We lived in London for four years and had a blast while still managing to save up some travel pennies! While it’s true that it can be an expensive city, if you’re savvy there are many ways to cut your spending and still have a great time exploring London on a budget. Here are 5 of my top tips for doing just that, whether you’re living there or just visiting for the weekend.
1. A free pint
Do you believe that “there’s no such thing as a freebie”? Well I’m here to prove you wrong! There are SO MANY pubs in London, and many of them have mailing lists that you can sign up to via their website. To say thank you, quite a few of them will send you a complimentary drink!
2. Cheap Travel
If you are visiting London from somewhere in the UK and are travelling by train, make sure you book in advance to make the most of cheap travel. The best cheap tickets crop up around 12 weeks before the travel date, so being organised and planning in advance really does pay off!
Many people don’t realise that if you have a railcard (such as a 16-25 or senior card) you can get it added to your Oyster card. Just pop along to one of the ticket information kiosks in a London train station. Just like with trains, this will get you a third off your travel throughout the city (peak travel rules apply, see website for full details). Bonus tip: Before you buy a new card, check Google to see if there are any active voucher codes, you can usually get a cheeky 10% off the annual price this way!
Why not cut down your travel costs completely! Some of London’s most magical features are tucked away and hidden down tiny little streets. Put on some comfy shoes, lose the map and get lost in the city – who knows what you will find!
3. Cheap or even FREE meals
We had many a free, or heavily discounted, meal in London. How?! We got a second email address (so we didn’t clog up our usual one!) and used it to sign up to a bunch of mailing lists for restaurants that we visited regularly or just fancied the look of. By being on their list, we’ve been secret shoppers (or should I say eaters?), won various edible prizes, got a bunch of free birthday treats, and made the most of loads of voucher codes. We were able to try a huge variety of different restaurants and cuisines that we might not have had the pleasure to do if we’d been paying full price.
Twitter is also a great place to check for special offers – there are often January deals to entice you off the sofa, or new opening discounts to watch out for.
4. Free entry to attractions and places of interest
No matter what the weather is like in London, there’s a lot to do on a tight budget. If it’s sunny you can explore the city’s array of parks and canals (our favourites are the grounds around Alexandra Palace, or the waterways over near Haggerston) or hide away from the rain and cold while learning all about the dinosaurs, discovering a love of art, or falling in love with history.
Londoners and tourists to the city are spoilt rotten with the choice of free museums and galleries on offer. There are some really famous spots such as the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Tate Modern. If you’ve already visited them, or just aren’t a great fan of crowds (who is?!) there are some lesser known places to explore.
It wasn’t until we were just about to move away from London that we realised that the beautiful Royal Courts of Justice (also know as London’s High Court) were open to the public and completely free to explore. Then over a year after we moved, I discovered that the Museum of London also has free entry!
If you’re looking for less galleries and museums, and more bird’s eye views, why not get booking a free ticket to visit the Sky Garden (at the top of the modern building shown above) – it’s a close rival to the Shard!
5. Cheap theatre and gigs
I absolutely love the theatre, and after being dragged along to so many shows I think Phil has developed an appreciation for it too. If it wasn’t for the following sites though, I really don’t think we would have been able to afford so much variety!
- Showfilmfirst – these guys get free or heavily discounted tickets for a range shows, gigs and films across the UK and it’s free to sign up.
- LoveTheatre – These guys are just a third party ticket selling site but we’ve had some really great special offers from them for West End shows.
- The Audience Club – Based just in London, Producers and Venue Managers give the Club a limited amount of complimentary tickets to help promote a show. It costs £5 to join for the year, and this money is donated to the Club’s charity of choice. Be aware that it’s not always possible to join, they like to manage the member numbers to make sure everyone has chance to get a ticket. If this is the case, just add yourself to the waiting list.
- MyBoxOffice – Another membership site which you have to pay to become part of. It costs £15 for the annual membership and then you get access to range of shows across the UK. It’s very rare that they have anything from the West End, but it does occasionally happen!
- TodayTix – Another third part ticket selling site which doesn’t involve any membership. They get some great special offers for a wide range of shows on the West End!
I hope our top five tips to London on a budget has given you some inspiration for your next trip to the city, or maybe your next day off work if you live in London.
If you have your own tips and tricks for making the most out of London on a budget please share them with us in the comments, we always love to hear your stories!