- Overseas Travel: Adventure Experiences A – ZPosted 4 years ago
- Don’t Miss these 5 Authentic Experiences in MoroccoPosted 4 years ago
- The Shocking Truth about the Maldives: On a Budget? Listen up!Posted 4 years ago
7 Reasons It’s Worth the Money to Visit London – And Tips for Spending Less
Known as one of the more expensive cities to live and visit, London is also full of surprises. So, if you’ve been holding out on going to London or even if you’ve already been there, we’ve got some great advice for your next trip. And this is just the tip of the iceberg – we’ll be sure to bring you even more insider tips in future posts.
These 7 tips fall into 3 categories: 1.Shopping & Food 2.Entertainment & Activities 3.People & Atmosphere:
Shop and Eat ‘till you Drop in London
London shopping and restaurants are world renowned. But I’m not here to tell you how to find the best fashion or Michelin star dining (though all this is possible in London – hint Oxford Street and Harrods to spend, spend, spend).
REASON #1: London Shopping
There are some unique and cheap shopping options around the city. To start with cheap – there’s Primark with locations around London. To compare it’s a bit like a more stylish version of Walmart with mostly clothes and some light household accessories. The collection changes seasonally but t-shirts, shorts, cute dresses, from £2-3 up to £15. You see people with huge bags they can hardly carry walking out of “Pri-mani” as it’s jokingly named (Primark + Armani). It’s a staple shopping resource where you can inject some London style into your wardrobe for a minimal price. *Top Tip: Go to Primark with a laidback attitude when you’re not in a hurry as it can be packed with long line ups (called “queues”). The Oxford Street location is especially busy so you can try Hammersmith, Westfield.
As for unique, the experience and goodies don’t get much better than at London markets. When I first moved there I lived near Brick Lane and it really made me feel great about moving to London – trendy, fun, diverse, full of life. The Brick Lane Sunday market and nearby Spitalfields are a great intro to London markets. For a full day experience Camden has to be my favorite. Many a trip to Camden on the weekend, strolling through the stalls… it took many visits before I could navigate the complex layout. You can get lost in there for hours but thanks to the food you’ll always come out happy. Which brings us to another reason to visit London;
REASON #2: London Eating
Food! Again, London markets are great food destinations. In Camden the section by the river canal is my favorite (their yummy fajita stall) and in Brick Lane there’s a full selection of international fare (Ethiopian veggie place is superb!). Beyond the markets, restaurants in London cover all the tastes and flavors – and the best part is the “voucher culture”. Online vouchers and discount bookings are common place for Londoners – why pay full price when you can get 2for1 or 50% off with a coupon?
Getting discounts is easy: booking sites like toptable.com offer discounts just for reserving your table online, vouchers are available on websites like vouchercodes.co.uk and on individual restaurant newsletters. Additionally if you’re staying a while, a Taste Card is a paid discount card (£30-£40/year) that pays for itself in one or two meal and there’s also bitecard for discounts for eateries in railstations.
As for favourite eateries (voucher or no voucher), there are so many that it warrants its own list – watch for the list of my favorite things in London to come.
One last tip for eating on the move for less in London is to hit the supermarkets. There are large supermarkets and smaller express versions of these stores, which have a good selection of prepared food if you want to grab a sandwich, salad or even some sushi. If you hit M & S or Waitrose you’ll get something tasty, but a bit higher priced (salads & sandwiches £3-6), so you can try Tescos, Sainsburys or Asda if budget is your concern (£1-4 for most ready lunch items) – the flavors are not bad either.
So you can now shop in London and fill you belly for less than you thought. Now for a bit of entertainment!
Our photos of Camden are lost unfortunately – thanks to twicepix, flikr for this photo.
Let Me-eee Entertain You…
As a world class destination you can see pretty much any of your favorite bands, DJs, comedians, or musicals in London. Huge cinemas attract not only the best movies but also the stars that come with them. Star sightings are commonplace with regular movie premieres in Leicester Square, movie filming around the city’s iconic sites and certain London neighborhoods are home to famous residents.
REASON #3 & #4
The countless venues for all types of entertainment and stars galore on the stages and in the streets are the next reasons for making sure London is one your travel destination list.
With iconic venues like the Ministry of Sound, Fabric, Roundhouse, O2, Brixton Academy … if you splash out in London you’ll feel like you’re part of something big – an event of a lifetime. The parks are also huge and have held huge events with Rhianna, Deadmaus, Tiesto and other big names in the music industry. And then there’s the festival culture – this is basically in the British blood. If you can plan your visit around a festival (and are lucky enough to get tickets) there’s no doubt it will be a memorable event.
When it comes to entertainment – keeping an eye on Time Out listings is a way to stay on top of upcoming events that suit your fancy and lastminute.com is just one site that offers discounts on theatre and other tickets. Even better news – there are lots of freebies around too. Again, stay up to date with Time Out and TNT magazine and keep your eyes open – especially around Shoreditch there are pubs that advertise free comedy shows, and the like.
I’ve got that… London Feeling
This brings us to atmosphere. From the festivals to parks and markets there’s a vibrant culture in London both indoors and out. Especially in the summer when the sun decides to come out, the city is full of life. It’s not unusual to see people in bikinis, bearing it all in the park as if it was a beach; the lack of sunshine really causes a sense of urgency to soak up every ray of sun that breaks the grey skies. And it’s not like the grey skies stop anyone from having fun anyway.
REASON #5: The People
The fun-loving ethos is expressed through an inclination to dress in costume for almost any occasion (called “fancy dress”). From stag and “hen” parties to massive events like the London Marathon, a great sense of humor is apparent. Even every day attire can turn heads. As a fashion capital, the streets ooze style and bold fashion risks.
Londoners even let loose in the zoo turning the areas outside the cages into the attraction with “Zoo Nights” parties as the London Zoo. At the Olympics we felt the atmosphere created by the audience while watching Table Tennis and it was awesome!
On my way to work in the morning I would regularly see people still in the streets after nights out, this city rarely sleeps.
REASON #6: Transport?
It seems weird to mention transportation as a reason for a city’s “visit-ability” – especially when the system is expensive and weekend works and delays cause disruptions that have made me mutter many a harsh word at TFL (Transport for London). Despite all this, where else can taking a taxi or a bus be an iconic photo opportunity? In London with public transport you can take a bicycle, a train, a taxi, a boat, a bike taxi, the underground “tube”, the overground, the “DLR” or even fly (on the new Emirates cable car across the river). London itself is also an international transport hub with flights connections to most destinations – so if you’re not going to London you might well be going through it.
*Top Tip: If you pay per journey on public transport it will add up quickly and while it’s still pricey (compared internationally) the best way to save on transport is with any Oyster Card. Top up your card and “tap in” to travel. In Skyfall, the recent James Bond film, you get to see many of London’s iconic scenes including the underground. The atmosphere of London just wouldn’t be the same without these transport modes. Which brings us to the final reason to visit London.
REASON #7: An Icon on Every Corner
Everywhere you turn there’s an image you recognize from a photo, the media or a movie scene. The most famous and most busy (tourist-packed) landmarks like Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye (to name a few) are items to tick off the list. However, you can get some great views of the city from Regents Park (Primrose Hill) while getting away from the crowds. And next to Tower Bridge there is a quieter area called St. Katherine Docks where restaurants and cafes are a bit less packed and… if you walk up the street along the river towards Wapping there is a small park with a view of Tower Bridge. Not many tourists venture there either.
All in all London is a city where you’ll be surprised by people, landmarks and tasty food at every turn.
Visiting London is work the bit of extra funds required due to currency value, transport and entertainment. In the same breath – there are tons of freebies and discounts to be had that will bring down your daily London budget.
For us, London is in the rear-view mirror – we left it behind for travel – but writing about these memories makes me remember why London is such a great city. It’s one that every traveler should experience – there’s truly something for everyone!