5 Top Tips for Travelling Around London On A Budget

I’ve been soliciting new content for the site recently as I’ve noted that there’s a lack of basic advice for tourists who visit London. I’ve created a new category of post, ‘Travel Tips’, which will grow over the next few months as I add more useful content. Here’s the first of these – 5 tips from Ben on getting around the capital on a budget…

It’s not often that you hear the words “London” and “budget” in the same sentence and for good reason. At the time of writing, London is the world’s 18thmost expensive city to live in and by far the most expensive city in the UK. However, despite the high costs of living, London’s wealth of cultural attractions and forward thinking industry continues to attract more and more people to the city. I should know, I’m one of them. I moved to London recently to be part of this hive of excitement, but after living in Barcelona for the last two years, I’m shocked at how expensive the public transport is here. Here are my 5 top London travel tips to help you save money when getting around the capital!

1. Save money. Get healthy. Walk.

It may sound obvious but walking is a cost free way to travel around London. As well as keeping you fit and healthy it also gives you a chance to get to know the city better and discover magical areas you wouldn’t otherwise find. Of course, walking around London is best suited to tourists who have more time and don’t need to be anywhere at certain times in order to keep appointments. In reality, a lot of people use the underground because they don’t know how to find their destination by foot – I have seen plenty of tourists get on the tube only to see them get off one stop later. If only they knew it would have been quicker and cheaper to walk!

Tip: Make sure that you have some kind of map on your visit, or a mapping application on your smartphone that you can use – London is a big city and even locals can get lost from time to time!

2. Slip through traffic on a bike

I’m happy to see more cyclists on the roads in London, especially considering that we don’t exactly have the best weather in Europe. The congestion charges around the city have encouraged all sorts of people to jump on bikes and peddle their way around London, saving money and time. A friend of mine can cycle to work in 20 minutes but it takes him 45 minutes when he uses the London Underground.

Tips: The Barclays rental bikes, otherwise known as ‘Boris Bikes’, can be found in racks across central London, and are used by local people and tourists alike in order to get around. 

Make sure that you wear a helmet and take care when cycling on busy roads - London’s busy road network can be dangerous for unwary cyclists during rush hour when everybody is trying to get to and from work. Also, remember to buy a good lock. You don’t want to get your bike stolen and then have to walk home!

3. Save money when using the London Underground

When you need to travel distances that you don’t feel capable of making under your own steam, I would suggest using the London Underground. It’s more expensive than other underground transport systems I’ve used but it will get you almost anywhere you could want to be in London north of the Thames (the tube only serves a few areas in the south of the city, but there is an extensive suburban rail network which provides a decent alternative). Avoid buying single tickets as they don’t offer good value for money, and also try to travel off-peak when journeys are less expensive (after 9:30am on weekdays ). If you know that you will be in London sight-seeing for a week, consider investing a few pounds in an Oystercard – the contactless electronic system that you can use on the tube, buses, Overground, Docklands Light Railway and local trains across London, as this offers much better value for money than a paper ticket. It also retains the value of the credit put on the card indefinitely so can also be used on future visits to the capital. However, make sure that you only put sufficient credit on your card to cover the journeys you think you will make – there’s nothing worse than paying a fortune for a weekly pass and then only using it for one day.

Tip: The Underground is hectic and usually very crowded during rush hours (8am to 9.30am and 5pm to 7pm) on weekdays. Avoid using it at these times and you will find that it is actually a very comfortable ride. Take a book or magazine and use the time to relax.

4. If you have lots of baggage use a bus or a taxi

Travelling by taxi may not be an inexpensive option but it is a lot more convenient if you have a lot of luggage. When I arrived in London, it was 5.30pm (rush hour) and I had 3 suitcases with me. It was impossible for me to carry them without bumping into people and I nearly dropped one of them down the escalators! Eventually, after nearly crushing people with my bags, I managed to get onto the tube. However, once I got to where I was going, I had to carry them all up the stairs. It was my cheapest option but it was an awful experience. If I had jumped on a bus or in a taxi I wouldn’t have had to contend with going up and down stairs

Tip: Black cab drivers in London are required to learn what is referred to as ‘the Knowledge’, which effectively entails memorising every street and landmark in London, before being issued with a licence. Consequently, they know the city better than anybody else. If you need to get somewhere but don’t know how, they will get you there quickly and efficiently. They may even help you get your bags into and out of the car!

5. Carpooling

I think to the key to saving money on transport in London is to only spend what you need to. Several friends have cars and are paying ridiculous overheads to keep their car on the road, but only use it once or twice a week. By using one of the increasingly popular car pooling services, or by using taxis, I have the advantages of having a car when I need one but I don’t have to pay for it when I don’t.

I know these London travel tips aren’t brand new ideas, but if you were to sit down for a moment and think about what you spend on a visit to London, I bet you could save some money without making too many changes to your itinerary.

Writer: Ben is an avid London adventurer and works in the city for Taxi Advertising who specialise in outdoor advertising.

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About The Londoneer

Pete Stean is a keen blogger, amateur photographer, singer and ham radio enthusiast in his spare time...