London Budget Tips

London Budget Tips - London, United Kingdom

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.

Piccadilly Circus Underground Station

For an easy-to-find tourist office, check out the information centre in the Piccadilly Circus Underground station. Photo: Susan Williams.

Tourist Office

We always recommend stopping by an official tourist office as soon as possible, and London has more than its share of those (see a map of them here). Perhaps the easiest is the Piccadilly Circus travel information centre, located in the Piccadilly Circus Underground station. It’s open daily from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. each weekday (Saturdays and holidays 9:15 a.m. until 7 p.m.: Sundays 9:15 a.m. until 6 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 8 p.m.; Sundays and holidays 8:15 a.m. until 7 p.m.) and at the Western Ticket Hall of King’s Cross St. Pancras (8:15 a.m. until 6:15 p.m. daily). Sundays and holidays 8:15 a.m until 8:15 p.m.). 

Buckingham Palace London

During the summer months, Buckingham Palace opens up to the public, offering tours of the state rooms and garden. Photo: René Slaats.

Museums

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.

Buckingham Palace

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. The cheapest tickets allow access to the State Rooms only (these will take around an hour to visit). 

Prices from: £20.50 (adult); £18.80 (reduced); £11.80 (under 17/disable); free (under 5); £52.80 (family, two adults and up to three kids). Tickets are valid for a year after first entry. 

Tower of London

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: £22 (adult); £17 (reduced); £10 (under 16); free (under 5); £55.10 (family, two adults and up to three kids); Cheapo Tip: Purchase tickets online for a discounted rate.

*Note that the Tower of London’s site lists prices that include a voluntary donation to Historic Royal Palaces; our prices do not include that donation. 

London Zoo

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.

Off-Peak Season Prices: £20.70 (adult); £19.54 (reduced); £15.75 (children 3-15); (Off-Peak is early November through to mid-February).

Peak Season Prices: £24.30 (adult); £21.87 (reduced); £17.10 (children 3-15); free (under 3) (peak season is mid-Feb through end October)

*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.

Madame Tussauds

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: £33 (adult); £28.80 (child); £123.60 (family). Cheapo Tip: Book online to save 10 percent. Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum is one of London's many fabulous free museums. Photo: fmpgoh.

Free Sights

London is just packed with free things to do. Here are a few ideas to explore the city that won't cost you a single pound.

Museums
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 Museum
Imperial War Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
Museum of Childhood
Science Museum

Related: See more free museums

Parks

London's parks are calming and, well, downright lovely. The number of parks in London is staggering. Among the many, visit Hyde ParkKensington GardensHackney Marshes, Richmond Park, The Regent's Park, Battersea Park, Greenwich Park, and Holland Park.

Concerts

The Royal Opera House runs a series of free lunchtime concerts on Mondays. Book ahead online or call the box office to obtain details on the day: 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

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 seats with a BritRail Pass. Check the BritRail site for senior discount information.

Student Discounts

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 13 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 Travel 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.

If you are studying in London, you may be entitled to a Student Oyster card, which can save you 30% on travel. Find out if you are eligible on the Transport for London site.

Other Tips

Read up about the Oyster Card, which gives you considerable discounts on public transportation.

Related posts from our blog

From our London blog

Welcome to EuroCheapo, a guide to cheap hotels and budget travel in London and throughout Europe.

Our editors have inspected, photographed and reviewed inexpensive accommodation in London’s central neighborhoods in search of the very best values. Although the city isn’t the easiest for travelers on a budget, London does offer some small and inexpensive hotel options, along with lovely family-run B&Bs and some hostels that could also be a good fit.

Ready to find a hotel for your travel dates? Search in the box above to see what’s available.

Or browse through a list of our recommended hotels. All of these are located in central London, and are clean and affordable.

Keep your travel costs down

Hotels are just the beginning, of course. Click through to see a list of articles covering budget tips, including ways to save on the Tube, sightseeing, and restaurants.

And be sure to check out our London blog, which is regularly updated by Nina and Frances, our London correspondents, with ways to save and cheap and free things to do.

Thanks for visiting EuroCheapo. Together we can afford to go anywhere!

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