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How to Experience London on a Budget

On any list of the most expensive cities to visit in the world, London is bound to be present. Consequently, there is much to see and do in the UK's capital.

The sheer amount of attractions and activities on offer is almost as mind-boggling as their cost.

However, it is possible to visit London and come away feeling satisfied with all you've seen and done and the subsequent balance of your bank account to boot.

Tower Bridge London
Tower Bridge London (photo: Hakan Dahlström)

Expenses like hotels, luggage storage, meals, tickets to shows, and transportation are expected anywhere in the world, but London is one of the most expensive cities, so these could add up quickly. 

Here are some tips and tricks for those wanting to experience London on a budget.

Purchase a Travelcard

Living and working in London, I find my Travelcard a financial godsend. Depending on how long you're spending in the city and how often you'll be using public transport, the Travelcards can seriously work in your favor.

A weeklong Travelcard for zones 1-2 costs around $42 (£32.40) and gives you unlimited travel on all London transport within those zones.

Considering the Tube can cost around three quid a pop, you're looking at a significant saving.

Did you know that possessing a Travelcard gives you a discount on river cruises on the Thames? I didn't either until I tried it out and saved precious pounds.

You can leave the UK capital without too much damage to your bank balance. Here are some tips and tricks for those wanting to experience London on a budget.
The Sky Garden's viewing platform is a selfie stick-free zone.

Marvel at the Cityscape from the Sky Garden

London has one of the most distinctive and varied skylines in the world, dotted with four-century-old churches and cathedrals, 1960s concrete nightmares, and skyscrapers, which are a mere handful of years old.

If you're going to the city, it's worth seeing it from above. There are countless options for doing this, with various vantage points offered over a range of prices.

If you're concerned about cost, you might want to forgo the View from The Shard (priced at roughly $40 a ticket) for the Sky Garden, located in the Walkie Talkie, right across the river from Western Europe's tallest building.

All you'll need is some organization, as tickets usually become available around a week in advance.

It's worth going to see. Not only is the view lovely, but you're surrounded by what is effectively, as the name suggests, a garden in the sky.

Buying Tickets for West End Shows

If you're a fan of theater, you have to see at least one West End show. There's always something going on in Theatreland, making it one of the most saturated tourist areas.

The problem is that some spectacles (mainly the classics such as Phantom of the Opera and Les Mis) can be ridiculously overpriced.

I like to use the app Today Tix to scope out ticket prices. The app features every show playing at the West End and the lowest price available for each show that week.

It may not be the best seat in the house, but at least you can tick it off your list. Plus, some of the older theaters have binoculars that you can rent for a quid or so. There's a novelty factor there, for sure.

You can leave the UK capital without too much damage to your bank balance. Here are some tips and tricks for those wanting to experience London on a budget.
The British Museum (Credit: Paul Hudson)

Take Advantage of Free Museums

London is home to pretty fantastic museums, such as the Natural History Museum, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Maritime Museum.

You could spend an entire holiday in the UK's capital going museum-mad and come away totally satisfied. This endeavor won't break the bank as all of London's most significant museums are gloriously free.

That's right – you don't have to pay a single penny to enter them. Most ask for a small donation, but that is, of course, made entirely at your discretion. Here's a list of other attractions for free within the city.

Plan and Book Online

If you're organized, you can save a percentage of cash by booking in advance on the Internet.

So, if you know you can't leave London without having had a trip around the London Eye, you can save money by buying a ticket online. This also helps avoid the upsettingly massive queues often present at this particular attraction.

I've never tried it out, but I've heard the London Pass is an excellent way to see the sights in the city and save yourself a bit of dosh in the process, too. A word of advice – it's worth considering just how much sightseeing you plan to do before shelling out for a pass.

Timing is everything

Sometimes, all you need to do to save money is time your visits wisely. London tends to be packed out in the summer months and around Christmas.

While it is busy year-round, there are noticeable off-seasons where the city feels emptier – particularly during January.

Famous tourist attractions around London know this and tend to lower their prices accordingly. For example, the Royal Botanical Kew Gardens offers a discount to patrons visiting in winter.

So, it's not impossible to experience the plethora of activities London offers travelers on a strict budget. With some advanced planning, you'll get far more bang for your buck than anticipated.

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Sunday 11th of September 2016

I did London earlier this year and it is expensive! I cut down on food costs by getting picnic lunches from Tesco or Sainsbury. The free museums are great, but there is no way around the high cost of that city. It was worth every penny though.

LC Haughey

Wednesday 14th of September 2016

Agreed. You pay out the nose for everything, while loving every second of it.


Saturday 30th of July 2016

What an awesome place! Can't wait to revisit.

Kati from Ms B Travels

Wednesday 27th of July 2016

I'm heading to London soon and I had no idea there were so many free museums. Thanks for the info! I'm going to have to take advantage of that! :)

LC Haughey

Thursday 28th of July 2016

You have to pay to get into some of the specific exhibitions, but you really can get your fill of history/science/art/culture for next to no cost at all.

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