• London on a budget: A few ways to save


    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:


    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.


    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.

    Click here to search for London accommodation:


    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.


    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?

  • London, how do I love thee?

    Gorgeous old London architecture

    There are many things I love about London. Let’s see:

    The Tube. I am in Type A love with the Underground. Efficient public transport – say what? Until now, it was unfathomable to an Aucklander like me that I could rock up at a station and rest easy knowing a train would be along in a few minutes. On time. No need to check schedules before leaving the house – just turn up and step aboard. It might be a little pricey, but as value for money goes, it beats what I’m used to any day, if only for the fact that you can navigate around different areas of the city by seamlessly changing train lines,

    The parks. Meticulously manicured. Sprawling, magnificent, made for people-watching. With squirrels to feed, fountains, statues, gardens, bikes for rent, even freaking carousels right on the grounds – it’s something straight off the pages of Mary Poppins. Just watch out for the scummy ponds.

    The terrain. It’s flat and oh-so-walkable. Even T traipsed around all day, every day, nary a complaint.

    The buildings. Charming architecture, laden with detail, practically oozing history.

    The recycling. Oh yes. After Asia, I did a little happy dance after seeing not just public bins and recycling bins, but separate bins for different TYPES of materials – paper, plastic, glass … A sight for sore eyes, is all I have to say about that.

    Squirrel on a branch, London park

    Yep, I was pleasantly surprised by Londontown, especially after having just spent two days with a bunch of Brits on a boat in Vietnam and hearing their tales.

    But London has never held a huge draw for me. A place to visit? Hell yeah. A place to live? Don’t see the appeal. I’m in the minority of my graduating class – almost everyone I went to university with is a) currently in London, b) about to move to London, or c) has already done their stint in London and returned to NZ, or perhaps moved on somewhere else entirely. With two-year visas being easy to get and plenty of Kiwis enjoying the privileges of British-born parents, the London OE is still well and truly in fashion, abysmal job market not withstanding.

    So when my London friends and family asked if, having experienced the city for a few days, if I could see myself living here, the answer was still no, for all the reasons I already suspected.

    For one, the weather. You might laugh at this, but if I’m going to leave New Zealand, it better damn well be for sunnier shores. Good weather counts for a lot in my books.

    Prices are also a factor. Some things, like milk, internet and cars, are way cheaper. But the cost of living is pretty high, and starting salaries low (at least in media).

    All the same, London was a fantastic place to visit. There’s just so much to see (I would literally just stroll around gaping up at the buildings on every street). If you were to visit, you’d probably have an entirely different experience; we caught street performers in Southbank and Leicester Square, and spent hours at Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, which were right next to our hostel. Cyclists, dog walkers, schoolkids, mums and babies, rowers, longboarders, a random guy breakdancing and posing while his friends filmed him – we watched them all go by. Best of all was a serendipitous detour by one of the murky looking ponds, where we caught two giant geese literally racing across the water – wings outstretched, feet skimming the surface.

    Our last day was rounded off with a picnic and nap outdoors, where I wrote this post, killing time before our train up to Edinburgh.

    Juxtaposition FTW at Southbank skate parklondon southbank skate park ballerina photo shoot

    Our street. The Smart Hyde Park Inn hostel was basic but crazy cheapGiant bare trees and beautiful old buildings in Hyde Park / Kensington, London

    It was quite surreal to actually walk through Notting Hill and visit Portobello Market in personCute street in Notting Hill, London

    The view from my cousin’s riverside houseLondon backyard onto the riverBrown terrace houses along the Thames River in London

    Giant horse head (as you do) around Marble ArchGiant horse head, Marble Arch in London

    Where the money gets made (i.e. around the banking district)Banking district, Canary Wharf in London


    London guards at museum

    Quietly checking his phone…

    London redcoat guard

    Gothic details
    IMG_8930bLondon gothic buildinglondon brown brick buildings