5 tips for a budget-friendly Christmas in London
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While you may think it’s too early to start planning your Christmas break, if you’re hoping to pop over to London in December and you’re on a budget, now is the time to start. Even though we can’t guarantee you’ll get snow, we can help you squeeze every ounce of value out of your stay.
Apply for your visa early
Even if you’re only going for a few weeks, the United Kingdom offers a standard 6-month tourist visa to holiday-makers. There is a significant amount of documentation you need to supply, so make sure you apply for your visa approximately 1 month before your departure to allow for enough time for the visa’s processing and any unforeseen ‘whoopsies’. For assistance with a smooth UK visa application process visit Move Up. They can assist with all UK visa types and even promise a money-back guarantee.
Buy flight tickets as soon as possible
You may have to fly economy class, but here’s how you can economise even further on your flights. December and January are considered ‘high season’, which means flights are in demand and can be sold for higher prices. The golden rule of savings on flight bookings: the earlier you buy your tickets, the cheaper they’ll be. www.kayak.com and www.rometorio.com are 2 of our favourite websites for finding low-cost international flights. (Pssst! Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve are usually the cheapest high season days to fly).
Who says you have to pay through the nose for overseas accommodation? Remember watching the romantic Christmas movie, The Holiday, starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Dias? If you own your own home or your landlord doesn’t mind you subletting, you might consider doing a house swap this Christmas. Just sign up, pay a registration fee, create a profile, browse your options then get in touch with the owners. If you can’t find a perfect date match for a swap, you can always spend some credits on a one-sided arrangement. Check out www.lovehomeswap.com for some exciting options! You can also sign up to be a house- or pet-sitter and stay overseas – for free! This option also requires registering with your preferred website, paying a registration fee and finding a suitable match.
Next to flights and accommodation, your daily transport costs can make a big dent in your budget. Hiring a car for all-day sightseeing outside of London will give you some independence, but the beloved oyster card will be your most useful asset within the city. An oyster card allows you to travel on the underground, overland trains or city buses without the hassle of carrying cash. Just purchase and top your oyster card up at your nearest train station, then tap it on the designated spot as you pass through the turnstiles or step onto a bus. We can’t decide which is more useful: the Citymapper app that compares London travel routes, methods and prices; or Rick Steves’ Audio Europe app for top-notch, guided walking tours of London.
Plan your entertainment options
The oldest centre of culture in the English-speaking world, from quirky restaurants and jaw-dropping art exhibitions to the world’s best theatrical productions, in London you’ll find a variety of entertainment, tours and museums to tickle your fancy. Make sure you watch at least one of these celebrated productions: Wicked, The Play That Goes Wrong, The Lion King or Mathilda. Entry-level tickets start at approximately £25 (R500). Book early to secure your spot. If you head to Trafalgar Square at 1 pm on weekdays you can take in a world-class classical music concert held at St Martin in the Fields. There’s no entrance fee, but they do accept donations towards the maintenance of their beautiful, old church. See their concert schedule.