There’s no denying that London can be an expensive place to live. A studio apartment in the capital can set you back as much as a four-bedroom home in other parts of the country, while food and drink can also come at eye-watering prices if you find yourself in the right (or wrong, depending on your perspective – and bank balance) pub.
According to the Economist’s 2017 cost of living survey, London ranks 24th among the world’s most expensive places to live – although its rankings were much higher a year ago. In 2016, before the Brexit vote and the plummeting pound, estate agent Savills found that London was the world’s most expensive city in which to live and work, putting it even ahead of other costly locations like New York and Hong Kong.
While making ends meet can be difficult for those living in London, even when earning well above the national average, what do the high prices mean for visitors?
Well, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to enjoy the British capital when you’re on a budget. So, don’t let those high prices put you off a getaway to the Big Smoke. Here are our nine top tips for keeping costs down, while enjoying everything London has to offer:
1. Find free attractions
Many of London’s most popular attractions are free to visit. In South Kensington, you’ll find the National History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. All three of these are free to get in, and you could probably spend a week exploring them and still not have seen everything. There’s also the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the Museum of London, the Docklands Museum, the Queen’s House, the Wellcome Trust and the National Portrait Gallery.
If you’re visiting on the right day, and book ahead, you can also get in to see the Houses of Parliament for free – and if you want to climb to the top of Big Ben (technically called the Elizabeth Tower), that’s free too. But you’ll need to book well in advance and tours must be arranged through your local MP – meaning only UK residents can organise a visit to the top of the famous clock tower.
2. Hunt for discounts
Although there are loads of free attractions, many places do have admission prices, and those can quickly add up – especially for families. The good news is that there are lots of ways to save some money if you do your research ahead of time. For example, you can get two-for-one entry on attractions like the Tower of London and the London Bridge Experience if you make use of the deal available from National Rail’s days out guide.
3. Buy tickets online
As well as the various vouchers and discounts you can find online, it’s also possible to save money just by buying your tickets ahead of time online. Tickets to the London Eye, for instance, can be up to ten per cent cheaper if you buy them on the internet. In many cases, you can even enjoy the savings by purchasing the tickets from your mobile phone while you’re standing outside the attraction’s box office.
4. Enjoy the great outdoors
The big city might not seem like a place to experience nature, but London’s actually a very green area, with plenty of beautiful parks and gardens to explore. A walk through Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens or Green Park are all lovely ways to spend an hour – and it won’t cost you a penny.
5. Have a picnic
If you’re heading to a park, why not pack some lunch and dine al fresco too? Pubs, restaurants and even cafes can be costly in the capital, but a loaf of bread and some sandwich fillings shouldn’t set you back much more than what you’re used to. Even a pre-made sandwich from a supermarket shouldn’t cost too much.
6. Use public transport
London’s a big city, and you probably won’t want to walk everywhere. But taxis and Ubers will definitely cost a lot. So, do what most locals do and travel around on public transport. With the Tube and buses, you can get just about anywhere in the capital.
You can pay for your travel with a pre-paid Oyster Card, or use contactless technology with your phone or a bank card, and Transport for London will apply a daily price cap, which should help to keep the cost down too.
7. Cheap theatre tickets
For many visitors to London, a trip to the theatre is a must. But tickets to West End shows can be expensive. If you really want to see one of the big-name shows like Wicked or Les Miserables, but don’t want to pay full-price, then head to the TKTS booth at Leicester Square. This is the official place to get last-minute tickets, but they sell out quick, so try to get there early.
If you’re not so concerned about seeing one of the bigger shows, then consider going off the West End. London is full of small theatres, and they offer a unique experience that’s also generally cheaper.
8. Nights out
If you’re planning a night on the town, but don’t have a lot to spend, then try to think like a student. Pre-drinks, before you head out, could save you a bit of money, and try to find a local pub rather than a trendy bar. Look out for happy hours and other promotions, and remember that alternating between alcoholic drinks and tap water is a good idea for your budget, and will probably mean you feel better the next morning too.
9. Book budget hotels in London
London’s most expensive hotel room costs more than £20,000 per night. But you don’t have to spend thousands to enjoy comfortable and stylish accommodation.
For example, Park Grand London Hotels is based in Paddington and located just a short walk from Hyde Park. So whether you’re travelling on business, with your family or on a romantic city break, you can enjoy four-star quality in a fantastic setting, all at an affordable price.