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Top 7 Tips for Doing London on the Cheap with a Limited Budget

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It’s pretty much no secret that London is one of the most expensive cities on the planet. But you can still have fun even if you’re on a budget. Here are some top tips on saving money while traveling in London.

1. Souvenirs

Pretty much every souvenir store in central London has all the
same overpriced tatty crap. Save your souvenir shopping for the airport where you can buy all that neat stuff tax free and save a few quid.

2. Grocery Shopping/Snacking

Going to a grocery store and stocking up on snacks will save you a lot of money on meals, especially if you plan picnics. It’s a great way to save money on food, which will be your biggest cost while in London (after lodging).

3. Getting Cash

The cheapest way to get money exchanged is to just use your ATM card to take money directly out of the ATM. Currency exchanges are usually a rip- off and the banks get the best inter-market exchange rates. Also, most ATM’s in London are free, so you’ll probably only be charged a fee by your bank.

4. Calling Home Inexpensively

A red phone box is an affordable place. However, never call from your hotel. You’ll be raked through the coals even more. You can also purchase an inexpensive prepaid cell phone, or just buy a sim card for a compatible US phone and you can place calls home cheaply. If you take a laptop, you can always call home for free using a service like Skype.

5. Some Cheap London Hotels

The cheapest and cleanest hotels in London are the EasyHotels located in : South Kensington, Paddington, Victoria, Heathrow, Earl’s Court and Luton.

6. Best Places to hear free music

  • St Martin in the Field’s at Lunchtime every day.
  • Covent Garden Market on the lower levels.
  • Buskers on the South Bank of the River.
  • Southbank Centre – free music often.
  • St. James Church in Picadilly, free music recitals at 1:10pm on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.

7. Where to Get Cheap London Theatre Tickets

Half Price Ticket Booth – Located in Leicester Square, this is the place to check for cheap theatre ticket deals before you check anywhere else as they are ‘official.’

Author: jonathan

Jonathan is a consummate Anglophile who launched Anglotopia.net in 2007 to channel his passion for Britain. Londontopia is its sister publication dedicated to everything London.

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    • I’ve been coming to London annually since 2003 and have always stayed at a Travelodge in Zone 5. The rooms are always clean and inexpensive, the staff always friendly and helpful (they know me by now) and am always guaranteed a seat on the tube on my way to Zone 1 for the day, taking in a West End matinee show every day I’m in town. I book my room online well in advance to save even more GBP. Only way to visit and stay in London for extended periods of time in my opinion.

  1. If you can get to the box office when it opens, a lot of theaters keep a small selection of ‘day tickets’ These might be front row for £20. or if you ask for the cheapest ticket an hour before the show starts or less, if there are better seats, they will put you in these instead of your cheap nosebleed seat. It works very well for matinee shows.

  2. An affordable and wonderful alternative is the bnb. I stayed at the Bay Tree House (not to be confused with a hotel in London called the Bay Tree Hotel). It was at the end of the Picadilly Line and just around the corner from the Arnos Grove Station. Innkeeper James is a retired teacher and Janice his wife is an American who has lived in London for about 40 years, so she has a unique perspective and ability to guide other Americans in regard to the different culture. They made incredibly delicious breakfasts, which kept me going until dinner, a savings again. There were great Indian and other restaurants in their neighborhood, and it was only a 20 minute ride into the heart of London and all the tourist areas. I appreciated all their assistance and suggestions, that I would have never had in a big chain hotel. The area was quiet and quaint, lots of places and parks to explore around there, too. I had plantar fascitis at the time, so they always greeted me with an ice pack for my feet when I returned, it was always like coming home.

    • I second the B&B with a nice breakfast. I stayed in a great one in Cardiff and it was a lovely experience. More comfy and homelike than a hotel, too. 🙂

  3. Don’t forget that a large percentage of the museums in London are free. Combine a museum or two with a picnic lunch in one of the great parks and you’ve got yourself a low-cost day!

  4. I was in London last year for about a month with my oldest grandchild. One of the things that I discovered during my research before I left Canada (and maybe you already know this) was that purchasing a membership to the Historic Royal Palaces (www.hrp.org.uk)was way more economical than entrance fees to individual palaces AND you can visit each palace as many times as you want. The membership includes admission to The Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, Hampton Court Palace and Banqueting House. Membership per year – that I paid – was 61 pounds for two adults. Individual tickets to The Tower of London is 24.50!! So I paid the 61 pounds and visited each of the Royal Palaces including visiting The Tower of London 4 times (I was staying pretty close and loved this Palace the best). Best deal ever!!!

  5. Nikki what a deal. I love the Banqueting House with that marvelous ceiling by Rubens. The first time I visited I think entry price was 2 pounds. No one else was there. It has become more popular now. Kew is lovely and small. I adore Hampton Court and you can never get tired of the Tower. Next time I will consider that pass. Buckingham P. is of course restricted to the two months when the Queen is in Scotland so I would not get to see that again. I had a wonderful visit there in 2003, wandering around the gardens talking to the docents. It was a rainless summer and they were trying to keep the grass alive with huge long hoses – no sprinkler system for the Queen!

  6. Whenever I visit London, I pick one of the small and cheap hotels on Sussex Gardens near Paddington Railway station. You can catch the tube there right into the heart of London. It’s within walking distance of Nothing Hill Gate and Portobello Road market and even Hyde Park. When I arrive at Heathrow Airport, I catch the Airport Express to Paddington and Sussex Gardens is only a 5-minute walk away, so I don’t need to take a taxi or the tube to get to my hotel. When I leave London to go home, I walk back to Paddington and catch the Airport express there again, back to Heathrow. Very convenient.

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