London is the most expensive city in the world. It’s official. This is made even worse when you’re coming from Australia or New Zealand, whose currencies are pretty weak against the pound. At the moment, the Australian dollar is worth less than 50p, and the New Zealand dollar is even worse.
This can make travel to the UK pretty expensive, and especially so in London. So this begs the question: how can one keep costs down when on holiday in London?
If breakfast is not included in your accommodation, choosing to eat at your hotel will probably cost your something like £7 or £8. There are much cheaper options than this once you leave your hotel or hostel.
If you have the use of a kitchen, either in a self catered apartment or a hostel, your can buy groceries like any local resident. If not, grocery stores are still your friends. In the suburbs you’ll likely have access to a full sized supermarket, but in the city centre you’ll frequently come across small grocery stores (eg. Tesco Express, Tesco Metro, or Sainsbury’s Local) aimed at the city worker market where you can get a preparation-free breakfast for about £2. The most you’ll need is a spoon, and I always travel with cutlery.
– banana (20p), cinnamon scroll (80p) & coffee (from in-store coffee machine – varies) = £1+??
– yogurt & muesli (£1), apple (20p) & orange juice (70p) = £1.90
– yogurt (50p), chocolate croissant (75p) & apple juice (75p) = £2
If you want a cooked breakfast and area willing to pay a little more, Wetherspoons pubs offer a range of very cheap cooked breakfasts, including full english (large or small), breakfast wrap and pancakes. Alternatively, coffee shops like Cafe Nero or Costa Coffee often have breakfast sandwiches or wraps for under £4 which they toast for you. On our last morning in York recently, Andre had a breakfast sandwich from Costa Coffee (about £3.80) while I had a chocolate croissant and banana from Tesco (about £1!)
When it comes to lunch, supermarkets to the rescue again! All the main supermarket chains in the UK have a section dedicated to ready-made food which normally includes several types of sandwiches (think BLT, egg & cress, ham & cheese, roast chicken & salad etc), wraps (eg. sweet chilli chicken, chicken & bacon caesar) or salads (either pasta or garden salads) and are nearly always cheaper than the more gourmet sandwiches, wraps and salads you’ll get at coffee shops like Cafe Nero or Pret-A-Manger. Not to mention, most stores have a meal deal (normally for £3) where you get a sandwich, wrap or salad, drink and snack (often a chocolate bar, packet of crisps, portion of mixed fruit or piece of cake). Alternatively Subway has a £3 meal where you can choose from a limited range of 6-inch subs for £3 plus a free drink (£5 for the footlong version).
For tea, most supermarkets have cheap (under £3) microwave meals (eg. lasagne, sausages & mash, chicken tikka, etc) which is handy if you have the use of a microwave. Alternatively, many pubs off the main tourist streets offer pretty cheap meals. Wetherspoons has a 2 for £7 menu (not terribly inspiring though), but even its regular menu includes meals for around £6. Keep an eye out also for markets and pop-ups – they’re not always cheap, but sometimes are, so it’s worth taking a look.
Things to do and see
People don’t always realise that most of London’s big galleries and museums are free! For example:
– British Museum
– National Gallery
– National Portrait Gallery
– Science Museum
– Natural History Museum
– Tate Modern
– Tate Britain
– Imperial War Museum
It also doesn’t cost a thing to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, view landmarks such as Westminster Palace, Tower Bridge or St Paul’s, or visit parks like Hyde Park or Regent’s Park. If you balance out the expensive stuff (eg. visiting the Tower of London, St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms etc) with the free stuff, you can end up with a pretty reasonable average cost each day.
For more ideas on travelling in London on the cheap, check out my Discounted London page.