London on a Budget
As an English major, London is my favorite city in the world. I love learning about the history behind some of the greatest literary works in the world. If I could, I would move to London without a second thought. And even though my laptop was stolen from my hotel room a week into my trip, I still have nothing but fond memories of my month in the city and traveling the country. Alas, while it is my favorite city in the world, it’s also one of the most expensive–whether you’re moving there or just planning a week-long visit. So here are some tips and tricks I picked up to help make your London Adventure easier on the wallet.
If you’re planning to stay in London longer than a day or two, you should invest in an Oyster card. Oyster cards are reloadable cards you can purchase at any station, so if you pick one up as you’re leaving Heathrow then you won’t have to worry about paying for day passes the rest of your trip. When I went in 2014, 32 dollars was enough to get through a week of using the London Underground and the bus system. There are also a lot of other benefits all over London for cardholders including (BLANK). Definitely worth the investment if you’re planning to stay in the city for a week or two.
If you’re traveling London on a budget, then you probably already know about the free attractions all over the city. If not, now’s a good time to jot them down, so you don’t have to spend 20 pounds per person at some locations like Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London (although those are important landmarks everyone should see if they’re visiting the city). Some free attractions in London include:
The Tate Modern: The Tate Modern is home to modern art exhibits and artists. While there are some exhibitions you’ll need to pay for, the majority of the rooms are free and feature unforgettable art.
The British Museum: Even if you aren’t a history buff, The British Museum can’t be ignored. It’s home to thousands of artifacts from all over the world including Greek statues and Egyptian Mummies–and other historical objects you won’t see every day.
The National Gallery: The National Gallery is home to some of the most famous paintings and artists in history. You can spend all day looking at the works of Van Gogh and Monet, and it’s all free.
Museum of London: While The British Museum covers the history of the world, Museum of London covers the history of London from the prehistoric era to the modern era. You can even get a view of one of the last remaining segments of the original London wall from the windows.
Kensington Gardens: Once the private gardens of Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens is one of the National Parks in England, and it’s filled with a wide assortment of sculptures and architecture. One could easily spend an entire afternoon there.
National Portrait Gallery: Located next door to the National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery features 11,000 of history’s most famous portraits. And (if nothing’s changed) you can actually take pictures in the Portrait Gallery.
Natural History Museum: I actually missed this museum when I was there back in ‘15 because of the aforementioned incident with my laptop (the London police were great though). However, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Natural History Museum, and it was one of the highlights of the whole study abroad trip. For those who went.
These are only a few of the hundreds of free attractions you can find throughout the city of London. Don’t limit your experience to what’s going to cost you a lot of money in the long run (Harry Potter tour groups).
The London Pass gives you access to over 80 attractions for a one-time payment ranging from 62 to 224 pounds, depending on the pass you purchase. The pass allows visitors to get into places like The Tower and Westminster for free. You’ll also be able to enjoy bus tours and the River Thames tour for free, making the London Pass one of the best investments you can make before your London excursions. And if dining is one of your biggest concerns, then you’re in luck because the pass can get you up to 50 percent off at 145 restaurants in throughout the city, making it one of the easiest methods if you’re looking to visit London on a budget. There are different variations of the London Pass, so make sure you do your research so you can purchase the one that’s going to work for your trip.
Hopefully, you’ve chosen an inn or hotel that offers complimentary breakfast, like the Jesmond Hotel, which offers a full English breakfast between 7:30am and 9:30am. Lunch and dinner will be on your own at most places you stay, but that doesn’t mean you should eat out at restaurants and pubs for every meal if you’re trying to see London on a budget. After you have the obligatory fish and chips, you can save money by going to local grocery stores like Tesco’s and buying premade sandwiches and meat-filled pasties (?). But for those nights that you want to get out and join the rest of London, check out the meal deals available through your London Pass and Oyster Card.
London is one of the greatest cities in the world, filled with history and culture spanning hundreds of years. Stepping onto the city streets is like stepping into your favorite Hugh Grant movie, and it’s a feeling you really can’t get anywhere else. However, it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world, and you need to budget accordingly so you don’t spend your entire life savings for a week of sightseeing when there are so many inexpensive things to do, the average tourist may not take the time to research and explore. Don’t be afraid to think outside the lines for your perfect London adventure.