Low Budget London

  • © Michelle Collier

London and low budget don't usually go together. However with some clever planning and top Insider Tips, you can visit this bustling city without spending a fortune! Here are Marco Polo's top tips:


Sightseeing & Attractions

So much in London is free. The British Museum, The National Gallery, Tate Modern, walking along the Thames to look at street performers, Hyde Park... the list goes on! Check out: www.visitlondon.com/tag/free-attractions and www.londonforfree.net which lists guided tours, festivals, exhibitions, open days and cultural events costing nothing or £3 at the most.

Tourist attractions often offer online savings, as well as options to combine two attractions and save: e.g. London Eye with sightseeing cruise on the river or church visit with concert.

In summer, look out for the More London Free Festival’s films, music and theatre on the Thames free of charge (www.morelondon.com/scoop.html)


Pedal and save

The first half hour on the blue bikes of London’s cycle hire network is free! How about this: save the £6 for the TravelCard, cycle to the museum and walk back. Just take your VISA or MasterCard to the nearest docking station – in the city centre there is one every 400–500m, recognisable by the words CYCLE HIRE as a blue version of the tube symbol – and follow the simple instructions to release a bike. For more info:  www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/14811.aspx


Low Budget Accommodation

In the summer college break, Imperial College London offers 500 large, centrally located rooms, including breakfast for £49–86. Watts Way | Princes Gardens | Tel. +44 (0)20 7594 9507 | Tube: South Kensington (Circle, District, Piccadilly)  www3.imperial.ac.uk/summeraccommodation 

Interesting for Heathrow and Gatwick travellers: at the brand-new Japanese-inspired Yotel pod hotel, the designer standard cabin costs £55, the premium version £82. Also bookable for just four hours – now that’s handy! (£25/£40) Tel. +44 (0)207 100 8010 |  www.yotel.com

Garden Court Hotel:  Friendly hotel in pretty location, with garden. 40 rooms. | Includes buffet breakfast | £50 (single room with shared bathroom on corridor) to £175 (family room) | 30–31 Kensington Gardens Sq. | Tel. +44 (0)20 7229 2553 | www.gardencourthotel.co.uk | Tube: Bayswater (Circle, District)

Ridgemont Hotel: Traditional Bloomsbury family-run affair. Note: only half of the smallish rooms have their own bathroom (room sleeping five £125). Garden. 32 rooms | 65–67 Gower St. | Tel. + 44 (0) 20 7636 1141 | www.ridgemounthotel.co.uk | Tube: Goodge Street (Northern)

Keystone House (Hostel): New and welcoming King’s Cross hostel with just under 100 beds (from £17, plus breakfast £3.50) and personal atmosphere. A tip for early bookers: good-value two-person ‘dorms’. There is a women’s dorm too. Every Sat at 6pm people get together on the roof terrace for a free welcome drink! In-house internet café. 272–276 Pentonville Road | Tel. +44 (0) 20 7837 6444 | www.keystone-house.com | Tube: King’s Cross, St Pancras



Top restaurants slash their prices at lunchtime; set meals are cheaper than à la carte. Check the website of the local evening newspaper ‘Evening Standard’ www.standard.co.uk and www.london-eating.co.uk for good deals.

From morning to night, vegetarian outfit, Tibits (12–14 Heddon St. | Tel. +44 (0)20 7758 4110 | www.tibits.co.uk) offers a huge selection of freshly prepared, good value dishes and salads. Child friendly play corner downstairs.

An alternative for summer: buy everything you need for a picnic from the supermarket and rent a deckchair in one of the many inviting parks (4 hrs £2).


Cinema and Theatre

New releases, classics and iconic flicks (from £5.50) are on show at the Prince Charles repertory cinema in Chinatown. 7 Leicester Place | Tel. +44 (0) 20 7494 3654 | www.princecharlescinema.com | Tube: Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly)

Pick up half-price theatre tickets for the same evening (plus a £3 fee) at the two ‘tkts’ theatre booths (www.tkts.co.uk). Tkts Leicester Square (southern side) | Mon–Sat 10am–7pm, Sun 12 noon–4pm | Tube: Leicester Sq. (Northern, Piccadilly). There are two separate windows: one for matinee tickets, the other for evening shows (limited to two per person).



Fashion-conscious Londoners browse in charity shops (www.charityshops.org.uk) – preferably in wealthy areas such as Chelsea, e. g. at the British Red Cross  | 67 Old Church St. | Tube: Sloane Square (Circle, District).

Dirt-cheap variations on the latest fashion trends are for sale at Primark: 499–517 Oxford St. | www.primark.co.uk | Tube: Marble Arch (Central) | and Peacocks, e. g. 201–203 Old St. | www.peacocks.co.uk | Tube: Old Street (Northern).


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