Exactly how expensive is it to go to London? Is it even possible to visit London cheaply? Just one of the many questions I’ve been asked by friends looking to visit.
I’ve been to London three times now and have learned a few tricks on where to go and what to do In order to save money. These tips can honestly be applied to most large cities around the world.
Is London Cheap or Expensive?
Here’s the truth. . . London is very expensive for Americans, or anyone visiting on a weaker currency.
To give you a real perspective, the GBP : USD exchange rate as of September 30, 2019, is 1.2295, which means Americans can expect to pay over 20% more for goods and services. Honestly, I’ve seen it way higher. Over 30% higher.
Compared to the Euro at 0.9175, that is a significant increase.
But that should not stop you from visiting one of the greatest cities on earth!
How can I save money when visiting London?
Lucky for you, I have 10 proven hacks that are sure to make your trip to Londontown a whole heck-of-a-lot cheaper without compromising fun! To give you a rundown of this article, here are my money-saving tips for visiting London.
Stay in a city center hostel
Purchase the London Pass
Snack at supermarkets
Pig-out at London markets
Dine-in at restaurants during happy hour
Use apps to find deals on entertainment
Take advantage of free attractions
Spend time outside
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How to Visit London Cheaply
With everything under the sun to do here, London can quickly turn into a budget killer…if you don’t play smart. Here are 10 ways to travel to London cheaply without sacrificing fun!
#1. Stay in a City Center Hostel
This is especially important if you are traveling to London for the first time. Hostels allow you to stay in desirable locations without paying high prices.
Below are the best hostels located in prime neighborhoods offering perks like free wifi, discounts on food, fun atmosphere and more!
Wombats City Hostel London
St. Christopher’s Village
St. Christopher’s Inn – London Bridge
St. Christopher’s Camden
Hostel One Camden
Rest Up London
Meininger London Hyde Park
Do you prefer hotels?
Here are the best budget hotels in popular London neighborhoods.
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#2 Get the London Pass
The London Pass is a great way to save money in London. It takes you around all the top tourist spots for less than buying admissions to attractions a la carte.
Even if your a return visitor, the London Pass gives you affordable access to all the sites you loved from before.
Check out this full review of the London Pass from Becksplore.
She does an amazing job of providing pros and cons to the pass, showing a cost comparison of individual attractions to London pass.
#3 Purchase an Oyster Card
Yes, the Oyster Card is costly, but it still beats cabs, Ubers, and renting your own car.
What is the Oyster Card?
The Oyster card is a reusable ticket for London’s public transportation (i.e. bus and underground).
Passengers download fare money onto the card and swipe it prior to the journey where the ticket fare will be automatically withdrawn from your available funds.
The Oyster Card provides an affordable option for getting around London’s major zones.
It’s not recommended to purchase fare as you go if you’re staying longer than 5 days.
Instead, consider the flat-fee unlimited travel option, but it’s pricey.
For example, a 7-day pass for zones 1-6 is around $80 USD. The cheapest 7-day for zones 1-2 only is around $40 USD.
Due to the high cost, I recommend walking as much as possible and use the Oyster Card when necessary. A benefit to walking is seeing more city streets and possibly secret discoveries.
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#4 Snack at Supermarkets
Headed out on your daily exploration? Stock up on snacks and water at discount supermarkets such as Poundland, Tesco, and Aldi
Poundland is equivalent to a Dollar Store in the US only way better as far as quality goes.
It was my preferred stop for snacks and water. Mostly for convenience of being in and out – not to mention impressive healthy snack selections.
They have nuts, candy, water, and toiletries for you guessed it, 1 pound. Stock these essentials in your hostel locker.
I packed my purse with snacks and water every day before heading out. Saves a ton of money!
#5 Pig Out at Food Markets
Feast like royalty at one of many London Markets. Every market has as the minimum fresh fruit and veggies for super cheap.
When I say cheap, I mean average 2 pounds for a 4-5 assortment of fruit (i.e. Apples, Strawberries, and Bananas).
Buy a variety to keep on hand while you explore the city.
Some markets are solely dedicated to food. You are sure to find a delicious meal for half the price of any restaurant.
Plus you are getting in some real local living which we all know I love! For tips on how not to look like a tourist read this.
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A word of advice: Don’t forget to bring cash.
#6 Dine-in during happy hours
Grab an early dinner at a restaurant during happy hour. Many run well into dinner time giving you the opportunity to check out more of London’s food scene for less.
When I say British people love their happy hours, I mean it. Neighborhoods like Camden have a ton of happy hours such as 2-for-1 drinks with some running as late as 9 pm.
If you are ever unsure if the restaurant or bar is running a special, just ask! You will be surprised how many deals there are once you start looking.
Also, if your hostel has a bar or restaurant connected to it, they most likely offer great discounts for their guests such as: 2-for-1 drinks, 25% off food, etc.
Take advantage of those deals to pre-game and eat.
Consider joining a pub crawl to save money on drinks while meeting fellow travelers.
#7 Scope Out Entertainment Deals
Similar to NYC, London has tons of Broadway shows, nightclubs, and other attractions that cost a fortune.
Luckily, if you’re not terribly picky or time restrained you can find massive deals
Let’s not forget about student ID discounts!!
Most museums and some retailers offer student discounts.
Even better, some museums are free. My advice is to check the website of whatever museum you want to go to for special “free admission” dates.
Best Apps for Food, Drink and Entertainment Deals Around London:
#8 Take advantage of FREE attractions
Visit Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station
Stroll through Trafalgar Square
Wonder through the Natural History Museum
Walk across one of many popular bridges like Millennium Bridge
Witness changing of the guards
Explore street art in just about any neighborhood in London like Camden, Shoreditch, as well as, the colorful houses of Notting Hill
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#9 Tip accordingly
Tipping standards are way different in London (well, most of Europe) than they are in the U.S. I learned this the hard way.
Living in Vegas 20% is a standard tip. You can imagine how much I over tipped my first visit to London.
How Much Should You Tip in London?
10-15% is standard though make sure to check your bill for some establishments auto-grat.
#10 Spend time outside: London Top Parks
My favorite parks are Jubilee Garden and Hyde Park. Hyde Park is a sight to see anyways, so kick back like a true local and relax.
Have a picnic with food you just bought at the market, read a book, play some cards, or just people watch.
It really is a beautiful, peaceful place, which can be nice if you have been non-stop on your feet.
Jubilee Gardens is another great chill spot. Located in Westminster right along the Thames River. Locals flock to the park to relax and unwind from the day.
With saving hacks factored in, how much does it cost to visit London for one week?
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Average Cost of a Trip to London for 1-Week
When setting a travel budget, I always break it down by category. Here’s my exact spending for London:
Transportation (in London only) $105
Rail to and from Airport $15
Oyster Card $75
Accommodation at St. Christopher’s Camden hostel $280
Food Spend (markets, restaurants, supermarkets, tips) $420
Nightlife (i.e. bar hopping) $140
Shopping on Oxford Street $75
It’s safe to say the average cost of a trip to London for one week is $1,220 USD ($175/day*7) and that’s without sacrificing fun.
I felt great saving while knowing I got to see, eat, and drink anything I wanted in all the hot spots.
Psst. . . Looking for more Europe getaways? Check out these guides:
20 Ridiculously Fun Things to do in Budapest
5 Magical Things to do in Fussen, Germany
Everything You Need to Know About Tomorrowland
How do you save money when traveling to expensive cities? Share your tips in the comments below!
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Camdon was one of my favorite places. I loved the Cyberdog store!
Great post! Having studied abroad in London for a year, these are definitely some solid tips for travelers on a budget! Definitely agree with the student ID bit, there are ton of great discounts for students all over the city! Tesco is also a good place for cheaper food/meal combos if you need a break from Poundland!
Tesco is a great option. I forgot about Tesco. Thanks for sharing.
I am a Brit and therefore Poundland is a Godsend for me! The brands are amazing and you can get some serious bargains! Aldi, Lidl and Wilko are other favourites, however, they might be a little difficult to find in the centre of London. Great post!
Thank you. That means a lot coming from a local Brit.
Honestly, one of the main reasons I haven’t revisited London is how expensive the city is! This post makes it seem so attainable. I’m not sure why but the name “poundland” made me LOL a little. Looks like such a fun trip without breaking the bank!
haha yeah that name definitely made me laugh, but they are everywhere and had so many things inside. Way better than any dollar store I’ve been in.
That’s one thing I loved about visiting London — those student ID discounts. As you said, there are so many museums and other outlets that accepted our ISIC (International Student ID Cards), and that made some things much more reasonable. I do like the idea of tasting the markets for keeping food costs lower. I’m hearing good things about the hostels in London, too, though I’ve never tried one. Thanks for sharing these tips!
I was in London in 2011 and although I was on an official tour, it did pinch me on my personal expenses! Did you have a good time at the Jubilee Gardens ?… Or was it too ‘family with kids’ type?
This is so very helpful because I will be going to London soon so thank you for all of these great tips!
Great tips! I love the parks in London on nice, sunny days. Regents Park and Greenwich are lovely as well, but really they’re all awesome places to go and experience the local lifestyle.
London is filled with gorgeous parks to relax in. Thanks for sharing.
I’ll save this link to plan my trip to London. Thank you.
Yay happy to hear you found it useful. Enjoy your trip to London!