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How to Enjoy London on a Budget

Do you have your heart set on visiting London, even if you’re ‘skint’ (lacking funds)? Many travelers do, and for good reason: it’s one of the most historic and exciting cities in the world. The price tag can be intimidating, though, as even a ‘cuppa’ tea can run you several dollars. But not to worry: not only can you still afford London on a budget, but you can have a fantastic time. You just have to be a little more creative, and start counting your pennies (pence, that is).

The best things in life (and London) are free

British Museum Great Court

British Museum Great Court

London is a world-class city with world-class museums, and amazingly, most of them still have free or donation-based entry. No matter where your interests lay, there will be a museum or gallery to awe you. Want to see priceless treasures such as the famous Rosetta Stone? Head for the British Museum. Fancy viewing cutting-edge art installations? Make your way towards the Tate Modern. The scale and quality of these institutions are spectacular, and there are so many (over 300 in greater London) that you have the luxury of being choosy.

When creating an itinerary for your budget trip to London, try to focus on a different area (or borough) for each day of your adventure. Walking around London is gratis, and you don’t need to pay an extortionate amount for tourist maps.

Before you leave home, print some Google maps (road or satellite versions, whichever you prefer) and design your own walking tours. London offers sweeping views of the Thames, grand monuments, bustling markets, guarded palaces, busy squares, and unexpectedly peaceful parks. And, experiencing these memorable wonders doesn’t cost a thing.

What to do with your existing ‘fun money’

Westminster Abbey behind Big Ben

Westminster Abbey behind Big Ben

That being said, a trip isn’t as much fun if you’re always seeing the exteriors of famous buildings, but never the interiors. Nor is it enjoyable to just stand aside and watch other people having the unique London travel experiences.

My advice is to choose one ‘splurge’ per day, and budget for that activity beforehand. For each area or London neighborhood that you plan on visiting, research what is there and allow yourself to have one guilt-free pleasure. After all, if the rest of your day is fairly budget-conscious, you’ll still come out ahead.

The Tower of London

Sherlock Holmes Pub, London

Sherlock Holmes Pub, London

So what might be worth your precious pounds? There are seminal London hubs that should not be missed, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral (£14.50), the London Eye (£18.60), and the Tower of London (£19.80). Yes, once converted into your home currency, these attractions might be considered steep—but really, how often are you able to visit London? And if you can manage spending money on only one activity per day, these are fantastic choices that you’ll never forget. Also, if you’re lucky enough to visit London during Wimbledon, attending a match would also be a worthy ‘splurge’. It’s all about finding the special, can’t-do-anywhere-else encounters.

If your budget just can’t stretch past a ‘fiver’, London pubs offer a unique and worthwhile slice of local life. For the price of a pint, you can enjoy the atmosphere for an hour (or longer, if you sip instead of gulp). Or you could spend the afternoon wandering through Harrods, and only buy a few souvenir candy tins on the way out. Think about the ‘money spent’/’time enjoyed’ ratio, and suddenly little expenditures like these look like bonafide bargains.

Written by Amy Vasereno for

Also read:

3 Day London Itinerary   

Where to Stay in London

Best 4* & Luxury Hotels in London

Best 3* & Budget Hotels in London

Best London Hotels with a View


Tuesday 6th of September 2011

Great tips - a couple of additional things I'd suggest:

1. The big London sites are really expensive (apart from the national museums) but there's normally a special offer on. You will need to buy a train ticket (but one stop on the train costs next to nothing) and then you get 2for1.

2. Get yourself an oyster card (way cheaper than buying paper tickets) and stick to the bus if you're in or around the centre of town. It will save you a couple of quid and you get to see the city. If you've got the energy then stick to cycle hire bikes or walking.

3. Loads of restaurants do deals (variety of websites) with many fine places offering 50% off. Otherwise head to an ethnic area and indulge in some of the world's best international food. The timeout website gives some great tips.


Thursday 9th of June 2011

Great post...I'll keep your points in mind while planning our trip.


Tuesday 7th of June 2011

I have been to London 5 times and every time I go back to the British Museum there is just so much to see there and like the article says it's free. I would suggest taking the london eye and I have taken it every time I have been there since they built it and it's great to see the city from there. I didn't think that London was that expensive the last time I was there but then that was in 2009 when everyone's economy was bad which was good for me making my money worth much more in pounds. Inexpensive places to stay can be found it just takes time.


Tuesday 7th of June 2011

Great post! London is such an expensive city that it puts a lot of people off from visiting. There is so much to do in London that is free or inexpensive, though. Hopefully your post will encourage people to visit!

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