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 enjoy London on a budget. Here are 5 of our top tips for doing just that, whether you’re living there or just visiting for the weekend.
1. A free London 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 digital mailing lists. To say thank you for registering, quite a few of them will send you a complimentary drink!
2. Cheap travel to and around London
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. You will get a third off your travel throughout the city (peak travel rules apply, see website for full details). Bonus tip! Before buying a new card, check Google for vouchers; you can often get a cheeky 10% off the annual price.
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 London meals
We had many a free, or heavily discounted, meal in London. How?! We got a second email address (to avoid clogging up our usual one) and signed up to 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. This gave us the chance to try a huge variety of different restaurants and cuisines on a budget.
Twitter is a great place to check for special offers. Venues often share January deals to entice you off the sofa, or have new opening discounts to watch out for.
4. Free entry to many of London’s attractions and places of interest
No matter what the weather is like in London, there’s a lot to do on a tight budget. Make the most of a sunny day by exploring the city’s array of parks and canals; our favourites are the grounds around Alexandra Palace, or the waterways over near Haggerston. If the weather is less than ideal, 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 been, or just aren’t a fan of crowds (who is?!) there are some lesser-known places to explore.
As we we were moving away from London, we discovered 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, we discovered that the Museum of London also has free entry. Even after four years in the city, there is so much we didn’t get to see!
If you’re looking for less art and history, more bird’s eye views, get booking a free ticket for the Sky Garden. Its home is in the building shown above, 20 Fenchurch St, and it’s a close rival to the Shard.
You can combine art and views the Tate Modern. They have a free viewing platform, and while it’s not as high as other options, it gives great views of the Thames and the buildings that are nearby.
5. Cheap London theatre and gigs
London is famous for it’s theatre, but it can be pricey! Without the following sites, we wouldn’t have been able to afford to attend as often as we did.
Showfilmfirst often have free or heavily discounted tickets for a range shows, gigs and films. Membership is free and they get tickets for events across the UK.
The Audience Club
The Audience Club gets a limited amount of complimentary tickets from Producers and Venue Managers 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. They are only based in London. 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 is 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 is a third part ticket site which gets some great special offers for a wide range of shows on the West End!
LoveTheatre is another third party ticket site with regular special offers for West End shows.
Your own London on a budget
I hope our top five tips to London on a budget helps you to plan your next trip to, or day off in, the city. 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!
We’ve lived in a number of cities in the UK and made it our mission to explore as much as possible. Check out our other blog posts for further top tips and guides for the UK.