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Budget Travel: 7 Affordable Ways to Explore London

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Cristina Reina / MyLittleWorldOfTravelling

London is one of the most visited cities in the world.

From the renown Big Ben clocktower, to the puffy black bearskin hats atop the Queen’s Guard, London is a cosmopolitan admired everywhere. While the city has many things to offer — almost everyone has a misconception that you’ll need to spend a fortune in London.

Here’s to showing that’s not the case.

In this post, you’re going to discover how you can travel to London on a budget without compromising great experiences.

#1 Choose The Right Transport

Traveling From Within the UK

If you live in the UK, you will save lots of money by taking the coach instead of the train. Train tickets to London are often expensive and most of your money will go towards transport rather than visiting places in London.

I normally take National Express coaches because they offer good service and value. Although coaches take longer to arrive in London than trains, it is worth it if your aim is to save money.

If you are flying to London, there are six different airports: Heathrow, Luton, Gatwick, City and Southend — but the cheapest is usually London Stansted Airport. From here, you can get cheap train or bus tickets to London city, too. This airport isn’t always accessible to international travelers, so if you’re able to get a flight into Stansted Airport, be sure to take it. Then simply bus or train to the city to save some cash.

Traveling From Outside of The UK

If you’re arriving from outside of the UK, try to be flexible on your dates. You can use resources like Google Flights or Kiwi to find the cheapest flights within a certain time period (ie: search for the cheapest flights within the next 6 months), and then book those dates.

If you have a little less flexibility on dates, then make an effort to fly out midweek. It’s generally cheaper flying midweek and avoiding weekend demand.

#2 Eat In The Markets

London has a huge variety of cafes and restaurants, and you can basically find any type of food you want, from Chinese to Lebanese.

This city is well-known for having amazing unique cafes and restaurants with different themes (Harry Potter, girly flower walls, avocados, etc.) However, if you’re a budget traveller, you may consider skipping these ones and go to the street markets.

Street markets in London are one of the best due to the food quality and diversity. And if you’re looking for more than just a bite to eat, the markets are your place to go — as they also sell quirky clothing plus beautiful arts and crafts.

One of the top markets is the Camden Market in Camden Town. You can find international food stalls, cafes, clothes, crafts and much more. Inside here, be sure to check out Cereal Killer Cafe (amazing name), a small eatery where all you can see and order is cereal. You can choose from over 120 cereals, a variety of toppings, and different milk choices.

Apart from eating and walking around the unique stalls, you’ll love strolling through the canal area. While moving along, you’ll see lovely boats, folks biking around, and people simply enjoying the weather on a sunny day. The canal area is also famous for the colourful Camden Lock, so be sure to check that out while on your stroll.

Cristina Reina / MyLittleWorldOfTravelling

#3 Take Advantage Of Free Attractions

Unlike some European cities where you need to pay a fee for every attraction, London is different, and you’ll find many attractions and museums that are mesmorizing and completely free.

Some of these include:

Buckingham Palace

You can’t miss the impressive Queen’s Palace (Buckingham Palace) and its surroundings: large monuments with gold statues on the top, wide roads and parks on both sides, plus of course, the Queen’s Guard with tall-black bearskin hats. If you want to avoid crowds and take your time taking pictures, be sure to visit it early in the morning.

Also, If you’re interested in seeing the famous Changing the Guard ceremony, check this website to know when it happens. As a quick note, it normally takes place at 11:00 am outside Buckingham Palace.

Cristina Reina / MyLittleWorldOfTravelling

Big Ben

Big Ben, one of the most iconic London symbols. You can find Big Ben next to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge.

This is a very touristy area so don’t be surprised to feel uncomfortable. You’ll see people taking pictures, locals going to work or going to grab lunch, people playing games or street entertainers doing magic tricks.

Despite crowds, it’s amazing to see Big Ben, but you can still get good views from the other side of the bridge where it is normally a bit calmer. Your photos may turn out a bit better from this side, too.

If you want to go inside the Houses of Parliament and learn about how it works and politics, you must pay an admission fee. However, if you are only interested in Big Ben, you can just see it from outside.

Cristina Reina / MyLittleWorldOfTravelling

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world, and therefore, it is also one of the most Instagrammable places in the world. Now, if you’re the type looking for stunning photos to show off to the world — Tower Bridge will need to be high on your list.

As a bonus, next to the Tower Bridge is also the Tower of London where you can immerse yourself in royal history and meet the ravens. However, if you want to go to the Tower of London, you will have to pay an admission fee.

Kill two birds with one stone and head over to Tower Bridge, then swing by the Tower of London for some additional sightseeing.

Sky Garden

Not only will you see beautiful London views from an indoor garden, but you can relax and grab some food and drinks in a unique atmosphere.

The garden is free; however, you need to book your visit in advance to ensure a spot. I have tried to book five days in advance and there weren’t any tickets, so make sure you do it as soon as you can. The earlier, the better.

To book your visit and find more information, check their official website.

Hello Lightbulb / Unsplash

British Museum

This is a must-see museum — and it’s free 🙂

The British Museum has three floors and you can learn about ancient civilizations, culture, languages and lessons about the world itself. Here, you can spend hours exploring the 60 different sections and galleries, each one seeming more impressive than the last. A personal favorite is the Egyptian room where real mummies are on display. Now, you can go from Tower Bridge to Tomb Raider.

If you’re there on a Friday evening, you can visit the British Museum late. Every Friday they open until 8:30 pm and you can attend an exhibition, look around the galleries, or join their 20-minute Spotlight tour.

Nicole Baster / Unsplash

The National Gallery

If you prefer exploring art galleries, The National Gallery is your place. The gallery has impressive paintings from significant painters such as Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Van Gogh. Plus, it’s located in the famous Trafalgar Square, so you won’t miss it.

Bit Cloud / Unsplash

#4 Explore The Beautiful Parks

Being one of the largest cities in the world, you’re likely to find yourself packed amongst crowds in London. But if the world ever feels a bit too claustrophobic, you can easily escape the city noise and bustle by heading to the parks.

These are some of the parks you must visit:

See Also

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is one of the most famous parks in London and it hosts world-class events and concerts.

The park is bigger than expected, and the best thing you can do on a sunny day is to have a picnic. It is a very lively park, but you can find your spot to relax, too. You’ll enjoy the shades of the big trees on a sunny day and the squirrels running around the tree branches. Because of its somewhat busy nature, you’ll never lack some entertainment from people watching here.

Cristina Reina / MyLittleWorldOfTravelling

Regent Park and Primrose Hill

This park is worth visiting because it has beautiful gardens, different bird species and the boating lake. But it also has an Open-Air Theatre and the London Zoo. Outside the Regent Park, you can’t miss Primrose Hill for incredible views of the London skyline.

Cristina Reina / MyLittleWorldOfTravelling

#5 Stroll Around The City

There’s nothing better than walking around a new city.

You’re more likely to feel part of the city, to see the day-to-day real-life, to engage with the locals or tourists, and to discover less well-known parks or streets that have a charm. In addition to this, you’ll also save money on the underground, bus or taxi.

Strolling around London is amazing, and I have discovered beautiful streets like Bywater Street, a colourful street in the neighbourhood of Chelsea perfect for pictures.

Cristina Reina / MyLittleWorldOfTravelling

London is a big city, but it is very walkable — and must-see attractions are often close to each other. Alternatively, you can hire a bike as another great way to explore the city.

The London underground can sometimes be convenient if places are too far from where you are. In that case, if you are taking the underground, buying an Oyster card will help you save money. For more information about the Oyster card, visit their website.

#6 Check Events

There are many festivals and other events in London that you can attend for free. If you find yourself with a gap in your schedule, or if you’re looking to lineup some interesting events in advance, have a look at the official event calendar to check if there’s something going on while you’re in London.

Two years ago, I went to London for the August Bank Holiday and went to the Notting Hill Carnival. It’s a great festival where you’ll enjoy watching amazing floats and colorful costumed performers going through the streets in the carnival parade and dancing to the Caribbean music.

Also, there are tasty food stalls that you won’t be able to resist to stop and grab some food.

Notting Hill is a lively place to add to your list!

Cristina Reina / MyLittleWorldOfTravelling

#7 Stay in Accommodations Further From City Centre

This applies not only to London, but to most of the cities in the world — when you look at accommodations, hotels, guest houses, or hostels — be sure to look for ones that are further from the city centre. These will typically be a cheaper option than properties nestled into the city core.

Also, if you aren’t bothered about staying in a luxury room or in a reputable hotel, and you just want a bed and somewhere safe to leave your things, hostels and guest houses are your cheapest options.

The accommodation prices vary from season to season, and you sometimes can find good deals. For example, January and February (excluding Valentine’s) are great months to travel for cheaper prices.

Final Thoughts

In the end, London is a must see city, but some folks feel the cost of visiting can be prohibitive. Hopefully, this article proves that a trip to London can be both memorable and affordable. With so many free exhibits, attractions, and sights to see, London can absolutely be traveled on a low-cost budget.

Now be sure to let us know which place is at the top of your list in the comments below.

This article was contributed by Cristina Reina. Connect with her using the links below.

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