Sorry this post is so late in coming! It’s one of my most highly requested posts on ask.fm because beautiful as the city is, it’s one of the most expensive destinations.. ever. Partly because of the pound’s exchange rate and partly because it’s basically consumerism heaven, the two times I went to London were by far the most expensive trips I’ve made this time round.. which leads us to our post today, ie. HOW TO SURVIVE IF YOU’RE A BROKE STUDENT IN LONDON.
Going anywhere isn’t much fun if you feel like you’re living in poverty the whole time you’re there, so I’m going to try to detail out where you need to spend money, where you can save money, and where you should yolo that shit and just go for it. Some things are worth the money, so I’ll try to highlight them as and when necessary. In other words, I don’t want you guys to live on KFC when you’re there, so I’ll be recommending places that arent necessarily dirt cheap, but that are more value for money in relation to the experience you’ll get.
UK, very annoyingly, doesnt like to think of itself as part of the EU, so your eurail passes will not work here. You can take a train to London if you’re near, like in France, but otherwise you should probably just fly. My round trip from Stuttgart to London was via Germanwings, and they cost me EUR79.99 both times for the most basic fare – 1 x carry on luggage, no food or anything. It’s a very decent fare, and Germanwings is quite lax about their carry on baggage allowance so it’s quite a fuss free experience. If you’re booking via Germanwings, you might have to toggle the dates a bit to get the cheapest price, I found that flying on Tuesdays tend to be the cheapest, for some reason. Other low cost carriers that fly to London include Ryanair and Easyjet.
If you’re flying a low cost carrier, you’ll probably land in London Stansted, which is pretty far out from the city center. Book your bus from Stansted to London Victoria early for cheaper rates, it’s an hour or so by bus and will cost about six to eight pounds one way. I used Terravision both times because it seemed the cheapest round way, but there are many other options too. DO NOT take a cab – I had to take a cab once from the city center to Stansted or risk missing my flight, and it cost a heartbreaking 170 pounds. More on that another time.
Make friends in London then stay with them.
I’m not even kidding though, because accommodation in London can be really sick. This is a city you dont want to be in alone, because if you have a friend with you it’s easier to split costs, either on airbnb apartments or by simply hobo-ing it out and sharing a dorm bed in a hostel to halve your cost. If you’re thinking of airbnb-ing, book really early because the cheap ones run out really fast. Remember to book something within zone one and two, or you’ll pay the difference in your transport fees anyway.
The first round in London I stayed in Barmy Badger’s Backpackers, located in Earl’s Court.
The second time I booked a much cheaper St. Christopher’s Shepard’s Bush, which was so horrible that I cancelled my remaining days after the first day and crashed a friend’s student apartment there.
I strongly suggest you change your money into pounds before going to London. Reason being: the minute you touch down you’ll have to pay for several things – your oyster card or transport ticket from London Victoria to wherever you’re staying, for example. Changing money in London itself is dicey – so many places charge commission or give shit exchange rates, and I made a huge loss on that the first time I went to London because I only changed 50 pounds before that and it went into my week long transport pass.
No way around it, if you’re staying anything like a week you have to get the Oyster Card. 7 Day pass for Zone 1-2 costs about 31 pounds – you generally wont need to go to Zone three i think. Details here. You also have to pay a refundable 10 pounds for the oyster card if you dont already have one, which is a pain in the ass.
On the other hand, most of the interesting/touristy things in London are clustered together – ie. you can walk from Covent garden to Leicester Square and Oxford Circus (high end shopping, Liberty’s and Harrods) so you might wanna just get the day pass if you think youre not gonna make full use of the one week unlimited, especially since youre not gonna be there for a full week. Places you need to train to include the Big Ben (can walk but it’s a stretch), Buckingham palace, the Greenwich Meridian line etc.
I did this the second time round since I was only going to be in London itself for 4 days – I bought 1 x day pass and traveled to all the far out places during that 24 hours, then the rest of the days i just bought single journey tickets as and when I needed them, which was usually just two journeys, one from where im staying and one back to. You can try buying the student/child ticket and getting away with it, I know people who’ve done that, but if you get caught it’s 80 pounds so think it through!
* DOWNLOAD: Tube Map on iphone, tells you how to get to one place from another via train, can be used offline, very useful
You’ll probably want to instagram, so.
Pre-order a free SIM card here on giffgaff and get them to send it to the concierge of your hotel or hostel so you can pick it up when you arrive and just top it up and use it on the go. Details for different plans you can get here, but if youre only going to be in london less than a week I suggest you get the 7.50pound goodybag with 250MB internet and unlimited texts. WIFI access is ok in London, most cafes and restaurants will have it so connect to wifi when possible and you’ll be fine.
A meal in london will set you back 15 pounds easily. Usually what I do is have one big meal for brunch and just snack for dinner. Groceries in London are alright, which is why it is so important to book a place that has a kitchen. My first hostel provided breakfast so that was fine, and people in hostels always make sandwiches to take away for lunch anyway, but if youre in a hotel you might wanna have some bread on hand so you can have something to eat when you wake up / a proper English breakfast will cost about 6-15 pounds.
-MISATO Japanese Restaurant
Very very value for money. Located near Leicester Square station, somewhere in Chinatown. Huge tonkatsu curry rice will cost you about 6 pounds. They dont accept cards, so always have cash on hand and be ready to queue for about ten minutes to half an hour.
11 Wardour Street
London W1D 6PG
– Flat Iron Restaurant
Ten pound Steak. Nuff said.
17 Beak Street
London W1F 9RW
– Shoryu Ramen
Pretty good ramen for about 9-11 pounds. Menu here. If i’m not wrong, they have a £5 ramen offer on Sundays, so take advantage of that!
9 Regent Street
London SW1Y 4LR
– Unfortunately fast food like KFC is the cheapest thing you can eat but you will also be a ball. There’s also ‘chinese fast food’, like chinese food you can just take from a buffet table etc but it looks suspicious. The further you are from the center of London, the cheaper food gets, but it makes no sense to train elsewhere for a cheaper meal then come back, so scrap that.
– Burger and Lobster.
20 pounds flat, either a burger or a lobster with fries and some form of salad. Do it more for the experience than anything else, I’m ok with lobster so it was just an experience thing for me, but for my boyfriend who adores lobster, it was a fantastic deal because apparently you dont get lobster that cheap anymore.
36 Dean St
London, United Kingdom
+44 20 7432 4800
– Four Seasons Duck
Supposedly world famous duck. Pricey but it was really pretty good, speak to them in Chinese or Cantonese and they’ll give you more food hahaha.
12 Gerrard St
London, United Kingdom
+44 20 7494 0870
Michelin starred dim sum, reasonably priced. Mon-Thurs set lunch for 2 seems really worth it but i was there on a saturday so I didn’t get to try it. REALLY AMAZING FOOD. Set lunch menu here. The best thing hands down is the venison puff, so get that for sure. This is one of those places I’ll visit every single time I hit London, I also did a full review of the restaurant earlier here.
15-17 Broadwick Street.
Soho, London, W1F 0DL
+44 (0) 20 7494 8888
Best cappuccino I’ve ever had in my life. Around the corner from Yauatcha
128 Wardour Street
– Hummingbird bakery
Amazing and also amazingly expensive cupcakes but really a must try. If you only can get one, get the Chocolate Bottom. I guess you can give this a skip if you’re not really into cupcakes, but it’s right around the corner from Yauatcha and Gail’s, so why not.
155a Wardour Street
– Mathilda for 5 pounds, start queuing early. They give out 16 tickets at 5 pounds a day to the first people there, bring some form of identification because they’re only supposed to sell it to youths under 26 (they didnt check for me but dont take chances). The theater opens 10am but I was there at 8am. Queues start earlier in summer so you might wanna go earlier anyway and have a coffee opposite while waiting for the queue to form. The theater is right down the road from the famous Monmouth coffee so you can run and get some while one of you queues and have it while waiting.
– All other musicals can be bought for about 12.50 to 40 pounds depending on how popular it is. Buy beforehand – so i suggest you go to the box office the day you arrive and check availability for tickets the next three days. Les mis has to be bought on the day itself and the box office opens at ten so if you want good prices for les mis wake up early to queue. The cheap box offices are lined along Lecester Square so just walk along and compare prices till someone gives you a good price. I booked my Phatom tickets online first so I could choose seats and all that – I think this is the website i used: http://www.lsbo.co.uk. BEST DECISION EVER – Phantom was magical.
The major museums in London are mostly free and that is all I have to say about them because I basically only went to one. The thing is, there are so many things to do in London I dont feel as if it makes sense to spend all your time indoors looking at art.. Sorry, art students. I did pay homage at the Louvre though.
– Go for a picnic/ walk along Hyde Park – free
– Watch the Change of Guard at Buckingham Palace, 1130am on every/every other day, you have to google it. They played Happy by Pharell when i was there!
– Walk along the river bank and people watch
– Do your own version of the Harry Potter Hunt via google
– Free concerts / fairs happening at the Southbank Center : details here
Well ok most of the free stuff in London consists Museums so that’s that, but even without that walking around london can take you three whole days already. There’s just so much to see down each street, you know? That’s all i have so far, so if any of you legit londoners have tips, please leave them in the comments below and share them with the rest!
All of you headed to London or making plans for London in the future, enjoy! It truly is one of the best cities – and such a relief not to have to struggle with a foreign language after journeying through so many non-english speaking countries. Definitely watch at least one musical while you’re there, please, I’m getting so nostalgic thinking of it again I feel like booking another ticket there right now!
London, you were magical. x