Visiting London for the first time? It’s no secret that London is an expensive city. Some travelers think a visit to London is out of their price range. However, a trip to the city can be successful even on a tight budget.
While London is known to be one of the world’s most expensive cities for tourists, there are plenty of ways to have a fun trip without breaking the bank.
Important Notice – London is now welcoming visitors! Attractions are starting to open. The London Pass is valid for 24 months from the date of purchase.
Where is the best neighborhood to stay in London?
When visiting London for the first time, I recommend staying in one of the following neighborhoods. This will provide a great base to see all of London’s main attractinons.
- Covent Garden (most popular neighborhood in London)
- Soho (great for nightlife, arts & culture)
- South Kensington (best for families, museum lovers and history buffs)
- Mayfair (best for luxury and romance)
- Camden (best for those on a budget)
- South Bank (across from the Thames and great for tourists)
One of my favorite ways to save money on accommodations is to check for deals on sites like Booking.com.
There’s no shortage of fun things to do in London on a budget, including exploring its museums, attractions, and going on self-guided walks. But before you open your wallet, there are several things that you should know which can help get the most bang for your buck.
If you’re visiting London for the first time, here are 10 common tourist mistakes to avoid making.
- 5-Day London Itinerary For First-Time Visitors
- The London Pass review: Is it worth it?
- 10 reasons to visit London in the winter
1. Riding public transit without an Oyster Card
Riding the tube without an Oyster Card can get expensive. It can cost twice the price for someone traveling without an Oyster card when taking the exact same journey.
An Oyster card allows travelers to ride for cheaper than those buying individual tickets.
If you want to visit Lond on a budget, then you’ll want to consider getting an Oyster Card. Many tourist don’t realize this and make the mistake of not getting an Oyster Card.
You can pick up an Oyster card at the airport or any tube station when arriving in London. This is a great option if you plan on using the metro a lot.
Using the London Pass?
2. Sightseeing without using the London Pass
Visiting London for the first time can be stressful. London is a big city and there’s lots of fun things to do and see. It can be challenging to plan an itinerary and determine which attractions to spend your money on, especially when you want to visit London on a budget.
They’re also recommended by Expedia and The London Pass currently has a TrustScore rating of 4.4/5 on Trust Pilot, which makes it one of the highest rated sightseeing passes. Over 3 million travelers have used the pass and it’s the only all-inclusive pass rated 4+ on Google.
With the London Pass, you can save time, money, and enjoy stress-free sightseeing. But don’t just take my word for it. Check out these TripAdvisor reviews.
PRO TIP: Buy the pass online to save extra money off the retail price. To buy the London Pass, click here to go to the official website.
Here’s what’s included in the London Pass:
✓ Pick from over 80 London attractions
✓ Valid for up to 10 days
✓ Save up to £430 when you visit 3 attractions per day compared to purchasing individual tickets
✓ Mobile pass option
The London Pass is a pre-paid sightseeing card which gives you FREE fast-track entry to the city’s top tourist attractions, including the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and a Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour.
Standard Entry Price
FREE with the London Pass
Standard Entry Price
FREE with the London Pass
Standard Entry Price
FREE with the London Pass
Plus, you can use the London Pass to get free entry to 80+ other attractions, museums and tours in the city, including an optional Oyster travelcard to cover all your transportation needs. I rode the London tube everyday during my trip. It was easy to use and the best way to get to each attraction.
Is the London Pass worth it? Check out my honest review of the London Pass here.
How to get your London Pass:
Step 1: Choose which pass duration you want to buy (1, 2, 3, 6, or 10 day). You can click here to purchase your London Pass from their official website. When you buy the pass online, you can take advantage of online discounts.
Step 2: Download your mobile pass instantly using the London Pass App. If you prefer a physical pass, simply opt for delivery (they deliver worldwide) or collect on arrival in London.
Step 3: You now have FREE access to any of the 80+ top London attractions included for the duration of your pass. You can activate your pass anytime within 12 months from the date of purchase.
Step 4: Download the free guide book, which is included with your purchase. Use this book to help you easily plan your itinerary.
PRO TIP: I used the 3 Day London Pass for my trip. It worked well with this 5-day London itinerary. Using the London Pass was great because it let me visit more attractions than I would have otherwise.
3. Not visiting attractions that are close together
To make the most of your London vacation, try to plan your daily itinerary by visiting attractions that are close together.
This will save you A LOT of time and stress of trying to jump to the next attraction. I recommend planning to visit 2-3 attractions per day that are close to eachother.
For my trip, we just focused on one main neighborhood per day. This helped us maximize our sightseeing time. Below are some suggestions to get started:
- Westminster – Wesminster Abbey, Big Ben, London Eye, 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.
- Kensington – The Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, The Science Museum.
- Hyde Park – Kensington Palace, Prince Albert Memorial and the Princess Diana Memorial.
- Trafalgar Square – The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden.
- The Thames – London Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Modern, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Tower of London.
4. Booking a hotel outside of the city center
When visiting London on a budget, I know that it’s tempting to save money by booking accommodations outside of the city center. But this is a common tourist mistake. Commuting into the city every day can get very expensive. Plus, it wastes precious sight-seeing time.
London is a big city with lots to see and do, which makes it worth your while to pay a little more to stay in the city.
Because hotels can be pricey in London, I recommend looking for affordable accommodations on Booking.com. This is my go-to site for finding cheap hotels rates.
When you stay in a central location, you’ll be able to walk or take a short bus ride to all 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 the city.
5. Riding the tube for every trip
Yes, using an Oyster card is a smart way to save money when riding the tube. However, the tube isn’t the only way to get around London.
Even though the city is large, it’s easy to get to most central attractions on foot. London is a very walkable city, just make sure to wear comfortable shoes!
One of the best ways to get to know a new city is on foot. If walking is not convenient for you, consider riding one of London’s buses, which are much cheaper than taking the tube.
Using the London Pass?
6. Not taking advantage of the cheap eats at local supermarkets
It’s no secret dining out in London can be expensive. This is why I love grabbing food at local supermarkets. This is an easy way to save money when visiting London 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 on-the-go. Have a picnic in the park or enjoy your meal in the comfort of your hotel or Airbnb flat.
7. Tipping too much
Before visiting any new country, it’s always a good idea to do some research on 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, take-away 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 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’s customary to leave a 10-15% tip. For cleaning staff and hotel porters, leaving a tip is at your own discretion, but always appreciated.
8. Not researching restaurants ahead of time
London restaurants can be quite expensive, so it’s worth your while to do some research before arriving. I like using review websites such as Trip Advisor or Yelp to find the top-rated restaurants in my price range.
This can help prevent you from eating at overpriced tourist restaurants, which serve mediocre food at best.
To help you save even more money, I recommend choosing one meal per day as a sit-down meal.
For example, you can grab a quick breakfast at a cafe, enjoy a sit-down meal at a restaurant for lunch, and grab an inexpensive meal for dinner. Or you can have an inexpensive lunch and splurge on a nice dinner.
9. Not buying a return ticket for the Airport Express train
There are a few ways to travel from the airport into London. The quickest option is to take the airport express train.
This can help maximize your vacation time. If you want to visit London on a budget, remember that it’s cheaper to buy a return ticket than paying for two separate trips.
- It’s less busy than Heathrow airport
- It’s usually cheaper to fly into Gatwick
You can purchase your Express Train tickets at the airport when you arrive. Make sure to purchase a return ticket at the same time because this saves you money.
PRO TIP: If you’re purchasing a roundtrip Gatwick Express ticket, you may qualify for Days Out Guide 2FOR1 offers. This can help you save money at London’s popular attractions.
10. 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. This can help cut down on vacation costs when you’re visiting London on a budget.
Below are some popular free things to do in London:
- National Gallery
- National Portrait Gallery
- British Museum
- Tate Modern
- Natural History Museum
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Science Museum
Do you only want to visit a few paid London attractions?
Read Next: 8 spots to find the best view of London
11. Trying to see everything in London
There’s so much to see and do in London, it’s impossible to do everything 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 your essential attractions. This can help you get better value and gain a deeper appreciation for these attractions.
If you’re looking to save the most money when sightseeing, I recommend to using the London Pass or the GO City London Explorer Pass. It’s silly to pay full-price at London’s popular attractions when you can save money with these tourism passes. This can be a great way to visit London on a budget without sacrificing fun.
Prep for your trip to London:
London on a Budget FAQs
How much money do you need per day in London?
The average daily cost (per person) is £145 ($203 USD). This is based on what past travellers have spent when visiting London.
Meals cost an average of £29 ($40 USD) per person, per day.
Transportation costs an average of £20 ($29 USD) per day. However, you can save money on transportation if planning to use the London Pass + Oyster Card. For example, the 3-day London Pass Oyster Card is £30, which is around £10 per day. for transportation.
The average hotel price per couple in London is £182 ($254 USD) per night.
How much should I budget for a trip to London?
|Average Daily Cost|
A one-week trip to London for ONE person is around £1,017. For two people, the cost is around £2,034.
How can I eat cheap in London?
London restaurants can be expensive, but there are a few ways to eat cheap on your trip.
- Eat food from around the world. London has many ethnic restaurants that offer affordable meals, such as Indian, Chinese, Korean, and so on.
- Try street food. There are many food stalls and markets in London that sell affordable meals.
- Grab food from the supermarket. You can buy sandwiches and pre-made meals from the local supermarket for cheap.
- Make breakfast your biggest meal of the day. A traditional English breakfast is filling and cheap compared to lunch and dinner prices.
- Make lunch your main meal of the day. If you’re not a big breakfast person, consider checking out the lunch special offered at local restaurants. This is usually cheaper than their dinner menu.
When is the cheapest time to visit London?
The cheapest time to visit London is during the off-season. This is in the fall (November to mid-December) and winter (January to March).
The fall is my favorite time to visit London because you can enjoy the mild weather and holiday festivities before the Christmas rush.
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