Travelling London on a budget is nowhere near as difficult as some people may say. You might be put off by the fancy places, but the city is actually full to the brim with incredible free things to do, cheap places to eat and travel hacks that’ll keep your budget on track.
We recently sent travel blogger Travel Dave around the UK to tour all the St Christopher’s Inns hostel locations and asked him about his top tips for spending an affordable weekend in London. Read on to find out how Dave sticks to a backpacker’s budget while visiting one of the most exciting cities in the world.
1. Stay at St Christopher's at the Village in London Bridge
If you're looking for a budget stay in London with a central location, look no further than this blog’s very own London Bridge hostel, St Christopher's at the Village.
I found the rates reasonable for London and the rooms super clean with comfortable beds. The price may be budget, but the quality is top-notch. It’s perfect for meeting other travellers staying at the hostel wanting to explore London with new people, which is always great fun on your travels. Don't forget many of the added perks that come with your hostel stay, such as complimentary breakfast if you book directly online, discounts at Belushi's bar downstairs, free WiFi for guests and a free daily London walking tour.
Book a stay at in London Bridge
2. Save money on London Transport
There is no need to get an Oyster card if you have a contactless payment card. You can use contactless across the Transport for London services. Prices on contactless are kept at the lowest rate, and it's the most affordable way to get around London.
If you can travel your route by bus, this will only set you back around £1.55 currently, and you can transfer to as many buses as you like within the hour.
You can also use your contactless to travel on the Thames Clippers, a more affordable alternative to tourist sightseeing cruises.
Don't forget Boris bike bicycle hire if you want to get a day rental and make the most out of London's cycling network.
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3. Visit London's free museums, galleries & sites
One of the best budget tips for London has to be that access to most of the city's museums, art galleries and world-famous sites are free. This includes some of the most famous : the British Museum, the National Gallery, Museum of London, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the V&A museum, to name a handful. You could easily spend the whole weekend exploring all the museums and art galleries that London has to offer.
If I had to choose one free museum, my top recommendation would be to visit the Tate Modern, a modern and contemporary art gallery located along the Embankment. The walking from the hostel to the Tate Modern will take in many of London's sights along the Embankment such as Big Ben, London Eye, Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
Some privately owned museums and art galleries or exhibition shows might require a paid-for ticket, and you may see a donation box at the entrance, but generally, the rule is that entrance is free.
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4. Shop around Brick Lane, Spitalfields Market and Camden Market
Shopping in London can soon start to add up, especially if you're heading towards the famous high streets like Oxford Street or Piccadilly Circus.
My budget advice would be to shop around the more local market areas such as Brick Lane, Spitalfields Market or Camden Market. Here you can find second-hand clothing, record shops, local crafts and market vendors open to the idea of a bargain, so you might be able to bag an excellent deal.
5. How to best find affordable places to eat around London
When it comes to fine dining, London can be a pricey place. Not to worry, as I have a few tips for you that could come in handy.
Some shops start to sell discounted food after a set time to avoid waste, which can be a great way to grab a bargain. If you don't mind waiting an extra few hours for dinner, I've managed to pick up some fantastic sushi for a reasonable price by following this method.
Find out if any London restaurants have an app as they usually offer discounted or free items for first-time sign-ups. You’ll also find many restaurants offering free perks if you happen to visit around your birthday.
I can't write a budget guide to London without mentioning the popular "Meal Deal" offer that most supermarkets in the UK offer. Typically, it's one set price for selected items, including a sandwich, snack, and drink, which usually comes at an excellent affordable price for London.
Did you know that St Christopher’s on-site hostel bar, Belushi's, has special discounts on food and drink for hostel guests? Show your room key to the bar staff, and they will tell you what deals are currently on so you might be able to bag a burger and a pint for a cracking price.
Check out the best , which all come in at less than £10 a dish
6. Enjoy a West End theatre show
You have to make time to see a West End show at one of London's many theatres on a trip to the city. Tickets can be expensive, and if you're open to remaining flexible and not picky about what you want to see or where you sit, then you can grab a bargain.
Have a look into last-minute tickets to see if any remaining empty seats are being sold on the day for a low price. You can either download an app that scans the market to see what you can find or head to the ticket offices in Leicester Square. I've managed to find tickets on the day for under twenty pounds which is a bargain.
This guide was put together in collaboration with St Christopher's Inns hostels as part of Travel Dave's UK tour, visiting London, Bath, Newquay and Edinburgh throughout a selection of weekend escapes.
If you would like to stay at St Christopher's Inn hostels across the UK, don't forget to use Dave's exclusive discount code: DAVE10 for 10% off your next booking (good until the end of 2021).
Check out Dave’s other articles from his UK tour…