What to know about visiting London before you go
When is the best time to visit London?
London is a year-round destination and has a unique energy during each of the various seasons. School and public holidays can get busy so if you’d like to see London with less crowds, consider travelling in shoulder periods like June or September. You’d be wise to pack a brolly (as the Brits call them) whatever time of year you visit!
How To Get Around London
Grab an Oyster Card when you land for the best value travel on public transport – the daily Oyster travel cap is £9.30 (approx. $15 AUD) for Zones 1-4. If your debit or credit card has paywave you can simply tap on with this but be aware your bank may charge international transaction fees. 24-hour tube services run every Friday and Saturday on the Northern, Central, Victoria and Jubilee lines, with the Piccadilly line joining from 16 December, 2016. Alternatively, night buses run late into the night if you’re out and about on week nights and Sunday.
How to experience London without burning a hole in your pocket
Activities: Some of London’s best sites cost nothing to enjoy, you just have to put on your walking shoes and get exploring. If you’re happy to self-guide, London has some beautiful walking trails, the most popular include along the South Bank from Tower Bridge to Millennium Bridge or along the canal in north London towards Little Venice.
You can also take a tour with a local guide and pay what you please. Strawberry Tours offer walking tours on topics including Jack The Ripper, Soho and street art and they charge nothing upfront – you simply pay what you think the tour was worth at the end of.
Finally, many of London’s fantastic museums are free too. Work your way around the Natural History Museum, British Museum, Science Museum, Imperial War Museum and V&A and you’ll need not pay a thing.
Food and drink: London’s food markets are a great place to grab a range of international cheap eats – Exmouth Market is one of London’s top streets for cheap eats. Try also the Sunday Up Market in Shoreditch and Brixton Market for meals from £5/$8 AUD. If you avoid fine dining and hotel fare you can easily eat out 3 times per day for around $80 AUD per person.
Accommodation: Hotels in London are notoriously pricey but hostels (or ‘poshtels’ as some of the nicer ones are known) offer a social and often stylish place to crash from only $25 per night for a private room.
Where To Stay
Photo credit: Generator Hostel London
Harry Potter fans will enjoy staying close to Kings Cross at Clink 78. (Great for getting that Platform 9 ¾ photo – another free thing to do in London!) This former 19th century courthouse is now a bright and funky hostel and a single room costs from just $25 a night.
For those that want to be close to the hipster hotspots in the East End, Dictionary Hostel Shoreditch is an eco-friendly hostel with a buzzing bar. A dorm room here will set you back just $26 a night.
Finally, Generator Hostel is London’s largest hostel with over 850 and generous, well-designed communal areas. Based in Bloomsbury this hostel is great for those who don’t want to be far from the shops on Oxford Street. Single rooms start from $25 a night.
Sample Budget London Itinerary
Day 1: Historic London
Start your day at Trafalgar Square. Get a selfie with the lions and stick your head in the National Gallery (free). From there walk The Mall to Buckingham Palace, wave to Lizzie and wait for the changing of the guard (also free). Wander your way through St James Park (grab snacks from Marks and Spencer – $20 AUD) before heading to Downing Street and Big Ben. Finish your day with views from the London Eye and boos at the London Dungeon – a combination ticket for the two costs £39/$65 AUD if purchased online in advance.
Day 2: Hipster East London
Get to grips with the street art in Shoreditch via a free walking tour. Check out the vintage shops on Hanbury and Cheshire streets and grab a bagel for lunch from Brick’s Lane famous Beigel Bake (£3.70/$6 AUD for one stuffed with salt beef). Head to Box Park for free live music and a beer before heading back to Brick Lane and bartering with the curry houses for a good deal – you should at least get a free beer with dinner if there’s a group of you. (Meals approx. £16/$26 AUD per person for curry, rice and naan bread).
Day 3: Shopping Central London
After all that thrifty sightseeing you might have some pennies saved to spend on the great British High Street. If not, enjoy window-shopping at some of London’s most iconic addresses – Covent Garden, Oxford Street and Regent Street (Hamley’s toy store is a must-visit – especially at Christmas). Walk to Piccadilly Circus for a photo in front of the famous lights and head into Fortnum & Mason if you have a thing for fancy foods. It would be wrong to visit London without enjoying a traditional afternoon tea. One of the best value can be found at Bea’s Of Bloomsbury who charge £26.50/$44 AUD for a full afternoon tea with all the trimmings.
Combine your visit to London with one these great destinations found less than 2 hours by train from the city.
Windsor – Head to Royal Windsor and visit the exhibitions at Windsor Castle or caped boys of Eton.
Brighton – Escape the city for this famous cobbled beach with quaint laneways and the Oriental-inspired Royal Pavilion.
Bath – Explore the Roman baths and then soak in the state-of-the-art facilities at Thermae Bath Spa, Britain’s only natural thermal spa.
Ready to book your trip to London? Book cheap flights, hotels, and car hire with Skyscanner Australia.
Published 23 November 2016. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.