Tired of London, tired of life, blah blah, but most people forget the second half of Samuel Johnson’s popular aphorism: ‘because there is within London all that life can afford’. While he was no doubt referring to the extraordinary diversity to be found in London, he also came across another significant aspect of the Great City. It is expensive.

However, there are numerous ways to enjoy your stay with limited funds, and this will be a brief introduction to how to maximize your budget, while still looking at the significant parts on offer.

First, where will you stay? Well, not only could I write a book on this, there are hundreds in existence today that attest to the fact. However, some of the cheapest rooms are around Heathrow airport, so a quick scan of ‘Laterooms.com’ will return you the daily rates for the entire city. You can quickly see that Heathrow specializes in discount rooms, Bloomsbury – between the city and the West End – has some bargains, and Hackney – on the outskirts of the city – is convenient and cheaper too. In addition, you should also factor in travel costs in your room rate. Use a Tube Travelcard in 1, 3 or 7 day flavours. They go up in price depending on how far from the center you are, so keep that in mind with regards to staying near Heathrow. The surrounding area is zone 4, 5 and 6, compared to Bloomsbury and Shoreditch which are zone 1 and 2. Travel cards offer unlimited travel and on a weekly basis there are no peak hour restrictions. So that’s your fixed room and travel, which are minimal – there’s no way around these costs unless you plan to spend your visit walking and sleeping under bridges (not recommended).

cheap sightseeing tour

The first tip is a city sightseeing tour, which sells for around £25-30 per person through official channels. Or you can go for the normal bus version without commentary. Go after 10am to avoid being pinned down by chubby travelers and you’ll find plenty of space available. The two best options are: the RV1 bus which you can catch outside Tower Gateway tube station: it goes past Tower Bridge, Tower of London, The Tate Modern, The National Theatre, Waterloo, Strand, Aldwych and ends at Covent Garden. It is not too long or demanding and you will see a lot along the way. A longer route, but equally full of views, can be experienced by taking the 23 bus from Liverpool Street Station. It passes through the Bank of England, Mansion House, St. Paul’s, Fleet Street, Royal Courts, Strand, Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Bond Street, Marble Arch, Paddington and ends near Little Venice. . . You can also hop on and off the service, as your travel card allows unlimited travel while it is valid. This particular route is a shopper’s paradise.

The best free views

First of all, I should mention that the main museums and galleries in London are free, although they will always appreciate a donation. Don’t let that be an indication of quality though. They are immensely popular, impressive and well organized. They are all worth visiting, but if you were to narrow the list down to required visits, definitely try to include these:

  • The British Museum: large, vaulted, moldy in places, but filled with more treasures and rarities than any building I’ve ever visited, anywhere.
  • The Natural History, Science and Victoria and Albert museums, which are all next to each other. There’s a lot to see in a day, but if you’re short on time, you can easily zip between them for a whirlwind tour. Take the tube to South Kensington and follow the signs.
  • The Tate Britain and the National Gallery. One in Millbank, near the Palace of Westminster and the other in Trafalgar Square. They are a must-see for art lovers and even those who express only mild interest. The National has an unrivaled collection and the Tate focuses on British artists.
  • The Tate Modern and St. Paul’s. You can cross between the two, via the Millennium Footbridge. The Tate Modern is free and the building is spectacularly cavernous, but St. Paul’s does charge an entrance fee. Instead, you can always walk around the outside, which is, after all, where most of the impressive architecture is located.
  • Greenwich is definitely worth a visit. The National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House, the Royal Observatory and the parks are free to enter. It has interesting shops, a market and a bustling promenade. Consider taking the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) back via Canary Wharf in Docklands, as it’s free with a valid Travelcard.


Yes, they sell products, but you don’t necessarily have to buy to have an interesting time.

Camden Market: It is well known and worth visiting. Lots of fashion, trinkets and curios, especially people watching. The Lock is a good place to rest and watch the passing masses. If you enjoy walking, try the Canal Trail from Camden Lock to Little Venice (just under 2 miles) for a lesser-known trail through downtown. You could even combine it with a cheap bus tour and take the 23 bus back across town, when you get to Little Venice.

Leadenhall Market – Worth entertaining for the architecture and sense of history. It is architecturally beautiful and a short walk from the Bank of England and Mansion House. Try not to miss the City (Square Mile) as it is “old” London and so often missed. If you fancy a snack, you can be entertained at a nearby pub. On a tight budget, Sam Smiths pubs serve a range of their own beers including ‘Swiss Lager’ which is very drinkable and is around 60% the cost of a normal pint (1990s prices!). Consequently, they are popular with students. Princess Louise, Cittie of Yorke and The Cheshire Cheese are all Sam Smiths pubs.

go out

If you fancy a trip to the theater, shop at the ‘tkts’ stall in Leicester Square on the day of the performance. You can get as little as 15% of the admission price, as long as you’re flexible about what to see. Rest assured, though, that you appreciate their culture, as it’s often the best ‘highbrow’ productions that get the most discount. Programs with high mass appeal, the media, tend to be less available at a discount.

For a cinema visit, head to the PCC (Prince Charles Cinema), just off Leicester Square, which shows for as little as £1.50. All of its seats are 30-50% the cost of its close rivals, and you’ll see it with moviegoers, not the pack.

Tickets for the Opera and Dance can also be purchased at greatly reduced prices, by requesting ‘day seats’ at the day box office, or by reserving cheap restricted view seats online, before leaving for London (which can be purchased for as little as only like £5). In addition, Shakespeare’s Globe offers tickets to ‘Groundling’ from £5, where visitors stand in front of the stage for the performance. (Watch ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and you’ll know what I mean.)


There are numerous ways to reduce food costs. First, shop at the supermarkets that are scattered throughout the city, or visit the web for their locations. These are national chains such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrison’s and Waitrose. They’re usually half the price of the ‘convenience supermarkets’ you find all over town and loss leaders like fresh bread mean you can stock up on the basics, for very little out of pocket. Eat less in the tourist center of London and more in the ‘worker’ area of ​​London. Chains like ‘Eat’ and ‘Pret-a-Manger’ offer good quality sandwiches, soups and wraps and buy bottled water in supermarkets. A significant portion of a food operation’s profit will come from the beverages served with your snack.


Finally, there is the option of walking. London is a Roman city, so it grew while foot and river traffic were the dominant methods of getting around. You will never understand a city so well, like when you walk through it. By linking a series of walks together, you can also begin to visualize the layout of the city and how the significant parts relate to each other. Also, don’t believe the hype that surrounds the British as a cold and distant race. If you are lost, ask for help and you will find it. So why not take a chance and wander around, following your nose? You’re never far from a metro stop and there’s always someone around to get you on your way again.

So if you are visiting London on a budget and have heard rumors that it is one of the most expensive cities in the world. So that would be mostly true. However, there are, as there always have been, inexpensive options. The city itself is the main attraction and strolling along the Thames Promenade in the sunshine, gliding through the alleyways of the Medieval City and gazing at the Great Masters of Art, will likely form a lasting memory of your visit. And they don’t cost a dime.

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