If you haven’t been lucky enough to go on Erasmus or just haven’t got the funds to go inter-railing or on a J1 visa, don’t lose all hope of escaping the green isle this summer. Ali Spillane gives her advice on how to see London on a budget.
Flights
The key to getting cheap flights is being flexible. It may mean an early start or a late flight home. It’s usually cheaper to fly mid-week too. I went from Monday to Thursday and it was very reasonable.
 
Booking a while in advance can also help. With London’s maze of airports, I would definitely advise booking transfers in advance too. If you fly to Heathrow the tube is an obvious option. National Express buses are a good option if you’re flying to Stansted or Gatwick.
 
Transport 
The tube is undoubtedly the best way to travel. With Oyster cards and travel cards available, even the most bemused tourist can navigate London’s underground. Once you get the hang of changing lines and finding platforms it’s a breeze. 
 
Citymapper is a free app and it will make your travelling much easier, finding you the most direct routes to your destination. Be warned, if you’re going out for the night make sure you have organised a night bus home as the tubes don’t run all night.
 
Accommodation 
I was lucky as I have a sister currently living in London so I got a wooden floor for free. But you don’t have to spend a fortune on accommodation- there are many reasonably priced hostels on the outskirts of the city, but make sure you are on the tube line! 
 
Hostelworld offers a range of cheap options, and for those of you who are familiar with the chain of Generator hostels, London is also home to the franchise.
 
Activities 
Although it was not my first time in London, I was accompanied by a friend who was going for the first time, so we tried to balance the things we did. 
 
My favourite thing we did was a bicycle tour with London Bicycle Tours. (somewhere in the region of 15/20 pounds.) 
 
We picked the central tour so we saw all the major attractions ranging from the London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster, Buckingham Palace (for the changing of the guard), Trafalgar Square and so much more. 
 
The tour guides are brilliant and really make the tour. It is three hours but don’t let that turn you off. There was a ten year old on our tour and she managed just fine. You’re never on the bike for more than five or ten minutes.
 
I am also a big fan of ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ located beside M&M world in Leicester Square. The top tip for getting a good deal is to book online in advance and opt for the evening saver. This just means that you cannot enter until after 5.30pm. 
 
Just because you are on a budget does not mean you have to avoid the West End, in fact, many of the musicals have very reasonably priced seats. There are last minute ticket booths in Leicester Square, but if you have your heart set on a certain musical just book the tickets online in advance.
 
We purchased tickets for Wicked in the Apollo Victoria Theatre for 20 pounds with uktickets.com. Although we were quite near the back we had a perfect view. There are binoculars for rent for just 1 pound and they provide you with a perfect up close view of the stage.
 
I would definitely advise spending a morning (or entire day) at Camden markets. The Camden Lock is beautiful with lots of cheap food, clothes, souvenirs and much more. 
 
If the weather is good there are lots of lovely places to people watch and picnic. And after a long day of browsing and bargaining, Soho square offers the perfect place to rest your feet.
 
Eating out 
With a healthy range of budget restaurants, there’s no need to make the stop off at McDonalds. My personal favourite is Weatherspoon’s which is also found throughout the city. They do very tasty and reasonably priced meals and drinks. 
 
Picnics are also a cheap alternative. If, like us, you decide to pre-book your attractions and tickets, your only expense will be food and whatever shopping you decide to do. 
 
I assure you that London can indeed be done on the cheap. From cycling around the city’s largest attractions, to browsing through Camden Markets, to a night out on the West End, London offers plenty of exciting and affordable options. So what are you waiting for?
 
 
Photo: Hernán Piñera/ Flickr