How to Take a Trip to London for Less
In order to do research for the first novel I wrote, which takes place in 1760s London, I spent two weeks there looking at artifacts, visiting old buildings, walking the streets, and doing other kinds of hands-on research. I spent $2000 on this whole trip, which, for two weeks in London, is pretty impressive. I’ve compiled a list of how I went on a budget trip in London (sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?) and how you can, too.
- I went in January
If you can, go in the off-season. December, January and February are cheapest (excluding Christmas) while May through August (spring and summer) are the most expensive. Yes, winter is colder, but London in winter can be warmer than North American cities at the same time, like New York or Boston. It will be wet, but that applies to any time of year. If you’re a student, go during your winter break instead of summer break. If you’re working, use your vacation days at this time. Also, you’re more likely to meet locals than other tourists in the off season and doesn’t interacting with locals add to the whole experience?
- I stayed at a hostel
Hostels and budget travel just go together. Go to either hostelworld.com or hostel.com and start researching. I like hostels because you can meet people from all over the world. There’s a community aspect about them that you’ll never find in a hotel. Don’t be afraid to go outside of central London in order to get a good buy, but make sure you’re in easy walking distance of the tube. You’ll want to use the tube, a lot.
- I spent as little as possible on meals
If this was a trip to France or Italy, this would be a different story. But in the U.K., I’ve always found it useful to spend as little as possible on food. Get fast food during the day (you’ll burn the calories while walking in this city). Find a hostel with either an inexpensive restaurant or with kitchen services and cook your own food that you buy at Tescos (the cheapest supermarket chain in London).
- I walked and visited free museums
It may come as a shock, but London is chock-full of cheap activities for tourists. Major museums like the Museum of London and the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery are free. Smaller, private museums usually cost a few pounds each and those add up. I’m a big fan of walking tours, especially for first-time visitors, but those costs add up too. So for budget travelers, walk around on your own as much as possible and see the big museums. Limit yourself on walking tours and smaller museums (they’re awesome, so don’t cut them out completely). And although London’s theater is some of the best in the world, the budget traveler should keep its cost in mind.