LONDON TRAVEL GUIDE
London is our home but is also one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. We share everything you need to know in this London Travel Guide.
One of the world’s largest and busiest cities, London is a great stop for those touring Europe, especially if you are visiting London as a family. Immerse yourself in the pubs, theatres, museums, and history of Great Britain and enjoy the great food spots. It is a royally expensive city that will eat into your budget if you’re not careful, but don’t worry, check out the top free things to do in London for budget travelers.
There is so much to see and do in London that will keep you busy for weeks, with something available for everyone. On par with NYC’s Broadway, it is worth taking in one of the many West End shows, with cheap tickets available on the day either at the individual theatre at 10 am or from Leicester Square’s ticket offices.
There are some great family-friendly experiences with the various Merlin Entertainment attractions across London; such as the London Eye, London Dungeons and Madame Tussaud. Literacy lovers should head to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, with performances available throughout the spring and summer months; though remember England is notorious for rain. Or Glimpse into history at the Natural History Museum or impressive British Museum.
Budget: Dorm beds in the quieter areas of London start around £7 whilst hostels in central London costs between £20 – £60, with private rooms starting at around £80.
Midrange: Private rooms with shared bathrooms can be found for around £60 whilst private ensuite rooms cost between £40 – £100 depending on location. The Travelodge chain offers a variety of nice, clean and simple decorated rooms all over London and the UK.
Luxury: There are plenty of luxury hotels in London with 4-star hotels starting at around £120, just make sure to shop around and compare prices to find out where to stay in London and what suits your needs and budget.
Transport: Hiring a bike from Barclays Cycle hire Scheme costs £2 for 24 hours, Oysters charge a £5 deposit with individual trips costing £2.30 per trip with this cost rising if going across different zones. However, the Oyster is capped so once you reach £6.40 across Zone 1-2 they will not charge you anymore that day. Non-oyster users expect to pay upwards of £4.80 for a single trip.
The average cost of food:
London offers so much variety when it comes to food, you will be spoilt for choice.
Cafes and pubs offer lunches at £5 – £15, whilst sit-down restaurants will set you back between £30 – £80 for two, with some top-end restaurants costing upwards of £100+.
There are some great food markets serving food between £3 – £10, with fish and chips costing around $7.
Get yourself a free 30-day trial for the Taste of the UK card to get up to 50% off meals as well as 2-for-1 offers in many London restaurants.
Best time to visit London
The UK has temperamental weather; it rains far too often and London is not fun when you get caught outside during a rain storm.
April to June is the best time to visit London; the weather is getting warmer and there is less chance of rain. September and October are also good times to visit, however, we recommend you take a light jacket; especially in the evenings.
July and August can be wonderfully warm but London is incredibly busy and hotels can be double the price.
Personally, I love visiting London at the beginning of December, when the city sparkles in Christmas lights and you can find Christmas markets all over – but again expect the crowds and warm up warm.
Remember to check school holidays and bank holidays before booking your trip too.
Where to stay in London
The St Christopher Oasis is ideally located in Southwark, Central London with dorm beds starting at £16.90, but this place is for females only.
The Award-winning Astor Hyde Park is a great hostel, located in South Kensington, close to Hyde park and some great museums. Dorm beds start at £20 whilst private ensuite rooms are £80.
Malmaison London can be found in Islington, just a short 5-minute walk from Barbican and Farringdon tube stations. Rooms start at £40, offering stylish and spacious rooms with WiFi.
The Generator Hostel London is a bright and funky hostel, with rooms starting at £58 with a shared bathroom or £94 for ensuite rooms.
The Montana Hotel is a great choice for those wanting to explore the museums of London. Located in Kensington, this is a 3-star hotel and just a 3-minute walk from Gloucester Road London Underground, rooms start at £71.
A favorite of mine is The Z Hotel Piccadilly, in the heart of London’s West End. Rooms our stylish and comfortable in the perfect location.
Apartment rentals in London
When you’re in London, you don’t have to restrict yourself to hotels and hostels. You can also choose to stay in conveniently furnished apartments. It’s especially worthwhile if you’re on a budget and can’t afford to eat out at restaurants throughout your trip. Almost all rentals come with kitchen facilities. Apartments in London can be pricey but if you plan early enough, you’ll be able to lock down a good deal in a good neighbourhood.
Save money in London
The UK is an expensive destination to visit in Europe but there are many ways you can save money in London.
- Stay in chains – Chain hotels such as Travelodge or Premier Inn can be in many neighbourhoods, with rooms costing as little as £60 when booking in advance. Hostels can be found for around £20 and can even include breakfast.
- Use the underground – Tube fare costs £2.30 and is the easiest way to get around. Download an underground map to help you navigate yourself around the city and find a hotel within walking distance to an underground station.
- Avoid the scams – avoid using the rickshaws and black cabs around the city; they are expensive and the city is full of traffic. Plus, many drivers will overcharge you.
- Cheap food – Head to a takeaway shop or street vendor for lunches from £5 whilst dinners will cost upwards of £10. Budget chain restaurants you should consider are Nandos, Pizza Express, Wagamamas and the Gourmet Burger Kitchen.
- Walk – Plan your days out and try to walk around London as much as possible. There are many attractions near one another, so do your research and check popular walking itineraries.
- Free walking tours – Take a free walking tour in the city. Search for the schedules on Free Tours by Foot or Strawberry Tours.
- Free attractions – There are many free attractions in the city for you to enjoy. Most museums are free all year round as are landmarks.
- Book tickets in advance – When heading to the paid attractions, book your tickets in advance to save money. Also, check Groupon for discounted prices and restaurant deals.
- Pub food – Typically speaking, eating food in a pub is a lot cheaper than a normal restaurant. Wetherspoons is a great choice for those on a tight budget, with meal and drink deals starting at £6.
Best things to do in London
- London Eye
- Tower of London
- Buckingham Palace
- V&A Museum
- London Borough Market
- Hyde Park
- Oxford Street
- The British Museum
- Natural History of Museum
- Tate Modern
- The Globe Theatre
- The West End
- Covent Garden
- Afternoon Tea
How to get to London
Fly – Many arrive in London by air, with most arriving at London Heathrow; the cities biggest airport and 10 miles west of Central London. From here you can catch the Underground (Piccadilly line) taking you to Central London where you can change lines for your hotel. One-Way undergrounds to and from Heathrow cost £5. You may also wish to catch a Black cab which will cost £45 – £65 and take around 45 minutes, or some opt for the national express coach to Victoria coach station in Central London, costing £5 one way.
Some may fly into Gatwick Airport, located 30 miles South of London. From here you can catch the Gatwick Express train (£17.70 one way) to London Victoria, getting you there in just 30 minutes, though I would getting a normal train to London Victoria, which may take 40-50 minutes but can be much cheaper (£11). Trains to London Bridge and King’s Cross are also available from Gatwick.
Bus – Megabus and National Express offer coach journeys from popular tourist cities across Europe to London but these can be long.
Train – Eurostar is a popular choice for those traveling from France, Netherlands or Belgium but it is best to book tickets in advance and avoid weekends if you want a good deal.
How to get around London
The Oyster Card is the cheapest and most efficient way to get around London via the underground and buses. You can purchase an Oyster Card from most underground and train stations, topping up the card and using this to get around London.
The Underground is extensive and takes tourists to the popular attractions across the city.
Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme allows you to pick up a bike from one of the many docking stations around London and drop it off at another docking station within 30 minutes, or for longer at an additional charge.
There are various companies offering boats across the Thames, but the Thames Clippers offers commuter services and is fast and pleasant. The route includes the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, Borough Market, The London Eye, Tower Bridge and the O2 arena.
Red double-decker buses are popular choices for tourists but remember these can be slow at any time during the day yet do offer some great views.
Avoid driving around London as you will have to pay a congestion charge as well as incredibly expensive parking fees.
I love walking around London as it is this way you can find some real hidden gems and experience the hustle and bustle of city life.