Well folks, we conquered both New York City and the French capital of Paris, this time we are going to try the same challenge on one of my favourite cities in the world, a destination which gives and gives and gives (and takes your money!), London!
A quick reminder – we fly in early on the first day, and we fly out late on the second day, meaning it’s not really a full ’48 hours’, but it does mean we only need to find a place to stay for a single night, which overall will help keeping the costs down. And London is NOT a cheap city! Having said that, a number of museums can be well priced or even free in the case of the British Museum – and that is certainly one we don’t want to miss! And that’s a good thing, because $200 for accommodation, food, attractions and souvenirs will only go so far. And how far is that ‘so far’? Well, let’s find out!
London is, I think it’s fair to say, not an inexpensive city to visit. I was somewhat surprised that Time Out have London listed as (only) the 19th most expensive city in the world, with Hong Kong coming in first and Turkmenistan’s Ashgabat a surprising second. Check out Time Out’s Most Expensive Cities in the World in 2020.
Let’s be honest and fait here, and so many visitors to London find it to be very expensive to visit, and I have to agree. And that’s the three big ones – accommodation (don’t get your hopes up!), food and attractions which are often over 20 pounds so that’s around $40USD, or $50AUD. For example, to prove a point, the Tower of London (which I have not personally visited) is 25 pounds for an adult to enter. That’s over a sixth of our budget of $200USD. Our daily budget in pounds is around 150 pounds. And it wouldn’t be that much if Brexit hadn’t driven the pound down against the Greenback.
And $200 can disappear pretty quick in a busy city whether it’s London, New York or Singapore. So let’s start with trying to find a decent place to stay. London does have a really good underground (Metro) network, also known as a ’The Tube’, so even before we find a bed for the night, let’s secure us a 2-day travel pass at 18.50 pounds. That means we don’t need to bunk up right in the middle of the city.
Earl’s Court is famous for being the place backpackers head, indeed quite a lot Aussies head there and it’s known for that. I found the Ibis Hotel there at around 60 pounds. That’s if you want your own room for the night and want a reasonable and reasonably dependable standard. I had a small unit that was roughly the same price when I was last there in Kensington, an Air BnB place where I could self-cater, otherwise there are plenty of hostel options which will come in cheaper.
When I was in London in my younger days I did stay at hostels, and rarely for less than 20 pounds. However a search online reveals plenty of different options for less than that. That is, I presume, because of the whole pandemic situation right now. Generator Hostel is listing at 14 pounds a night for October, and Wombats Hostel which is at 18 pounds. There are more options which are even cheaper, down to 8 pounds, but the really cheap ones are a LONG way from centre. Let’s budget for 20 pounds on accommodation because these rates won’t be around forever! Also… who wants a free set of steak knives?
Okay so, we’ve spent 38 pounds which means we have 112 pounds left in our pocket for the rest of the two days, for food, sites and whatever else in the way of souvenirs etc you might want. Now, of you go with a room at the Ibis, well, you’re already at 78 pounds which leaves just 72 pounds. So let’s see how we can fill our 48 hours with 112 pounds…. And what we’d end up missing when we have 40 pounds less.
Arrive Heathrow (probably) and get the two-day pass and head into London. The great news about London is that although the place is expensive, there are many sites you can see which are basically photo opportunities. On top of that, according to the Interweb the Thames Clipper, a boat that goes up and down the Thames, is included on an Oyster Card (used for the Underground and public transport) and I would PRESUME (can someone confirm?) that it is valid on the Thames Clipper. Which means you can go up and down the Thames by boat with no extra cost.
So check out Big Ben and the Tower Bridge, houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey from the outside, (only the last of these four can you really enter), you can catch a decent glimpse of the Tower of London from your Thames Clipper ride too. They are all very iconic places indeed, and you want to see them, probably, for your photo collection. You can make your way out to Buckingham Palace too for a photo or three, and relax in Hyde Park.
I can’t really recommend anywhere to eat in London. I can honestly say in five visits I haven’t eaten out in a proper restaurant once. I’ve done fast food for lunches and self catered for dinners exclusively, well almost. I tried a pub lunch in Greenwich last time which was around 15 pounds, and it was dreadful like a McCain frozen meal. Heated up. But still awful none-the-less.
So really it’s a case of keeping the costs down with food, give yourself 15 pounds for lunch and a bottle of water, 20 pounds maybe for a decent (hopefully) pub meal somewhere, as this is pretty much a British tradition.
You’ve spent the day chasing photos, but hopefully you planned a quick stop at a cheap tix booth, they can be found in a few places, I remember there WAS one in Leicester Square, I think at the entrance to the Underground. You want to see a West End show, they are awesome and usually really good value. In 1999 I saw four shows in four nights. I paid between 5 and 25 pounds back then. Let’s budget 25 pounds here to be on the safe side.
So, at the end of Day One we’ve gotten all our important photos done, eaten twice and seen a show! That’s 20 pounds for accommodation, 18 pounds for public transport, 35 pounds on meals and 25 pounds for a show. That’s a total of 98 pounds. In you’re at the Ibis you may want to skip on the show to keep it under 150 pounds. But I’m basing this on the hostel price. You could find a cheaper dinner too.
So, we have 52 pounds remaining. You want some wriggle room too – bottles of water for example, snacks, souvenirs, but I’m going to see how close I can push it regardless.
So I would recommend the British Museum, get there early, this is going to be your pre-lunch experience. It again is free, and you could easily spend the entire day there but as we only have two days, that’s not the go.
After lunch we have two main things on the agenda, which is just a personal choice as to the most interesting and worthwhile sights in London in my opinion. Firstly there is St Paul’s cathedral, that’s 18 pounds. Good views of the city of course and a beautiful cathedral.
More exciting even and for me a personal favourite – a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe is very worthwhile and 17 pounds (all prices are for adults), and this is how I would finish the day. It’s only three things but they will certainly fill your day I would expect.
You could tag out one of the two for the National Portrait Gallery – if that interests you. I liked it but I felt it might have limited appeal to people. The good news is that it’s free, and won’t detract further from our budget.
Cost of 35 pounds in total – that means you have 17 pounds left! Oh my, can you lunch and dinner on that? It’s going to be hard – but trim a couple of pounds off your meals from the day before, you can probably do a McValue meal for one (I’m serious this is London, great city but not one known for the eating!) and then afford something around 10-12 pounds for dinner. We’re presuming breakfast to be included in our accommodation here.
See how quickly the money disappears? You may want to swap out one of my recommended experiences for the following –
London Eye – 40 pounds (cheaper online, this is bought on the day)
Tower of London – 25 pounds
Westminster Abby – 18 pounds
Madame Tussauds – 36 (cheaper online, this is bought on the day)
Amongst others. As you can see, not cheap at all! If you have time, Hyde Park is just one of London’s Parks that is beautiful and a great place to chill. It’s a brilliant city, but the sites are genuine pocket-busters!
Other posts on London –
Accommodation Review – Elmwood Hotel, London [another hotel option, $82US in 2017]
Thanks for popping by today – May the Journey Never End!