Though pricey, London is full of budget-friendly bits. We've staked out some of the best deals and (more importantly) a few freebies. Take note of these tips and you too can be a Cheapo in London.
London Budget Tips
For an easy-to-find tourist office, check out the information centre in the Piccadilly Circus Underground station. Photo: Susan Williams.
We always recommend stopping by an official tourist office as soon as possible, and London has more than its share of those. Perhaps the easiest is the Piccadilly Circus information centre, located in the Piccadilly Circus Underground station. It’s open daily from 9:15 a.m. until 7 p.m. and offers information on seasonal deals, events and performances.
Many other information offices are located throughout the city, including in Victoria Station (Monday through Saturday 7:15 a.m. until 9:15 p.m.; Sundays and holidays 8:15 a.m. until 7:15 p.m.) and at the LUL Western Ticket Hall of King’s Cross St. Pancras (Monday through Saturday 7:15 a.m. until 9:15 p.m.; Sundays and holidays 8:15 a.m until 8:15 p.m.).
During the summer months, Buckingham Palace opens up to the public, offering tours of the state rooms and garden. Photo: René Slaats.
Many museums in London are completely free (we list them in the next section), a fact that makes this most expensive of European cities just that little bit less terrifying in the holiday budgeting department.
Here are admission prices for other popular London attractions.
The working headquarters of the Monarchy is open to visitors every summer (check the site for exact timing), when you can tour the state rooms and garden and visit special exhibitions. The Changing of the Guard can be witnessed outside the palace every day.
Prices: £19 (adult); £17.50 (reduced); £10.85 (under 17); free (under 5); £50 (family, two adults and up to three kids).
Palace, prison, royal mint... this edifice has seen it all. Now it’s a beloved museum showcasing the crown jewels, reconstructed royal chambers and the sites of various gruesome executions.
Prices: £21.45 (adult); £18.15 (reduced); £10.75 (under 16); free (under 5); £57.20 (family, two adults and up to three kids); Cheapo Tip: Purchase tickets online for a discounted rate.
Opened in 1828, this is among the world’s first zoos, and today it’s one of the most progressive, with a variety of fantastic new exhibits and a focus on conservation.
Mid-Season Prices: £21.36 (adult); £19.54 (reduced); £15.45 (children 3-15); (mid-season is mid-February through the end of March).
Peak Season Prices: £22.72 (adult); £20.45 (reduced); £16.36 (children 3-15); (peak season is late March through early September)
*Note that the Zoo's site lists prices that include a voluntary 10 percent donation to an endangered animals fund; our prices do not include that donation.
It’s kitschy, but who cares. This popular (and pricey) wax wonderland dates back more than two centuries, and showcases everyone from political leaders to celebs to political celebs (we spy Will and Kate).
Prices: £30 (adult); £25.80 (child); £108 (family). Cheapo Tip: Book online to save 10 percent. Better yet, book the “late saver" (valid after 5 p.m.) ticket online and save up to 50 percent.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is one of London's many fabulous free museums. Photo: fmpgoh.
Don't miss London's absolutely top-notch museums, admission to many of which is utterly and completely free. These include:
• The Tate
• Tate Modern
• National Gallery
• British Library
• British Architectural Library
• British Museum
• Imperial War Museum
• Victoria and Albert Museum
• Museum of Childhood
• Science Museum
London's parks are calming and, well, downright lovely. The number of parks in London is staggering. Among the many, visit Eastbrookend Country Park, Hackney Marshes, Osterley Park, Bushy Park, Hyde Park, Holland Park, and Kensington Gardens.
The Royal Opera House runs a series of free lunchtime concerts on Mondays. Call the box office to obtain details: 020 7304 4000.
You can also find a treasure-trove of art, theatre, film and music—much of it free—at The Barbican Centre. Be sure to check the site first. Some events do charge admission, and others are free but still require you to pick up tickets in advance.
Senior discounts exist in London. To obtain some discounts, however, membership in a particular association may be required. Members of the AARP get discounts on hotels, airfares and car rentals. They can be reached by telephone at United States at 1-888-687-2277 and online.
If you are over 65 years there are 15% discounts available on first class BritRail seats. Check the BritRail site for senior discount information.
The International Student Identity Card, ISIC, the most widely accepted form of student ID, provides discounts on sights, accommodations, food and transportation. Some places offer admission discounts of between 20% and 50% to ISIC members.
All cardholders have access to a 24-hour emergency helpline. In the United States, call 1-800-223-7986 or check out the ISIC site. Applicants must be degree seekers of a secondary or post-secondary school and must be at least 12 years of age. The card costs US$25 and is valid until the end of the year issued.
For non-students 25 years or younger, the International Youth card, IYTC, also offers many of the same benefits as the ISIC. The card costs US$25 and is valid for one year from the date issue.
Travelers with student cards, such as ISIC and IYTC qualify for big discounts from travel agencies. Most flights from budget agencies are on major airlines, but in peak season some may sell seats on less reliable chartered aircraft.
In the United Kingdom, a student photocard you can save one-third of the cost of most travel passes. Find out how on the Transport for London site.
Read up about the Oyster Card, which gives you considerable discounts on public transportation.