London is a beautiful, vibrant city that is full of countless things to do around just about every corner. Many American travelers want to visit London on their first trip to Europe due to the abundance of public transportation and the ease of already speaking the language. The biggest problem with this magnificent city can be the expense involved, as London is not cheap for American travelers due to the unfavorable currency conversion rates. As of March 2015, $100 US Dollars was equal to only £67 British Pound Sterlings, which means your money doesn’t go as far in London as it does here in the States. However, with a little careful planning, London can be a fun adventure that doesn’t have to break the bank. There are ways to make London more accessible for less money, and still enjoy all the city has to offer. These tips and tricks can help take you from nervous about your cash flow to a confident world traveler in no time.
Getting Around. Get yourself an Oyster Card. Oyster cards are the cheapest way to avail yourself of London’s extensive Tube and bus systems, allowing you cash free travel throughout the city. You can load the card with as much or as little money as you like, and scan the card to get on transport all day. Only splurge on a cab if you’re carrying something heavy, or if it’s too late to catch the tube and the night bus doesn’t go where you need to be.
Museums are free! The major museums in London, such as the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, have free admission. You can spend hours admiring the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles and the Sutton Hoo treasure without spending a dime. The Tate Modern, Natural History Museum, and National Gallery are all worth seeing, and have free admission as well.
Take a bus tour. Sure, there are a lot of bad stereotypes about tours. You can feel like you’re rushing from place to place, and some people dislike listening to a guide describe specific monuments. Time is money when you’re on vacation though, and a bus tour of some of the major sights, such as Westminister Abbey and the Tower of London, will save you transport time and a ton of time spent standing in lines. They may also net you discounted tickets to those attractions. Many tours can be booked on the internet through services such as Travelocity.
Wander. The major tourist areas of London can all be easily accessed on foot. Take the tube to the Tower Bridge and walk across to the Square Mile, which is the oldest part of the city. By day most of the city center is safe for the careful traveler, and getting lost is part of the fun.
Eat like a local. Skip the fancy eateries and high teas at fancy hotels. Try to find a hotel that includes breakfast, as a full English breakfast will leave you full for hours. Try restaurants in working class areas such as King’s Cross, where ethnic food and fish and chip shops abound, making for cheap and delicious eats. Try open air markets for seasonal and traditional British favorites, where the overhead is lower, and so are the prices.
Remember the currency conversion rate. Seeing a vase you love at a shop for £30, your brain might trick you into thinking that’s a great deal when it will really cost you $45 with the exchange rate. Make sure you do the math before you buy, as pounds sometimes run almost two to one for the American dollar.
Find cheaper lodging. Finally, don’t be afraid to try boutique hotels and B&Bs, which are often cheaper than large or brand name hotels. In the digital age, reviews from sites such as Trip Advisor or Yelp can be counted on to help you find accommodations that are cheaper, yet still easily accessible and entertaining.
London may be an expensive city to visit, but with some careful planning, it doesn’t have to break the bank.