Hipmunk City Love: Tips to Explore London on a Budget

This post is part of the Hipmunk #CityLove project.

Home to iconic sights such as the London Eye and Westminster Abbey, museums ranging from the British Museum to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and leafy open spaces such as Hyde Park, London is no stranger to the attention of tourists from all over the world, even as most complain of how unsettling a trip to the city is for their budgets. With a little advance planning and by following these tips, London can be a great experience for the most frugal of travelers.

Tips to explore London on a Budget

 

Photo by Sandra Soare via Trover.com

Budget Accommodation

As is true for every major city in the world, your choice of neighborhood to stay in can have a significant impact on your travel expenses, especially if you’re staying longer. There are plenty of cheap hotels in London to choose from if you’re willing to stay in affordable areas like Camden.

If you’re willing to go really basic, then consider hostels in London such as YHA London St Paul’s.

Getting Around

The Underground or London Tube is often the best way to cover long distances and to get to the city from Heathrow. To make the best of the city’s public transportation system, get an Oyster Card for huge savings on transportation expenses.

For shorter distances, consider walking or riding a bike as a healthier and cheaper alternative. Walking between major tourist attractions is easy because often there are many sights concentrated in one area. Carry a paper map or get Google Maps to help you navigate the streets.

Sightseeing

The city has plenty of free tourist attractions; museums, heritage houses and art galleries such as the Natural History Museum, Goldsmiths Hall, Bank of England Museum, British Museum, Kenwood House, National Gallery and Tate Britain, among many others. Zero down on those that you’re likely to be most interested in because there really are a lot of museums in London.

The city’s green spaces like the Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regent’s Park and Richmond Park are open to everyone for free.

The Changing of the Guard at the Buckingham Palace is a noteworthy event that takes place every other day and is free to watch.

If you plan on visiting many attractions, then it’s a good idea to get the London Pass that offers free fast-track entry to top sights like the Tower of London and the London Bridge Experience.

Consider a free walking tour such as the two-hour Undiscovered Royal London Tour which takes you to famous landmarks such as the Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and hidden streets that you would otherwise miss.

In general, with a bit of advance planning, you can save considerably on entry tickets by booking online, often at a discount.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Consider happy hours and pub-crawl tickets that are wildly popular with university students to save on nightlife expenses. For instance, the Nuts Pub Crawl takes you to a bar and 3 clubs allowing you to skip long entry queues and enjoy free shots. You also get to meet and party with a bunch of fun people and this makes the entire experience more enjoyable.

London’s West End theater scene is famous and there’s no reason to skip it, even if you’re on a really tight budget. Visit the ticket booth in Leicester Square for cheap tickets, book online for 50% off selected tickets or if you’re part of a big group, try booking in advance for a discount. As an alternative, look for smaller live music, cabaret or comedy shows. The venues are offbeat and the setting is much more intimate than the popular shows which attract a lot of tourists.

 

Have you visited London? Did you find it an expensive city to visit? Do you have any money-saving tips to add?

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