London on a Budget
London is one of the most popular UK city breaks, but it's also one of the most expensive cities in the world. So, if you're looking to save your pennies, you need to be a savvy traveller. Luckily for you, we've created a quick guide to London on a budget!
How can I go to London on a budget?
Our very first piece of advice for visiting London on a budget is to plan your itinerary down to a T. Spend time researching budget London hotels, finding vouchers for London restaurants and booking the London tourist attractions you want to visit in advance. The better you plan your trip to London, the more money you'll be able to save.
Save money on London Tours
London is the UK's largest city but believe it or not, it's also very walkable! You don't necessarily need to spend money on getting the tube everywhere. Instead, pack comfortable shoes, get a map up on your phone and enjoy exploring London on foot.
Alternatively, hire a bike to tour London on two wheels. The Santander Cycles scheme in London enables you to hire bikes and e-bikes for as little as £1.65 for 30 minutes.
If you prefer to use public transport in London, like the tube or iconic double-decker buses, make sure you either get an Oyster Card or pay contactlessly to save time and money. Cash is a big no-no! We'd also advise avoiding Thames River Cruises which can be pricey, and instead, hop on the Thames Clipper (run by Transport for London) to head to popular London boroughs like Greenwich.
Self-guided tours are a great way to see all of the top London sights like Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace for free. But if you prefer a little company (and guidance,) book a 'pay what you can tour' with a local university student working on tips.
Cheap London Tourist Attractions
As a rule, entry to London Tourist Attractions like Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and St Paul's Cathedral isn't cheap. However, these attractions are an integral part of the London tourist experience and worth a visit, especially if it's your first time in the capital.
One of the ways you can save money on tourist attractions in London is with the London Pass. This digital tourist discount pass gives fast-track access to over 80 top London attractions, including Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Windsor Castle, ZSL Zoo, and the Hop-On Hop-off Bus Tour.
Even if you don't purchase a London Pass, we recommend booking tourist attractions online in advance. It's nearly always cheaper.
It's also worth planning your London on a budget itinerary to cover tourist attractions close to one another on the same day. For example, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, London Eye, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace are all relatively close. On another day, you can do Trafalgar Square, including The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden. Cut your travel time and costs to make the most of your London visit.
Free entry to London Museums and Galleries
London is a hub of international art and culture, world-class museums and galleries, and the best part is that many of them are free to enter! Get your culture fix without spending all of your savings by visiting free London museums and galleries, including:
- The National Gallery
- Tate Modern
- Tate Britain
- The National Portrait Gallery
- Victoria and Albert Museum
And if you're looking to avoid the crowds, you'll be pleased to hear that many are open late in the evening for a more leisurely experience.
Along with the top London museums and galleries, it's also worth taking a trip to the Southbank Centre, which has lots of free exhibitions, art installations and events throughout the year.
Are you visiting London on a budget with kids? Then, head to the Science Museum, where children can enjoy science-based art and crafts and watch fun educational films at the IMAX theatre. It's free to enter and a great rainy day activity.
Cheap London theatre tickets
Tickets for London theatre shows can be pretty expensive. However, there are often cheap last-minute London theatre tickets up for grabs. Your best bet is to visit the TKTS booth in Leicester Square, which offers half-price and discounted theatre tickets. It's also worth visiting theatre box offices on the day to see if they are selling off standby tickets and returns at a discounted rate.
Eat cheap in London
Are you looking to save money on dining in London? Check which London chain restaurants have deals and look online for discount vouchers. You'll also find that many bars and restaurants in London run lunchtime offers. So, it is wise to plan your main meal for lunchtime instead of the evening.
You can also save money on eating in London by picnicking in the park. Pick up a meal deal from a local supermarket and enjoy it in a beautiful setting. There are also many local food markets to explore in London, some of the best being Portobello Road Market, Borough Market and Camden Market. Sample street food from around the world and avoid the cost of high-end restaurants.
Side tip: Download the 'Too Good to Go' app for your London city break. It'll inform you of any London cafes, restaurants and bars selling off food for cheap at the end of the day that they don't want to go to waste.
Save on London hotels
The English capital may be home to some of the world's most luxurious hotels, but you'll also find plenty of budget hotels in London. Naturally, hotel room prices are higher closer to the centre. However, if you stay further out, you can spend more on travel. Weigh up your options and see what works out the cheapest for you.
One of the best ways to save money on London hotel bookings is with Plans Change. Select your chosen dates, and we'll show you the top budget hotels in London and mid-range hotels at the best prices.
Remember that you'll likely need to budget at least £60-£80 for the cheapest London hotels per night. Try visiting in the autumn and winter, considered the off-season, to save money.
We also highly recommend checking out our Resale Deals page for cheap London hotel rooms. We enable people to resell hotel rooms they can no longer use when their plans change. All we ask is that sellers list their hotel room at the same or a lower price than they originally paid. Many sellers want to increase their chances of getting some money back and, therefore, offer their hotels at next-to-nothing prices, enabling savvy travellers to score a real bargain! We regularly update the page with new hotel resale deals, so keep your eyes peeled.
Other free things to do in London
Ready to start planning your trip to London on a budget? Here are a few last 'free things to do
in London' to add to your itinerary:
- Visit London's parks, including Hyde Park, Royal Kensington Gardens, Regent's Park, St James' Park and Richmond, for free.
- Don't pay to visit The Shard for city skyline views. Instead, head across the river and visit the Skygarden for free! Pre-book your space and enjoy a coffee or cocktail in the rooftop bar.
- Watch the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace - it's free and one of those things you have to tick off your London bucket list.
- Go to a service at St Paul's & Westminster Abbey on a weekday evening or Sunday. They're free for the public to attend.
- Hot on politics? Head to the Houses of Parliament and watch a political debate free of charge. You can also book a place on one of Parliament's free Democratic Access tours.
Book cheap London hotel rooms with Plans Change
So there we have our top tips for visiting London on a budget. With careful planning and cheap hotel rooms, it's totally possible to save money on this popular city break and still have a fantastic, memorable experience.