A bustling city with plenty of activities to do, sights to see, and dishes to eat, London is a fabulous place to visit or live in. A financial, academic, and artistic hub, there are many opportunities for students or travelers from around the world to take advantage of. The only potential drawback is that London has a (deserved) reputation for being an expensive city. Not to worry though, with a careful budget and plenty of planning, you can experience all that London has to offer without breaking the bank.
London at a Glance
Domestic Population: 8.308 Million People
Trivia: The first general assembly of the United Nations took place on January 10, 1946 and was held in the Methodist Central Hall of Westminster.
Where to Stay
Housing in any city tends to be one of the larger expenses. A huge benefit to studying abroad, interning abroad, volunteering abroad, or anything similar, is that these programs tend to already have housing arranged for you at a discount. Save a few bucks while staying in secure areas of the city and with either local roommates or fellow program participants.
For those traveling solo or without a program, a great way to save money while making friends is to stay at a hostel. Find one with a security camera, lock boxes, and a common room to ensure a great time. Don’t be afraid to find a hostel on the outskirts of town. Just make sure that wherever you stay is near public transportation.
If all else fails, Airbnb might be your answer. This secure service allows travelers to choose how much contact they want with the host and can usually get bargain prices by renting one room in a flat or house. Get a friendly guide and a cheap stay all in one!
What to Eat
One of the other pricey aspects of London is food. A handy way to save money is to load up on a huge breakfast and skip lunch before splurging on dinner. You can also eat out for lunch and then make your own sandwich dinner since lunch prices are often more reasonable.
Head over to the Berwick Street Market where you can find tasty bites from around the world for a low price. This market is open weekdays and meals tend to go for £5-8. Exmouth Market is another great weekday lunch destination with a wide variety of international flavors and food trucks.
If all else fails, the supermarket is your best bet for sustenance. There are plenty of cheap ready-made and surprisingly versatile choices on hand. A personal favorite of mine is the curried chicken salad.
Public transportation in London is extensive and a great way to get around the city. If you plan on staying in London for longer than a week, you might want to consider getting an Oyster card. This is a prepaid transportation card registered to you and valid on most transportation systems.
A Visitor Oyster card is also available and this provides discounts on fares and even has a price cap so that you can travel as much as you like during the day and the most you will ever pay is £8.40.
A London Pass is a good idea for travelers staying from one to three days since this pass includes entrance fees to a wide range of sights as well as transportation.
Activities and Sights to See
With so much to see and do in London, you might be surprised to learn that there are plenty of attractions that are completely free. The British Museum does not cost a penny and neither does the Tate Modern, a phenomenal art gallery and museum. The Victoria and Albert Museum is also free as is the Horniman Museum and Gardens.
View the Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace and make time for the Horse Guards Parade near Whitehall. Wander through any number of peaceful parks open to the public and stroll down glamorous streets as you window shop.
It is nothing short of mind-blowing the number of events, activities, and attractions that are available and do not cost anything.
If the only thing keeping you from visiting London is your worry about the expense, go ahead and immediately book your ticket. London can be extremely affordable and you will be able to have an amazing time for only a fourth of what you think this trip will cost. Follow the tips laid out in this article and be sure to submit some of your own in the comments below. Let me know how your trip turns out and be sure to share plenty of photos!