Your Budget Travel Guide to London in 2024

It’s totally possible to do London on budget as well as many other destinations. Though a budget trip requires a bit of planning, nothing is really an impossible challenge if you’re well-prepared and have the right information.

In fact, there are plenty of low-cost (and even free!) things to do in London, such as visiting gardens, museums, and galleries. These are just as essentially “the capital” experiences as any other high-budget trip. 

The blessing that be for London lovers with a tight budget is also its public transportation system. There are plenty of ways to get around the city for as low as £4.50. Besides these aspects, London on budget also means planning, packing, and getting to the capital in the most budget-friendly ways possible. We have them compiled all here for you!

How Much Money Do I Need Per Day In London?

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It’s important to estimate your daily spending in London to avoid going over budget. Photo credit: Sandra Gasior /  @oh_she_travels

Before we get down to the tips and tricks for your next dream London on a budget holiday, here’s a breakdown of how much money you should spend a day:

  • Accommodation: £60-£100 per night (budget options)
  • Food:
    • Breakfast: £3-£5 (can be free if included in accommodation)
    • Lunch: £5-£10
    • Dinner: £10-£15
    • Snacks and drinks: £5-£10
  • Transportation:
    • With London Oyster card: £6.80 for a daily cap
    • Taxis or Uber: £10-£20
  • Activities:
    • Some parks, museums, art galleries, and markets: free entry
    • Paid attractions: £10-£20 but can be cheaper or more expensive depending on where you buy tickets and the time of travel
  • Other expenses, including souvenirs and shopping, can start from £10

Overall, you can expect to spend £100-£160 a day, depending on your plans and preferences. London is not a cheap travel destination; the city is up there with Hong Kong and Paris. But you can travel to this wonderful city in many ways without breaking the bank.

What Month Is The Cheapest To Go To London?

London is a year-round destination, so the price difference between attractions may not be as drastic as you’d expect, regardless of when you travel. But the great news is that you can have the same wondrous experience in the capital, no matter the month. 

With that being said, late Winter months, like January and February, can have noticeably lower flight and accommodation fares. Avoid festive seasons such as Christmas and Summer (typically June). 

According to Skyscanner, based on historical data, December is the cheapest month to book a flight to London, with prices averaging 13% less than the yearly ticket price. They advise against booking in June, when a round-trip ticket rises to as much as $830.

Flying To London On A Budget Trip

Getting to and around London can cost a hefty amount for tourists. And we’re not going to lie. It can be a bit confusing, too. You might wonder whether to buy a transport pass or not. Or, you may struggle to figure out how NOT to spend half your budget on flight tickets.

Before Flying

If you’re visiting London from outside the UK, make sure you have up-to-date information on what is needed to enter the country. Have your passport, visa, travel insurance, and everything else sorted out.

Ensure you know the difference between your country’s currency and the British pound sterling. Planning carefully in both gives you a clearer understanding of exactly how much you must pay. Sometimes, the numbers seem small in one currency but are actually not in the other. 

For our American readers, note that the prices in London already include VAT/TAX. You’ll also often see a “service charge” (often 12.5%) pre-included in the bill. Unlike the US, London has a minimum wage, so the service charge is meant to supplement their income, not replace it. You can ask them to remove this amount if the service is subpar, or you can even tip an additional 10-12% if the service is stellar.

CabinZero’s advice: Use no foreign transaction fee card to pay, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Premier Card, and Discover It.

Choose The Right Airlines

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Flying budget airlines is the best way to get to London. Photo by william87 - stock.adobe.com

If you’re from outside the UK, the cheapest way is flying with budget airlines. They’re buses in the sky, but knowing what they offer and preparing well are enough to keep you comfy and stress-free. Here are some popular budget airlines to London:

Flights are cheaper if you’re flying to London from another European country. Other than that, there is probably nowhere else that is as cheap. But it doesn’t mean you can’t get your hand on some sweet flight deals or hack your way into cheaper transportation. Here are some ideas you can try.

Don’t just blindly purchase the first ticket you see. With a little bit of research and planning you can save a hefty amount of money. 

Compare Prices On Flight Booking Sites

Sites like Google Flights, Skyscanner, or Kayak are competitive, so one of them may give you a better flight deal than others. Try checking prices at different times of the day or days of the week because prices tend to change every day and at any hour, depending on site traffic.

Buying Cheaper Flights With VPN

Can you buy cheaper flights with a VPN? Maybe. Some globetrotters say it’s a myth, but some say they have been offered cheaper prices after changing their IP address or browsing in incognito mode.

The answers are mixed. Sometimes, the lower prices you’re seeing are just a glitch; sometimes, you see a local-only offer (rates only available within a specific region/country).

Apparently, if it’s not successful, you can apply this to booking car rentals, accommodation, and attraction tickets. Reviews tend to be much more positive for these services.  The bottom line is that it doesn’t hurt to try. 

Use Credit Card Rewards

If you have plenty of time to prepare for your budget trip to London, an effective travel hack you can do is accumulate points on credit cards in exchange for free or discounted flights. It’s like a reward system.

Benefits vary from provider to provider. If you’re a complete newbie to the scene, a good card to start travel hacking for free travel is the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Keep in mind that there are also rules, official or unofficial, regarding how you can apply for a credit card. For example, the Chase 5/24 rule means you can be denied a new one if you have opened five or more credit cards across all banks within the last 24 months. It’s not stated on their official website, but many users have reported being subject to it.

A Good Cabin-Sized Backpack

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Everything is planned and budgeted carefully. Then boom, you get charged a hefty amount at the airport because your bag exceeds the baggage size and weight allowance. This surely is one of the worst kinds of last-minute surprises ever before a trip, and it happens to many travellers.

Another possible scenario is that you save a lot of money on accommodations, attractions, and everything else just to spend it all on checking your baggage. You think to yourself, “I could have totally gone with carry-ons only!”

That’s why you need a good carry-on backpack that fits just enough and just right. And by that, we mean a backpack that can go comfortably under the seat or in the overhead compartment of an aircraft. A good cabin-sized backpack can also help you move around more easily in London, hopping on and off public transport constantly.

How To Get Around London On A Budget?

Getting into the city centre from the airport where you land is a bit of a hassle. For instance, if you arrive at Heathrow Airport (LHR), the Heathrow Express is the fastest option (15 minutes) but costs around £22 for a one-way trip. Alternatively, the London Underground (Tube) is more budget-friendly, with fares starting from £6 for a single journey to Zone 1 (Central London), although the journey takes about 45 minutes.

The good thing is, once you get into central London, almost all major attractions are accessible on foot. By buses, trains, subways, rental bikes, or on foot. These options are budget-friendly and accessible in all parts of the city. 

https://stock.adobe.com/vn/images/passengers-waiting-to-catch-the-tube-in-london/340584566?asset_id=340584566

The tube is your best transportation for travelling to London on a budget. Photo by Guillermo - stock.adobe.com

  • Bus: tickets often start at £1.55 for a single journey. Famous buses like the Classic London Red can start from £4. 
  • Train: tickets vary, and short trips can cost about £2.40. Remember to have National Rail installed on your phone.
  • Car and Bike rental: The daily rental fee varies across different companies and models, but it can usually be much cheaper if you pre-book your rental services in advance (either separately or with a travel package).
  • Ferry: These can double as both a leisurely sightseeing experience and a way to get around central London. British Airways is offering a ride on an Uber Boat by Thames Clippers from the airport for around £4-£8.
  • On Foot: It's absolutely free, but only for certain distances. To save money, plan your daily itinerary to include at least two attractions within walking distance of each other.

CabinZero’s advice: Fares differ depending on London's transport zones. For easy planning and budgeting, it’s best that you build your itinerary based on these zones instead of a single journey. 

For example, some lines run across different zones, such as the Piccadilly line that runs from Zone 1 to 4. When you’re travelling within the same town, opt for bus rides. 

H3. What Are London Zones 1-6?

London is divided into nine zones and is used to calculate public transportation ticket prices. Zone 1 starts in the city centre, and Zone 9 is in the outer suburbs. Most travel guides commonly talk about Zones 1-6, which means Greater London.

In Greater London, most well-known attractions are in Zone 1 and 2. Fares are often higher in these zones than in Zone 2-6. To travel within these zones cheaply, consider:

  • Planning your route in advance using the TFL (Transport for London) website or app for the most cost-effective options.
  • Use an appropriate public transport card, such as a Travelcard or Oyster Card, for your itinerary (see following section).
  • Using a contactless payment system is good for travelling within certain zones and providing specific services. And more convenient, too.

Is It Worth Buying A Travelcard/Oyster Card In London?

Understand how they work to travel cheaper and faster. Photo by I-Wei Huang - stock.adobe.com

A Travel card is more expensive than an Oyster card, at least for a regular tourist. If you’re a frequent traveller (we’re talking about more than 4-5 journeys a day to and from certain destinations), maybe for work purposes, then a Travelcard is probably a better choice for you.

On the other hand, an Oyster card is a plastic card that allows you to top up a certain amount and pay as you go, with no limit as to when and where around London. It’s great for those with a more flexible itinerary. However, both still require you to pay an amount of money beforehand to use. If you can’t use it all, you will not be refunded.

London's Oyster Card travel system offers discounted fares for students (18+ with a valid student ID) and seniors (over 60 with a valid proof of age). You'll need to apply for a specific Concessionary Oyster Card.

CabinZero’s advice: Your safest bet for London on a budget trip is using Contactless Payment. Fares are the same and depend largely on the zones and the routes. But a clear advantage is that you don’t have to top up. Remember to be careful of petty crimes when waving your phone to pay.

Where And How To Find Accommodations For London On Budget?

If you don’t have urgent matters that require you to be in the central areas, such as Westminster and Camden, you don’t have to. We know it’s tempting, but prices can be crazy, even in the low tourist months.

Some areas that are cheaper than central London include:

  • Outer boroughs such as Barking and Dagenham, Havering, and Croydon
  • Suburbs like Bromley, Sutton, and Enfield
  • East London neighbourhoods like Ilford and Romford
  • South London areas like Lewisham and Lambeth
  • North London districts such as Barnet and Haringey
  • West London suburbs like Ealing and Hounslow
London On Budget - CabinZero

Accommodations are cheaper further away from central areas of London. Photo by Rusana on Adobe Stock.

The truth is that London is not cheap when it comes to accommodation. But it’s not impossible to find cheap places to stay. Some options are certainly easier on your wallet than others, such as budget hotels, hostels, and shared dorm beds.

Places like the Premier Inn Hub offer rooms for as cheap as £50/night. There are plenty of accommodations around London, some of which are very near tube stations. The London Whetstone Travelodge is not a bad choice, either. It’s pretty basic, but for a tight budget, it’s of great value. 

TO FIND CHEAP ACCOMMODATION IN LONDON, you can consider:

  • Anything that is labelled as “budget”: they can be a hit-or-miss sometimes, but there are a lot of options that are worth a try. Dig around a little and search for reviews to get a good idea of whether it’s worth it.
  • Shared accommodations
  • Last-minute deals
  • Surprise budget options: sites like Hotwire.com offer very cheap prices, only that you won’t know beforehand which room you’re going to get after you’ve paid. It’s a great option for those who aren’t picky. 

Are Airbnb Cheaper Than Hotels?

Airbnb listings often have cheaper options than regular hotel listings. For example, a quick search for a room in London in December can look like this: £80 - £200 for an Airbnb and £200 - £300 for a hotel room in the same area on the weekend. 

Most Airbnb allow guests to use the kitchen, so you can cook your own meals to save money on dining out. Also, if you’re travelling in a group, renting an Airbnb is more cost-effective than renting a hotel room. 

Generally, while some Airbnb listings are luxurious and expensive, more affordable choices are available for tight-budget travellers than traditional hotels.

London University Halls For Budget Stays

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University rooms are basic but affordable for tight-budget travellers. Photo by Wollwerth Imagery on Adobe Stock.

Another good choice, but one that is not talked about enough, is a university room. These are located inside campus buildings. Some universities or colleges offer rooms to non-academic guests during non-terms in summer/June. 

A 1-night stay can range from £40 - £100. Amenities are simple and basic, and some facilities such as the kitchen and bathroom are often shared. However, the upside is that locations are often good, apart from the affordable prices. Check before booking, as the facilities vary wildly.

Some affordable and well-known university rooms that you can consider are:

The downsides? Since it’s on-campus ground, you might have to follow campus guidelines, which can mean limited flexibility in check-out/check-in time and availability. 

How To Find Cheap Eat In London

You can eat your breakfast at the hotel or even an instant oatmeal or cereal bar. For lunch and dinner, find somewhere to sit and eat something nice for around £30 (an Indian dish or London Sunday roast, perhaps?). When walking and exploring, munch on the pre-prepared snacks and sandwiches. We recommend carrying a reusable water bottle and packing some snacks to save money throughout the day.

Grocery Shopping

One of the best ways to save money on food in London is to buy groceries from supermarkets and corner shops. The hotel's refrigerated mini bar is ideal for storing chilled foods. This is even better if you are staying in a hostel or Airbnb with a kitchen to cook your own meals.

Popular supermarkets in London include Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and Morrison's. Many supermarkets also have cafes where you can buy a hot meal or snack at a reasonable price. A Tesco meal deal with a smoothie can cost as little as £5 or less.

Market Halls

London On Budget - CabinZero

Name a better duo than street foods and markets in London. Photo by I-Wei Huang - stock.adobe.com

London has a thriving street food scene, offering delicious and affordable options worldwide. Market Halls are conveniently located across London, including Victoria, West End, and Canary Wharf. A meal will cost you about £10-£20 per portion. If you can, we recommend visiting the Leather Lane market hall.

Pub Lunches

Many pubs in London offer traditional pub lunches at a reasonable price. A pub lunch typically consists of a main course, such as fish and chips, shepherd's pie, or bangers and mash, and a side dish, such as peas or salad. Wetherspoons is a popular pub chain known for its affordable food and drink. Other chains like Young's and Fuller's also offer decent pub lunches at reasonable prices.

Afternoon Tea

If you want to enjoy authentic afternoon tea, avoid somewhere like The Ritz or Fortnum & Mason, which will cost you at least £80. ETA Fortnum & Mason is a good alternative for around £30-40 per person. Some local gems like Candella Tea Room and the Tea House in Bishop's Park are also worth exploring.

Too Good To Go App

Too Good To Go is a fantastic app that allows restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and even supermarkets to sell leftover food at a discounted price. Just download the app, set your location, and find "Magic Bags" near you. These bags contain a surprise selection of the day's leftovers. Prices typically range from £2.50 to £5.

Some Restaurants Recommendations

  • Le Mercury in Islington: £20 for a 3-course meal. Great atmosphere for lunch.
  • ICCO Pizza: has been selling pizza at a low price of £5 or less for more than 20 years.
  • Eat Tokyo: Craving some Japanese food? Grab a large curry rice or a bento for around £15 each.
  • C & R Cafe: A Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown. Most items are priced at £12.50.
  • Falafel and shawarma in Camberwell: perfect for a quick bite.
  • Mien Tay: an authentic Vietnamese restaurant in South London.

Cheap Things To Do So You Can Enjoy London On A Budget

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There are plenty of tools to help you enjoy London on a tight budget. Photo credit: Ann Buttigieg

There are endless entertainment options in London. Don’t worry if your budget is tight because some of the best things to do in London are totally affordable and sometimes even free. Your London experience is no less special.

A day's spending on attractions for a London on a budget trip can be about £30-£50/person, depending on which attraction, the discount, and when you visit. It can be cheaper if you visit free parks or museums.

Where To Find Cheap Activities To Do In London?

For classic and famous attractions, you can try booking tickets through sites like Klook, GetYourGuide and Viator in bundles and tours. If you’re not a fan of that, booking a separate ticket through the attractions’ official sites is probably the most cost-effective choice. Prices listed on them are not subject to markups. 

For lesser-known or off-the-beaten-path attractions, Peek and Withlocals are good choices. You can also try ToursByLocals for budget-friendly private tours with local guides.

Last but not least, know that students and seniors can get their own discounts. Check the website or ask at the entrance if they offer such discounts and what documentation you'll need (e.g., passport, ID with age).

City Passes & 2FOR1 Deals

Several London attractions participate in the 2-for-1 Travelcard offer. With a valid travel card (including Concessionary Oyster Cards), you can get an entry for two people at the price of one at participating attractions. Check here for more information.

Museum

Visit free museums and galleries, such as the British Museum, Tate Modern, Victoria and Albert Museum, and the National Gallery. Some museums offer free events and activities like talks, workshops, or film screenings. Consider purchasing a London Pass if you visit several paid attractions. This pass offers discounted entry to a number of museums and other attractions.

London On Budget- CabinZero

The V&A museum is a must if you love all things textiles, decorative arts, and design. Photo by Richie Chan - stock.adobe.com

Take A Stroll

Stroll along the Thames and sight-see iconic London landmarks like the London Eye, Big Ben, and Tower Bridge. If you want to explore a hidden gem, we have something for you: St Katharine Docks Marina, which is a stone's throw from the Tower of London.

London has something for everyone. Interested in street art? Download a walking tour app showcasing the city's vibrant street art scene. Fascinated by Harry Potter? Explore filming locations with a self-guided Harry Potter walk.

Markets

Explore the markets, such as Camden Market and Borough Market: entry is free, and you can use the saved money to sample local dishes and shop for unique souvenirs. 

Gardens

Find a park to enjoy your meal and soak up the city vibes. Enjoy the green spaces of Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, and Hampstead Heath, where you can pack your own lunch to have a delicious and affordable picnic.

View London From Above

The Sky Garden is a lovely way to enjoy the city’s panoramic view; the ticket is free, but you must book in advance. Another option is the marvellous high-level Walkways of Tower Bridge featured in the Spider-Man Far From Home movie.

Food Tours

Go on food tours where you get introduced to local specialities for a lower price than dining at individual restaurants for these dishes. You can also create your own food tour itinerary. Choose a specific neighbourhood or cuisine you'd like to explore and find budget-friendly restaurants or cafes online. 

Drink Like The Locals

Drink at local pubs and bars: London’s nightlife scene is spectacular, with plenty of vibrant activities. Many pubs in London host regular live music or comedy nights, which can be a fun and affordable way to experience local talent and enjoy a night out.

Shows And Events

For nightlife activities and the music-and-art scene, Dice and Resident Advisor are perfect for finding what events are popping up. They cater mainly to music and art events, clubbing, and parties. 

Travellers to London can buy a £5 standing ticket for a show at Shakespeare's Globe. Although there are modern plays at times, the atmosphere and location are unbeatable, considering it was the closest thing to experience how people enjoyed plays back in the day.

If you love classical music, the BBC Proms are a must. Expect to pay around £8 for a standing ticket. This is a very affordable way to experience the concerts compared to seated tickets, which can range from £20 to over £100.

London On A Budget Is Easier Than You Think

Visiting London on budget requires some planning, but it’s definitely worth it. By following our tips and tricks, you can explore the best this city has to offer, from historic landscapes to trendy neighbourhoods. 

If you find this article useful, don’t hesitate to click that share button or leave a comment. Also, don’t forget to reach out to us on social media. We absolutely love to hear your wonderful globetrotting stories. 

Nguyen Tran Gia Khanh


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