Hey Skint pals,
Sorry that it’s been such a looooong time. My pesky back problem continues to limp along, meaning that periods of sitting at a desk are rather painful, but there is hope on the horizon. On the advice of a physio, I’ve taken up swimming and find that if I go every day – five or six days a week anyway – I can keep the niggles at bay well enough. Onwards and upwards!
I am now such a fan of the pool that any time I hear someone complain of an ache or a pain I’m practically shoving a cozzie and a towel their way. Next week I’m heading down to London with the family to visit the in-laws and my swimming cozzie is at the top of my packing list. I’ll be finding time to visit the local pool every day if I can. These days, visiting London isn’t especially cheap for us. A family of four in the Big Smoke can quite easily rack up a Capital bill – unless you know the tricks to pull. Here are some of my favourite ways to save money in London:
With five main airports serving the city, flying is the obvious choice if you’re any more than about four hours away by road/rail. And though it’s tempting to go straight to the websites of the budget airlines when looking for a flight, they’re certainly not always the cheapest by the time you’ve added on the extra charges. When it comes to comparing deals you really can’t beat Skyscanner.
A little-known trick, but one I’ve found has paid for itself over the years is to look at London City airport. The bargain basement flights don’t go there but Flybe does. Having done the maths I’ve often found that it’s cheaper for us to pay for the slightly pricier flights to London City than to go for dirt-cheap flights, then have to pay for the expensive express trains from Gatwick and Heathrow, followed by onward tube travel. With flights to City, we don’t have any oncosts at all – Grandad Skint picks us up and we’re home in half an hour. City airport connects to Dockland Light Railway, too which is a good, low-hassle alternative to the Tube, depending on where you’re heading.
And try to buy a Visitor Oyster Card before you go and have it delivered to your home. It’ll save you a bundle – I use mine on every trip for better-than-half-price buses, tunes and trains.
The success of Airbnb is well-documented by now, and it’s hard to see past it. Why shell out £200 on a boxy hotel room, when you can get a whole apartment for half of that with Airbnb? But if you’re travelling with little ones it’s worth checking out another site which is getting great reviews lately. Kidandcoe is sort of like airbnb for people with young kids, listing family-friendly homes and apartments, complete with toys, cots etc. Prices are roughly equivalent to hotel rooms, with a lot more on offer for the money. Here’s the London link.
My in-laws are an adventurous bunch when it comes to eating, which suits me just fine. It means that over that years I’ve enjoyed dinner on China Town benches, in Wembley cafes with amazing South Indian food and under the twinkling lights of a Moroccan haven . For me the best of London food isn’t the fancy-schmancy restaurants, it’s sampling the café and street food of the many cultures that make London such a buzzy place to be. The fact that this food is often cheap as chip (or chapatis) is an added bonus.
Seek out the off-the-beaten track spots to eat like the locals do. The mighty Martin Lewis posts the best current London restaurant deals here. But for the best round-up of London’s Cheap Eats, this Time Out list gives you its take on the best 100 in the city. You can search by area or by the type of food you fancy scoffing.
Forget Madame Tussauds and the tourist shtick; much of London’s best stuff is totally free. Wander the streets. Up and down both banks of The Thames there’s so much to see, from gawping at the London Eye to crossing Westminster Bridge for a view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Kick through the leaves in gorgeous St James’ park, then at the end watch the changing of the guards outside Buckingham Place – a great free show especially if you have kids.
London has a jaw-dropping number of terrific free museums. The British Museum, the National Gallery, the V & A and the Natural History Museum are all free, the parks are amazing and, of course, you can always go swimming! I love this round-up of the city’s best lidos.
For budget shopping, great market food and a feast for all the senses go to one of London’s many markets. Portobello is a good one to start with if you want to savour that Notting Hill vibe.
Top Sites Round-Up
There’s too much good stuff in London to list here, so instead here’s the lowdown on the three best sites I’ve come across/used for saving money in London.
You may have your own! Got any tried and true ways to save money in London? Share ’em, Skint pals!
Image credit: Pop up painting