As one of the most visited cities in the world, London is jam-packed with tourists. So how can you skip the crowds, save money and make the most out of your London experience? Find out with these tips!
1. Check the Weather and Pack Accordingly
The weather in London can be very temperamental so always check the forecast before you pack. When I was there this year, the weather was mostly cold and windy, and there was a massive heatwave just a few short weeks before. Typically, January is the coldest month, with an average of 7°C and July the hottest, at 19 °C.
2. Use a Visitor Oyster Card
Once you land at the airport, look for an Oyster top-up machine, add some credit and you are good to go. A week in Zones 1-3 costs less than £40!
3. Travel during Off Peak Times
Low season is usually January and February. And what they call the shoulder season is between mid-September and November, and then again in March and April. Not only will you be able to skip crowds during low season, accommodation and entertainment rates will be cheaper.
4. Book your London Hotel Prior to Arriving
London will always have herds of tourists visiting – no matter what time of year it is. Book your hotel at least a few weeks prior to arrival if you want a bed to sleep on.
5. Stay within the Inner City
To save money on public transport/taxis and also save your legs from giving in, stay within the London Boroughs of Westminster, Camden, Hammersmith or Hackney. There are so many things to do you don’t have to spend your time in transit!
Accommodation can be pricey but you always have the cheaper option of staying in a shared accommodation.
6. Book Flights into Smaller Airports
If you’re flying into London from Europe, take advantage of low-cost airlines like Easy Jet, as they often fly into airports like Stansted with lower taxes/landing fees. You’ll save money on flights and then you can simply take the train from the airport into London centre, which is cheaper!
7. Organise Airport Transfers before Arriving
An inexpensive way to get from the airport to central London is to go via the Tube. You may find this difficult with your bags, especially during peak hours, but it’s a cheaper and faster alternative to catching a bus or taxi. The both times I have been to London I caught the train from Heathrow Terminal 4, and arrived at the hotel in under two hours.
8. Purchase a London Pass
Pre-purchase a London pass and get into 60+ London attractions, with transport included, for a heavily discounted price. I used the Pass the first time I travelled to London, and it also has places recommended to visit, which gave me ideas for future trips, including the latest one.
9. Use the Website Openingtime.co.uk
When you’re out and about, it’s always handy to know what’s open and closed. Openingtime allows you to find the opening hours for almost every shop in London. Due to the location recognition used by the site, the nearest shops are also automatically displayed.
10. Visit the Top London Markets
London is known for its amazing markets, particularly Camden Lock and Brick Lane. You’ll be able to get your hands on a variety of different antique valuables, trinkets, jewellery pieces, fashion items, foods and fresh produce at a low cost.
For cheap food, Brick Lane is supposed to be one of the best! On Sundays, you can head down to Brick Lane and tempt yourself with a wide variety of international food.
11. Go Shopping
Oxford Street is the main High street in London where shops such as Topshop, Primark, H&M and Urban Outfitters join forces to tantalise all your shopping. If you want something unique (vintage perhaps?) head to Camden Town where you’ll be able to pick up some one off pieces for less than the High street prices.
12. Explore Further
There’s more to London than, well… London! Some of the neighbourhoods and towns on the outskirts of London are well worth visiting and can show you a totally different side to England. For example, the famous Windsor Castle is full of character and history and should not be missed! You can go on your own using public transport or take a day trip with a tour company. This year, I spent a day in Brighton. One train, two hours, infinite fun!
13. Eat in a Traditional British Pub
British food is comfort food – think sausages with mashed potato and gravy, steak pies and roast dinners. On a cold winters’ day there’s nothing more comforting than a good British pub meal. Not only are they worth visiting for the food, but are often full of history, character and quirk which make them truly interesting places to sit down, relax and fill the hunger spot.
14. Go to these Places for Unique London Views
The Roof Gardens is a bar in Kensington where you get to view London from a unique angle whilst sipping on a cold Martini. It’s not cheap but totally worth it to relax somewhere sophisticated whilst watching the sunset. Primrose Hill is located near Regent’s Park and is one of the most popular spots in London in summer to chill in the late afternoon with views across the London skyline.
15. Explore London’s’ Parks
Half of the time you’re in London you won’t even realise that you’re in one of the worlds most visited cities because there is so much green around. Take advantage of the pristine, well-kept parks around London to go for a walk, breath in some fresh air, lay in the sun, have a picnic and hang out.
Some of London’s most famous parks include Hyde Park and Regent’s Park.
16. Take your Time – London is BIG
If you really want to see London, give yourself at least 5 days in the city. That way, you won’t be rushing around to see everything so fast that you don’t actually remember it properly. My first trip in London was two weeks long, and I didn’t get to see most of the city.
17. Take Advantage of the Free London Walking Tours
Yes, there are FREE walking tours in London. Used in conjunction with the Hop-on, Hop-off bus tours, you can set up some pretty epic days of sightseeing.
18. Save Money at Lunch Time
If you’re not too fussed about what you have for lunch, nip into a Sainsbury’s supermarket and pick up a £3 meal deal. These consist of a sandwich, a snack (either a packet of crisps, a chocolate or a bag of fruit) and a drink.
19. London Museums are Free but…
Just for the upkeep of the museums and to show that you are appreciative of the amount of hard work that has gone into creating them for tourists to visit in the first place, it is recommended that you leave a donation as you enter or exit.
20. Carry a Map
The underground system can be very confusing and half the time you won’t know where you are, which is why the Tube Map London Underground App is so helpful. Not only does it work as a map, it also calculates where you need to get to and shows you the best route to get there (with thorough instructions) without the need for an internet connection.
Otherwise, carry around one of the free maps that you can pick up from your hotel. They normally have a London Underground map on the back.
21. Visit the London Theatre
London has a huge theatre scene and is home to some of the best in the world, from world famous musicals to West End shows. You can book tickets online or when you get there but it is often recommended that you book in advance because shows fill up fast. Don’t miss the opportunity!
22. Visit These Places to Potentially Spot Celebrities
London is full of celebrities but where do they all hide, you may wonder? There isn’t exactly one main hang-out spot but if you visit places like Soho, Camden and Mayfair by night and Primrose Hill by day, you may catch a glimpse of a few different celebs kicking back and having some fun.
About the author
Claire Attard is a full-time LSA by profession, and writes in her own free time. She enjoys keeping up with current affairs, shopping, working out and drinking tea.