photo by midnightglory
I have received quite a number of emails over the past couple of months from Singaporeans and Malaysians who are planning to visit London for the first time. I noticed that most queries are focused on a couple of specific questions with regards to costs, transport, accommodation and attractions. So I thought that I would touch upon some of these over here and I'll start off with the top concern on everyone's mind - how much are you expected to spend per day in London.
The saying goes that "everything's big in New York while everything in London is expensive". Curiously, even though the VAT has been (temporarily) cut to 15% from 17.5% and the sterling pound is near its all time low against the euros, we still could not shake off the common perception that London remains one of the most expensive cities in the world to travel in.
The amount of cash that one should set aside for each day of travelling in London depends greatly on what one seek to accomplish. I received an email from a student who is on a shoestring budget and looking forward to spend a couple of days in London while staying in a hostel in central London. Frankly, if accommodation has been taken care of, save for food and transport there is nothing very much else that one would have to pay for. Let's look at what the options are.
Due to its metropolitan nature, the visitor to London would be spoilt for choice. However, if you are on a shoestring budget, you could opt for a simple takeaway baguette from Prêt or E.A.T. for less than £3. If you don't mind forking out a bit more, head to Mr Wu's buffet along Whicomb Street for less than £5 and eat your fill. However, if funds is a tad low, go for the hot cross buns at Tesco super mart (packs of 6 going for as low as 30p).
Assuming you are staying in a hostel in Zone 1 (Bayswater, King's Cross, Russell Square are in Zone 1), you can consider taking a stroll as many attractions are within walking distance. Well, you could also take in the sights as you walk but do prepared to set aside up to an hour or so for that.
A bus trip would cost a flat fee of £1 and a Tube (Underground) £1.60 if you stay within Zone 1. Heck, most of the sights are in Zone 1 anyway. If you are not quite sure about the bus routes, I suggest you go for the Tube - the Tube staff are way more helpful than bus drivers.
Most major museums are free (Tate Modern, British Museum, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Museum of London are some of them). All the parks, which include Regents' Park, Primrose Hill, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, St. James Park, are free as well. The parks, especially Regents' Park and St. James Park, are sights to behold when the flowers bloom during spring.
There are quite a number of visitors, constrained by time (you could cover only so much in a day), contend themselves by marvelling at the architecture of Westminster, St. Paul's Cathedral and Tower Bridge. Besides, a walk along the Embankment would pretty much occupy you for better part of an afternoon.
All in all, you could probably get around London with just a tenner (£10) a day excluding accommodation costs. Any other tips on how to get around London on a shoestring budget? Do share it with us! And while you are at it, do check out 10 things to do in London for $10 or Timeout's 1000 things to do in London for under £10.