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London on a Shoestring
by Annette Gisby   

Last edited: Friday, July 19, 2002
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!


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
shows only.

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!


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
a week!


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
9.30 a.m.)
Adult 5.00
Child 2.00

Family one day travel card (must consist of at least one adult and
one child, all persons must travel together) Price for all zones:
Adult: 3.30
Child: 0.80

Weekend travel card (valid for two days on weekends and bank holidays)
All zones:
Child fare not available.


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
always fresh.

Sometimes the TGI Friday's website has special offers, such as a free
appetiser or dessert.



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.


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:


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 go.

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:


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.


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 for more information.

At you can see how easy it is to eat, see some culture and go clubbing all for just under 10 a day!

At 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!


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,
think again!

Web Site: Annette's Author Castle

Reader Reviews for "London on a Shoestring"

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Reviewed by Andrew
I'm just about to head off to London for six months and found this article very informative.
Reviewed by TOMSDATTAR
enjoyed the read
Reviewed by Epstein LaRue
GREAT ARTICLE!! Would love to visit sometime... but first I have to get to Eastern USA!
Reviewed by Arthur Bain
Great article Annette. Maybe one of these days i'll be able to go there. Thank you for such helpful tips.
Reviewed by Karen Bryson (Reader)
Lots of great ideas for seeing London on a budget! I didn't realize there were so many FREE things to see.
Reviewed by Payton Lee
Should I ever happen to visit England your article will come in very handy for a tourist like me. How else would I ever know about the ticket for a culture vulture like me. Great Article. Payton Lee-Historical Romance Author
Reviewed by Bobby Ruble (Reader)
It's been years since I visited London, but I remember how much I enjoyed my stay there. You've given more detailed information then most travel agencies care to offer. What a wonderful treat (saving money) you have given to everyone planning to visit there.
Reviewed by Kristie Maguire (Reader)
Great tips on seeing London without breaking the bank. Now if I can ever make it outside Heathrow when I visit England -----

Kristie Leigh Maguire
author of Emails from the Edge and Desert Triangle
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