London is an expensive city in its own right, but for Americans and our weak, weak US dollar, everything is literally twice as expensive. That does not mean that you can’t or shouldn’t make a trip to Londontown as there are lots of budget friendly things to do and places to eat. I’m here to tell you where to go and what to do on a budget because as a flight attendant, I’m pretty experienced at traveling and making the most of it even when I’m skint (British for broke). Here are some ideas and recommendations for enjoying this awesome city without blowing your budget.
1. Oyster Card
Purchase an Oyster Card if you are staying in London more than two days. An Oyster Card will be your best friend when it comes to traveling around the city. It’s accepted city-wide on buses, boats, and on “the tube” or the London Underground. Money can be added to these cards and discounts are given for using it especially on the tube. The tube is my favorite way to get around, and it runs frequently from 6 a.m. until 1 a.m.
2. Bike- Barclays Cycle Hire
For 30 minute intervals, you can rent a bicycle from a Barclays docking station and ride around the city. There are over 700 docking stations all around London, so finding one is quick and easy. Unlimited rides for 30 minutes or less cost just two pounds for 24 hours! Or if you plan on keeping the bike for longer than half an hour, it costs one pound for one hour or six pounds for two hours.
London is one of the most “walkable” cities in the world, so pack some tennis shoes and go on a self-guided walking tour through the city! See the House of Parliament, Big Ben, and the National Gallery on the Westminster Walk, or see the London Eye, Tate Modern, and the National Theatre on The Queen’s Walk. Walklondon.com is a great website to plan your walk about London.
1. Grab lunch at a grocery store
Supermarkets are your best friend when it comes to eating on a budget. Tesco offers a great deal on a sandwich, chips (crisps), and a drink for about three pounds.
2. Hit up a sandwich shop
Located throughout the city are sandwich shops like Benjy’s and Pret A Manger that offer pre-packaged sandwiches for a pound or two.
3. Street Food
Bistro style dishes, gourmet Scotch eggs, and Indian spiced burgers await in moving street vendors all around London.
What To Do
So many free museums in London! The British museum, Tate Modern art museum, Grant Museum of Zoology, the National Portrait Gallery, Museum of London, Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum name just a few! Though it’s not free, I really enjoyed the Clink Prison Museum, which costs about seven pounds. Use your Oyster Card to get from museum to museum on a rainy, London day.
2. The Scoop
Though museums are mostly free in London, live theatre and performing arts usually come at a price. This is where The Scoop comes in. Located near the Tower Bridge, The Scoop is an amphitheatre that holds about 800 people and offers free music, theatre performances, and films.
Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St. James Park, Victoria Park, and Greenwich Park are just a few of London’s park scene. My favorite parks are Hyde Park and Holland Park. Pick up a sandwich from Sainsbury’s and have a picnic in a park! Many include free plays and live music during the warmer months.
4. Free Music and Festivals
The ‘More London Free Festival’, the iTunes Festival, and Hyderdub Tenth Anniversary are all free music festivals that offer performances from major music players such as Tony Bennett and Calvin Harris!
Check out the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, see the Tower Bridge, the London Bridge, and walk across the Millennium Bridge. If you can plan in advance, BBC offers free tickets to show tapings for both television and radio.
6. And Drinks, of course
Nectar Bar and Club offers two-for-one cocktails and free admission Sunday-Thursday. Some of the best happy hours can be found at the London Cocktail Club, Southsider Cocktail Club, and Electric Social.