London on a budget – city breaks for students

My home town is London, and I think as much as it’s an exciting place to explore – it can be extremely expensive to visit. With city breaks and ‘staycations’ on the rise at the moment due to the pandemic, I’d like to give you some tips as a Londoner on how to make the most out of a trip here without breaking the bank.

Public Transport

Don’t take a taxi. Don’t take a cab. Don’t take an Uber. There are so many alternatives that are cheaper, and usually faster. There’s the London underground, buses and bikes all available for you to use. You don’t even need a ticket! Just use contactless or an oyster card, tap and continue. Even Apple Pay and Google Pay is accepted. The best part about it – if you’re continuously travelling around Zone 1 (see image), you will get capped at £7.40. So you can travel on any TFL services as many times as you require and it will just cost you £7.40.

Zone 1 locations in London (according to TFL)

Accommodation

Tip: Avoid booking a hotel near a major train station and try searching for hotels in zones 3-4. These will be a lot cheaper and despite the distance, no doubt it’ll just be a bus or tube journey away.

If there’s just one or two of you, I’d thoroughly recommend staying in a Premier Inn Hub. They are small, compact hotel rooms with en suites, aircon, TVs, and tea/coffee making facilities. They generally start at £50 a night but could potentially be cheaper depending on the day of the week, season and distance into central London.

Activities

  • Museums – Most of them are free! Tate Modern, Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Museum of London, British Museum and tonnes more (there’s roughly 42) are all free to enter. Under normal circumstances you can just turn up but at the moment you need to prebook a time slot.
  • Merlin Attractions – Merlin currently owns the London Eye, Madame Tussauds London, Sea Life, London Dungeon and Shrek’s Adventure. If you’re interested in going to any of these and are in a pair, I’d recommend picking up a 2-4-1 coupon usually found on Kellogg’s cereal and Cadbury’s products.
  • Parks – Parks are free to visit. I’d recommend heading to Greenwich park and then walking through the Old Royal Naval College to get some movie-set views (Cruella, Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean, and so many more films were filmed there). There’s also the opportunity to go deer-spotting at Richmond Park and pelican feeding everyday at St James’ park – yes you heard right, pelicans.
  • Shows/Musicals – I’ve found in the past that booking a show on the day, last minute, provides the best price. They can be very expensive, but most shows have £20 – £30 tickets available still with an amazing view of the stage. I’d recommend going to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square (it currently has a statue of Laurel and Hardy on the top so you can’t miss it) for good prices.