London is a city that belongs to the world as much as it belongs to England. The city’s finance, fashion, and cultural heritage is the object of adoration on every continent and in every time zone; and while it’s true that the most luxurious hotels and boutiques draw tourists in droves from around the world, it’s a myth that only the rich and famous can afford a vacation on the River Thames. Savvy travelers can see the world on any budget, and the British capital is no exception.
In 2017, with the falling British pound continuing to drive down restaurant and hotel prices for foreign tourists, London will remain a city that belongs to us all. A little bit of preparation is all you need to unlock one of the world’s most expensive capital cities for as little as $30 a day.
Find Affordable Accommodation Through Airbnb and Hostelworld
Staying in hostels is by far the most underrated way of seeing the world’s greatest (and most expensive) cities.
With options for privates and two- or four-person rooms, staying in a hostel doesn’t have to mean sharing a dorm with a symphony of snoring backpackers. Take a scroll through Hostelworld and you’ll find dorm beds at well-rated hostels for $15 a night or less, and private rooms from as little as three times that. Don’t forget that a hostel kitchen also gives you the option of popping into the grocery store and whipping up something cheap and simple before setting out to explore.
For accommodations that combine a personal touch with a steep discount compared to a hotel room, browse around Airbnb for some options to rent out a Londoner’s guest room or even an entire flat for a few nights. Prices run the gamut from comparable with a private room in a hostel to luxurious penthouse suites; but you get the added bonus of a local guide with all the best advice for venturing off the main tourist drag.
Daily lodging cost: from $12 for a reasonable hostel dorm with breakfast included, to $60-100 or more for an Airbnb flat in a well-located neighborhood
Save on the Tube by Springing for a Week Pass
If you’re not careful, the London Underground—known locally and in pop culture around the world as the Tube—will eat its way through your holiday cash before you have a chance to notice.
A single-use ticket for the Tube in Central London will cost you £6.60 in 2017, or a little over $8 US dollars. Instead, consider buying day passes or a week pass at the beginning of your trip to save a few pounds and free yourself up to move about the city as you please. A London Underground Travelcard will allow you unlimited trips on the Underground as well as other forms of public transit like the Overground and city buses. If you’re only in town for a couple of days, you might want to purchase a new day pass for £12.30 each day.
But if you’re staying for more than a day or two, a week pass is definitely worth it. At £33, you’ll only need to take five trips to make it worth the money you’ve spent.
Daily public transit cost: Less than $6 USD a day for a week pass used over seven days, otherwise $15 for a day pass or around $8 per single ride on the Tube
Eat Adventurously to Spare Your Wallet
Restaurant bills can start racking up out of nowhere in a city like London, where a modest sit-down meal can cost as much as a week of groceries at home.
Let the map of London’s street food be your blueprint for the day, and treat yourself to a steady stream of perfect on-the-go snacks for a few pounds here and there. Indulge in a reasonably-priced full English breakfast to start your day, and try to save up your budget and appetite for dinner, whether it’s a humble plate of fish ‘n chips or a delicious deal at the best cheap eats in the city.
Daily food cost: from $10-15 a day for a diet of mostly street food and hostel kitchen cuisine, to $30-40 or more depending on how frequently and where you dine out
Grab a £1 Cup of Coffee and Get Some Work Done in Pret a Manger
Hitting the pub or going out for a bite can be a hard hit to the pocketbook, but that doesn’t mean budget travelers need to say cooped up in hostels and Airbnbs the whole time.
Pret a Manger is a classic UK coffee chain you’ll find on every other street corner across London, and they’re also one of the few that offer a super affordable cuppa joe – at just £1. Order a cup or two and treat yourself to a pastry.
Daily café budget: from $1 for a quick cup to $8-10 for a pastry or a small meal along with it
Visit World-Class Museums, Libraries, and Cultural Institutions for Free
Many of London’s most famous sights also belong to the impressive list of free things to do in the city. You can pass your days at the British Library, or taking free walking tours around historic sites like Westminster, one of the world’s most gorgeous castles. In London, nearly all cultural institutions are open and free to the public, earning London its spot on the list of the most affordable destinations.
Daily attractions budget: $0
World-renowned nightlife and dining are one good reason to visit London, but another one is spending a few days or a week enveloped in the vibes of a truly global city. To top off your British holiday, take a day trip to a cheaper and less crowded corner of the Kingdom like Cornwall. The combination of a vibrant world city and stunning seaside beaches just hours away will surely have you planning to move overseas before you’ve even make it back home.