It is nothing new that London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, especially for tourists, not only because things are naturally expensive there, but also due to the British currency being the strongest currency in the world. It doesn’t make much of an effort to be friendly to our wallets.
Although a trip to London can be economically scary, this shouldn’t be a reason to avoid visiting the city. It is important to note that doesn’t matter where you are in the world, it is always possible to save money, and that’s why I will be sharing with you today some tips to save money in London as a tourist.
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How to Save Money in London as a Tourist
First of all, guys, allow me to start it by teaching you a popular saying here in Brazil: who converts, doesn’t have fun, This sounds much better in Portuguese, but the point is: if you start converting and doing the math every time you want to buy something, darling, STOP.
Bear in mind that you are in somewhere else on the globe, forget about your own currency, and buy what sounds cheap according to the amount of money you have in the local currency. Now that I just gave my best advice on how to save money in London, let’s move on to a proper list of advice.
- 3 Days in London Itinerary
- Visiting the Buckingham Palace
- Best Day Trips from London
- Visiting London Museums with Kids
Buy an Oyster Card
This is the best thing if you want to save money on public transport. Oyster is a card that you use to catch any public transport in the city of London, from buses to undergrounds. It is cheaper, faster and easier than buying tickets every time you need to take public transport.
You can buy them in the main stations and recharge them in the stations as well. This is pretty much the first thing you can do as soon as you arrive in London, and don’t be afraid of recharging it if by any chance you recharge your card and end up not using it, you can get the money left on your Oyster card back before leaving the city again.
In a great part of the restaurants in London, you will have two options for eating, you either eat there or take away. Takeaway is cheaper as they don’t charge the table service, and for those wondering, yeah it is a big difference in the price.
I have heard many debates about how expensive it is to eat in London and actually, it is not, it can be as cheap as £3 or £4, you just need to be smart and look around, prices there are great, especially for the amount of food that comes in each meal!
Talking about food still, another option if you are looking for good quality yet cheap meals, head to the Convent Garden, the Public Market of London. As the name suggests, you will find plenty of restaurants and places to pick sandwiches and alikes.
Better quality than fast food, cheaper than restaurants, what else could we ask for!
Buy food in the supermarket
Another way to avoid spending all your money on meals, you can buy food in the supermarket, no matter where you are in the world, in general, buying food in the supermarket can save you a lot of money.
In many supermarkets not only in London but in Europe in general, they offer a whole meal for a cheap price. If you don’t have a way to heat it, they also offer cold meals: salads or sandwiches.
Drink tap water
I know it might sound very weird to most people but, different than many places in the world, in London (as well as many places in Europe in general) you can actually drink water directly from a tap without dying from dysentery (people from 1854 would disagree with me here).
For those of you who live in countries such as Europe or the EUA, it might sound like common sense to drink tap water, but in South America for example (Brazilian here) it is definitely not a recommended thing to do, so I found it mindblowing to know that you don’t have to pay for water in cities such as London.
Stay in a central Borough
London is divided in Boroughs, there are cheap ones and expensive ones, just like any other city, however, some of the cheapest Boroughs to find hotels can be pretty far away from the city center, this means that you will have to spend a good amount of money in transportation, plus a good amount of time as well.
London public transport is divided into zones, the higher the zone the more expensive it is. So it is always important to do the math here, sometimes you will get a cheap accomodation but will ended up being so far from most of the attractions that you will ended up spending more than if you just booked a central hotel.
To have an idea, if you stay in the central area, the hotel might be a bit more expensive but public transport to visit the most important points of the city, you will pay around £1 or £2, while if you stay in Zone 4 of the public transport, you will pay around £10 coming and going.
Good areas to stay are those close to the main tourist points, these areas tend to be more expensive, but you will end up saving money with the public transport. another area that I recommend is that close to the St Pancras and King’s Cross Station.
There are many free attractions in London that can help you enjoy your trip while saving some money, I can pretty much say that all my favorite attractions are actually free, believe it or not. The list of free attractions is looong, the great part of the museums, including the most important ones, are totally free!
Besides that, most of the tourist points are outdoor so you don’t necessarily need to pay to see them, of course, most of them offer inside guided tours but without it, you won’t be missing much anyways.
Some of the Museums that can be visited for free in London:
- Museum of London
- British Museum
- Natural History Museum
- Science Museum
- National Gallery
- Tate Modern
- Tate Britain
- V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum)
- V&A Museum of Childhood
- National Portrait Gallery
- British Library
- The Bank of England Museum
- Imperial War Museum
- National Army Museum
- National Maritime Museum
- Royal Air Force Museum
- St Bride’s Church
- Somerset House
- All Hallows By The Tower
Take the free walking tours
One fun way to visit the touristic points of a city and get to know new people, is to take a Walking Tour, which is aguided tour completely free. It is a nice way to discover the city from from free while accompanied by a local.
There are many Free Walking Tours to take in London, covering different areas and subjects, you just have to choose which one suits you the best, and look for the information of time and meeting location.
Usually they all meet up in famous places, such as squares or tourist points, usually the guide carries a flag or something with the name of the company, so it is easy to identify the group in the crowd.
Book tickets in advance
If you are sure you will visit a certain attraction, try buying the ticket online, this will guarantee your visit, help you save up to 20% and make you skip the queues! Ticket for attractions like London Eye, The Shard, and other tours can be bought online.
Although many attractions are for free in London, the ones you have to pay to enjoy are usually very crowded, so buying you ticket in advance is a good way to reserve your “seat”.
Go to the theater for less
If you love art and would love to watch a show in London but is afraid of how expensive it can be, don’t worry. If you buy your tickets in advance you can get good discounts and if you buy it in TKTS booth in Leicester you can get up to 50% discount on last minute tickets!
In general, London is an expensive city, there is no doubt, after all, it is a metropole, a capital, and tend to have a more expensive way of life, besides that, the strong economy also influences, but like many other cities, there are always ways to save some money and make your trip less painful to your wallet.
It is definitely not a reason to avoid visiting the city, London has a huge historical and cultural weight and has so many things to see, being there you will realize it worths each penny you are spending! Don’t forget to check the 5 days Guide to London.
This text was originally written and posted in May 2017 and updated in September 2023. New information has been added and links have been updated so that it could offer a better experience to the reader.