A Frugal London trip:
Frugal London???! Yes, yes, yes..l know. Those two words do not belong together. However, it is still possible not to break the bank when you visit this wonderful place. Here are some tips on making it budget friendly. While it would be impossible to spend nothing all day, you can minimize the damage by following and experience a frugal London trip. This is a budget guide to London and how to visit London cheaply, a follow up to our recent trip to London
1) Travel off season to London:
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This is the biggest frugal London tip of all. Those airlines really know how to stick it to you come summer time. They know the kids are out of school and you want to explore the world. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. Traveling when the kids are in school will save you hundreds.
Shop for the best airline tickets by using sites like Expedia or my favorite, Skyscanner. Their app is so cool to find flights because when you do a search, you can use the chart like button which will show you the prices across days and weeks, so you don’t keep having to change the dates.
You might even be able to get deals on air and hotel combinations. I like to keep it separate. You can also use these sites for rental car discounts. I always check out the website lastminute.com too before booking. I have been able to get some really amazing discounts through them for hotels.
I once stayed in a deluxe four star hotel in Knightsbridge for 54 pounds per night, which was a steal. To get a bang for your buck, visit London off season. I would say the best time to visit London would be after September when the kids are back in school.
2) Unlock your phone before traveling:
Roaming charges is just throwing hard earned money down the drain :-( ! Have your phone unlocked prior to your trip. When you get to London or wherever, you can simply buy a local SIM card and use that. Check with your carrier. I know for instance AT&T will unlock your phone after 1 year has passed on your contract. The frugal part of you will the savings!. Check your phone too.
Some cell phones are dual SIM which means you don’t need to unlock it. You can just buy a local SIM card when you get to your destination, put it in the second slot and you’re ready to go. This is a great way to shave money off your budget when visiting London. You can also use Skype to communicate for free. If you have an iphone, you can also keep in touch with friends and family free of charge on the Apple platform (as long as they also have iphones). My favorite way lately to
talk for free is via whatsapp. You can make video or voice calls for free and the connection is very clear. This will save money on a London vacation.
3) Use the Bus or local transportation:
The Hop on Hop off bus is in most places, London included. This is a good way to discover what might interest you, and of course saves you having to make your way to the various sites.
As an alternative, just hop on the local bus for the frugal alternative. My favorite bus route is the Number 22. We usually get on at Sloane Square. The route will take you past the tourist places like Hyde Park, Knightsbridge (Harrods), Chelsea (King’s Road), Putney Bridge and Piccadilly Circus, from where you can just walk the few minutes to Trafalgar Square one way, Chinatown and Leicester Square the other way. A day pass will run you up to £8, which includes the Underground trains. Using the local transport system will save you money on a London trip.
When you arrive at the airport, you might want to pick up the Oyster card. I think the card itself is £3 to purchase (and it’s yours to keep), then you load it with however much you want. The card will automatically stop charging you once you reach the limit for the day. The amount is based on what zones you travel within. Most tourists would probably have a top price of £6.40.
This saves you from fumbling for cash. Just swipe the card like a local. You can always top up the card. Keep the card for your next visit, or it’s a nice souvenir at least.
The RV1 bus line is also a good one too. It passes Covent Garden, South Bank (London Eye), London Bridge (Dungeon) and Tower Bridge. Compared to the £22 average for the hop on-hop off, it’s a bargain.
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4) Groupon is your friend:
Yes, just like your Groupon at home, you can get the same deals in London. Food, attractions, etc, so make sure to check it out. We got 2 for 1 tickets to see the Moscow State Circus while we were there. It was awesome, even more awesome because it was half price. Being frugal is a good thing! :o)). Use Groupon deals in London restaurants, attractions, and events to save money on your trip.
Get Half Price Tickets in Leicester Square: (on day of show)
Get half price tickets for the latest plays and shows in Leicester Square. I’ve been able to see shows like Grease, Phantom, Lion King at severely discounted prices by buying on the same day. Pretty sweet!
Popular shows will of course fetch a higher price and they do sell out quickly. There are so many huge talents in the smaller shows too. I once saw Sir Ian Richardson in a small play. There is a central booth in the middle of Leicester Square that you can purchase tickets from. There is usually a long line since everyone loves a bargain, so make sure you arrive early.
5) Eat Cheaply in London:
London is chock full of International cuisine, and cheaper still if you eat locally. Brick Lane in Shoreditch for example is great for cheap food, all kinds of cheap food. Most meals will be about £5-6, and you have your choice of Indian, Thai, African, Jamaican etc. You may have to eat standing up, but that’s part of the fun.
A frugal tip to London is to shop at Marks and Spencer food hall for cheap sandwiches and sweets. Tescos is another place where you can get cheap prepacked food and salads etc. Even the drugstores have London meal deals which comprises of a sandwich, chips (or crisps as they say) and a soft drink for 3 pounds. That is a real meal bargain in London.
Sure, there are tons of posh restaurants, like Ziani in Chelsea – the most awesome, best Italian food, hands down! and you know that’s saying something when my husband and in-laws all agree and they are as Italian as you get. The food is fantastic, each and every time. I keep going back to trip them up, but they have not disappointed yet. However, if you are on a budget trip to London, you have to make do with cheaper alternatives.
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6) Take advantage of the Free stuff in London
Free things to do in London include:
– The museums – The British Museum, The Natural History, Science , National Gallery and on and on. More information can be found at this site. Visiting museums are some of my favorite things to do in London. The fact that they are free only makes it sweeter and makes for a frugal London visit.
– The Parks – bring your lunch and people watch at the Park. I love Hyde Park especially for this reason. It is such a pleasant atmosphere, especially when the weather is pleasant and the Londoners come out in full force to enjoy it. London is famous for it’s dreary weather, so any hint of good weather is fully taken advantage of. Join them.
– Buckingham Palace – you must check out where the Queen resides when she is in London. If you’re in luck, you can see the “Changing of the Guards” which is quite thrilling. You do have to get there at least an hour before it starts. It gets pretty crowded. We started at the Guard House and then went close to the Palace, it was too packed to go further.
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I hope this has been a helpful guide for a frugal London trip. Utilizing these tips will make a more budget friendly London vacation. London is a top destination for most people and you either love it or hate it it seems. I for one, absolutely adore London but l admit l am always looking for ways to save money on my visits.
What about you? Have you been to London? If so, did you have a frugal London trip? Is London actually on your radar or not? Do you have any money saving tips to add to this post?