London on a budget: A few ways to save

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Travelling through foreign countries takes its toll after awhile. For us, London was a breath of familiar air – first after our Asian stint, and again for a day after our Eurotrip. I’m a little embarrassed to admit to how nice it was to be greeted in English at the airport and in shops, to be able to read all the signs around us, at how relieving it was to have everything be easy again. T was just happy to be able to drink milk again, and you can bet he gorged and gorged. The milk’s nowhere near as good as the stuff at home, but at least it’s cheaper.

That said, London is blimmin’ expensive. Here’s how we tried to keep costs down:

Transport

Now that I’m a seasoned metro traveller, I wish we’d taken the Tube from the airport into the city when we first landed; as intimidating as all the transfers would have been, I think we could have coped. Still, we opted for the cheaper Heathrow Connect train rather than the Heathrow Express, which is half the price.

Travelling off peak can save you a decent amount if you’re travelling around underground; otherwise, assuming the weather cooperates, you can walk around like we did as much as possible. If you do need to travel a lot by subway, there is, thankfully, a maximum daily price cap, so you won’t pay any more than that.

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Accommodation

Hostels, while not exactly cheap, are still your best budget option. I’m not sure if we were extremely lucky, but we found dorm beds for a mere 12 pounds each at Hyde Park Smart Inn hostel, which was in a convenient and pretty swanky area. Downside: the hostel itself was on the manky side, though I think this may be par for the course in London in general.

For our second visit, I found dorm beds for 15 pounds at Journey’s King’s Cross, but thanks to some generous friends, we ended up crashing in a Clapham living room for free.

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Food

It’s amazing just how much prepackaged food there is in the UK – and not in a good way. Nonetheless, supermarkets are your friend, be it Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Cooperative. They all seem to offer $3 meal deals with a sandwich, drink and snack, though we mostly bought breads, dips, and salads (I got hooked on the tomato, olive and spinach pasta salad from the get go). And if you spot a ‘pound store’, don’t walk in – run in! Stock up! Cheap samosas from Spar near our hostel were also a staple.

Sightseeing

The one attraction we paid for (and regretted) was the London Eye. Aside from that, simply strolling around taking in the architecture, exploring the south bank, wandering past Buckingham Palace and through all the huge parks, and nipping into some of the many free museums in London, was enough to keep us occupied.

What other suggestions have you?

4 thoughts on “London on a budget: A few ways to save

  1. There is also easybus from the airport that is really cheap, from 2 pounds one way if you book early. Travelodge has 19 and 29 pounds rooms with private bath is you book early. And if you get somewhere by train (like kew garden or into london) you can get 2 for 1 for many attractions including London eye for showing your train ticket.

  2. That’s one place I’d really like to go but have avoided because of the expense. I can totally imagine what a relief it was to be in “familiar” territory. BTW, I just spent 5 ish days traveling two cities, and I’m so f’n wiped out. I have NO idea how you are managing all this travel and staying sane! Major kudos!

  3. I’ve heard not to bother with The London Eye a bunch of times, so I’m glad I skipped it!
    My favorite (almost free) thing to do in London was wandering around the stalls and markets in Camden Town. As a window shopper it was easy not to spend a lot there, but if you do like to shop it could be dangerous!

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