I had the chance to spend a full summer working in London. I was able to taste the daily lifestyle of Londoners, but also to realize how expensive their everyday life is. Indeed, in a study done by Trip Advisor of the average prices spent by destination, London ranks 7th.
I decided to share with you the little tricks that I discovered, in order to be able to make the most of this incredible destination while avoiding financial guilt.
1. Knowledge is Power ... and Free!
Access to museums and art galleries is free in London. You can admire recent or old works of almost every movement for free. You can also learn more about science or history without taking out your wallet. There are several dozen establishments which you can access for free.
2. Pay Or Not Pay ... That is the Question
Theatre and live entertainment enthusiasts, you should never pay the full price for a ticket in London. There are many ways to get tickets at half price or discounted if you're willing to buy them the same day or very little in advance. You can go to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square or go directly to the concert hall to check for cheaper same day tickets. You can also buy discounted tickets online, but make sure you don't get scammed. To ensure the validity of the service, use a site that is member of STAR.
3. All aboard!
Although public transport in London seems more expensive than in other major cities, I would still recommend travelling this way. The subway, or tube, is fast and allows you to travel anywhere in London. It is also a London experience in itself! To move around during the night, buses travel through the city frequently. I wouldn't suggest you taking a cab or renting a car. Public transport is more accessible, faster (you will rarely experience traffic with the tube) and less expensive. Use the Oyster card Pay as you go for stays of less than 5 days, it will save you a few pounds compared to the TravelCard and it will adjust to your use of public transport, giving you the best deal automatically. However, if you use public transit for more than 5 days, the Seven Day Travel Card will be more advantageous. There are many options for public transit depending on your needs: it's up to you!
4. A small Step for Man
Even if this advice seems to go against the previous one, you will understand why I included it here anyway. London is a big city, but some of its attractions are very close to each other. To admire the city while visiting these attractions, I would suggest traveling to a fixed location by public transport and plan a walking route around the attractions you targeted. You can easily walk a day or two in central London without getting bored. Plan these days at the beginning or the end of your itinerary, so you can make the most of your weekly TravelCard pass in the middle of your trip for the more distanced activities you're interested in.
5. When the Price Digests Well
One of the cheapest things in London compared to other major cities in the world is groceries. The price of food sold at the grocery store in London is very low compared to the average grocery cost in Canada. I would recommend not eating out too much and opting for the concoction of meals at home if you can. Alcohol is not expensive in grocery stores either. So you can accompany your meal with a good bottle of wine or beer for a fraction of the price. If you don't have time to prepare a meal, Tesco sells meal deals for as little as 3£. This meal includes a sandwich, salad or pastry; a beverage and a snack (chips, fruit, dessert, etc.). It creates the perfect opportunity to make a picnic in one of London's beautiful parks while saving a few pounds.
6. Follow the Guide!
It is not required to pay dozens of pounds to get access to a quality guided tour. Indeed, some guided tours are offered for free or for a voluntary contribution. For example, the Royal London Tour will bring you back in the past and make you relive history. For those of you who prefer to stay in the present, Alternative London offers a voluntary contribution tour that will introduce you to the street art of East London. Nothing prevents you from using the build-your-own walking tours from the Lonely Planet guides. You just have to choose what interests you and you can then visit at your own pace.
Hope that these little tips will save you a few pounds in one of the most beautiful but also most expensive cities in the world. Have a good trip!