London on a Student Budget

Budget Travel, England, Europe, Studying Abroad — By on April 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm

By Katie Marpe
Special to The Lost Girls

London on a Student BudgetA visit to London can benefit a college student in many ways: the city has a rich history, a great music scene, friendly people, and there is always a pub within stumbling distance. However, there is one thing London definitely will not benefit: a student’s bank account.

Like any big city, the major tourist attractions can be costly, so you have to spend your precious pence wisely. Before you land at good ol’ Heathrow, there are a few things you need to know.

Getting Around on the Cheap

London is a sprawling city, therefore you are going to want to ride the tube to get from Trafalgar Square to St. Paul’s Cathedral. (The tube is the subway in London, but you knew that). So the first thing you need to do is buy an Oyster card– it costs £5 to buy the card, which is returned at the end of your trip when you return the card. This card works on both the tube AND the iconic double-decker red busses and reduces the fares from £4 per ride (if paying cash), to £2 per ride (if using Oyster!). Conveniently, the card’s daily price limit capped so that you never pay more than the cost of an unlimited daily travel card (£8.40). Best thing is, when you are riding the tube you’ll look like a local swiping your Oyster card!

Attractions on an Allowance

London on a Student BudgetBut you didn’t come to London to ride the tube; you came to see the sights! However, they don’t come cheap: riding the London Eye is £19 and a visit inside Westminster Abbey is £16. If you are dead set on seeing these things, save up. But there are plenty of other things to see in London that are affordable, so take your tourist photos and hop back on that tube.

Here are a few places you can go that are within a student’s price range:

• Museums: All the museums in London are free. Definitely find your way to the The British Museum or the Natural History Museum; both are huge and full of interesting and unique exhibits. A good recommendation for college students (and my personal favorite) is the Tate Modern. Full of famous artists like Warhol and Lichtenstein, Monet and Picasso, the Tate Modern is free, fun, and vibrant. Even the gift shop provides hours of entertainment. Make sure to catch a guided tour where the experts will show you the history and meaning behind famous paintings. And guess what? That’s free too!

• Camden Markets: This neighborhood in North London is not only home to the city’s coolest clubs and bars, it also has hidden markets full of cute clothes, homemade jewellery, and cheap eats. Grab a latte from one of the many trendy cafés and walk through the Stables Market.

• Portobello Road: On Saturday mornings head to Portobello Road. Street vendors will be out selling everything from used books and records to vintage knick-knacks. This is a popular spot for both Londoners and tourists (keep your friends at arm’s length or they might be swept into the sea of shoppers), so this might be a good way to meet some locals!

• Parks: Parks are free (duh)! Grab a sandwich and tea from Pret A Manger on Oxford Street and sit in Hyde Park for a picnic. Or take a stroll through Holland Park, a lesser-known (but just as beautiful) park just west of Kensington Gardens.

• Abbey Road: Come on, you are college students. You love The Beatles. And running across the street into traffic just to get that picture to hang next to your Abbey Road vinyl? Totally free and totally worth it. And don’t worry, it’s a zebra crossing. Legally, drivers must to stop their cars for you.

Frugal Food

London on a Student BudgetOf course, no trip to London is complete without a good meal. Fish and chips are one of the cheapest things you can get to eat in England, plus, it’s a cultural experience. For the most authentic scene, try to find the hole-in-the-wall fish and chips place; not only will it be the cheapest, it will be the best tasting and you’ll meet the best people (once a worker at a small fish and chips place asked me if I knew Arnold Schwarzenegger because I am from California – of course, I pretended I did). If you get tired of fish and chips (first visit a doctor because there is probably something wrong with you), head over to Brick Lane to get some Indian food. The street is lined with Indian places featuring great deals. And while you’re there, go window shopping at the vintage clothing stores and Rough Trade, London’s famous record shop.

If you thought London was just about riding the big Ferris wheel and shopping at Harrods, you are wrong, my friends! Don’t skip one of the world’s greatest cities just to protect your budget. London is perfect for students and twenty-somethings… if you know where to go.

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