London On A Shoestring

We were warned several times: “London is hugely expensive. It will cost you an arm and a leg to visit the capital of the United Kingdom!” We went anyway. Prepare your trip well and go for free and inexpensive options as listed.

We put some travel hacks together and tips of exciting activities in London. Learn how to visit London on a budget and safe money without missing out on anything.

Before you go

Organize your tickets in advance

Choose public transport in any case as parking fees will kill your budget literally within a few hours. If you prefer your own transport or you HAVE to go by car, go on Parkopedia to find free or cheaper parking possibilities in London. It’s a very useful link anyway for the whole of the United Kingdom.

  • Option 1 for mobility and discounts in the city: Visitor Oyster Card
    Buy an Visitor Oyster Card online before visiting London or at the Airport. A Visitor Oyster card is a smart card. You charge it with an prepaid amount to pay for journeys on bus, Tube, tram, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), London Overground, Transport for London (TfL) Rail and most National Rail services in London. You get special offers and discounts and save money in some London restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. Paying in cash, single rides on the overground without Oyster Card cost about double the price.
---> Mind: You can't buy the Visitor Oyster Card in town (UK citizen's can buy an Oyster Card in London, though), but at the online visitorshop or at ticketshops throughout the UK and overseas.
London-bus
London Bus (photo credit: Nikos Koutoulas)
  • Option 2  For spontaneous choice of sightseeing days and flexible time, go for the Day TravelcardThe prices depend on daytime and city zones. You can buy it at any ticket machine in London.
  • Option 3 for mobility, discounts and sightseeing in the city: The London Pass
    The London Pass is a sightseeing city card. If you intent to visit the main tourist attractions and museum go for The London Pass. It covers plenty entrance fees and free public transport. There are several options from 1 to 6 days. One day for an adult costs £ 53.10 (2016), so not quite in our budget.

Organize free accommodation in London

If you don’t have any air miles which pay for a comfortable hotel room or friends and family you may want to use house sitting or couch surfing as an option to stay for free.

During your Stay

Transfer from Airport to City of London

Heathrow (LHR)  Take the Underground: The Piccadilly line runs through Central London (45-50 min.)

Gatwick (LGW)  Take the Gatwick Express which runs non-stop to London Victoria Station (30 min.). New since Jan 16: You can use an Oyster card for Gatwick airport. For more connections: Train services to & from Gatwick

Londen-Tower
Tower of London (photo credit: Moyan Brenn)

Luton (LTN)  Take a coach or bus. National Express takes you to Baker Street, Victoria Rail Station and Victoria Coach Station. EasyBus runs to London Victoria Coach Station or London Liverpool Street rail station. For more connections: Bus and coach services to & from Luton.  Or take the train: Thameslink or East Midlands Trains will connect you to London St. Pancras Station.

Stansted (STN) Take the Stansted Express which runs to Liverpool Street in Central London (47 minutes) or coach: National Express. Transfer information Stansted Airport

City (LCY)  Depending on where you are going to stay in London, there are different options. The airport is located in Zone 3 and Oyster cards can be used to access the airport. Transfer information London City Airport

If you are visiting for a day or seven days and staying within the city (zone 1), a paper Travelcard (valid for single day or seven day journeys) may be a better option for you so be sure to ask a ticket officer.

Save money using Public Transport:

  • Travel off-peak (after 9:30am on weekdays)
  • Take the bus (the Tube is the fastest but also most expensive way to get around the city)
London-Eye
London Eye (photo credit: Ruben Nadador)

Free or cheap attractions

Brush up your knowledge in free museums

Culture needn’t cost the earth. Here’s our guide to the best free museums in London that won’t cost you a penny to explore.

Architectural masterpieces and historical buildings

  • The UNESCO-listed Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich
    An outstandingly beautiful architectural site and landscape ensemble.

    Old-Royal-Naval-College
    Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich (photo credit: Paul Wilkinson)
  • London’s Forgotten Roman Wall
    Set immediately north of the Tower of London stands one of the most substantial surviving sections of the London Wall.
  • Industrial London at St. Pancras Station and Midland Grand Hotel
    One of Britain’s most celebrated Victorian structures and landmark for the Industrial Revolution. The hotel is called St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel nowadays.

    St-Pankras
    St Pancras Station (photo credit: Monica Kostera)
  • An Alternative to Buckingham Palace
    Fulham Palace which was the home to the Bishopric of London for over 1300 years, although the building you see today is “only” 700 years old
  • The divided Palace of Westminster
    Today it’s called Houses of Parliament. It is the building in which parliament resides.

    Houses-Of-Parliament-London
    Houses of Parliament (photo credit: James Blunt)
  • The free to enter Westminster Cathedral
    Unique building that has its design inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and St. Marks in Venice.
  • London’s greatest book collection at the British Library
    Throughout the year there are exhibitions on all sorts of themes.

A taste of culture and Art

  • The Changing of the Guards
    One of the most highly attended free events in London and probably the most British, too.
  • Get political at Speaker’s Corner
    In the corner of Hyde Park is a landmark that over the past one hundred years has been the cornerstone and starting point for many great rallies and movements that have brought a number of changes to the country.
  • Explore London’s best markets inclusive Camden Town
  • Watch the free Open Air Theatre
    The Scoop hosts a number of free theatrical pieces during the summer months.
  • See the best shots at the Photographers’ Gallery

Alternative Scenes

  • London’s most central skate-park
    One of London’s best-known skate parks for practicing graffiti artists. Spend some time and you will see some of the best skaters during the day.

    Street-Art-London
    Street Art London (photo credit: Simon Mathon)
  • Brick Lane’s culture and street art
    Brick Lane is one of the best-known and most lively areas of East London. The area is world famous for its street art from artists such as Banksy and Ben Eine. There are a number of galleries that hold exhibitions in this area, including Espacio Gallery.

Close to nature in the city

Get a bit of space and tranquillity in one of the parks of London.

Awesome views and walks

  • Walk along South Bank
    along the National Theatre, the British Film Institute, and the South Bank Centre
  • Wander the gardens of Hampton Court Palace
  • Trace the “Monopoly Board” of London route
    Walk the same route as on the board game Google Map of the Monopoly board route.
  • See London from the air for free
    The Sky Garden is on top of a skyscraper, right in the heart of the city. Reservation required.

Eat out

  • Enjoy a ‘Classic Cuppa’ at the Museum of Tea
    Twinings Tea Shop and Museum which is one of London’s oldest remaining original tea houses, and the first tea shop from where Twinings first sold their tea in 1706.
  • Be responsible on a classic British pub crawl
    You can join a free pub crawl on Meetup.com and organise to meet both locals and expats whilst exploring some of London’s best classic pubs, and also a number of the best clubs.
  • Barter in Brick Lane
    find a whole new world of food where you can actually set the price for what you’d like.

    Modified-London-Taxi
    Colourful London Taxi (photo credit: Darren Johnson / jDJ Photography)

Visit a show

  • Laugh at a free comedy night
    If your budget for London doesn’t stretch far enough to enter some of the late night comedy shows then be sure to take a look at Angel Comedy who run a free comedy night every day of the week.
  • Return to Shakespeare’s London at the Globe Theatre
    A modern replica of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre
  • Watch a discounted West-End show
    You can secure seats for the show at half the normal price, depending on availability.
  • Join the audience of your favourite British TV shows
    Apply for tickets online via a number of different agencies; or alternatively you can apply via official sites like the BBC’s list of shows with audiences
  • Each week the London School of Economics and Political Science welcomes a number of the world’s finest minds to give talks on a number of interesting subjects, and attendance to most of their arranged talks are completely free.
--->  Here you will find more events under £15. Purchasing your tickets beforehand through websites like lastminute.com’s "tickets Under £15" page.

Shop it

  • Buy a book from London’s most unique bookshop
    By far the most unique bookshop in London is Word on the Water, a floating bookshop on a boat that is highly loved among both locals and an increasing international fan base.
  • Listen and buy the latest of London’s sounds
    One of the best places to not only buy the latest sounds, but to also see some of the musicians live is Rough Trade East

Tours

  • Download a city tour for London from  GPSmyCity
    to your smart phone and explore the town at your own peril*

    telephone-box-london
    Telephone Box London (photo credit: Pedro Szekely)
  • Try an alternative bus tour of London
    By using the public transport along this alternative bus route of London you can see the exact same landmarks and interesting places, but with the added experience of taking the local bus. Or hop on London Bus no.453 from Marylebone and take it all the way south (you can get off just before Lambeth North station). You’ll pass through Oxford Circus, Regents Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, Big Ben and The Houses Of Parliament, The London Eye and The Imperial War Museum.
  • Discover unseen London with unique tours
    A Social Enterprise working with homeless, ex-homeless and vulnerably housed Londoners.
  • Join a free guided walking tour of London
    There are plenty to choose from. One with good reviews is eg. the Sandemans tour.
  • River Cruise on the Thames
    https://i1.wp.com/www.theo2.co.uk/assets/img/new-1IMG_0838.jpg?resize=148%2C104Take a ride with the Thames Clipper – It’s a commuter boat network that goes up and down the Thames that is owned and operated by Transport for London (TFL). You will see the same sights as the Thames cruise.Take your Oyster Card, Day Travel Card or London Pass to get a free ride.

⇒⇒⇒  Here you find the Map Of Free Attractions In London

Update: Don’t miss out on this if you are a Harry Potter Fan!

  • Harry Potter Walking Tour
    Strawberry Tours run free (tip-based) tours and have 4.9 or 5-star ratings on TripAdvisor for their tours as well as a Certificate of Excellence. Their tours run every day and they’re a great tip for people looking for fun things to do in London, whether they’re looking for low-budget options or for an outing with kids.

(Featured Image; photo credit: Camilo Rueda López)


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Author: Marcelle Simone Heller

I’m searching for natural beauty and wilderness, while I’m travelling relentlessly to find delightful places and encounters with wildlife. I try to capture the thrill of the moments in photography and words, hoping to inspire others with the love for animals and nature.

32 thoughts on “London On A Shoestring”

  1. What a wonderfully helpful post for London!! Your tips could have saved lots of time and stress on my trip there last November. It will certainly be useful for next time 😀 Thank you for putting so much effort on this post!

    Happy to have you on #MondayEscapes 😀

  2. Thanks for these great money saving tips. I visited London in 2008 and did find it very expensive. I am hoping to get over there again within the next few years so this will help immensely. Also thanks for visiting my blog http://www.50shadesofage.com. 🙂

  3. We’ve been talking about visiting London for months, especially since flights from Portugal to England are very inexpensive. But, as you warned in your article, we’ve been a little leery as London definitely has a reputation for being expensive. Thanks for your cost-saving tips as well as your recommendations for free things to see. You’ve shown us that being cost-conscious should not have any effect on how much we enjoy our experience in this fabulous city.

    1. Thank you, Anita and Richard. I’m sure you will enjoy it. It was very busy when we were in the city (bank holiday) but you can always escape in the fabulous parks.

  4. I’ve been avoiding London like the plague for this exact reason. I really believed it to be sooooo costly. Still with the USD exchange it’s probably still a bit expensive for me!

  5. Great list of London money-savers, I’ve used the Oyster Card – it’s great. And there are so many free museums and architecture to see just by walking around that one needn’t spend very much on sightseeing.

  6. Great suggestions and tips. When we visit London we like to walk to the majority of sights, above ground is always nicer. Sometimes the train operators have discount vouchers in their leaflets held at Waterloo Train Station… #MondayEscapes

  7. Great list of tips and things to do here. I still remember going here for the first time in ’97 after I got married and our exchange rate was 33p to the $AUD. Now I feel like anything better than that is wonderful!! We’re also very lucky to have my mother-in-law living in London City (not far from the Palace) so accom is always there for us. Loved the list, loved the photos and I’m sure so many others will find your tips really useful. #weekendwanderlust

    1. Thanks so much, Kerri. Good to know that the list is useful. We are traveling with Swiss Francs which is not too bad either. Luckily not with the South African Rand …

  8. Even though we’ve been to London several times, I haven’t even done like half the things you mentioned! 🙂 Last year, I just picked a couple of neighborhoods and wandered with my camera. Oh, and St. Pancras is one of my fav buildings in London…so far!

  9. When I visited London in December, I flew into Standsted with Ryanair. The train trip in cost as much as the airfare! On the tube, I actually used Paypass/Paywave and found that quiet convenient and I don’t think it cost me more (it may have?!?)

    I was worried I wouldn’t like London, that it would be too expensive or ordinary, but I actually loved it. I liked the horse guards as an alternative to the changing of the guards, slightly (only slightly) fewer people there. I didn’t get out to Greenwich, but I wish I had.

    I think this is a great guide for people to looking to see London on the cheap.

    1. Don’t worry, David. I did the same the first time when I visited London. I took a taxi which cost me more than the flight like you. The third time lucky – this time we went by public transport and managed not to go over budget.

  10. Thanks for all the tips. It will definitely come in handy to us first-time visitors!

  11. This is a fantastic guide on what all to do in London! When I finally manage to get there, I will have to consult your post. I think you covered just about everything a visitor would want to know! 🙂

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