It’s no secret that London is an expensive city, which can make some travelers think that it’s out of their price range. However a trip to London can be successful even on a small budget.
There is no shortage of free things to do in London, including free museums, attractions, and self-guided walks. But before you open your wallet, there are several things that you should know which can help save you money. To make your London trip more enjoyable, here are 10 costly mistakes to avoid:
1. Skipping London’s free attractions
While London is known to be an expensive city, it has plenty of free attractions that are worth a visit. Many of London’s most popular museums are free, so whether you prefer to spend the afternoon admiring beautiful art at the National Gallery or hanging out with the Egyptian mummies at the British Museum, there is a never a dull moment at London’s free attractions.
2. Not taking advantage of The London Pass
A smart way to save money on London’s paid attractions and tours is to use The London Pass. If you’re traveling alone or with a group, The London Pass can be a great way to save time and money. This includes free entry to over 70 London attractions, a free Hop on Hop off bus tour, an optional Oyster travelcard and more.
The London Pass is a sightseeing card which gives you entry to a choice of over 70 popular tourist attractions in the city. Once you’ve bought the London Pass, you can visit as many attractions as you want and the more sights you visit, the more money you save. Think of it like an all-inclusive holiday.
With The London Pass, you can get FREE entry to the city’s top attractions, including the:
- Tower of London
- Hop On Hop Off bus tour
- Thames River Cruise
- Westminster Abbey
- Windsor Castle
- and more!
The London Pass can be purchased as either a 1, 2, 3, 6 or 10-day pass. To purchase the pass, click The London Pass. The pass is a good deal for those planning to visit a lot of the city’s attractions included in the pass.
To get the best value, I recommend planning your sightseeing route before you go out for the day and to start your day early. This will allow you to beat the crowds.
If you’re traveling to London by train, another option is to take advantage of London’s 2FOR1 offers. Get 2FOR1 entry to over 150 top London attractions, landmarks, theatre and exhibits, including the Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Simply download a voucher and present it with your roundtrip National rail ticket when you visit the attraction.
3. Staying at a hotel outside of the city center
It may be tempting to save money by booking accommodations outside of the city center, but the extra time and transportation costs can quickly add up.
Staying in a central location not only will save you time, but chances are you’ll be able to walk or take a short bus ride to the main attractions. For London Pass holders, you can take the Hop on Hop off bus tour or use the optional Oystercard to get around town.
London is a big city with lots to see and do, which makes spending a little extra to stay more centrally worth your while. For affordable accommodations in London, I recommend booking through Airbnb. (You can use this Airbnb link to get a coupon code to save on your next stay).
4. Not using an Oyster card
While riding the Tube around London can be expensive, it can sometimes cost twice the price for someone traveling without an Oyster card when taking the exact same journey.
An Oyster card allows travelers to get a cheaper fare for tickets than just by buying them as you go. You can pick up an Oyster card at the airport or any Tube station when arriving in London.
For London Pass holders, you can use the unlimited Oyster Travelcard to get around the city with ease. It comes pre-loaded with a credit/value to match your London Pass duration. This is a great option if you plan on using The London Pass. You can learn more about everything included in The London Pass here.
5. Not eating at supermarkets
It’s no secret that eating out in London can be expensive. However, eating in is a much more affordable option, especially for travelers on a budget.
Local supermarkets offer a variety of pre-made food, such as sandwiches or salads, which are perfect for a quick lunch or snack. Have a picnic in the park or enjoy your meal in the comfort of your hotel room.
My must-have London accessories:
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6. Riding the Tube for every trip
Now that you know you can save money on Tube fare by using an Oyster card, don’t think that riding the Tube is the only way to get around London. While the city is large, it’s easy to get to most central attractions on foot, depending on where your accommodations are located.
Plus, one of the best ways to get to know a new city is on foot. However, if walking is not convenient, consider riding one of London’s buses, which are much cheaper than taking the Tube.
For London Pass holders (or those short on time), I recommend using an unlimited Oyster Travelcard to get the best value and save time sightseeing in the city. When you buy the London Pass, you can use an unlimited Oyster Travelcard to match the duration of your tourism pass.
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7. Tipping too much
Before visiting any new country or city, it’s always best to do a little research on their tip etiquette. While tipping is appreciated, it’s not always appropriate in London. Here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind:
Tipping in London restaurants: When eating out, it’s customary to leave 10-15% of the bill. Sometimes restaurants add on a service charge (usually 12.5%), so I recommend double checking your bill to prevent tipping twice. Tipping is not customary for fast food, takeaway or self-service.
Tipping in bars: Tipping is not common in bars or pubs.
Tipping in taxi drivers: While it is polite to tip 10-15% of the taxi fare, most people simply round up to the nearest pound.
Tipping in London hotels: Many London hotel restaurants include a service charge, usually 10-12%. If a service charge is not included on your restaurant bill, it is customary to leave a 10-15% tip. For cleaning staff and hotel porters, leaving a tip is at your discretion, but always appreciated.
8. Not researching restaurants ahead of time
Since London restaurants can be quite expensive, it’s worth your while to do a little research before you arrive. Use review websites such as Yelp to find the top rated restaurants in your price range. This will help prevent you from eating at tourist restaurants, which are often overpriced and serve mediocre food at best.
Related post: 20 ways to save money when eating out
9. Not buying a return ticket for the Airport Express train
There are a few ways to travel from the airport into London, including taking the airport express train. This is the quickest option to help maximize your vacation time and it’s worth the price, in my opinion.
- It’s often less busy than Heathrow airport
- It’s often cheaper to fly into Gatwick
- The Gatwick express train tickets qualify for the 2FOR1 London discounts (Heathrow express train tickets do not qualify)
You can purchase your Gatwick express train tickets at the airport when you arrive. Make sure to purchase a return ticket at the same time since this saves you several pounds.
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10. Trying to see and do everything in London
There is so much to see and do in London, it’s impossible to do it all in one trip. While it’s tempting to jump from one expensive attraction to the next, you’ll end up losing money by not making the most of your experience.
Plan ahead and devote enough time for the essential attractions. Not only will this help you save money, but you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for these attractions when you take your time and travel slow.
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