Save Money when You Visit London
It’s not just 20-something backpackers who are looking to stretch their funds while traveling. Midlife travelers also want to get the most for their vacation dollar. Or vacation pound, if you want to visit London, England.
Though London has been dropping down the list of the most expensive cities in the world, visitors still experience some sticker shock. Fortunately, there are ways to make a visit to London more affordable. Here are several suggestions:
Rent an Apartment in London
If you are past the age where hostels or couch surfing are attractive options, renting an apartment instead of a hotel room is one way to conserve funds when visiting another city.
Short term London apartments (they call them flats) are available through booking sites such as Airbnb. Just as with hotels, the prices per night depend on the individual property. However, choosing an apartment over a hotel provides some other benefits:
- Eating in restaurants is part of any travel experience, but being able to prepare some meals in your own kitchen can help stretch your vacation dollars.
- London’s many residential neighborhoods each have its own vibe. Apartment owners should be able to provide information about good value neighborhood restaurants and pubs.
- Vacation apartment rentals may include laundry facilities and free wifi. You can include these in your search parameters.
Use London’s Public Transportation
As in most large metropolitan areas in the world, trying to drive in London is likely to be a nightmarish (and expensive) proposition. On weekdays, central London imposes a “congestion charge” on non-exempt vehicles.
They enforce this with license plate recognition cameras, levying a hefty fine if the charge isn’t paid promptly. For some of us, there’s the added disincentive of having to drive on the wrong side.
London has an excellent public transportation system. By doing a little homework, you can rent an apartment close to London’s extensive underground (subway) system that can conveniently transport you to where you want to go.
Central London’s ubiquitous taxi drivers are the most professional in the world. I also made use of Uber on my last visit.
You can also choose to use the above-ground bus system. Riding one of London’s iconic red double-decker buses can be considered a tourist attraction unto itself.
Visit London’s Free Attractions
To be sure, there are plenty of London attractions that are well worth the price of admission, including, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, to name a few. Check and see what the current deals are in London for many attractions, twenty pounds and under.
For a bird’s eye view, you can ride the now iconic observation pod Ferris wheel, the London Eye. However, there are also world class museums and galleries that can be visited without charge.
One world renowned free London museum is the British Museum, especially famous for its ground floor ancient world collections, including your chance to see the Rosetta Stone up close and personal.
In nice weather, you can enjoy a takeaway (takeout) lunch break in nearby Russell Square or avail yourself of the modestly priced soup/salad/sandwich place on the first floor of the museum.
Some other must see museums that don’t charge an entry fee are the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of London, and the National Gallery.
If you’re a bibliophile, head for the British Library, the depository library for the United Kingdom which has a first floor gallery displaying a Guttenberg Bible and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales among other famous texts. There is an entire room devoted to the Magna Carta. A must-see if you visit London.
In addition to the British Museum, there are other free world class museums. There are also little, quirky free museums, although they may suggest a donation. You can find a list of free museums on the official London website.
Look for Free and Discounted Events
One of our best “stumbled upon” places in London was the church of Saint Martin in the Fields on Trafalgar Square, especially because the chamber orchestra for that evening’s concert was having an open, free rehearsal.
There is also a series of free lunchtime concerts. Though it’s worth the price of admission to buy a ticket for an evening candlelight chamber performance in the church or a jazz program down below in the Café in the Crypt.
On our last visit to London, we paid the somewhat steep almost $26 per person entry fee to visit Westminster Abbey with an audio guide. However, if you actually want to worship or attend a beautiful evensong service, admission is free.
London is renowned for its West End theater scene. Half price and discount “day of” tickets can be purchased at a ticket booth in Leicester Square. (For the uninitiated, say it “Lester”).
Last, but certainly not least, you can get your pomp and circumstance fix for free by showing up for the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. (Americans should feel historically right at home seeing the “Red Coats” in action). The Royal Family even has its own website so you can look up the information for dates and times.
Planning to visit London? What are you looking forward to?
Planning a trip? See our Travel Editor’s advice on whether it’s worth it to fly business class, consider visiting the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, and get in the monarchy mood by watching The Crown and similar shows on Netflix.