London on a Shoestring
edited: Friday, July 19, 2002
By Annette Gisby
Posted: Friday, July 19, 2002
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How to stay and be entertained in London on the cheap.
London, a city which has a reputation for being expensive, with extortionate
prices for hotels, eating out and the theatre. But it needn't be like that. This article will give you some tips and hints to get the most out of your visit and your wallet!
1) FANCY A DISCOUNT TRIP TO THE THEATRE?
This is the only official half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square,
there are plenty of imposters about, so do be careful. Prices here
are usually top price seats for half-price plus a £2.50 booking
fee on each ticket. We have used it and got great seats every time.
You may not get the very popular shows such as Cats etc., but there is
always a choice of musicals, plays and one off shows. They have
matinee tickets and evening tickets. They only take cash or credit
cards, no cheques or travellers cheques. Tickets are for the show
on the day of purchase only.
There are boards outside listing which shows they have available and
sometimes the queues are quite long, it's very popular. They are open
Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. for matinees and evening
performances, and on Sunday from 12 midday until 3 p.m. for afternoon
If the show you really want to see isn't offered at the half-price
ticket booth, go to the theatre box office and see if they have any
special deals or returns for that day. We saw a Blues Brothers show
for £1 each once by doing that! The seats were up in the gods, very
high, but what a great view!
2) FREE TICKETS FOR TELEVISION SHOWS from BBC
Shows are offered all the time, mostly comedy, worth investigating
if you are staying in the UK for a month or more as you are put on
a waiting list for approx 2 weeks, so no good if you are only staying
3) TRAVEL CARDS
You can use your travel card on buses, trains, tube (underground train) as
long as they are within the zones on your ticket.
One day travel card, all zones in London (1-6) off-peak (travel after
Family one day travel card (must consist of at least one adult and
one child, all persons must travel together) Price for all zones:
Weekend travel card (valid for two days on weekends and bank holidays)
Child fare not available.
4) EATING OUT WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK
There are lots of restaurants in London, from fast food to pubs doing
traditional English meals. The Garfunkel's chain is quite reasonable
with a varied menu, pasta, vegetarian, steak, chicken, fish etc.
For value priced pub meals, try the J. D. Wetherspoon chain, some
allow children, some don't. They have a speical offer at the moment,
two main courses for £5.00 from a choice of about 10-12 items.
Pizza Hut and Deep Pan Pizza offer buffets during the week, as much
as you can eat for one set price. The Deep Pan pizza branch near
Picadilly Circus is the best one, as it is so busy, the food is nearly
Sometimes the TGI Friday's website has special offers, such as a free
appetiser or dessert.
5) THE GREAT BRITISH HERITAGE PASS:
Are you a culture vulture? Then this is the pass for you:
£35 for 7 days
£46 for 15 days
£60 for a month
It's for all over the UK, not just London.
Get free entry to such places as Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle,
Stonehenge, Shakespeare's birthplace, Warwick Catle, Wilton House (of
Wilton Carpets fame). There is half-price entry to the Tower of London.
When you buy the pass, you will also get a souvenir booklet listing
all the properties in the scheme with opening times, maps and
You will need to produce your passport to get one (otherwise I'd be
buying one myself!) They are only for overseas visitors.
See the website for details of where you can purchase it.
6) MUSEUMS WITH FREE ENTRY:
Some museums in London have free entry, such as
The Victoria & Albert Musuem,
The British Museum,
The Science Musueum,
The National Maritime Museum
The Royal Observatory
The Natural History Museum
The London Museum
The Imprerial War Museum.
For free entry to other attractions, the London Pass offers good
value. For six days it costs £69.00 for adults and £37.00 for children
and gets you into places like zoos, galleries, musuems, historic houses
etc. At some attractions, it also allows you to jump the queue!
More details on their website:
7) WHERE TO STAY:
At the above website, you can search for hotels with discounts on
room rates, haven't used them myself, but the prices do seem
reasonable, with 3* central hotels starting around £35 per person
per night. Prices get even cheaper the further out from the centre
You could also do a home exchange with someone in London who wants
to holiday where you are, so your accomodation in effect would be free.
For B&B listings:
For homestays B&B:
8) CINEMA BARGAINS
Some of the West End cinemas are quite expensive for ticket prices,
but if you go during the day instead of the evening, it is sometimes
cheaper and some have special deals (usually Mondays) before 5 p.m. or
so. The deals are usually around £5 or so, different cinemas will
have different prices and times when they offer them.
Cinemas outside of the centre are usually cheaper too, have a look
in papers for listings in and around London, Time Out is a magazine
which has cinema, theatre and arts listings.
The Prince Charles Cinema, just off Leicester Square offers low
ticket prices all the time, but not the most up-to date releases, but
if you fancy an older film they are well worth a look.
9) GENERAL DISCOUNTS:
Walking Tours in London, buy a walking tour of London from them for £5 and
recieve a coupon booklet with discounts worth over £400! Discounts
at such London restaurants as TGI Friday's, The Rain Forest Cafe,
Garfunkel's, Planet Hollywood and more. There are also discounts on
theatre shows, museums, river cruises, galleries and more.
Visit them at www.walkingtoursinlondon.com for more information.
At http://www.london-capital.com/uksmiley/cheap1.htm you can see how easy it is to eat, see some culture and go clubbing all for just under £10 a day!
At www.lastminute.com there are good deals on eating out in London,
with three course meals in restaurants at £15 per person, 2 courses
from £9.50 per person and not a fast food place in sight!
10) FREE STUFF
The Heathrow Visitor Centre (all you ever wanted to know about the world's buisest airport!)
Parks and gardens.
Walks by the River Thames
Window shopping and browsing around department stores, markets etc.
So, if you always thought you couldn't afford to stay in London,