London will burn a hole in most of our pockets.
The average meal costs £10 (approximately RM 50) whereas the London Underground can go up to a daily cap of £ 12 (approximately RM 62) if you are travelling from Zone 1 to 5. But lest you think that London is a place that only the ultra wealthy can visit, worry not! We have curated a handy list of travel hacks for visiting London on a budget, while still being able to see and do many of the things that London is most famous for.
The Natural History Museum by Jim Kalligas
One of the prime ways for visiting London on a budget is by making use of all the free things available.
The London museums in particular are free to visit and given their extensive collections, it is easy to spend an entire day browsing and participating in its seasonal exhibitions. Here are some examples.
Close to Euston Tube and King’s Cross St Pancras station (you can find Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾ here!), visit the British Museum for a history of the world from the Soloman Islands to the Dutch wax batik fabric of Cowboy Angels by Yinka Shonibare CBE,
The National History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum are located next to each other and within walking distance from the South Kensington Tube Station. The former will bring you back into prehistoric times (and also an exploration of the moon!) whereas the latter affords an education in old Victorian England among many other things.
Then there is the Tate Museum for quirky, contemporary art exhibitions, the Imperial War Museum for a glimpse into global warfare and the National Portrait Gallery for one of the largest collections of art in the world. The National Portrait Gallery tends to have special exhibitions that do require payment, but the rest of the museum is free to visit.
Image by Luke Stackpoole
London theatre tickets can be horrendously expensive, easily starting at a minimum of £35 (approximately RM 180) and going up to £150 (approximately RM 772) for a not-so-prime seat within the theatre. However, there are plenty of easy travel hacks to get cheap tickets for the best seats in the house.
As a preliminary note, know that these travel hacks do not apply to every theatre show so you will first need to identify the theatre show you are interested in. Once you have, you can opt to try and book online by scouring for deals being offered.
Alternatively, and this is the most popular option, you can visit the theatre in question on the day that you want to watch the theatre show. Some theatre shows have a small number of tickets set aside just for that day, at a non-negotiable price, for the BEST seats in the house. These are very popular and sell out fast, so the trick is to start lining up before the theatre even opens in the morning. If you start lining up too late, the tickets might run out by the time you get to the box office.
Image by Visit London
Another travel hack is to visit the London theatre discount booths in Leicester Square. These counters tend to have day tickets for a large variety of shows, also at a discount. The discounts can be as significant as 50%, depending on the show! Matinee shows also tend to be cheaper than your Friday or weekend evening shows, due to its popularity.
Note: The Book of Mormon does an amazing “lottery” every day. Come by the theatre during the day, fill out a simple form and return to the backstage of the theatre several hours before the show. There will be a live “lottery” where a form is taken out. If you are one of the lucky 10, you get an extraordinarily cheap ticket ticket for the show that evening!
Image by Christian Koepke
Splashing out £20 a meal every day in London isn’t the most feasible option but there are plenty of places to go to for an amazing meal without breaking the bank.
First off, look out for places with lunch deals. Nearly every restaurant will offer this option. A popular restaurant I would recommend is Eat, and it is popular with Londoners. They offer amazing food options that you can eat in or take away. Their hot soups tend to be below £5 (approximately RM 26, which still isn’t the cheapest but is considered pretty decent for London), whereas main meals like wraps, quinoa salads, and pastas hover around the £8 price range (approximately RM 42).
The Teso supermarket is another fantastic place for food. Head to the back where the hot food section awaits and look out for the pork knuckle and roasted chicken! Lastly, check out Boots. It is a large pharmaceutical chain that also has a solid food section. They have amazing meal deals: £3.39 (approximately RM 18) for a packet of crisps, main and drink! It doesn’t get better than that.
Image by Pau Casals
London’s travelling cost is a huge pain for Londoners and visitors alike. Unfortunately while the City is very pedestrian friendly, its vastness means that you have to rely on the Tube or London Bus at some point.
If you can, take the bus rather than the Tube, which is vastly cheaper. At all costs, avoid the exorbitant fees of the London black cabs! The Boris bikes are also a popular and cheap option to get around, but the traffic particularly in Central London makes cycling a nerve-wracking experience.
Another track hack is to plan your visits around London strategically. Plot out all of your intended destinations and visit all the sights in one visit where possible. For instance, you can pair a visit to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben with a visit to Buckingham Palace, Regents Park, No. 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery, Leicester Square (look out for the giant M&M shop), Soho and Chinatown before heading down Regent Street, Oxford Street and Bond Street for some shopping. Phew! That was a handful.
Image by Sabrina Mazzeo
What is a London visit without shopping?
When on a budget, avoid places like Bond Street and South Kensington. Harrods will be expensive but the confectionery/food hall does offer some bargains. A few pounds for a taste of one decadent Belgium chocolate might be just the thing after a day of exploration!
For the serious shoppers, if you have a London residential address, you can always do some online shopping with Asos. Asos is a fantastic British online retailer that offers a wide range of highly affordable clothes. Many Londoners shop from Asos, particularly given how easy it is to repackage and send the clothes back if they don’t suit your taste!
Another popular shopping budget option is Primark. Primark is a dream. It has everything from shoes to jackets and pullovers, all sold at very affordable prices. They have British themed clothes that follow the latest trends, so you can still look on point without spending a bomb.
My final secret is to drop by TK Maxx. TK Maxx is the place to go to get second-hand luxury products, everything from Dior dresses to handbags, boots and body wash. The prices tend to be around 70% discount less than the retail price so there is nearly always a bargain to be found at TK Maxx.
If you are in search of more options, head to the flea markets and second-hand shops. There are plenty of them all over London, and some of them sell at £10 (approximately RM 50) a bag. In other words, you can buy as many pieces of clothing as you want for £10, so long as they all fit into the bag you have been given!
With a little nifty budgeting and prior arrangements, it is entirely possible to visit London on a budget while experiencing everything that this magical city has to offer.
Excited to visit London? The Mayflower Online Travel Fair is running from 3 - 15 September 2019 at https://www.mayflower.com.my/motf Drop by and find out more about the promotional flights that will take you to London!
A faith-driven Sarawakian lawyer who believes that it is never too late to start crafting a socially impactful legacy. When not grappling with warranties and liabilities, she loves pursuing adrenaline-fueled adventures, improving her Español and playing the violin. You can find her at @vidadeliya or https://www.vidadeliya.com