Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Beating the £ in London (and the rest of England)

Beating the £ in London (and the rest of England)

Old Mar 25th, 2008, 02:25 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 2,804
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Beating the £ in London (and the rest of England)

If your travels this summer bring you to or through England, your planning has probably brought you frighteningly close to the realities of traveling in a country with a currency that is significantly stronger than your own.

Saving while sightseeing in Italy and France was definitely doable according to many of you---but in England? Does that require true will and painstaking planning?

(See Beating the Euro in Italy):
(See Beating the Euro in France):

Like those threads above, this thread will hopefully garner a laundry list of great tips for stretching your budget, saving on the go, and general top values. Cate and Linda, editors for Fodor's London 2009 and Fodor's England 2009 will be by later--they're busy updating those guides and are keen to include some of your suggestions.

I spent considerable time in England a few years ago and was on a strict budget.

My personal top values include:

1) Standing seats at the Globe Theater. I saw Midsummer's Night Dream for I believe £5; it started to lightly rain midway through. Sounds kind of horrible, but it was actually fantastic.

2) Small breakfasts, big lunches. This is generally how I travel, but I found that this was particularly true in England. For something quick and on the go, Tesco's wrapped sandwiches worked in a pinch. Local pub specials for lunches often yielded delightful meals. Wagamama, the famous communal seating noodle shop with locations in London, was also a favorite.

3) National Express. I found that sometimes opting for the bus over the train saved me significant money and I didn't really lose all that much time (though for folks with limited time, a car would be preferable). These buses are of the coach variety; they're relatively nice and definitely comfortable.

Katie_H is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2008, 02:52 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 24,773
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Most of these have been mentioned over and over again:

Many London museums are free

Taking buses are cheaper (and more scenic) than the tube. £4.80 for zone 1-2 off-peak for tube; but £3 for bus only (per day).

Lots of University dorms in London offer accomdation at low price during school breaks (summer and x'mas). Some dorms have en-suite rooms and some even offer breakfast. All the dorms have shared kitchen.

Half-Priced theatre tickets at TKTS

Taking Southern trains instead of Gatwick Express if you are flying into/out of LGW.

2-for-1 offers at daysoutguide.co.uk with valid train ticket
yk is online now  
Old Mar 25th, 2008, 03:09 PM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 8,247
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Not exactly some secret source of wisdom, but anyway:
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2008, 04:02 PM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 148
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I've been researching travel in London, and it seems like quite a few B&B's listed include breakfast in the price, some even offer a full English breakfast, or a choice between that or a continental breakfast. Most seem to be a pretty good price, especially for a place with character. They may not be hostel prices, but most of what I've seen were under 100 pounds.

I haven't acutally stayed at any, just what I've seen while researching. There's one that I'll definitely stay at when I do visit.

Also the British Museum I think offers afternoon tea for about half of what the "known" tea places cost. You might have to re-check that, though, I don't have the book that says that with me right now.
caladrius is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2008, 05:45 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,503
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
What we (Mr. Pickle and I, a mid-40s couple) did last May:

We stayed in YHA hostels everywhere except London and the Cotswolds. We had double rooms, most with ensuite baths, for about $60-70 per night. All had full kitchens, which we used to cook most of our breakfasts, some dinners and to prepare picnic lunches. Far from being soulless, bleak places to stay, many YHA hostels are located in former coaching inns (Snowdon Ranger in Wales), a 16th-century manor (Hartington Hall in the Peak District), and a lovely Italianate mansion (Bath).

We took advantage of Travelodge.co.uk's 15-pound deal to get a nice, clean, large room in the southern Cotswolds for two nights.

Sites like www.fancyapint.com helped us find good pubs in our budget.

Sightseeing: In London, we took advantage of www.daysoutguide.co.uk two-for-one offers to visit Westminster Abbey and the Cabinet War Rooms.

The Great British Heritage Pass, available from www.visitbritain.com, saved us a ton of money! With a seven-day pass - and the fact that the staff at our first two stops didn't validate it - we saw Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, Chatsworth House, Haddon Hall, Conwy Castle, Berkeley Castle, Lacock Abbey, the Fox Talbot Museum, the Roman Baths, and Stourhead Gardens.

Otherwise, we really tried not to think too much about the differences between the pound and the dollar. We did the things we wanted to do without feeling deprived and had a fabulous time!

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2008, 06:00 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 380
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If you want to attend West End shows that aren't available at the TKTS booth, try www.broadwaybox.com. They have some decent priced specials for dinner and tickets, sometimes for a better deal than buying just the tickets would have been.
Kellye is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2008, 06:16 PM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,311
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The Great Britain Heritage Pass now has a family pass (which I got last summer for our party of 3 for $217 for 2 weeks) which can be a great deal if you are traveling in the right parts of the country (less so if you are only seeing London and its environs). At that rate, you can recoup the cost in just a a couple of visits to high priced sites like St. Paul's, Hampton Court, and Blenheim. Check the list of attractions against your itinerary to see if it's a good deal for you.

You can buy the pass, here: http://tinyurl.com/2sbmn9
twk is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2008, 06:32 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 6,418
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Priceline is usually great in London.

London walks (www.walks.com) are a lot of entertainment and history for about 6 pounds.
lennyba is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2008, 06:51 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 514
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We're headed to London in May for our third visit. A few of the things we're doing to make the stay comfortable, but economical:

We've rented a centrally located one bedroom flat for 122 pounds/day, which gives us more space and privacy than a hotel room, at a more reasonable rate. Having a kitchen allows us to prepare coffee and tea and have breakfast before we set out for the day. On our first day, we buy some fruit, cheese, crackers, and such, so that we can take something along with us until we're ready to stop for lunch.

Lunch is usually the meal we eat out, but we try to walk a block or 2 off the main tourist squares before we choose a place. We like ethnic foods and pub grub, so lunches are never a major expense. Dinners are usually put together in the flat with the likes of rotisserie chicken or other takeaway items.

We read the Timeout guides, check the 1/2 price TKTS box office, and take advantage of 2 for 1 specials available with our train tickets. Since Gatwick Express no longer offers the 2 for 1 coupon codes for purchase online, we'll take another train service into London, and save about 5 pounds per person each way--that's $40!

We take advantage of the visitor travelcard loaded on the Oyster card for transportation, which gives us the ability to make our way all over London at a modest cost.

We bought "Fodors" and "The Blue Guide to London Museums" and have planned a nice itinerary of sights that don't require steep admission prices. London is full of free museums.

We don't plan on purchasing much in the way of souvenirs, but we usually take back some tea and chocolate, both of which can be bought in supermarkets.

We love browsing through major fresh markets--Borough Market is on our agenda, and since cooking at home is a major hobby for us, it's interesting to check out local markets for comparison of products. We usually buy a few small food items--mustard, tea, spices, to remind us at home of our trip.

Finally, we just make it a point to get out and visit neighborhoods, getting a feel for the area, and enjoying the unexpected pleasures of visiting another place.
Barb_in_Ga is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2008, 03:27 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 5,950
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I always rent a flat & it saves me a ton plus it's nice to wake up & not have to get dressed for your AM cup of coffee or tea & breakfast. Usually lunch out & often take-away or the good ready to prepare meals from Marks & Spencer or sandwiches from Pret a Manger, etc.

Last June when my niece came with me, I joined Historic Royal Palaces as an annual member. For one, it's £ 37 or I think it was £ 55 or 58 for the 2 of us. That enabled us to have admission to Kensington Palace, the Tower, Hampton Court Palace & Kew Palace as well as the Royal Banqueting House. Also, I was given a very nice book that sold for £ 10 in the gift shop as well as all purchases in any of the palace gift shops were discounted. When I got my final membership card mailed to me, the membership actually was for 13 months so I could use it again this year.


Carrybean is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2008, 04:07 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 3,654
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We are heading to England for the month of May and welcome all suggestions of how to s-t-r-e-t-c-h- those pounds! The South African ZAR is, and has been, horrific for a number of years but we still pay up and enjoy Europe! If only we had the $ exchange rate we'd be smiling.

My recent discovery regarding cheaper ways of eating will be looking out for GBK - Gourmet Burger Kitchen, started from New Zealand by TV chef Peter Gordon.
The localities and menus are on the web for printing out.

Harden's Restaurant Guide has this to say:
"Superb juicy thick ones with all the trimmings - Number 1 in London"
tod is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2008, 06:06 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 81
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hello Fodorites,

Thanks for all your posts and enthusiasm! I really appreciate Londonís great free museums and I'm always trying to think of creative ways to save pounds so I can visit more often.

These suggestions for alternatives to hotels are great: hostels - ElendilPickle, dorms - yk, B&Bs - caladrius, renting a flat - Barb_in_Ga, Carrybean. But if someone is set on staying in a hotel, any advice on finding a good rate?

yk - Lots of good tips. You mentioned buses over trains but quoted single trip rates. I'm curious if you used an Oystercard like Barb_in_Ga. I noticed that there are actually many threads here about Oystercards. Is the general consensus here that they are a good deal for travelers?

I love Pret a Manger, Wagamama, and GBK. Any other ideas for inexpensive meals out?

Cate_W is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2008, 06:36 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 12,582
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm not sure that I would call GBK a cheap option. The last time I was there, with a couple of beers and a tip it cost the thick end of £20. Which is quite a spendy burger IMHO.

when we want to eat out we go to the caff. These are ubiquitous, but not in the tourist areas. However you'll never be far away as the workers in those places have to eat.

In general caffs open quite early for breakfast (fry-ups) and stay open to about 4pm. Very few are open in the evening.

In general they sell standard english grub - shepherds pie, roast dinners, ommelettes and various fried combinations for about £5.00 with tea/coffe/coke etc. They vary from the absolutely wonderful to the dire.

The only one I can think of in a toursit area is in Soho - The new picadilly cafe. It's one of the good ones.

THis is a good site for cafes:


The New Picadilly:


Cholmondley_Warner is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2008, 06:39 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts

Heading for London and the Cotswolds. As to hotels at decent rates, which we also prefer, we had reservations for early April at The Parkwood near Marble Arch for 79£, with full bkfst., near tube and bus stops.

Had to cancel and reschedule for May, they couldn't book our dates and referred us to their "sister" hotel, The George in Bloomsbury, near Euston Station...same price, etc. Daughter's friends stayed there a few years ago and were quite satisfied.

Also booked for "Small Talk" b and b in Broadway, next door to the much more expensive Lyggon Arms...rate at Small Talk is 69£

Booked a car with our favorites, AutoEurope, (manual) to pick up at LHR for drive to Cotswolds, 4 days for total of $203 USD.




Stu T.

tower is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2008, 06:41 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 24,773
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Cate_W-

No, the prices I quoted (for tube vs bus) are the max capping price per day using Oyster PAYG.

The PAYG caps the 1-day off-peak zone 1-2 travelcard price at £4.80. But if one travels only on bus all day, the max cap for a 1-day bus pass using PAYG is only £3.

As for food, the Time Out London has a section on Cheap Eats:

I also know that the Belgo Centraal (in Soho) has a "Beat the Clock" deal between 5p-6:30p. You pay the price of the time you order. So if you get there at 5pm, your meal is just £5.
yk is online now  
Old Mar 26th, 2008, 06:42 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4,248
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I second Carrybean on Pret and meals from Marks & Spencer and other grocers; UK grocery stores have a much larger selection of ready-to-eat items than most stores in the US. It's so easy to get a picnic lunch or dinner together for so much less than you'd spend at a restaurant.
jent103 is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2008, 06:45 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 24,773
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Cate_W-

Also to add, I stayed at LSE Northumberland dorm last Sept (07). My single en-suite room was £42 all-in. No breakfast. You can see a full review on my trip report here. I also listed a breakdown of all my expenses on the trip.
yk is online now  
Old Mar 26th, 2008, 06:48 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 776
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
For cheap hotel stays, hotel points! I am staying at a 5* centrally located hotel including BF buffet, next to an Underground stop, FREE!
For me, hotel points are the most cost effective way to travel, esp in the big cities of Europe. This week-long stay would retail for well over $2000!

Many hotels programs have special saver awards where it can cost even less points for a stay. American Express Rewards points can be transferred to many hotel programs. The stays can often be booked 1 year in advance.

Other suggestions for lunch include M&S's fantastic food sections. Great sandwiches, fresh baked goods, fruit, even ready-mades that can be heated up elsewhere.
The ethnic restaurants, esp in the East End area, Brick Lane, etc, are usually cheaper and very tasty.

For travel, we plan to use the 7-day Travelcard, which gives unlimited travel on buses and the Underground. Kids under 11 are free with adults! Discount TC for kids under 16 (underground). And kids 16 and under are free on all regular London buses (not the tourist buses).
Unlike the daily TC, this card does not have time restrictions. The daily TC can only be used after 9:30AM.
Holders are also eligible for the 2 for 1 discounts for attractions.
nibblette is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2008, 07:31 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,880
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We found that an extended stay at a BandB reduced our cost to less than 70 pounds per night. I hesitate to recommend yet, exactly, as our trip is in mid-July, so we haven't actually seen it, but it looks good on the internet, the office has been most helpful, and it's a BandB in Belgravia so in a great spot for tube access as well as near Hyde Park and shopping venues. (Some breakfast, free wi-fi, and use of refrig, too.) By staying 14 days, we got a reduced fee. (So we've opted to do this and take day trips via train 4-5 times rather than spend nights outside of London.) I think several different BandB providers will do this extended stay discount. The one we used is at www.athomeinlondon.co.uk/

(I'd love to hear if anyone has used this BandB provider already.)

Also, besides the 2for1 deals, which I'll have vouchers for and purchase the correct tube tickets (as well as get Oyster card for rest of our travels), I found a website offering 20% off attractions and restaurants with voucher--www.discountbritain.net

I've been happily searching via internet and maps for pubs, cafes, and grocery stores, plus MandS sites, for ways to spend less on meals by using take-aways or specials or packaged meals (I loved MandS's variety when there in 2005).

texasbookworm is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2008, 05:36 PM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 191
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Home exchange..we got to stay in a lovely home in Hampstead Heath for two weeks

Senior concessions..1/2 price for National Express Bus from Heathrow to Gatwick, plus many other savings

Priceline for a hotel for a night or two, apartments

Airmiles, use their buses, walk, oyster card, eat in

Join National Trust or Royal Oak Foundation

Everyone else has covered a lot!
jrecm is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:29 PM.