The Ultimate Guide to London on a Budget:
15+ Tips from Locals for Saving Money

Bell   |   29th August 23

While travelling Europe, I have heard the phrase “London is out of my budget for this trip” countless of times. London is definitely on the expensive side, however there are many tips and tricks to make a visit possible for any budget. 

From affordable accommodation to free things to do in London, this article covers all my top tips and local insider knowledge. As a graduate, I lived in London on a strict budget  for over a year and found all the hacks, loopholes and must-dos to make London budget-friendly.

Use buses where possible or the tube at off-peak times

London Bus Cup - traveloffscript

Transport can quickly get add up in London and the daily cap for tubes is £9.60 for Zones 1-3. 

Buses are only  £1.75 and you are able to take as many buses as you’d like within 60 minutes. If you are staying near central London, those 60 minutes will get you to all the major attractions for cheap.  Buses are also capped at £5.25 per day.

If buses are just going to take too long, try catching the tube at off-peak times. Off-peak tube times are between 09:30 and 16:00 and after 19:00 on weekdays, as well as anytime during weekends and bank holidays. 

To pay on buses and the tube, just use a contactless payment card or even your phone. For tubes, you need to tap on and off. On the buses in London, you only need to tap on (not off!).

Get some of London’s best eats for cheap on Too Good To Go

The app “Too Good To Go” allows you to save foods from restaurants, meaning you are able to snatch up meals from some of London’s best restaurants and coffee shops starting as low as £3.

They are surprise bags so you never quite know what you are going to get, but you can choose vegetarian and vegan bags and you can see the reviews from other app users.

London Skyline View from Skygarden, free entry

London has so many free attractions, you could go an entire week without spending any money.

Most museums and art galleries are free, there are tons of free viewpoints of the incredible London skyline, every week there are new free events and festivals  and markets to explore at every corner.

Some of my favourite free attractions in London are 

  • The Skygarden
  • Greenwich Park,
  • The National Gallery
  • Changing of the Guard
  •  Borough Market

Enjoy London’s Theatre Scene for a fraction of the cost with TodayTix

TodayTix sells tickets to the most famous musicals and theatre shows London has to offer at the best price across the board.

Starting from as low as £15 for nosebleed tickets, this is your ticket (literally) to experiencing London’s theatre scene on a budget. They also run daily flash sales and ticket lotteries for even better tickets at lower prices. 

I’ve seen some of my favourite shows using the App and it is one of my favourite things to do in London.

Prime Backpackers London
Reception of Prime Backpackers

Accommodation is easily the biggest expense in London, with the cheapest options running you around £30 a night. If you are on a budget, hostels are your best bet, followed by AirBnB if booked well in advance.

Some of my favourite hostels in the city are:
Wombats City Hostel
Prime Backpackers London

If you want to stay longer, you should consider a Volunteer Placement or Housesitting. Using sites such as Worldpackers and Trusted House Sitters are great options, but you can also reach out to hostels via email or Instagram to ask for volunteer positions.

Rescue free food and groceries from Olio

Olio is that friendly neighbour that always gives you his leftovers without you actually having to know the neighbour. 

The app allows users to share excess groceries and even non-food items with others in the area. You can request to pick them up at a certain time through the app. They also have so-called “community heroes” who pick up leftovers from grocery stores and cafes and put them on the App, all for free. It’s amazing.

Just be quick with what you want – listings in London often go in minutes.

Hop on the Uber Boat to see London from the Thames for cheap

Boat tours of the Thames can quickly cost you a pretty penny, however the Uber Boat does practically the same thing for only £8.30 to £15.10, depending on the zones you want to see. 

You can pay using contactless and will be able to spot all of the main attractions – from Big Ben to the London Bridge. I recommend going from Canary Wharf to Battersea Park to see everything. It takes around 1 hour.

Go thrifting in the many Charity Shops around the city

Charity Shops are the real “thrift shops” of the UK. If you search for Thrift Shops specifically, you will often find overpriced “vintage” shops, selling basic tops at inflated prices. 

Charity Shops often have branded clothing for cheap and your purchases support great causes such as cancer research and homelessness. 

London skyline view free from Greenwich Park at sunset -

You do not need to spend a penny to see London’s best views.  In fact, I wrote a whole article on the best FREE viewpoints in London.

From Parliament Hill to Garden at 120 – seeing London’s skyline is the best budget-friendly activity in the city (at least in my humble opinion).

Make the most of Student Discounts

Most attractions in London offer student discounts, and sometimes even restaurants, bars or clubs. If you are a student, always ask if a discount is available and don’t forget to bring your student card or proof of student status.

Buses can often be a cheaper option for daytrips

Hastings, UK Pier at sunset

London has many amazing day trip options, whether you fancy a trip to the coast, a wander through historic Bath city centre or exploring Windsor Castle.

While the UK has excellent train connections that will get you as far as Scotland should you wish, they can quickly get quite expensive. Most major destinations are also serviced by buses, the main ones being National Express and Megabus, which offer much more affordable ticket options. I would highly recommend checking them out if train fares are out of your budget.

Pack light to avoid extra flight charges

On budget airlines such as Ryanair or Easyjet, the most expensive part is usually bags. I recently took a flight where my bag cost double the basic flight cost.

If you are only going to London for a short trip, pack a small backpack! You can buy most essentials in London for way cheaper than the bag fare AND get some cute outfits from charity shops. 

Don’t buy your souvenirs on Oxford Street

London Oxford Street - traveloffscript

Oxford Street is one of the must-visit attractions in London and a dream for anyone who loves shopping. Every single chain has a store or two along this road and there are tons of souvenir shops.

My top tip for saving money if you want to buy souvenirs is not to buy it on Oxford Street. Everything is SO overpriced, tacky and bad quality. Instead, head to Harrods and get a cute English Tea Set which is actually more authentic to Britain and worth the money. You could also check out Camden to find more cliché souvenirs but at a fraction of the price of Oxford Street.

Head to the supermarket an hour before closing for yellow-sticker bargains

Every supermarket has the so-called yellow-sticker food items. They are products that are about to expire or expire soon and hence need to go off the shelves. They are still perfectly fine to eat, but get sold at a reduced rate to make sure they are purchased by end of day.

You can find some amazing bargains, including fruit, veg and full meals. Supermarkets usually have them in one section in the fridge area or just spread along the shelves about an hour before closing. 

The majority of expensive restaurants are overhyped

Delicious and affordable pasta London - traveloffscript
Affordable eats London - traveloffscript

This may be controversial, but I don’t believe you need to go to the famous, overly expensive restaurants in London. My favourite finds have all been fairly affordable and super authentic.

My top local “trick” to finding these restaurants is nothing other than Google Maps. I go find ones with good reviews, check out what people are saying and then check out the menu for prices. This method has yet to fail me and I have found lots of hidden gems that I would have never known about otherwise.

If you fly into Stansted, book your bus ticket with your flight

A ton of budget airlines fly into Stansted and this is where you will usually find the cheapest flight prices. However, getting to Stansted can be somewhat pricy.

The fastest way is the Stansted Express, however will usually cost you about £20 one-way. Most airlines offer to book the transfer from London to Stansted with your ticket for around £10, usually via National Express. I highly recommend taking the offer if you are on a budget as it is currently the cheapest way to make it to Stansted.

The best budget airport to get to is usually Luton Airport

Flying with budget airline - ryanair

Apart from Heathrow Airport, which tends to have more expensive flights, Luton is by far the cheapest to get to, if you book in advance.

You can get from St.Pancras to Luton Station for as little as £3.10. From there, you can catch a shuttle for the airport for just £2.40 – bargain.

London’s reputation as an expensive city is founded in fact, yet London can still be done on a budget. I lived here for over a year on a pretty strict budget and still did tons of attractions and activities and went out regularly with friends.  Just make sure to plan ahead and make smart choices regarding what to do in your time here.

If you stick to the tips and activities mentioned in this article, your money will get you much further  in London.

The minimum spend per day in London is £40-50. £30 of that is accommodation so if you manage to work for accommodation or house sit, your spend goes down to £10 per day. 

The cheapest rooms in a hostel will run you around £30 per person per night. A budget hotel or AirBnB will run you between £30-50 per night per person. 

Dinner usually costs £15 if you don’t get a drink. Cocktails cost between £10-15, a beer will cost around £6-8 and soft drinks around £3-4. I would highly recommend eating breakfast in if you are on a budget – this will then only cost you around £1-2 per day. Lunch can be found from £3 (meal deal) to £10 for a sit-down lunch. 

Stick to as many free attractions as you can. The discounted musical tickets will run you between £20-30 and you can find cool live shows and comic gigs for around £10. I would avoid things such as the London Eye and Tower of London if you are on a budget – they are not really worth the money.

Budget £5-10 for transport per day, £20 if you are going on a day trip to the coast or say Cambridge.


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Hi, I’m Bell

Bell from Travel Off Script

My blog is here to show you that there isn’t one correct way to travel the world. Together, we can figure out what that means for you. Learn more about me here!

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