Stay – Hotels in London are not cheap. For a hostel you pay the least, but then you shouldn’t be too picky about your privacy. Per night you pay between €30 ($35) and €35 ($40).
A budget double room starts at €45 – €50 ($50 – $56).
If you want some more luxury, you’ll have to pay a steep price, but you’ll also get a lot more in return. For three stars you’ll start paying around €90 ($105).
Always check the location, because sometimes the cheaper accommodations are located quite far out of town.
An overview of availability and deals can be found on Booking.com.
For hostels I advice to check on Hostelsclub.
Eat – In a big city like London you can spend as little or as much as you want on food and drinks.
The cheapest are probably ready-made meals which are sold at stores such as Marks & Spencer. Fast food is also very cheap. McDonalds will cost you between €5 and €15 ($6 – $17) per person, and a little more ‘local’ form of fast food (fish and chips) will cost between €5 and €10 ($6 – $11).
Make sure to take a look at the Asian or Indian restaurants as well. These are often cheaper (€10 to €15 – $11 to $17) than the other restaurants (€20 to €25 – $22 to $28).
For a beer in a club or bar, you pay at least €6 ($7). So it’s not a bad idea to buy some beers from the supermarket if you plan on going out.
Transport – Busses and subways are the cheapest form of transportation in London. However… A single ticket is still ridiculously expensive (at least £7!) So you’d better immediately buy an Oyster Card. These plastic cards can be charged with a certain amount. By using this card, the cost of your single ride on the public transport will be cut in half or even more.
As a tourist it is best to consider an Oyster Card in combination with a Travelcard. For one day of unlimited travel, you pay £12.10. The Oyster Card itself costs a one-time £3 fee.
I recommend to only take a taxi in emergencies because the -charming- form of transport is very expensive.
Oyster Card – The capital of England is huge and hence impossible to explore all on foot. Therefore, immediately invest smart in public transport and buy an Oyster Card. London wants to minimize paper waist and therefore they sell bus and metro tickets at ridiculously high prices. Buy a one- or seven-day Visitor Oyster Card instead and save a lot of money.
Going out? Pre-drinks! – Want to party in London? Good idea! Save on your night out by buying a couple of drinks at the supermarket. Alcohol (And fizzy sugary drinks as well!) is quite expensive in bars and clubs. A beer will cost you at least €5 – $6.
Going out? Leave early! – Another way to save some of your pounds is by going out earlier than usual. Many clubs charge a higher entrance fee after a certain hour. Pay less (or get in for free!) if you arrive before midnight or eleven o’clock at night.
Free museums – Did you know that there are many free museums in London? The National Gallery, the Museum of London and the Tate Modern are probably the best-known museums and they are completely free!
Cheap tickets for the Westend – Just like New York has Broadway, London has the Westend. For wonderful theater performances and musicals you should definitely go here. Tickets are not cheap, but luckily you can buy tickets at a reduction of sometimes 60% at the TKTS booth! TKTS can be found on Leicester Square, but please note that waiting times can be long!
Traveling around the UK? Book in advance! – Isn’t London the only place you plan while visiting the United Kingdom? Try to book your transport a few weeks in advance. Train tickets are incredibly expensive if you buy them last minute.
Cheaper restaurants – With a Bite Card or Tastecard you get a lot of discounts in London restaurants, pubs and bars. Often, the first few weeks that the card is issued you only pay a very low amount, so you can take advantage of these discount cards.
Trafalgar Square – One of the many famous squares in London. The very central square with a large fountain in the middle where many people jump in to celebrate the new year. Adjacent to the square you will also find the National Gallery.
Piccadilly Circus – Piccadilly Circus is Times Square in miniature. The bustling LED commercials always make sure that the busy square, filled with the red London busses, is in the spotlight. You will also find a lot of nice shops and just a bit further you’ll find the theater district.
Tower of London and Tower Bridge – Go explore a piece of history in the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. In this place you can see, among others, the crown jewels of England but you can also take some pictures together with the royal guards. Tickets can be purchased on the spot, but online they often are slightly cheaper.
(Free) museums – There are a lot of museums in the capital of Great Britain. Each has its own focus, but most are very pleasant to visit. In addition, most are free. The British Museum, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Churchill Museum and the National History Museum are all very instructive and interesting.
Secret Cinema – Do you see enjoy movie theaters? Then this is really something that you should not miss. During a secret cinema presentation you head to a movie where you have no idea about what it is. You’ll arrive at a secret location where everything will have something to do with the movie you’re about to watch. The building will be completely emerged with the movie, and together with great actors, gorgeous sets and almost real-life experiences this will be something to never forget. Read more on secretcinema.org.
Big Ben and Houses of Parliament – Big Ben is one of the most famous landmarks in London and chances are you’ll be deafened by the bell sounds it produces multiple times a day!
The clock itself can not climbed, but you can get an interesting tour of the adjoining houses of parliament. You can hear more about the gunpowder plot and the current parliament, but especially the wonderful interior is worth a few photos.
Buckingham Palace – The royal palace is nestled between the Green Park and St James’s Park and attracts thousands of tourists daily. Catching a glimpse of the royal family will be difficult, but the impressive building and nice dressed guards are also worth a visit though.
From May to the end of July you should definitely go to the changing of the guards. It takes place every day at 11:30 am.
Borough Market – Do you like markets? Do you like food? Then you must go to Borough Market! This gigantic indoor market offers a lot of nice dining options including an authentic and unique canopy and is therefore a favorite among many locals and tourists.
Camden Town – Camden Town is personally one of my favorite neighborhoods in London. The bizarre shops, quirky markets and trendy people make it a favorite among young Londoners. Amy Winehouse was born in this district; an excellent example of how trendy this neighborhood is!
Theatre – London has for several centuries built a beautiful theater culture. The best shows can be found on the Westend, but also smaller performances are often worth it.
Visit parks – In London there is a very high concentration of small and large parks. If you’re exploring London on foot you’ll definitely pass by a couple of them. Both in summer and in winter the parks are great fun to spot humans and animals.
Some nice parks are St James’s Park, Hyde Park and Regent’s Park.
Stonehenge – The world-famous Stonehenge is of course not in London, but pretty close. If you can spare half a day, I recommend to definitely visit the monument. There are several tours that arrange transportation and a guide starting from London.
London Eye – It might seem a bit of a tourist trap, but the London Eye is in fact a great attraction. Once you’ve arrived at the highest point, you get an unparalleled view from the Ferris wheel. Queues can be very long, but if you’re willing to pay more you can buy tickets to skip the line.
London Dungeon – London experienced quite many horrible characters in its past (Jack The Ripper, anyone?). To scare yourself witless with stories of torture and other horrendous tales you should head down to the London Dungeon. Book your ticket in advance for a discount.
Shakespeare’s Globe – Shakespeare or history fans should just definitely vist to the Shakespeare’s Globe. This old theater has been perfectly preserved and shows how theater was done and staged in the past. The theater has an open roof and there are no seats. Just like during the Elizabethan period.
Forgetting your travel adapter – In the United Kingdom (except for Northern Ireland) they use a different power outlet. Don’t forget to take your travel adapter with you!
Cash on the bus – Want to use the bus but you don’t have an Oyster Card yet? Then you might have a problem. Since 2014, buses no longer accept cash. If you are visiting London it really is a good idea to buy an Oyster Card, for paper tickets are incredibly expensive.
Short subway rides – If you don’t want to spend so much money on an oyster card but rather take single rides, I advice you to always check how far it is to walk. Most bus and metro stations are really close to each other! Covent Garden is close to Leicester Square, for example, as well as Euston, Euston Square, Bank Station and Cannon Street. Monument House and Mansion house are located right next to each other.
Shell Game on Westminster bridge – For anyone who doesn’t know this game; under one of three (or more) cups, there is one ball and after shuffling around the cups for a bit you have to guess where the ball eventually ended up. This game is often played at Westminster Bridge, but unfortunately it is often organized by gangs out on big amounts of money by cheating…