Budgeting takes work and more than anything, self-control, but the payoff is real! You can travel twice as many places if you're savvy about it and spend half as much. So here's a budgeting challenge for you: take on the city of London, known for being the NYC of England where money flows like water. Here's a helpful guide to making your money go further while in London.
The most costly travel expenses tend to be transportation and overnight stay. It varies person to person, but I prefer affordability over comfort, and in Europe, there are options for most every type of budget. I only spent 44 pounds on transport and overnight for our weekend in London.
This bus not only keeps money in your wallet, but adds stamps to your passport too. Take your pick of the many cities Megabus leaves from and travel to 9 different countries. Our 6 hour bus ride from Newcastle to London cost a mere 14 pounds round-trip. Cheap transport, check!
If you're not familiar with what a hostel is, think a hotel but community living. Instead of having our own bedroom, we slept in a room full of bunks with 17 other people. They're ideal for weekend trips for college students and easy on the pocket-book. We paid 15 quid a night (30 all together) at the Queen Elizabeth Hostel just a 15 minute ride on the Underground from the London city-centre. Since this was my first hostel experience I had low expectations for the hostel since it was so affordable. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was very clean, spacious, and had a great social environment.
They also offered a breakfast buffet each morning for 1.50 quid so we got stuffed before we started each day's adventure. Hostels.com is the best for comparing prices in whatever city you plan to go to. Just be sure to book as far ahead in advance as possible or prices will go up, same goes for transport!
TIP 1: Avoid places with enterance fees
I've found that if you don't have long to visit your destination and lack a huge budget, you don't have to actually go in the attractions and pay admission fees to experience them! This is the exact approach that we took when we arrived in London at 7:30AM and spent the day wandering about the city seeing Big Ben, the London Eye, the Tower Bridge, Chinatown, Oxford Street, and Buckingham Palace. Which leads me to my next tip...
TIP 2: Take in the city
This not-quite-as-touristy strategy of not going in attractions not only saves you money but allows you to truly observe what life's like in the city! Business men bustling about, the sound of the cars and buses clogging the streets, the birds all about the city...
It's incredible to sit and take in an environment so different from Newcastle or from home. It's a good idea to wait to the last day of your trip to go in and pay for your must sees. You'll get to see more on your list and not be as likely to give in to tourist-schemes.
TIP 3: Do what the locals do
We went through both sides of Green Park on the way to and from Buckingham Palace where we saw the changing of the guard. Not only is a stroll through the park free, but it's a great place to picnic if you get as gorgeous of a day as we did. With spring being just around the corner the budding flowers were peaking from the ground and birds were everywhere! This photo of a swan in the park pond was one of the most random photos I took during our trip. Turns out it's my favorite photo I've ever (yes, ever) taken to date. I love how the non-intentional photos can be your favorites sometimes. :)
TIP 4: Take the London Underground
We walked A LOT during our three days in London but gave ourselves a break and bought an Oyster card at Victoria Station our first few hours in the city. This got us to the hard to reach places like Camden Market and our hostel which would have been a two hour walk from the city-center. An Oyster card just requires a 5 pound deposit at your purchase point and from there you can "top off" your card as you wish!
TIP 5: Visit Kingscross Station 9 and three quarters
A bit of a trip and an hour + wait for the photo, the famous 9 3/4 station is a Harry Potter fan's dream with a full shop inside. Kingscross is a gorgeous station inside and out. Outside you can take a swing on their swinging sculpture and inside you'll find the ceiling's intricate architecture and a long line of Harry Potter buffs.
TIP 6: Explore the museums with free admission
We saved this for our last day in London since most attractions are closed on Sundays. London has an abundance of museums (much like Paris) the science, natural history, and design museums are just naming the few that we ventured into.
TIP 7: Visit the markets
We took the tube to Camden Market on our second morning in London. On the main strip are shop after shop with unique decor and wall art. When you get to the main market, you'll find the food and store selections to be very diverse and unique. If you don't spend money there this can be another free visit in London to tack on your list! Next time I plan on venturing an hour out on the underground to Brick Lane to see their market.
TIP 8: Take a walk down Oxford Street
Known for some of the most renown shops in the world and fashion industry Oxford Street boasts stores like Harrod's, Uniqlo, Guess and Anthroplogie that will test your window-shopping skills. I was careful to only buy a few gifts while I was there but the stores are elaborate and all too tempting. You'll find more American brands on the strip than anywhere else in England and possibly Europe. My favorite store was We Built This City, a store full of colorful artwork, trinkets, and (not so cliche) funky souvenirs you won't find anywhere else.
This guide will hopefully make your time in England a little more exciting and a little less stressful on you and your wallet. Have questions or suggestions for my next blog post? Comment below! Like the photos? See My Gallery for More.
Until next time,