Whether travelling for business or leisure or both, London has a reputation for being an expensive destination, especially for South Africans. It’s a perception that has cast a shadow over the dream of exploring the city’s historic streets, iconic landmarks, and cultural wonders.
Many potential travellers are deterred by the fear of depleting their wallets within days of arrival, however, is London truly an exclusive playground for the elite traveller?
According to Antoinette Turner, GM of Flight Centre South Africa there are ways to unlocking London’s affordable side. So here are some tips on how to save when visiting the city.
When it comes to navigating the streets of London, the GM recommends travelling off peak.
“On average, travelling during off-peak hours in London can lead to savings of around 20% to 30% compared to peak hours. Many of the city’s public transportation services offer lower fares during non-peak times, typically outside the morning and evening rush hours,” said Turner.
She said that while there may be some variations depending on the specific mode of transport, morning peak hours are usually from around 7.30am to 9.30am, while evening peak hours typically run from 4.30pm to 7pm.
Oyster Card vs. Single Tickets
When it comes to daily commuting or exploring the city, Turner also said that the Oyster Card and contactless payment methods are your best friends.
“With an Oyster Card or contactless payment, you can enjoy seamless travel across London’s public transport network, including buses, trams, the Tube, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), the London Overground, and even some National Rail services.
“Prices average from R55.32 to R67.01 per day and you could secure discounts based on the number of days you are travelling,” she said.
Walking & Free Cycles
Turner said that walking in London isn’t just about getting from point A to B; it’s a chance to immerse yourself in the city’s unique character as many of London’s top attractions are conveniently close to each other, making walking a delightful and cost-effective way to explore.
She also recommended Santander Cycles (commonly known as ‘Boris Bikes’) for short journeys.
“These bicycle rental stations are scattered throughout the city, making them a convenient and budget- friendly option for travellers. Prices typically start at just R36.82 for a 24-hour bike access period, with the first 30 minutes of each journey free,” said Turner.
Stay Outside Central London
Another way to cut on costs, according to the Flight Centre GM, is to stay outside Central London.
“While Central London offers unparalleled convenience, proximity to major attractions, and bustling city life, the areas on the city’s outskirts e.g., Zone 2 to 6 can provide a more budget-friendly experience, along with easy access to transportation networks.
“By opting for accommodations in these areas, you can enjoy savings of up to 50% for budget options and up to 35% for mid-range options,” said Turner.
Turner said that if you’re comfortable sharing a room with others, hostels are a top choice regarding budget-friendly accommodations in London and they usually have communal areas where you can socialise, plan your adventures, and even participate in hostel-organised activities.
“If you value privacy, guest houses are the best option for you. While they’re slightly more expensive than hostels, they offer private rooms with shared or en-suite bathrooms,” she said.
Turner also highlighted that hotels located in greater London are often more affordable offering great transport links into central London and said to ensure that the location of your hotel is within walking distance of bust stops or rail/underground stations.
And finally she said that while self-catering accommodation may appear more expensive upfront, the significant savings (up to 70% on food expenses) achieved by preparing your own meals rather than eating out can make them a surprisingly affordable option.