London is known for being one of the most expensive cities in the world and that’s no exaggeration. Upon telling people that I was planning to study abroad in London, their immediate reaction was most often, “Good luck with that — it’s so expensive.” Thanks for the great advice everyone. Even though you spend way more in London than you would at home (most of that has to do with the pound’s strength over the dollar), there are simple ways to see this great city without going broke.
- Take advantage of restaurant deals and happy hours
While there are a lot of pricey places to eat in London, there are also tons of restaurants that have deals throughout the week. Pubs will usually have a different deal every day, whether it’s getting a free drink with your food or even half off food. Gourmet Burger Kitchen is also a perfect place to eat on a budget, they have a 25 percent off discount for students and tons of rewards you can earn (like a free side or free burger) if you download their app.
- Walk when the weather is nice or take the bus
London public transportation is great and very easy to use (and this is coming from someone who cannot navigate the NYC subway system at all), but using the tube all the time can start to add up. Within central London, everything is pretty close together, which makes it the perfect city to walk. Not only does it let you see a close-up view of the city, but it’s also free. If it’s raining, as it does in London, try to take the bus when possible since it is much less expensive than taking the tube.
- Go to the markets
Spending an afternoon at one of London’s many markets is the perfect way to see the city without having to spend too much. All of the markets are free entry and the food stands are usually much less expensive than going out to a restaurant, plus where else can you get falafel and fried Oreos at the same place?
- Visit museums
Museums are another free way to spend part of your day. They’re also a great option for rainy days when you’ll want to stay inside. London is one of the very few places where every museum (for the most part) is completely free. This way you can check out a gallery or two and then leave without feeling like you wasted your money.
- Don’t use ATMs unless you really have to
Because of conversions, ATMs tend to have tons of sneaky added costs. Also, the exchange rate at ATMs is almost never accurate to the actual exchange rate, meaning that you get less money than you’re paying for. When abroad, it makes sense to use a credit card (that doesn’t charge you extra fees for conversions) rather than taking out cash.
- Call ahead to bars and clubs to be put on the guest list
Most clubs and bars in London start charging a cover after 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. on the weekend. Avoid blowing £5-£10 on entry and either get there early or call ahead to see if you can be put on the guest list (which usually guarantees free entry until at least 1 a.m.).
Hopefully these tips will help you make the most out of this incredible city without going completely broke.