Savvy Cash Savers in LondonBudget Travel, England, Finances & Savings — By Patty H on April 5, 2010 at 10:00 am
London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. With the killer exchange rate, the US dollar doesn’t hold a candle to the British pound. But don’t let that impact your itinerary because London is a travel-must. So, whether you’re passing through or setting up shop for a while, Lost Girl London expert Julie Falconer has tips to hang on to your cash, and still have a great time.
By Julie Falconer
Frequent travelers to London know the city puts a dent in your wallet faster than you can drink a £18 ($27) martini at that swanky club in Mayfair. But while London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, there are some easy ways to avoid the city’s eye-watering prices.
Choose the Pub over the Club - London clubs are notorious for steep cover charges, with £20 ($30) being standard. They also serve expensive drinks and charge for extra features like coat check. So, get around this cash sink hole by partying at the pubs instead. A beer costs a reasonable £3 ($4.50) and there’s plenty of atmosphere to soak up. Some of the best London pubs include the Windsor Castle in Notting Hill, the Holly Bush in Hampstead, and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in the City.
TopTable for the Top Restaurants - Dining out in London racks up quite a tab. Even hole-in-the wall restaurants in London tend to be quite pricey. Take advantage of the online deals for London restaurants. Websites like Toptable.com offer discounts like 50% off food at top London restaurants, and are a great way to save some cash. Sometimes street promoters in the city’s main dining areas (like Picadilly, Soho, and Covent Garden) walk around with discount flyers at certain restaurants as well.
To the Theatre, Cheaper – London’s West End is a popular place to see shows, but theater tickets can be expensive even for seats with mediocre views. You can easily save a few quid by going to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square on the day of the production for half price theater tickets. The seats aren’t front and center, but they have full views and you’ll enjoy the show that much more for having saved some cash. Caution: before you purchase tix, double check that your seats are in “clear view” of the stage. If you buy cheap seats, they might have “obstructed view” of the stage which means up to 30% of the stage is blocked (for example, they’ll seat you partially behind a pillar).
Stay Out – One of the biggest expenses on any trip to London is accommodation. London hotels can eat up your entire budget before you even arrive. To avoid the high hotel prices, try staying in a hotel outside of central London. At £70 ($105) a night La Gaffe in Hampstead is less expensive than its central London counterparts but is close enough that you can hop on the tube and be there in 15 minutes. As a bonus, you get a more local experience of London. If you’re backpacking through and want to really cheap-it, check out google for London hostels. There are plenty of reasonably priced hostels right in the city center and located by a tube stop. You’ll still pay between £15-20 per night, per bed, but websites like hostelworld.com can snag you the best deal.
Bring Your ID – Your student ID, that is. Like many European cities, London offers great student discounts on attractions, museums, trains, public transport, and even food at restaurants. Keep an eye out for special student rates, and make sure your ID is up-to-date.
Get a Pass to get ahead – Like everything else in London, the top sightseeing attractions are very expensive. The Tower of London rings in at £17 ($25) and Saint Paul’s Cathedral will put you back £12.50 ($19). To save money and move straight to the front of the queues, purchase a London Pass online. The pass gives you access to over 55 of London’s top attractions as well as discounts on transport for £39 for one day. If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing in London, it will pay for itself in a few hours.
Fun for Free - In addition to the expensive attractions, London thankfully has its share of free ones. The daily changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace is a favorite of many visitors to London, and is completely free of charge. The same goes for nearby Hyde Park and St. James’s Park, which are gorgeous in the spring and summer. To find out about free events in London, pick up a copy of Timeout or one of the many free newspapers.
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