If you’re strapped for cash but still in need of a holiday (basically the story of my life as a student), sometimes the best place to look for an escape is in your backyard! The British Isles (AKA United Kingdom) has some fantastic things to offer and its capital is no different… and as I found out, with a bit of forward planning, can be amazingly cheap! Here are a few of my personal recommendations for a cheap but cheerful trip to the capital……
It’s cliché I know but… Be Prepared!
Planning ahead really can make all the difference when trying to save your pennies. Spend the time counting down to your journey, trolling discount websites such as Groupon and Wowcher… Although I am still trying to get rid of the offers cluttering up my inbox 12 months later, it was definitely worth it!
Getting there…. Being the capital city, London is well connected. My personal recommendation is to travel by train, it’s quick, easy and relatively inexpensive and if you have a student or family rail card, there’s an additional 20% off fares. It means you can relax the whole way, without the stress of driving and trying to park somewhere in London (you’re a braver individual than I am if you attempt this). An additional perk is that if you travel by national rail you get two-for-one tickets for most of London’s major attractions. Check out their website for more details: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/2334.aspx
Bunking on a budget…. My first port of call are hostels, this is the cheapest way to stay close to the buzz of the main city, Hostel world (http://www.hostelworld.com/ ) is my go-to website for finding a place to crash. The second option is Airbnb (www.airbnb.co.uk/ ), this is an up and coming, popular way of finding accommodation. You can choose from house-shares with a host to hiring out full apartments/ houses to yourself, especially with a group sharing this can really cut the cost of your stay. Remember, if you choose to stay a little way out from the city center, it can make your stay significantly cheaper and if you’re within walking distance of a tube station this doesn’t at all debilitate you.Another top tip… Having breakfast included ALWAYS cuts cost, saves time, and avoids morning hunger-driven arguments whilst trying to find somewhere to eat!
Firstly, use the gifts that God gave you and walk, if it’s nice weather, moseying around London can be a fantastic experience and can allow you time to get your bearings. Soak up the culture, see the red telephone boxes and double-decker’s we’ve all seen on the postcards, and have your senses assaulted by London. This can also be a perfect time for the budding photographer or social media fiend to take a few selfies and choice shots of the scenery.
When your legs get tired, take to the tube! Once you get yourself an Oyster card (make this your first job when you get there) and have figured out the underground maps (You’ll be fine… I’m directionally impaired and I somehow managed it!), this is a cheap, relatively simple way of getting to the furthest points on your to-do list. A small warning to those of you who enjoy your own personal space; things can get a little “up-close and personal” during rush-hour!
Entertainment on a Budget….
These are a few free things to pass the time during your stay in London…
Check out the markets in Camden
If you are a hippie at heart Camden is the place for you .. and if not, it’s still a cool place to people watch, soak up the atmosphere and do some cheap souvenir shopping! If you fancy a snack, head to the Chin Chin Labs for some wacky ice cream flavours produced in front of your very eyes by liquid nitrogen, it’s very cool…literally! camdenmarket.com/food-drink/chin-chin-labs
Go on a walking tour
London on a budget involves a lot of walking! Most tours are completely free and are a great thing to do on your first day to help get your bearings. The tours will take you around the main sights of London and many have themes to keep you entertained e.g. Harry Potter, Royalty or Ghost tour themed to name a few.
Get geeky at the Natural History Museum
This is arguably one of the best museum collections in the world, frequented regularly by the likes of Sir David Attenborough, this is not one to miss. Get there early to avoid the queues as this is always a popular attraction and while away the day being mesmerised by all this fantastic building has to offer.
Visit Harrods for the ultimate shopping experience
As this is a budget trip, you are unlikely to buy anything but, it’s entertainment enough to spend a few hours getting lost in this famous department store. Personally, I would head to the toy section, it’s a child’s (and adult’s) wonderland.
Things to Splash out on!
Now you’ve saved all that money on eating cheap, being savvy and enjoying the free things in life, it’s time to splash out on a few unmissable London features…..
The number one activity on anyone’s list should be a trip to the west end, it’s a fantastic night out and after six shows in counting, I am yet to be disappointed! Tickets are unfortunately quite expensive, especially for the more popular shows but I would definitely prioritise this as something to spend your money on! If you fancy a gamble, you can head to the west-end ticket boxes early in the morning as they sometimes sell off cheap tickets to that evening’s performances if they have spare seats.
If you’re an animal lover, ZSL London Zoo is a must. If you’ve traveled by national rail, you get two-for-one tickets, which can help to cut costs. It is a must-see if you’re a nature nerd like myself and if you think you’re brave enough you can also walk in amongst the free-roaming spiders!
See the sights from a height on the London Eye, if the weather cooperates (It is England after all!) you can see for miles across the whole of the city center. This is a must for budding photographers and selfie enthusiasts as you can get some great shots!
So…. I hope I’ve managed to convince you that London CAN be done on a budget and now I’ve given you a few tips to help you along the way, I anticipate we’ll be seeing some of you shortly in the British Capital!