London’s a great city – one of the greatest in the world –
but if you’ve just arrived, it can be scary, particularly if you’re short of
cash. But there’s loads more to London than city slickers and sky-high rentals.
If you’re fresh in town and light in the pocket, here’s a few tips to help out.
London is big, and learning to find your way around safely
is essential. But if you’re savvy, it needn’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s easier
to get about on foot than you might think – especially with a smartphone.
Daytime is great for exploring. Get
yourself a second-hand bike and the city’s your oyster, but don’t forget lock,
lights and helmet. And if you’re new to cycling, Transport for London offer free
starter sessions. Santander bikes give you half an hour cycling free – or
£2 for the day. Public transport can also be cheap. Get a travel card if you’re
under 25, and Oyster cards are good, especially if you don’t have to hit the
rush hour: it’s cheaper off peak. And check out ‘hopper fares’ – for £1.50 you
can take as many buses or trams as you like in an hour. There are also great
free travel apps out there – like citymapper.
Doing stuff for free
Despite being among the top twenty most expensive cities in
the world, there’s tons of stuff you can do in London for free. It’s museums
and galleries are world-beaters: decadence at the V&A, furious experiment
at the Tate Modern, and classical glory at the National. Plus, there’s all of
human history at the British Museum, and a billion years of life at the Natural
History Museum. London’s parks – its green lungs – are marvellous for exploring,
and their cafes perfect for loafing over a coffee and watching the world go by.
Guided tours can help you dig deep into London’s history – and you can browse
forever in its gorgeous markets – check out Colombia Rd flower market in Bethnal
Green or for some of the best food on the planet, try Borough Market snug by
Eating out on a budget
London is the world’s food capital. Non-stop cultural
diversity means great grub from across the globe. And forget about Michelin
starred restaurants. Street foods, pop ups and takeaways make fab food that’s
easy on your pocket. Go Asian in Chinatown, Indian in Brick Lane – plus you’ll
have some of the best shwarmas, baos, wraps, bento boxes, burgers and ribs on
the planet. And don’t forget the fish and chips: it’s a cheap and hearty London
staple, perfect for warming you up on a cold London night. You can also pick up
great cheap food in most of London’s markets – and it’s hard to beat a good fry
up in one of London’s greasy spoons. Pubs can also be good places to pick up
cheap and tasty food – and get your hands on a taste
card. You’ll get 50% off or 2-for-1 deals in thousands of restaurants. Or
even better, become a mystery
diner – and get paid to eat at your favourite spots.
Discount, discount, discount
Whatever you do, don’t forget the discount sites. When it
comes to food Groupon,
Wowcher have huge discounts at great restaurants. And Lastminute
let you select restaurants with offers. They’re also stuffed with great things
to do at knockdown prices. And while you’re online, check out skintlondon, londonforfree and brokeinlondon. Great sites full of ideas for maxing out the
city on a budget.
Save Selfridges food hall for later. Savvy food shoppers in
London head for markets where great food is cheap as chips. There’s hardly a stretch
of London without a local market – but make sure you take a look at Berwick St
– it’s a 300-year-old reminder of the glories of old Soho. Great newcomers
include Boxpark in Shoreditch, and the Southbank Centre Food Market tucked
behind the Royal Festival Hall. And for great Asian grub, take a look at Bang
Bang Oriental in Colindale, Brent – it’s a bit of a step, but worth it to see
the biggest Asian food market in Europe. And if you’re heading for the
supermarkets, go discount: Aldi and Lidl have great fresh food at budget prices.
Exercise in London doesn’t have to mean massive fees for
swanky gyms. London lends itself to walking – take in the great parks of
Hampstead, Richmond and Greenwich, or saunter the Thames footpath for an
unforgettable view of the city. A cheap second-hand bike – consider a single
speed – means great exercise plus free travel. There are free club runs – check
out London City runners – plus if
you like your exercise indoors, there are a bunch of affordable gyms starting
from around £15.00 a month. And while you’re looking after yourself,
registering with a GP is free, and make sure you shop around for an NHS dentist
– it can save you a fortune.