It’s safe to say that London is high on the list of must-visit places for people from all around the world.
Of course, not everyone can travel first-class and stay at five-star hotels, meaning there’s a need for some savvy planning and budget-saving tricks for a majority of visitors. Don’t worry! London is still great when you experience it with slightly less glamour, especially if you know how to maximise your time and money and avoid the most common tourist traps.
For example, staying in a budget hotel near Heathrow Airport instead of a centrally located venue can save you a lot of cash. This is especially the case for larger families, and will allow you to spend more on quality food and one-of-a-kind entertainment. Similarly, younger visitors can offset airfare costs by planning their visit to London around visits to free attractions and staying at Park Grand Heathrow.
In this guide, we will walk you through the most important items on your budget sheet – from Heathrow hotel deals to dining options – and instruct you on how to minimise expenses at every step. Hopefully, by following some of the advice provided here, you will be able to stretch your pound just a little further and enjoy this fabulous city and all it has to offer, despite financial constraints.
Pick your accommodation based on your plans
There are thousands of hotels in London, so choosing the one best suited to your needs can be a bit tricky, especially if you are not familiar with the layout of the city.
That’s why it’s worth spending some time looking at maps and checking out hotels that are positioned near sights that you are most interested in. For example, if you are fascinated by Windsor Castle, you could stay at the Park Grand Heathrow Hotel. Even if you wanted to see Big Ben, this could be a sound option with public transportation nearby.
Choosing a well-positioned hotel is key and ‘well-positioned’ doesn’t always mean in the city centre or the trendiest neighbourhood. For those on a budget, staying slightly outside the city centre but near a tube station is the best choice. This way, you’ll save money on accommodation and save on transportation while also maximising your time to explore the city. Sorted!
Eat where the locals eat
Dining at fancy restaurants multiple times throughout your trip is a sure fire way to deplete your funds quickly. Of course, don’t get us wrong…that doesn’t mean you have to eat at McDonald’s the whole time, either!
Dig a little deeper and you will discover a wealth of smaller restaurants, pubs, and bars where you can enjoy a solid meal at a reasonable price. We recommend asking your London-based friends for advice or, if you don’t know a local, ask your hotel concierge. This way, you’re sure to find the best dining spots as they know the city first-hand and can give you realistic reviews of various restaurants.
You can also consult magazines like Time Out or online review platforms. Either way, you can rest assured you’ll be able to taste authentic food that Londoners eat every day and keep your budget under tighter control.
Of course, if you don’t fancy the hassle of eating out, there is always the option to eat at the restaurant within your hotel. Park Grand Heathrow has fantastic dining options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as a bar and quaint afternoon tea.
Spend your time in museums and parks
Major attractions in London often charge an entry fee, but there are some really cool places where you don’t have to spend anything. Most notably, British law mandates that public institutions can’t charge for admission, so visitors have a chance to see some absolutely incredible collections without paying a penny.
The list of public museums you can for free includes: The British Museum, Science Museum, Museum of London, Victoria & Albert Museum, Imperial War Museum and several others. Some impressive art galleries such as The National Gallery and Tate Modern are also available, so making an educational tour through London can easily be done on a shoestring budget.
Public parks are another attractive option that won’t wear down your finances, and they provide a much-needed respite from all the noise and crowds of people associated with heavily London’s most bustling areas. Some of the best green surfaces where you can unwind include Hyde Park, Victoria Park, Greenwich Park, Kensington Gardens and Regent’s Park.
Take a lot of pictures – it’s free!
For high-energy people in good health, walking the streets can be the most intimate (and cheapest) way to become familiar with a major city. Some would even argue this is the only way you can truly feel its spirit and meet its people in natural situations.
London is amazing to explore this way – while it’s too large to cross on foot from one end to another, there are numerous pedestrian zones lined with picturesque streets where long walks are pure joy.
Another hidden benefit of exploring the city on foot is that you can take pictures much more frequently and capture some of the marvellous architecture that you would probably miss if you used public transit or a cab. Since most travellers have smartphones or cameras capable of taking high-res photos, you can document every minute of your adventure and keep the memories alive for years to come.
Keep your priorities straight
London is full of temptations. For those travelling with limited cash, that means you’ll have to restrict yourself at least a bit in order to prevent your wallet from going empty in a flash.
Don’t get us wrong, you should treat yourself. Our advice? Do it on your last day in town, but not before you’ve already visited all the places on your bucket list and bought presents for your loved ones back home.
Budget travellers are often forced to make tough choices and sometimes must sacrifice certain fun activities in order to be able to get through their trip comfortably. Sure, it’d be great to go bar hopping around Soho, shop ‘til you drop down Oxford Street, or buy tickets for a football match at Wembley, but you must weigh the appeal of those activities against other plans you may already have and necessities like food.
While holidays are designed for fun, staying disciplined is usually the best course of action, especially if you are travelling with your family.