How to Travel to London on a Budget: 5 Tips and Tricks from a Student Traveler


Hannah Van Otterloo is a student at the Colorado Christian University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA Veritas in Prague, Czech Republic.

Horns honking, cherry-red buses weaving in and out of traffic, telephone booths scattered about, and the sun nowhere to be found: this is the London I visited over Thanksgiving weekend with my sister. While it was great to be back in a land where I spoke the language (minus the accent, sadly), my sister and I paid for that luxury, literally!

People aren’t joking when they say London isn’t cheap, and for my fellow travelers, this fact alone can often be a huge turn off!

But don’t cross London off your bucket list quite yet! While it may still be more expensive than, say, Prague, Budapest, or Krakow, there are ways to limit your expenses and get the most bang for your buck! Here are some of my tips and tricks, scams and steals, that I discovered in London!

Tip #1: Visit Primark!

Why do most people visit London? The culture? The history? The night life? No, no, NO. Come’on people! Let’s get serious! They visit because of Harry Potter!

As a Harry Potter fan, one of my top sites to see was Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station. Some would say standing in line to take a picture with Harry’s trolley is a waste of time. These people are misinformed and confused. Don’t listen to them.

Others would say that the Harry Potter store at the platform is too expensive and is ripping you off. These people are correct. Heed their wisdom.

Instead of paying for overpriced hats and scarves and blankets and mugs and whatever-else-you-can-put-a-harry-potter-logo-on merchandise, stop first at Primark department store, more specifically, the one opposite Tottenham Court Road tube station. They have a Harry Potter section that is significantly cheaper than the one you’ll find at King’s Cross Station. Do most of your “Harry Potter goods” shopping there, and, then, if you still haven’t found whatever Harry Potter merchandise that you wanted, stop in at the store in King’s Cross. You’ll find you saved a lot of money by purchasing most, if not all, of your merchandise at Primark.

‘Harry Potter Shop’ The shop at Platform 9 ¾ was so busy that it was hard to move around the store!

Tip #2: Look into and book tours through Strawberry Tours!

A great way to learn more about a city is to go on a tour, but how much should you pay for a tour? At Strawberry Tours, you decide how much the tour is worth. Strawberry Tours is a company that offers 12 different free walking tours. Their tour guides are paid via the tips you give at the end of the tour. They ask that you give what you think the tour was worth, thus, guides work really hard to deliver a stellar tour. My guide, Samy, led a Harry Potter tour and was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I highly recommend him!

Tip #3: Don’t spend your money on the London Eye or the Shard.

While these attractions may advertise “stellar views”, remember that London weather is cloudy and unpredictable, and it would be a waste to spend $20+ on a view you can get for free at Sky Garden. All you have to do is go on Sky Garden’s website and reserve your spot for the date and time you would like to go up!

‘Sky Garden’ This was one of the views from Sky Garden. They had windows all the way around, offering a 360 degree view of London!

Tip #4: Get an Oyster Card! Your feet will thank you!

Oyster cards are transportation passes. You pay 5 pounds for the card and then pre-load money onto the card, scanning it every time you enter and exit public transportation. These scanners charge you for your journey, but, with an oyster card, your fees are capped at a certain amount every day, depending on how many different transportation districts you travel to. At the end of your time in London, simply ‘return’ your card and get 5 pounds back for the card plus whatever money you loaded on that is remaining.

Tip #5: Eat fish and chips at Master Superfish!

My sister and I were a little skeptical upon arrival to Master Superfish because the building looked sub par, but there’s a reason they say don’t judge a book by its cover! Cod and chips with two more sides was only about 10 pounds! It was fast service, there was lots of food, and it was delicious!


‘Fish and Chips’ My plate of Cod and Chips from Master Superfish!

While London may not be the cheapest of cities in Europe, it is possible to travel there when on a budget. Hopefully my handful of tips, tricks, scams, and steals helps any and all who are looking into hopping the pond! Happy travels!

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