You’re about to embark on your first trip to London and you have a tight budget. Don’t panic, there are plenty of free or affordable things to do around England’s capital.
Public transport is notoriously expensive in London, but there are ways to keep the cost down. Avoid travelling between 6:30-9:30am and 4-7pm during weekdays. This is ‘peak time’ and always pricier.
If arriving by train from another UK city, it’s usually worth adding a Day Travel Card to your ticket. For example, a ‘Super Saver’ day return from Brighton to London costs £10 during the weekend, or £15 with an off peak travel card. The same card bought separately is £8.90.
If you’re flying in, it’s better to get an Oyster Card. These are ‘pay-as-you-go’ cards, meaning you put credit on in advance, then ‘swipe’ when getting on buses, trains or the Underground. It’s the cheapest fare for single journeys and the daily ‘price cap’ means you’ll always pay less than a travel card. You pay a deposit for an Oyster Card, but can usually have it refunded if you return the card before leaving. You can also buy a Visitor Oyster Card in advance, before arriving in London. Check www.tfl.gov.uk for details, current fares, route planning and travel maps.
You can also take bikes on many train and underground lines during off peak hours. Why not hire a bike for the day, or take advantage of the ‘Boris Bike’ stations dotted around the city?
You don’t have to go inside Buckingham Palace to have your iconic British experience, just arrive at the right time to watch the ‘Changing of the Guard’. It takes place every day during summer months and is often accompanied by traditional military and other music. Check www.changing-the-guard.com for details.
Museums and galleries are usually free. Some of the best include The British Museum, Natural History Museum, Tate and National Galleries.
Find listings for free concerts, comedy, walking tours, lectures, festivals and a lot more on these websites:
Despite being a sprawling metropolis, there are plenty of green spaces in London. Green Park and St James Park close to Buckingham Palace make a lovely walk. Then there’s the infamous Hyde Park to the west, and Regents Park to the north of the centre. Look out for unusual wildlife!
You’ve seen the sights and now your stomach is rumbling.
Street food is a growing trend in London, with everything from burgers to noodles to traditional Indian food available from stalls around the city for a fraction of restaurant prices.
The South Bank Centre is a huge complex of venues, conference rooms, cafés and street stalls on the South bank of the Thames by Waterloo Bridge. It allows you to take your own food to enjoy indoors and it’s a great place to people watch.
The Broadway Market is a great place for a Saturday lunch, in East London. It takes place every Saturday from 11am to 3pm.
Chinese and Indian ‘take-aways’ are often very affordable. These usually don’t have areas for seating, only a bar where you order from a menu; you can take your food to the nearest park to enjoy or to the South Bank Centre if it’s raining.
If all else fails, head to a fish and chip shop. Known colloquially as a ‘chippy’, these are abundant in all parts of London. The English expression, ‘cheap as chips’ exists for a reason!