So we all know London isn’t the cheapest of places to visit. As an Australian in the UK I especially felt the pinch – the conversion is a little on the hectic side. If you’re on a tight budget, staying for more than a few days can be pretty expensive. We were on a tight budget when we first arrived here, lacking in jobs, accommodation and trying not to spend all our savings before we had to fork over gigantic apartment deposits. So I’ve worked out a few ways to be frugal in one of the world’s most expensive cities but still eat well and see some gosh dang fantastic sights!
Eats || London is SO full of delicious eats. The population is so multicultural that you could spend all day every day eating a different delicious cuisine. It’s not always cheap though, in fact very rarely is it cheap. While places like Carnaby Street in Soho are definitely worth the splurge, if you think outside the box you can still get a meal that packs a punch on the tastebuds and not the purse!
Borough Markets // You might get to the Borough Markets and think it’s not all that cheap. I wouldn’t do my grocery shopping here, no. But for an average of 5£ you can score yourself a fresh cooked vietnamese chicken dish or a pulled beef smoking sandwhich and a fresh juice. It’s cooked on site, piping hot and tasty as tasty can be.
Brick Lane Curry // You must, must, must head to Brick Lane in Shoreditch for a curry. This long lane is famous for it’s Indian food. The smell alone will have you drooling. As you wander down the street, you’ll have each restauranteur trying to lure you into his curry house – beating the last guys price. You’ll get a delicious meal cheap as chips.
Food Trucks // In any city food trucks are a great way to get some quality eats for less of the financial burden. The beauty of food trucks and street food is that the rent is no where near their bricks and mortar competitors. It’s a win-win!
China Town // If you’re a beef pho fan or love yourself a spot of gyoza then head to China Town and nab a tasty meal for under 10£. There are options galore and some of the best Asian cuisine you can get your hands on, outside of Asia. Jump off the tube at Leicester Square and you’re a few minutes walk from delicious, delicious pho.
Stays || London is one of the most expensive cities on the world for many tourists. Accommodation can cost an absolute fortune, even if you’re going for the hostel option. For my first month and a bit here, I floated between family’s homes and Air BnB to save costs. Wherever you go, bear in mind that transport is expensive. Try and stay as close to a train line as possible and obviously the closer to zone 1 or 2 (inner city) you can be, the more affordable it is to travel.
Air BnB // This site can be a lifesaver 70% of the time and then a bit hit and miss the rest of the time. I’ll admit I’ve had very few bad experiences but it’s definitely not always a winner. Make sure you read the reviews before you go. I have been caught out on this one before!
Family and Friends of Friends of Friends // One of the things about living in London is that you know a part of the deal is that you have to be prepared to be contacted by random people you may or may not have met. Do you know anyone with a spare room? Got a spare couch? Remember me from that mutual friend’s wedding three years ago? Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. They don’t actually mind for the most part. You never know who they might know with a spare room for cheap! Rent in London is expensive so any contribution might be appreciated!
House Sitting // This one can be hard to find but not impossible. In the month’s leading up to your trip, start checking out house sitting sites like Gumtree, House Sit World, Trusted House Sitters. You never know who might be heading to France for summer and need a house sitter!
Sights || Ever heard the saying “Nothings free in London”? Well it’s NEARLY true. Some of the oddest things will cost you a blardy fortune. One place I REALLY wanted to see was Kew Gardens. Not enough for the admission fee of $30AU per person. That one had to wait until I started earning British pounds! Don’t expect all sights, castles, churches to be free. In saying that, you can definitely see your fair share of beautiful London sights on the cheap.
Westminster Abbey // This incredible building can cost a pretty penny to get entry to during the day. The trick of the trade however, is that anyone can attend the daily 5pm service for free. Not only do you get to see the incredible Abbey but you get to here the Westminster Abbey Boys Choir sing and witness a moving and ancient service. FAH FREE.
Free Walking Tours // These aren’t always the best way to see London but keep your eye out for a good one. Usually they will ask for a donation at the end of the tour, maybe a few pounds. For this you’ll get a couple of hours with a knowledgeable local and learn about the history of the numerous monster buildings that make up London. I find London’s history so fascinating and vast so sometimes it’s easier to have someone to direct you. Every building has a story. Try one that will start in Trafalgar Square. It’s such an awe inspiring place to start and so many grand sights are within walking distance.
Camden Town // Camden is set on a sweet canal but the area is not exactly sweet. It’s a super lively town that is chocablock with tourists and locals and for good reason. Head here for street food by the canal, gorgeous independent boutiques, cheap pubs, coffee shops and touristy stores galore. I LOVE everything about Camden. It’s so buzzing and fun and cheaper than the city! Jump off the tube at Camden Town station on the Northern Line and explore. While you’re in the area you can walk to London Zoo or Regents Park too.
Museums! // Many of London’s museums are free if you’re not going to a certain exhibit you could be in luck! The museums in London aren’t quite on the same level as my home town Brisbane (I’ll let you guess which is better). I’m not usually a museum person but London’s are something else. I highly recommend getting your bum along and learning on the cheap! Check out the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the British Museum.
Obviously I’ve only touched on the very surface of surfaces of touring London but hopefully these tips will allow you to see just that much more with your spare pounds at the end of your trip!