If you’re planning a trip to London, whether for the weekend, a longer holiday or an indefinite period of time, one of the first things you need to do is draw up a budget. The UK capital is well-known for being a fairly expensive city, relative to other locations, so you’ll need a decent holiday fund in order to make the most of your adventure.
In a city such as London, where there is so much to see and do, and premium prices are commonplace, your disposable finance can soon dwindle.This makes it all the more important to economise where you can. For those who are shrewd, there is scope to make your money go further, or even generate an income on your travels. This can allow you to enjoy the real London experience, rather than merely dip your toe in the water.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of tips for travelling in London on a budget. Perhaps some of these strategies can help you gain full value from your trip:
1. Choose lower-cost accommodation
Some London hotels charge more than others, but the quality of the establishment is not the only contributing factor to the nightly rate. If you select a hotel in the very centre of the capital, where demand is at its greatest, you can expect to pay more for your hotel room. Similarly, if you are looking to stay in London at peak times of the year, you shouldn’t be surprised if the room rate goes up.
It is possible to get a good deal on accommodation when you book hotels in Paddington, London, particularly if you are willing to stay out-of-season or during the week, as opposed to at the weekend. Getting decent value for money on your hotel room is a great starting point when it comes to making your holiday fund stretch further. The chances are you’ll be spending much of your time in London out and about, so it makes sense to keep some of your money in reserve.
2. Stay for a little longer
As a tourist or traveller, you need to be aware of your ability to bargain and strike a better deal. In some instances, such as where you are booking a longer stay, hotel managers may well be willing to offer a discount rate – one that reflects the increased commitment you have made. In some instances deals will be advertised on a hotel’s website, but in others, you need to ask the question and see whether you can shave a few pounds off your overall tab.
If you’re visiting London at quieter times, it may be easier to negotiate a better price. After all, every hotel wants to be full for as much of the time as possible, and if you’re offering to stay for a couple of weeks or more, this is custom the hotel won’t want to lose. This is always worth thinking about when booking somewhere to stay.
3. Plan your travel carefully
Depending on where you live, and how far away from London it is, travel costs can account for a significant chunk of your overall budget. If you’re flying in to Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted from another part of the world, it’s possible you’ve already spent a fair whack on your plane ticket. And even if you’re based in the UK, rail travel is by no means cheap – unless you seek out the best ticket prices of course.
Regardless of your mode of transport, there will always be ways to minimise your travel expenditure. Being willing to take an overnight flight, or jump on a train first thing in the morning, may allow you to shave a few pounds off your ticket price. It may be the case that you need to change services in order get a better deal, which could entail waiting for a transfer but may be a price worth paying.
Similarly, booking your ticket early can allow you to secure the best available rate. So by planning your trip to London in advance, you might be able to reduce your outgoings.
4. Cook your own food
If you eat out at restaurants every night, then don’t be surprised if your funds dwindle a little too quickly. It is great to be cooked for, but once you’ve factored in your meal price, drinks and a service charge, you can be left with an eye-watering bill. As such, it makes sense to consider other options for eating and drinking, including cooking for yourself if you have access to kitchen facilities. Buying your own ingredients and preparing a meal is usually much cheaper than eating out, since it’s you who has to do the work. If you don’t have access to a kitchen at your London hotel, then you can save money by eating light snacks such as sandwiches. If you’re looking for a simple meal, why not just buy a loaf of bread and some filling?
5. Enjoy free activities
There are so many exciting things to do in London, particularly if you’ve come to the capital as a tourist. There are the obvious headline attractions such as the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye, but if you keep paying entry fees everywhere you go, your money can soon run out. As such, it makes sense to think about some of the fun things you can do for free in London. There are plenty of them
Sightseeing – in the literal sense – doesn’t cost a penny. You can stroll around London for hours looking at the major landmarks without anybody charging you for the privilege. Similarly, you can take a walk along the River Thames, or spend a few hours exploring the various royal parks. Particularly if you’ve got an Oyster Card or a day pass for public transport, you’ve got free rein of the capital.
London’s many galleries and museums can be another port of call if you’re looking to enjoy a day out on a budget. Many of them are open free to the public, and although voluntary donations are welcomed, there is no obligation to pay for entry.
6. Work on the move
One may to make your trip to London a little more affordable is to work while you’re here. Many people are now able to work remotely using a laptop, providing they have an internet connection, and if you’re one of these people then why not take advantage of it? You can bring your computer to your hotel room, do a few hours work and then head out to explore London.
If remote working isn’t a viable option for you, there may still be opportunities to earn some money during your trip. It’s always worth investigating casual labour opportunities and agency employment, even if it’s just to provide support for a one-off event during your stay. Any money you make can be ploughed straight back into your holiday fund, ensuring you can do all the things you want to during your trip to London.