London Hotels Articles

August 29, 2010

London on a Budget

Visiting London on a budget may seem impossible but it can be done if you choose traveling options off the beaten path. High tourist season is typically early April through late September. If you can opt to vacation there from early October through late March, you are likely to find less expensive airline tickets to and from London.

Once you’re in the Square Mile, you’ll have unlimited options for having fun, sleeping cheap and eating well without spending a wallet full of Euros. Typically, the second most expensive aspect of traveling abroad is the hotel stay, second only to the airfare to get there. Depending on the time of year you travel and your comfort level, your options are wide open.

Consider a home exchange. There are many home exchange facilitators, you can run a web search to find one you like. Members will pay an annual fee, usually $50 to $100. Most house swaps are offered in 1 week increments with a minimum of 2 weeks and you don’t necessarily swap your house with the same family whose house you will stay in. You might stay in a London flat while the family of Londoners stays in a home in Thailand while the Thai family stays in your home. Other than the annual fee and possibly a small swap fee, typically under $100, this is a free stay. Of course, you have to be comfortable with a group of strangers in your home while you’re away.

Summer holidays in London, while airfare will be at its peak, can still be cost efficient if you don’t mind staying in a university dormitory. Many universities throughout Europe, including in London, rent out their empty rooms for about $100 per night during summer and other school breaks. You won’t find perks like room service or even a private bath, but the price is right if you just need a place to lay your head.

Religious or not, you can rent a basic, clean room at one of the many convents and monasteries in the London area. You aren’t required to participate in any religious activities and nearly all convents and monasteries will rent to ye of little faith, no faith or a different faith.

As for fun and sightseeing, avoid the rental car and driving around town; strap on some comfy shoes or rent a bike instead. No need to search for a tiny parking spot or learning to drive on the opposite side of the street and you can stop to smell the roses whenever you like. Start each day in a different direction and go wherever the wind takes you.

Public transportation is an adventure on its own and can take you all over the city and even into the countryside. Take the London Underground rail system or a double decker bus for a few pounds. London is also working on an above ground rail system to help facilitate great eating deals include take out (called “takeaway”) meals. The Value Added Tax (VAT) can be 10% or more on dine in meals. VAT isn’t charged on takeaway. The added bonus is you get to choose the view or find a great place to eat and people watch.

Eat un American. Try picking up a late afternoon lunch at an ethnic or vegetarian restaurant. You’ll not only find some great deals but you’ll enjoy a wonderful new dining experience.

Follow or ask the locals. Employees at petrol stations (gas stations), grocery stores and your hotel front desk will likely know some out of the way dining establishments that offer great food for the budget minded.

Understand that budgeted travelers should be flexible and consider their trip an adventure. You might find a hotel, with reliable quality, to be worth the extra money. Dining at a pub might be great for the locals but you may not have the tolerance for fish and chips. Get out there and have fun.

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