had to worry about buying tickets, arranging tours, or having to worry about printing anything.
It’s so simple that you just show up wherever you want to visit and in you go!
Depending on which London Pass you pick up you can expect to spend between £66 and £234.
Keep in mind that these passes can be used for between one day and 10 days. Some of them even come with a public transportation pass that makes it easier than ever to explore the city.
With the pass you have free access to 32 of the best London attractions.
This includes places like the Tower of London, the British War Museum, the Tower Bridge, and Westminster Abbey. A few other cool features are included, such as a river cruise, and you can take advantage of these if you’re visiting for a longer period of time.
Go on a Free Walking Tour
Free walking tours aren’t technically free since you should be leaving a tip for the guide of the end of the tour.
Let’s just say for a few pounds it’s still worth it to go on one of these walking tours. I love walking tours because I think they’re a great way to get a feel for the city the first time you visit.
The tour guides are able to share with you their unique perspective on London. You basically get an insider tour of the city for about the same that you would pay for a cheeky Starbucks!
During the summer these walking tours are going to be busy. In the fall and winter, my opinion the best time to visit London, you’ll have a much more personal experience on a London walking tour.
Don’t forget to leave a tip at the end!
Enjoy All the Free Attractions
I was surprised to find that there were a ton of free things to do in London. A quick Google search reveals that there are a seemingly endless amount of different things to do, attractions to explore, and museums to enjoy.
For those of you that like museums some of the best museums in the world are completely free here in London. This includes places like the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Tate Modern, and the Museum of London.
During the warmer summer months there are some other cool places that you can explore on your own without having to spend any money. There’s a large network of parks and outdoor green spaces throughout the city center.
These parks are beautiful, well-maintained, and great for visiting to escape the heat and busy tourist crowds. If you’re looking for an even more peaceful experience you could could venture out to Kensington Gardens or just spend the day meandering around Hyde Park.
In the winter there are free Christmas markets in London. Though, with all the amazing window-shopping you might be too busy to visit the market!
All year long there are free things to do in London and I recommend doing a quick Google search to see what you can find.
Stay in an AirBnb
One of the biggest costs for most travelers is accommodation. For solo travellers this can be an even higher cost unless you’re planning on staying at hostels and other types of shared accommodation.
The benefit of traveling with a partner is that you can split costs on accommodation and save money this way. A hotel that costs £100 per night is only £50 per person when you’re splitting costs.
When I’m traveling on a budget I love using AirBnb for short-term accommodation. There are so many different options to choose from between private rooms and entire apartments depending on what you’re looking for.
In London I’ve always found the best deals for accommodation to be on AirBnb.
Be sure to head over to AirBnb.com and get signed up if you’re not already. Use it on your next trip – I’m sure you’ll find that it’s an awesome booking platform!
If AirBnb isn’t your thing then you can still find some reasonably priced mid-range hotels in London. I’ve stayed at a few different properties in the city and I recommend taking a look at my reviews for those hotels here:
Wander Around Camden and Brick Lane
Two beautiful neighborhoods in London, Camden and Brick Lane, offer one of the best options for free entertainment in the city.
With so much to see and do in these two neighborhoods you can spend a few hours walking around exploring without having to spend any money.
In Camden there is a wonderful market and plenty of local shops that you can duck into to check out.
At Brick Lane you’ll find amazing murals and some of the best street art in London.
If you’re planning a visit to Brick Lane in the morning or early afternoon be sure to stop by Beigel Bake for a cheeky snack.
There are a ton of cafes and small restaurants that you can pop into for a drink or quick bite. These neighborhoods are a little bit more budget-friendly compared to the rest of London so you can find some reasonable prices here.
Visit on a Layover
This might not be the most practical way to explore London on a budget. However, you should definitely visit the city if you have a layover in London that would give you enough time.
For just a few hours you’re better off waiting at the airport. For layovers 6 hours or longer you could easily pop in to Central London for a quick look around.
With such limited time you’re not going to be able to see as much as you would if you were spending a few days in the city. It would make for an awesome adventure though and something you should try out if you get lucky with the layover timing.
Even including the airport transfer costs a quick trip into the city center could cost as little as £20 round-trip! This is a really affordable way of checking out some of the city.
Grab Lunch at Sainsbury’s
Believe it or not but one of the cheapest lunches in London you’ll find is from Sainsbury’s.
This is a local grocery store that offers a surprising selection of fresh sandwiches, soups, and other small meals.
Every day you can pick up a lunch combo for £3 at most of these grocery stores. This includes a sandwich/main item along with a snack and a drink.
Sure, it’s not some fancy restaurant. If you’re traveling on a tight budget it’s a quick and healthy lunch or dinner that’s readily available.
Along with Sainsbury’s you can find these lunch combos and other reasonably priced things to eat at most grocery stores. The others I would recommend are Tesco and Marks & Spencer.
So there you have it! Hopefully I have helped you realize that a trip to London doesn’t have to be expensive! With all of these tips you’re now well-equipped to explore London on a budget.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s still an expensive place to visit compared to other cities like Krakow, Bucharest, Budapest, or Lviv,. Thankfully it’s still possible to explore and check everything out without entirely blowing your budget.
Even if you have a long layover in London you can head into the city centre and walk around a bit before heading back to the airport.
It’s possible to leave your luggage and bags at Victoria Station for just a few pounds. Then you can walk around the city for a little while before heading back to the airport to catch your flight.
If you’re lucky you might have a direct connecting flight. This way your bags will already be checked and you could just carry your daypack with you.
After all of this advice the most important thing is that you just take your time exploring the city. Try not to rush to all of the different sights and attractions just to knock them off your bucket list.
London isn’t going anywhere. Even if you can’t see everything in one visit you can make plans to come back to keep exploring this beautiful city.