London is my hometown, and I understand that it can be an expensive city to visit. So I wanted to share my tops tips on how to explore London on a budget to help you out on your next visit.
This guide is all about my recent adventure to London, while exploring the UK over a selection of weekends.
I’ve put together this guide on what I would recommend if I had a weekend to spend in London on a budget.
Here are my suggestions on what to do over a weekend in London on a budget:
Stay at St Christopher’s Inn Village Hostel in London bridge
If you’re looking for a place to stay in London, be sure to check out St Christopher’s Inn Village Hostel in London Bridge.
With loads of affordable room options, they have a bed to suit many budgets.
I’d recommend checking out the Pod rooms where you can get your very own private pod to stay in – a fun and unique experience.
It’s also the perfect location to be based in central London, with easy access to the London underground and within walking distance to many landmarks along the Embankment by the River Thames.
Don’t forget if you book online, you get the best rates, and breakfast is included in your stay.
Affordable London transport tips on a budget
If you’re spending a weekend in London, the most affordable way to get around the city is to use public transport. I’d recommend getting a London Oyster card to keep your travel prices down.
All you have to do is buy one with a deposit at a larger London Underground station, and then you can top it up at any other Underground station.
If you have a contactless payment card, you can also travel on TfL public transport routes.
The price is capped to make it the cheapest way to pay on public transport, and is the same cost as using an Oyster card, so pick whichever option you would prefer to use.
Just make sure you return your Oyster card once you’re finished so you can get your deposit fee back.
This way, you can use your Oyster to travel around on the London Underground and other TfL services.
Did you know that with an Oyster card bus journeys are priced at £1.55, and you can go as far as you like, and it will be the exact same cost? You can even swap to a different bus within one hour for no additional charge.
So why not see if travelling by a red London double-decker bus can be a more affordable way to get around town.
You can also use your Oyster card to travel on the Uber boat, taking you from London Bridge to Greenwich along the Thames, a fun way to travel in style across London.
The London Underground is also the cheapest way to travel from Heathrow Airport to the city centre of London.
Visit some of London museums and art galleries
Did you know that almost all of London’s museums have free entry?
This includes the British Museum, National Gallery, Museum of London, Natural History Museum, Science museum and the V&A museum, to name a few.
You could spend the whole weekend exploring free entry museums and art galleries and still not have enough time.
Some event spaces or exhibitions may require an entry fee, or you can make a donation at the entrance, but generally, you have access to many museums across London for free, so make the most out of it.
I would recommend visiting the Tate Modern, which is located along the Embankment. It’s a lovely walk which can take in many of the central London attractions – from Big Ben, to the London Eye, Tower of London, London Tower Bridge and HM Belfast ship which all line along the Embankment. Perfect for getting your steps in.
End your walk at the Tate Modern. This interesting piece of architecture used to be an old power station, and is now converted into a modern and contemporary art gallery.
One of my favourite galleries to explore whilst in London with a stunning view overlooking the Thames from the cafe, which is worth spending some time in.
Pick up a local sim card to save on data roaming around London
If you’re spending some time in London, it might be worth buying a local SIM card to access the local 3G/4G/5G data network so you can use maps and apps while you wander around London. Then you won’t have to worry about finding a free WiFi hotspot.
I would recommend the SMARTY Sim card with an extensive range of prices and data amounts; they have something for everyone.
I would recommend the 12GB over one month for £8.00, which is enough for your trip. Then you can cancel once you’ve finished, no contract needed, with flexible options.
Especially if you’re accessing social media and sharing your trip online, you will want to ensure you have enough data access while roaming around London. Normally I have the sim card to sent to my hostel address and pick it up when I arrive at check-in.
Shop around Bricklane, Spitafield Market and Camden
Avoid the expensive retail shops and see what you can find in the second-hand market. If you’re looking for a fun place to look around and do some affordable shopping, head to Spitalfields Market and walk around the Brick Lane area.
Here you can find many vendors selling second hand and vintage clothing up for sale, such as at The Brick Lane Vintage Market, which has reasonable prices.
Camden Market is also a fun, alternative and affordable place to look around and see If you can bag a bargain from the vendors.
If you’re looking for an affordable lunch spot around Brick Lane, head to Biegel Bake, a twenty-four-hour bakery that offers a large selection of well-priced options, such as the classic Salt Beef Bagel, which is a must-try loaded with gherkins and mustard.
How to best find affordable places to eat around London
It’s OK to eat at popular fast-food chains whilst in London to save money. I recommend downloading the restaurant’s app and seeing if they have any discounted deals for first-time sign-ups. Many also offer free items if it’s your birthday.
For example, if you’re a guest at St Christopher’s Inn Village Hostel in London bridge, you can show your room key at the bar to unlock special discounts and deals at Belushi’s London Bridge. Be sure to talk to the bar staff before ordering and see what offers they have on the day for hostel guests.
One top London tip for lunch would be to try the famous UK Meal Deal. Usually found in supermarkets or convenient shops, you can get a combination of a sandwich, snack and drink for a low set price. Typically, they have the items marked out on the shelf to find the deal and the correct combinations and have fun.
Also, look in the daily free newspaper (found at most London train stations) called the Metro as they sometimes have vouchers inside that you can use on the day.
Another tip is to bring your own travel bottle/flask with you as some stores give a discount if you bring your cup. For example, at Pret, you can get a filter coffee for £0.50p if you bring your cup. Now that’s a deal!
Why not go and enjoy a West End theatre show when in London
London is home to many popular theatre shows and musicals in the West End area. But you don’t have to pay a high price for a ticket if you’re flexible on the day. You will be spoilt for choice by what’s on offer.
You can try to see if you can get a reasonable price on a last-minute ticket.
Many shows will sell remaining seats last minute on the day for discounted prices.
Head to Leicester Square, where you will find a handful of ticket offices scattered around offering many of these discounted seats.
As long as you go with an open mind and are not fixed on seeing a particular show or care much about the seat location, you can usually bag a bargain on an empty seat.
I went to go and see Come From Away for the low price of £18, and it was well worth it.
Why not make the most out of this opportunity on your next visit to London and see a West End show.
Thank you for reading my budget weekend guide to London
Thank you for reading my budget weekend guide to London, and I hope you’ve found the content helpful in planning your next UK weekend adventure.
This guide was put together in collaboration with St Christophers Inn hostels As part of my UK tour to London, Bath, Newquay and Edinburgh throughout a few weekends.
If you would like to stay at St Christophers Inn hostels across the UK, don’t forget to use my exclusive discount code: DAVE10 for 10% off your next booking (Good until the end of 2021).