Now, you might think you have planned your London trip budget down to a T, but there’s bound to be a few things that you’ve forgotten, and that’s why we’re here. We’ve put together this article as a guide to things you might have forgotten to add to your London trip budget, from making sure your phone works when you touch down on English soil, to ensuring that your airport transfers are organised ahead of time for the cheapest and easiest journey.
1. Mobile roaming charges
When considering things you’ll forget to add to your London trip budget, this is a big one. We might not realise quite how much we rely on our phones until we no longer have access to them, and with all of the Brexit malarkey it’s not as straightforward as it used to be (EU-ers, you can no longer roam in the UK for free, boo).
Start off by contacting your personal phone supplier to find out just how much it’s going to cost you to roam in the UK. This is super important otherwise, the bill can be pretty hefty if you’re caught out. But, planning ahead means you can nab any international packages or daily fees and data limits that your supplier might offer, which is a sure way to save quite a bit of cash ahead of your trip to London.
If your supplier doesn’t offer anything worth taking, then you can order a UK SIM and pay-as-you-go. The rates are usually pretty competitive and you can just top up your data as you go. Our pick would be GiffGaff, as they can send you a SIM back at home so you have it ready for your arrival.
2. Travel insurance
The one time you don’t purchase travel insurance is the one time you’ll probably break a leg, so definitely keep this a priority on your list of things you’ll forget to add to your London trip budget. Travel insurance is always a wise thing to purchase ahead of your trip, and depending on your needs and what you require, this can vary in price.
Some credit cards offer insurance to current customers, but be sure to check it covers everything you need, like gadget insurance, lost baggage and cancellation.
One thing that would be worse than breaking a leg without travel insurance would be getting to the UK and being denied entry because you’ve forgotten to get your visa.
There are certain nationalities that are required to obtain a visa before entering the UK as a tourist, so make sure you’ve checked on the GOV.UK website to see if that includes you. A standard visitor visa starts at £100, so this is definitely something you’ll want to make sure you’ve factored into your overall budget. Although we can’t give you any advice on visa situations, this page provides information about the cost of the different visitor visas, so you know roughly how much you’ll need to put aside for this.
4. Day trips
Yes, we may be biassed when we say that most of the magic happens in London but if time allows, we definitely recommend taking some time to explore outside of the city. Trains in and out of London are regular and really straightforward to use, but the cost can add up. You can check the price of each journey over at thetrainline.com, as well as purchase tickets in advance, too (the app is great and you’ll likely get a discount for booking ahead of your trip).
There are so many places you can explore easily from the city, but our favourites have to be the historic city of Cambridge, which is only an hour and a half away via train from London Liverpool Street. Or, discover the classic English coastline on a trip to Brighton, the gay capital of the UK and a great place to soak up the sunshine if you’re visiting throughout the summer months (plus, it’s only an hour away on the train from Victoria). See some more of the day trips we recommend.
The London Spending Guide goes into detail about how to get discounted tickets for certain routes and situations.
5. Airport transfers
There are a handful of ways you can get to the city from any of the airports, but these can vary in price a fair bit. The cheapest is probably by bus, which can be booked ahead of your trip on the National Express website. The only downside to this is that it can take a lot longer if you end up stuck in traffic, so it’s worth taking into account the time of day that you’re travelling – if your flight lands in the early hours of the morning, there’s likely to be less traffic on the roads.
You can also opt for the train, which is the most eco-friendly way to travel and can be much cheaper if booked in advance. For example, if you’re travelling from Heathrow, you can book tickets for the Heathrow Express train 90 days in advance for only £5.50, plus kids under the age of 15 can travel for free with a paying adult.
There’s also the option to hop in an Uber, but depending on where you’re travelling to and from, as well as the time of your trip, this can end up being pretty expensive.
6. International currency fees
Next up on your list of things you’ll forget to add to your London trip budget is international currency fees. London is pretty much a cash-free city and most places only accept card or contactless payments, meaning you’ll need to use your card to pay for most things. Because of this, one thing you’ll definitely want to keep in mind is exchange rates and international currency fees. Depending on what bank you are with and what card provider you use, fees can vary significantly for spending in a foreign currency. Always check the fees of your specific bank ahead of your trip, and perhaps consider switching to a no-fee card. A top tip: always make sure you pay in the local currency if you want to get the best exchange rate.
The art of tipping in the UK is a pretty straightforward one but it’s definitely something you want to factor into your London budget. Most restaurants in the city (or anywhere in the UK, really) will add an optional 12.5% tip on top of your bill, which, most of the time, is distributed evenly between all members of staff. The general rule of thumb is that if you’ve had good service, you should pay it, if it’s been a shambles, you can request that the tip is removed, which is standard practice over here in the UK (but keep in mind that tipping standards aren’t as high in the UK as they are somewhere like the US.)
When it comes to tipping in bars and pubs, this isn’t something that’s expected if you’ve not had table service, although it’ll always be appreciated. The same applies to hotels, tour guides (unless the tour is free, then you should definitely give a decent tip), salons and spas (although even less expected). As for taxis, apps give you the option to add a tip at the end of your ride, and usually, you’re encouraged to tip a pound or two as a gesture of goodwill after a decent ride, which also applies to black cabs, too.
8. Public transport costs
Lastly on your list of things you’ll forget to add to your London trip budget is public transport. Transport may be super well connected throughout the city, but that doesn’t mean the cost of using it doesn’t add up. You have three main ways to pay for transport in the city: debit or credit card, Apple or Google Pay and Oyster card. It’s worth noting that there’s also a daily spend limit for contactless, debit and credit cards, and oyster cards, meaning you’ll only get charged up to a certain amount per day which makes everything a little more economical if you’re travelling a lot over a 24-hour period. It tends to start from around £7.40 and goes up to £13.50, depending on what zones you travel through. However, it’s always worth Googling to double-check it as it can sometimes change.
Debit or Credit cards
This one is for those who have a debit or credit card that comes with a contactless payment method, currently only available in certain countries. So, if this applies to you, then this is by far the most straightforward way to pay. Simply tap your card on the reader at the station, or when you embark a bus (it’s a little yellow badge in front of each barrier or next to the bus driver). For train journeys, you need to tap when you enter a station and when you leave a station, as a way to check in and out of your location and keep track of the zones you’re travelling through. For buses, it’s a little different, you only need to tap your card when you enter the bus, not when you leave.
Apple Pay or Google Pay
Similarly to the debit card and credit card way, you can simply tap your phone on the card reader and your payment gets automatically taken at the end of your travel period.
You can pick up Oyster cards at the airport, certain train stations and at convenience stores, too. You can then load credit onto your card and use it in the same way you would a debit or credit card. Tap in and out of stations to keep tabs on what zones you are travelling in and out of, and to ensure that you are charged the correct amount (but the system calculates it automatically for you). The self-service ticket machines at stations can tell you how much credit you have left, but it’s worth noting that Oyster cards cost a refundable £5 fee that isn’t redeemable if you’ve had the card for under six months (not ideal for tourists, really).
Want more help with your London trip budget? Have a look at our London Spending Guide. You’ll get estimations for how much all aspects of your trip will cost, learn everything you need to know about getting and spending money while on the ground. You’ll also LOVE the comprehensive but easy-to-use London Budget Tracker, a spreadsheet that will calculate all monetary aspects of your trip, including total cost, how much you can spend on each category, and if you’ve gone over budget.
Hopefully this guide has covered most of the things you might have forgotten to factor into your London spending budget, but please let us know if there’s anything you think we’re forgotten! Don’t forget to tag us in your photos and videos of the city, we love to see what you get up to @loveandlondon.
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