The cost of visiting London can certainly be a little off-putting, but if you pop your savvy hat on you’ll find that there are many ways that you can easily cut back on your spending. From hiring Boris bikes to explore the city to hitting up local street food markets for a bite to eat, here’s our guide on the many ways that you can save money while travelling to London.
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Book your tickets from Heathrow to London in advance
So, you’ve touched down at Heathrow Airport and you’re ready to hop on a train and head straight for the city. There are few ways in which you can get to the city centre, but taking the Heathrow Express is definitely the fastest. But, did you know that if you book your train tickets in advance you’ll get them for a fraction of the price? Heathrow Express offers hefty discounts for those who book ahead, and you can get from the airport to the city centre for only £5.50 if you secure your tickets 90 days before your departure date. What’s more, kids aged 15 and under can travel for free with a fully paying adult.
Alternatively, you can jump on the newly-opened Elizabeth Line and head straight to Paddington for only £10.70 off-peak and £12.70 at peak times, which takes approximately 29 minutes.
Hire a Boris bike to get around (but dock it every half an hour)
Hiring a Boris Bike (or Santander, as they’re officially called) is not only super fun, but it can also save you a little bit of money. if you’re moving around the same area a lot, compared to taking the tube. Grab a bike from one of the many docking stations dotted around the city (we recommend downloading the Santander Bikes app to see where there are bikes available) and get riding. You get 24-hour access to the sharing system for only £2 and then it’s free to hire each bike for the first 30 minutes. So, if you take bikes for less than 30 minutes or less every time you ride, your daily transport cost will only be £2.
Skip the daily travel card and pay contactless instead
Another way that you can save money while travelling to London is by being smart with public transport. The underground and buses in London may be really well connected and pretty straightforward to use, but that doesn’t mean the cost doesn’t start to add up. If your debit or credit card comes with a contactless payment method, or you’re able to use Google or Apple Pay, then you could be saving a little bit extra compared to if you used a daily travel card. For example, the price of a daily travel card is £14.40 for travel in zones one to four, which ends up being more than the daily cap for contactless, which is around £11 (and you most likely won’t travel to zone four anyway).
Top tip: If your bank doesn’t have the contactless payment method available yet and you don’t have Apple Pay or Google Pay, consider getting an Oyster card, which works in a similar way. This allows you to top up your card as you go and tap in and out in the same way. These cost £5 and can be purchased at the airport, certain train stations and at convenience stores, too.
Grab theatre tickets on the day from TKTS booth in Leicester Square or the Todaytix app
Attending a West End show whilst in London is an absolute must but tickets can be pretty expensive. Luckily, bagging discounted tickets is a great way that you can save money while travelling to London and is usually pretty easy if you know where to go. You can either swing by the TKTS booth in Leicester Square to nab half-price and discounted theatre tickets for same-day performances, or you can download the TodayTix app for last-minute theatre tickets at great prices. They also offer a lottery ticket option which enters you into a draw to win tickets for some of the best shows, if you win you could be sitting in the front row.
If you’re planning to be a super tourist then get The London Pass
You may be the type of traveller who wants to steer clear of most of the tourist trap attractions in London (my kinda people), but if you’re planning on spending a day or two exploring some of the more popular sites, then you might want to consider purchasing a London Pass.
The London Pass offers discounted entrance to over 90 popular attractions around the city, from the Tower of London (which is actually worth a visit if you’re a history buff), to Kew Gardens – one for the horticultural enthusiasts.
Generally you will get the most value-for-money if you go for the 3 day pass at minimum and use it to get into the most expensive sights in the city.
Image Courtesy of Tooting Market
Nab a cheap eat at a street food market
Perhaps one of the best ways that you can save money while travelling to London is by opting for street food over expensive restaurants. Of course, it’s nice to splash out on a fancier meal from time to time, especially when you’re on holiday. However, if you’re doing this every single day then the cost can rack up pretty quickly.
If you look beyond the most popular street food markets in the city, like Borough Market and Spitalfields, you’ll come across lesser-known neighbourhood markets that are serving some of the most delicious cuisine from all around the world at an extremely decent price. Some street food spots include White Cross Market in Old Street for international cheap eats; Bloomsbury Farmers Market for Thursday lunches; Tooting Market for affordable eats, and Berwick Street Market in Soho (we recommend the Turkish gozleme from Violet’s Bar).
Use the Citymapper app or Google Maps
If you want to be super smart when it comes to ways that you can save money while travelling to London, then you need to download the Citymapper app (it will become your bible when exploring the best ways to get around the city). Not only does it tell you the most convenient and quickest way to get about, as well as eliminating any routes that have delays, but it also gives you the price of each journey so that you can make economically-friendly decisions on which route to take.
A top tip: If you don’t have access to the internet whilst you’re in London, Google Maps also allows you to download city maps offline to use anywhere at any time, with or without the internet.
Image Courtesy of Hostelworld (Palmers Lodge pictured above)
For groups of four or more opt for a private room in a hostel
If you’re travelling in a group of four or more, you can save quite a nice chunk of money if you opt to stay in a four-bed hostel room instead of a hotel.
For example, at Wombats Hostel you can get a four, six or eight-bed private room for a fraction of the price you’d pay for a hotel. Another great option is Generator London, a design-led hostel located in the heart of the city with four, six or eight-bed private rooms available to book. Hostel One in Notting Hill even has private rooms for two, as does Palmers Lodge in Swiss Cottage.
Need some help budgeting for your London trip? We’ve got you covered with our London Spending Guide. We tell you all about how much each part of your trip will cost, plus lots of advice on getting and spending money in London. It also includes a comprehensive spreadsheet that will automatically calculate your total trip budget, tell you how much more money you need to save, keep track of your daily spending, and a lot more. Check out the London Spending Guide in our shop.
We hope this guide helps you to save a few pennies here or there on your trip to London. Don’t forget to share your adventures with us over at @loveandlondon, we love to see you guys exploring the city!
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