A Weekend in London on a Budget

Posted on 13. Jun, 2012 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, United Kingdom

As a city filled with some of the most exorbitant properties of the world, just like Paris, it doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

London is, normally, a very expensive city to live and travel in.

But there is hope for you, my frugal friends, and those who do not care to throw money out their pockets. With a bit of research and effort, it’s entirely possible to plan a getaway to London on a budget, leaving you with extra moneys for nights at the pub (or for your savings account, but we all know that’s not going to happen).

Also, considering that most low-cost companies of Europe have their hub in one of the capital’s 5 official airports, London is one of the cheapest destinations to fly in and out of, regardless of where you’re leaving from. Another good reason to pay a visit to the Queen!

1.  Accommodation: £80 per night

That’s going to be the biggest chunk of your budget, obviously. With very little space left for new properties, the existing ones keep getting more and more expensive. But do not fret - there is hope! A new wave of not-quite-4-star-but-far-from-hostels type of accommodation has recently surfaced in the capital, ideal for the traveler who wishes to mix comfort and budget.

There are two options to choose from: hotels, or holiday apartment rentals.

I’ve had experiences with both, and I’m tempted to incline towards the rentals. Having a small kitchen can come in very handy for saving money on breakfasts, snacks and lunches. And well, feeling like a Londoner just doesn’t have a price tag!

2.   Eating and drinking: £30 per day per person

What I usually do when I check in the apartment, is go to the closest grocery store and stock up on fruit, granola bars and breakfast items. That alone saves me dozens of pounds!

If I wasn’t so lazy, I would even buy a couple of things to make sandwiches for lunch and save even more. But with so many cheap yet deliciously filling eateries like Pret-a-Manger and EAT, I’d rather indulge on a good old Scottish salmon sandwich and tasty handmade cakes. A three-item lunch at Pret will cost you around £7.

Dinner-wise, London is filled with so many restaurants it’s hard to pinpoint a specific price. But for the traveler in search of taste and quality without the three digit bill, there are several options at around £20 per person. You can opt for either chains (Strada, Pizza Express, Masala Zone) or independent houses (Italian Goodfare in Camden, Fifteen by Jamie Oliver or Wahaca in Covent Garden).

Pubs tend to be a little cheaper. Most dishes will go at around £10 each, and drinks around £4, depending on the area you’re in.

3.   Transportation: maximum £7 per day per person

Keyword: Oyster Card pay-as-you-go.

I tend to prefer that option to buying daily Travelcards because most of the time, I end up walking more than I planned to, and don’t use my Travelcard to its fullest.

Whereas the pay-as-you-go option allows you to load the amount of money you want on the Oyster Card, and only pay when you actually use it - and if you do end up using public transit quite often (perhaps because of the legendary London weather), the daily price cap will not cost you more than the actual price of a Travelcard, which is £7.

4.   Activities and sightseeing: £0

They say that the best things in life are free, and that also applies to London.

I much prefer chilling out and people watch around a landmark than pay the often-very-hefty fee to enter. Big Ben is free to enjoy, as is Tower Bridge, and the funky stores of Camden. London is also blessed with very high quality and yet completely free of charge museums, for the happiness of your wallet. And I think you’ll have your hands more than full with all these free things to see and do on a two-day getaway!


There is no doubt in my mind that despite the many high-end options, it’s entirely to plan a getaway to London on a budget, or at least, with reasonable expenses. Not that I wouldn’t love me a good night’s sleep in the fluffy beds of the Ritz…

Did you ever try to plan a holiday to London on a budget? What are your tips to use your money as wisely as possible?


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18 Responses to “A Weekend in London on a Budget”

  1. Kurt

    14. Jun, 2012

    London on a budget is a hard thing to do. I know when I was there I found the best way to save is to buy the metro pass. You save significant pounds! I think it can work for both bus, tram and subway.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      21. Jun, 2012

      It does work for both the tube and the buses - but there is no such thing as a tram in London ;)

      Reply to this comment
  2. Abby

    17. Jun, 2012

    London seemed so expensive many years ago as a backpacker, but as an adult, this seems very reasonable.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      21. Jun, 2012

      If you do a bit of research it’s entirely possible to do London on a budget.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Larissa

    19. Jun, 2012

    We’re in London right now-I agree with the rental idea. We’re renting a nice flat on the outskirts and paying about 55 pounds/night. (Of course, we do have higher transit charges).

    When renting, consider eating in for dinner. Marks & Spencer’s food halls have fantastic ready to cook meals (fresh, not frozen) that are 10 pounds for 2 people! Includes main course, 2 side dish and dessert, plus a bottle of wine-this is a great deal!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Steve

    21. Jun, 2012

    As an ex-Londoner, I tend to use the Premier Inn chain when I go back - if booked in advance they’re available for as little as £29/night for a fully featured hotel, often in decent locations. just skip the overpriced food.

    For cheap food look for the curry houses on Brick Lane, or the student areas around Tottenham Court Road and below Leicester Square.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      21. Jun, 2012

      I love Premier Inn! I used to be a fan of Travelodge but they started getting really fussy about all the extras, and now I do love Premier Inn for overall experience.

      Reply to this comment
  5. I went to London a few years ago and did a pretty good job with my budget. Now that I am a little more internet/ social media savvy, I think I could find even better deals like you describe on hotels, restaurants, and pubs.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      21. Jun, 2012

      It’s to easy to do London on a budget now with Groupon and cheap accommodation, etc.

      Reply to this comment
  6. I love London. People think it i so expensive, but actually it is very easy to travel on a budget there. I find Australia to be much more expensive than England

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      27. Jun, 2012

      Can’t say I’ve experienced Australia’s price first-hand. London is less expensive than it used to be, I think.

      Reply to this comment
  7. Great advice! London was one of the most expensive places I traveled post-college. A girlfriend and I shared a room with 1 queen size bed and a shower. The room was so small that one of us had to jump on the bed to make room for the other person to get to the shower.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Donna Hull

    24. Sep, 2012

    Great tips for visiting London. This makes a visit by the budget traveler much more doable.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      04. Oct, 2012

      London really isn’t that expensive if one takes enough time to plan!

      Reply to this comment
  9. Sofie

    02. Nov, 2012

    Not really related but because of the fish&chips picture: I really want to get some on my next trip!

    Reply to this comment
  10. Jonny Rowntree

    30. Apr, 2013

    Great Oyster card tip Marie. I travel in London on the tubes a lot when I’m there and always find myself pushing into the travel card spending limit.

    Shall share this since I’m off to London in a few months time for a birthday weekend away.

    Reply to this comment

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