When you hear London, what comes to mind? Maybe the architecture, the Royal Family, the famous landmarks? Well when I think of London, I think ….EXPENSIVE! So what were we thinking of when we decided to go to London during the first week of our two-week break?
Well, I am pleased to say we managed to do it without breaking the bank. In this post, I’m going to tell you how we did it and how you can too.
Places to Stay
There are a number of options for places to stay if ever you are visiting London on an overnight trip. Most, as you know, are quite expensive. It’s best to avoid those. Air b and b offers viable options which you can check out. They even now offer both self-catering and catered accommodation. The choice is there and I like that you can do some constructive bargaining. The location is key so if you already have in mind places that you would like to visit, then I suggest that you make sure you are located near enough so that travelling costs are reduced. Couch surfing is another way to go that might be your cheapest option. It comes with risks so be careful and if you are a lone female travelling, then I would not suggest couch surfing. If you have not heard of it before then I suggest you do some research. Basically, it is where you offer other travellers a ‘free’ room in your house and they in turn offer for the same for other couch surfers visiting their area.
We managed to bag a great deal through Booking.com and saved a lot on two rooms: one family room and a double. They were quite comfy and near to the central locations by walking.
When to Go to London
Choose wisely when you travel. There are times when expenses seem more than at other times of year such as when there are big celebrations like Christmas or even the Summer holiday. We went at Easter time. We got two weeks off but we were careful to go when the overall cost would be cheaper. If we went at a time that included Easter Sunday or Monday for example, then the cost of the accommodation would definitely be more and I understand that some restaurants charge more or sometimes less for meals depending on the time of year. So we stayed for three days, avoiding those special days and therefore spending less.
Getting to London
There are a number of ways to get there including driving yourself or taking various forms of public transport, including bus, coach, and train. There are also a number of companies that offer coach services from most major cities in the UK. We decided to go by Megabus because it was the least expensive way to get there and back to our home city of Birmingham. We do use National Express sometimes, but this time Megabus worked out cheaper. In fact, Megabus advertise their fares as starting from £1!
Travelling Around London
The Way to go is on foot if you don’t want it to cost too much. We did a fair bit of our travels that way and then rested our sore feet in a soothing bath at night back at the hotel. The next best option is by train (underground as well as aboveground). If you are wise you can pay minimally for the train travels. There are various options depending on whether or not you have an Oyster card, if you have children in your party and if you have a particular type of bank card. The attendants are very helpful and really don’t mind answering your queries in your attempt to save on travel expenses. By the way, an Oyster card now cost £5. You can top it up with as much or as little as you like and even if you have more money left on the card, you can save it for future travels.
Things and Places to do and see
You know those famous London landmarks and destinations? London Eye, Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Open Top Bus Tours etc. Most were too expensive to give serious consideration to, but we wanted to be able to say ‘been there, done that’. So to get around that what we did was to go to places that were free to go to and those others that would look good in our memoirs, we took photos, lots of them with the landmarks in the background. So try capturing Big Ben, London Eye, Red Phone Boxes, London Bridge, Buckingham Palace and make your own designs and memories with them using free apps that are easily available.
London Eye is pretty and pretty expensive. It cost more than £20 for children to ride and much more for adults. It gets very busy at times too and there are very long queues…….frustrating! Just get a photo of the family… with the view of the landmark in the background.
Restaurants in London are expensive, but there are other ‘cheap’ places to eat that serve really awesome authentic foods. We went on one street where the food was so amazing and people were queuing up to taste the delicacies. By the way, I’ve found that if you say ‘What is that? I’ve never tried it before’, you will get a taste and you can do that from as many stalls as you like, they really don’t mind.
I find that the eateries serve large portions so what we did at the end of the evening meal is to ask for a takeaway bag and take our food back to the hotel. The leftovers are a welcome brunch meal as we wake late, past breakfast time. This meant that with eating brunch, lunch would be too early so we had the evening meal next. This saved us some money as we mostly had only 2 meals a day. Make sure to have some fruits and maybe your choice of nuts to snack on. Winner for the pocket as well as the waistline!
There are beautiful parks in London which are free, refreshing and relaxing to be in. Be sure to check these out and take your photos as proof: (who needs proof when you will have awesome memories eh?). The flowers and plants are truly breathtaking and there are even some exotic ones in the mix.
I remember taking my daughter many years ago to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. It was a good little stroll from our Hotel there and we could stand comfortably there by the gate to watch. Years on when I took my foster child, I remember having to lift her above the crowds so she could have a look. Well, this time when we went with them both, we got there a little late and it was almost impossible to see inside the courtyard. There was a big bustling crowd. So if ever you want to see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, get there with at least an hour to spare so that you can secure your spot and get a good view.
One young Egyptian girl was asking me what was significant about the guards changing shift. My way of explaining went something like this: ‘you know if one security guard finished the night shift at a pub and his shift is now over, well he would just pick up his bag and go home and the next guard would start working but with the Royal Family, being as posh as they are, almost everything has a ceremony that goes with it. So when one set of guards go, there is a ceremony to reinstate new guards’. I’m pleased to say that she was pleased with my explanation. lol.
The markets in London sell an array of exquisite items from all over the world. Camden market is my absolute favourite! Be sure to check it out.
Talking about markets, there are some lovely finds to be had in Charity shops in London. OMG! We were amazed at what we could find. You should check out a live video which we did, highlighting some ‘steals’ in London’s charity shops. The video is now available on Youtube too.
So we had an amazing time sightseeing in London. We did do some shopping at Stratford Centre which is a large shopping area with various shops and two great food courts with foods from various cuisines available. Some of the shops sell quite expensive stuff but some are quite reasonable including Primark where we found a few bargains.
Of course, we wanted to taste Jamaican cuisine London style so we treated ourselves on the last night there to a good hearty meal at Levi Roots Caribbean Smoke House. Check it out if ever you are in London. It was really good and the ambience and friends there made it memorable.
So yes, we had a great time. The photos will help us with our lifetime memories of the three frugal days we spent in London. We found out that it was quite easy to travel via the Euro tunnel to Paris too! That will definitely be on our list next time, provided we can do it frugally.
Here is a video we made when we checked out a second-hand shop. That was an eye-opener! Check us out and tell us what you think.
Have you been before? What are your favourite spots and things to do? Drop us a line in the comment box below.