How to visit London on a BudgetBy YHA
As ace as the capital can be, there's no escaping the fact that London is expensive. With high-end shops, Michelin-starred restaurants and black-tie events an everyday occurrence, London can be a bewilderingly expensive destination – on a first glance, that is.
With London, if you just scratch away the surface a little, a whole new city is uncovered, one that's full with budget yet sensational restaurants, and one where shopping locally costs much less than going to the high-street. It's not just with dining and shopping that London can be affordable either, as a good night out can just cost as much as your drink, too.
Here, we've uncovered some of London's best kept secrets for some fun on a budget – enjoy!
Make a budget weekend of it – there's more than enough to do in London to last you a couple of days on just a few pennies, and hostels are a great and affordable place to rest your head for a night. YHA have hotels across London, and are the ideal pit-stop for your London weekend whilst on a shoestring.
Shopping and other day-time fun
London is one of the greatest shopping destinations in the world. From Harrods to the local markets, all manner of pockets are catered for in the capital – but it's the places with soul that offer the most varied yet affordable purchases.
The iconic Camden Market is a local mecca for everything from clothes to candles, food to homewares. The Camden atmosphere is echoed across London, with similar markets taking place in Portobello Road and Spitalfields – be sure to check the operating days and opening hours before setting out.
If shopping proves a little tiresome after a while, London is as famed for its culture as much as it is its fashion. Many of the museums and art galleries are free to enter – most work through an optional donation system – and offer really great exhibits, covering all manner of things.
The Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are all free to enter and just a stone's throw from one another. The Tate Modern is always worth a wander, as is the Tate Britain – both are usually good sources for inspiration if you're studying something creative.
Eating in London can be a tricky affair. Some restaurants – namely the ones with no prices on the sample menu outside – are definitely a no-go, and the high-street offerings are fine, but that's it – just fine.
As with the rest of London, digging a little deeper into the city rewards you ten-fold. For tasty independent restaurants that don't come with the excessive price-tag, be sure to explore the Carnaby area. It's nearby to Oxford Street but away from the main thoroughfare, and is home to many different styles of cooking – all great.
Be conscious of avoiding a restaurant just based on its outside appearance. Some of the most delicious London restaurants look altogether tatty from the outside – this is just how some amazing, affordable places manage to keep their costs down and shouldn't put you off, though always use your intuition too!
It does admittedly get a little tougher on a night out to create a great evening on a small budget, but it is possible – you just have to rely on word-of-mouth much more.
London is a great city for emerging comedy acts, and many stand-ups – professional and amateur alike – are known for giving free gigs at comedy venues and bars across the city. These are great free nights out, and are definitely good fun – you never know which famous face you could see, testing material out below the public-radar.
Similarly, the city is absolutely ace for free music gigs. Again, knowing what's on and where is the hardest element of this, but you'll be surprised by how much you can find out just by talking to a busker on the street or locals in the coffee shop at lunchtime.
It is doable, it's great fun so do it.