November 8, 2015

Best money-saving tips for London

I have just returned from an epic two weeks in London! The city is still as magical and crazy busy as ever. But I also noticed how expensive it is!

Here are six tips I learned to do and NOT to do, to visit London without breaking your credit card.

1  For affordable accommodation, check out FG Properties. This is a managed apartment property company, much like Air BnB except you don’t deal with the owners, but with these guys. We got a two-bedroom, 3rd floor apartment at Earl’s Court, about 100m from the Tube, for £99 per night. Most are around this price. It had a washing machine too – which was another money saver.

FG Properties

Our Earl’s Court apartment – just like a local!

2  Laundry can be a pain! Whatever you do DON’T send your clothes out to be cleaned via your hotel. You can expect to pay about £3 for each pair of undies if you do! Instead ask the concierge for directions to the nearest laundrette and have them do it. We had two bags of laundry washed, dried and folded for £13 and picked it up at the end of the day.

3  Eating in pubs is not as cheap as it used to be (expect to pay £10-15 for one piece of fish and chips, or a beef and ale pie). We found the Marks and Spencers food hall and even Whole Foods to be better value for easy meals to eat at home. Afterall, one can only bear so many deep fried dinners! I have a penchant for dips and breads, so sometimes after a day that had involved a pub lunch, I’d hook into the deliciously fishy taramasalata and a baguette with a glass of wine. We also loved the sandwich stores Pret a Manger (which are everywhere) which does things like rocket and crayfish (all made on the premises) for about £4.95 or a tuna mayo for £3.95. (By the way, I worked for half a day Pret for a story many years ago, here’s my tale of drama and disaster…)

Pret a manger London

A healthy and affordable London lunch

4  If you fancy seeing a movie and don’t want to spend £20 each on a ticket up in the circle, DON’T go to the Odeon in Leicester Square! We watched 007’s Spectre there, and admittedly it is an iconic cinema which had just hosted the premiere, but the screen is tiny if you’re up the back. Friends watched it in Marble Arch for half that price. However we did come out and stumble upon this scene…

Brad Cooper in London

Bradley Cooper at the premiere of his new film!

5  Getting around: use your paywave credit card instead of pre-loading an Oyster card. They work exactly the same way, except (so the bus ticket inspector told me) at the end of the month if it calculates that you have done more buses than tubes, and vice versa, and spent more in single fares than a monthly pass would have cost, it’ll automatically switch your billing to the cheaper pass price. Besides, it’s more convenient than an Oyster card. (Note: my husband had difficulty with his Visa being accepted only intermittently. My Mastercard worked fine for two weeks).

Another tip for using public transport cheaper is to travel after 9.30am to avoid the rush hour fare.

6  If you want to go sightseeing, the Hop On Hop Off buses are great for a commentary as you go. But you could also just fill in a day by hopping on a bus that’ll take you to the area you fancy exploring (we took the Number 11 from Victoria to St Paul’s) and head off for £1.50. Bear in mind that if you change buses, you’ll pay another £1.50. But on this occasion we sat upstairs and had a great view of the poppy day goings on at Westminster Abbey, the protesters outside Downing Street and just generally people watching. We hopped off at St Paul’s, then walked across Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern and took a tour of the Globe Theatre next door with the money we had saved.

Tour London

While away a few hours on a bus like a commuter

If you have any other tips and travel hacks for seeing (or tasting) London on the cheap, let me know in the comments below!

Click here for 25 of the best things to do in London by blogger Jan Meeuwesen, aka The Crazy Tourist >>>


I flew to London courtesy of Emirates Airlines and flew business and economy classes. Here is my Business Class review, and I can thoroughly recommend Emirates economy class for the most comfort I’ve had in the back of the plane on such a long flight!


Jump here to see Emirates latest fares and deals >>

About Megan Singleton


Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio every week and a few newspapers and mags from time to time. I set off on this travel writing journey 18 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!)I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

"Best money-saving tips for London" - What do you think?

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  1. Elizabeth Beggs on

    Hi Megan,
    I have a question not really a tip. We have 4 days in London in a month and are reviewing the pros and cons of pauwave versus Oyster card. If you use paywave do you get charged a transaction cost because of the currency exchange each time you use it.

    Best regards

    • Megan on

      Hi Elizabeth, that is a really good question! I used Paywave but of course my credit card is a NZ card and no doubt there were exchange rate differences. I didn’t notice any fees, but then I didn’t pay much attention as we were only there for a couple of weeks and not using the Tube every day. I found it much more convenient not having to load up an Oyster Card which I may or may not have used up. They also say that if your travels in a month come to more than a monthly Oyster by using Paywave, they will amend the rate down. Again, this didn’t apply to me so I didn’t notice anything on my credit card bill. I wonder if they just put one transaction charge through a month then rather than per ride if this is the promise they make…. Perhaps a UK travel agent specialist would be able to advise better.

  2. Sandy on

    just returned from 3 weeks in London. A must see is The Natural History musuem – it’s free and fantastic. You could easily spend a day there. Also The science museum and the London museum at docklands. All free and worth a visit. For £5 climb the 311 stairs to the top of the monument to the London fire. Great views of the city and you get a certificate. Not for the faint hearted though. Stairs narrow and in a spiral formation.

  3. Nigel Glew on

    Hi Megan. Great to share the beach with you at Hoi An yesterday.
    Like your blog as well. Read your article about the London buses. There are 3 routes that follow the same routes as the open tops but I can’t remember the numbers now, I did them in April.

    Take care and enjoy your travels.

    Nigel and Julie


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