How to plan a Budget Vacation to London- Travel Guide

When planning any trip locally or abroad , the main criteria should be maximum sightseeing in minimum cost. Value for money is the motto followed by us or any avid traveller. Well , this motto was initially difficult to apply for our London vacation which is one of the costliest city in the world. Plus the continuously depreciating value of the Rupee against the British pound added to our planning woes. After months of brain racking sessions calculating costs combined with tick marking all major sightseeing spots,various permutations and combinations there was a point where due to sheer mental exhaustion I was all ready to go and book a tour with a tour operator. But better sense prevailed finally and Whew ! finally we arrived on a London vacation plan at a reasonable cost. Just sharing what I learnt and will follow in future for further trips

Book a tour off season : Try to book a vacation during the off season period of that country / city. The airfare rates, accomodation rates are quite low during that time . If unable to do so do read the points mentioned below.

Air tickets : The first step to a cost saving holiday is planning much ahead of schedule and thus booking the air tickets at a lower rate. Closer the date of travel , higher the airfare. Put price alerts on sites like Skyscanner, Make my Trip, Kayak around dates which you are likely to travel or else book the air tickets through a travel agent. They get bulk discounts which can be passed on to you. We got a good deal on our airfare flying Emirates Mumbai-Gatwick Airport( London ) & Edinburgh (Scotland) -Mumbai through Kedar Ubhayakar a staff of Travel Tours ( Part of FCM Travel Solutions ).

Food : Food is a major expense in London. But through our travel we found cost saving ways in that too. We normally had our lunch and dinner in small cafes or restaurants . Generally on an average a meal costs about 9 -10 GBP per person and drinks 1.50-3 GBP.

Fish & Chips and Hunter’s Chicken ( the pic on the lower level ..A British speciality )costs about 9-10 GBP
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Britain’s signature dish -Fish & chips
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Pimms a delicious gin based lemonade topped with strawberry, oranges

There are Supermarkets like Sainsbury or Tesco with many outlets spread out in London city which sell Veg/ Non Veg Sandwiches , ready to eat meals ,pizzas , bakery items like doughnuts cup cakes , variety of breads , soft drinks and fruits ranging between 1.50 GBP to 4 GBP which also substitute for a hearty breakfast or a light lunch- dinner.

Sandwiches in the Meal Deal Scheme 1.50 GBP
A Ready to eat meal at Sainsbury’s Supermarket

Travel by local transport : London has the best transport system in the world. The network of transport like Tube ( Underground train) ,Metro train and bus is so well connected that there is no need to take a Cab or Uber which works out very expensive. There are Maps printed at every Bus stop displaying the Bus No and the route ( stops ) it will take.

A map outside a Bus stop

Similarly for the Metro and Tube ( Underground ) there are maps outside every station with the destination stops clearly mentioned . Plus there are announcements and screen displays made on the Bus and the train / tube about the next destination where the bus/train / tube will make a stop. So it makes it easy for us to alight at our destination . It takes about a day to master how to read a map and once you have understood it, travelling in London is a dream.

The indicator on a bus displaying the destination stops

It is advisable to buy an pre paid Oyster Card when travelling in London. It can be used for travel in a Bus,Metro or Tube. We found it an excellent way to travel fuss free. Buses only accept Oyster Card ( no cash ) while cash can be used for Train or Tube tickets which can be purchased at the ticket window. The tickets rates are quite high for the train in peak hours ie 6.30 am – 9.30 am and 4 pm-7 pm so bus travel where the peak hour rates don’t apply is preferred. In that sense buying an Oyster card works out more economical . Oyster card can be bought at the airport or at railway stations too. There are helpful railway personnel at the railway stations to guide you on how to purchase a Oyster card or help you board the right train.

Using an Oyster Card at the Railway station
The Double Decker Red Bus

Plus travelling in a Double Decker Red Bus taking in the sights of the city is an pleasant experience.

Travelling to places outside London like Lake District or Scotland, the National Express Bus is a cheap mode of transport. We used this bus service while travelling to Lake District. It cost us just 17 GBP-per person . The tickets can also be booked on their official site. Trains like the Virgin Trains , National rail also depart for Lake District or Scotland but they are very expensive than bus travel.

Accommodation : Hotels in London especially Central London can be quite expensive. It is advisable to book with AirBnb which work out cheaper than a hotel room . If in a group an entire AirBnb flat can be booked which works out still economical. We stayed in a AirBnb flat at Islington , Upper street which was quite a convenient place to stay considering there were bus stops just below our hotel plus the Angel Train station was just 5-7 mins at a walking distance.

London is divided into 6 Zones . The main attractions are situated in Zone 1. There was a debate whether to book an AirBnb in Zone 1 which is expensive or stay in the far away Zones to save on the accommodation cost. But we realized that travelling from eg Zone 6 to Zone 1 would cost us on travel plus time of travelling . Hence we decided to stay in the AirBnb accommodation in Zone 1 thus saving on travel time and travel costs .We reached all the happening places in Central London in less than half an hour so had more time to explore the city .

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Tower Bridge

Online booking of Sight seeing places : London has a lot of places of historical importance and pleasure too. Since we were travelling in July which is a peak holiday season we had expected huge queues at the ticket windows for all the major sightseeing spots. So the first prudent step was to go on the official sites of these places and book the tickets online. eg to book online tickets for Madame Tussauds go to their site madametussauds.com/london and follow the instructions on the screen . The procedure is quite easy.

Normally the payments to these online sites can be made using a Credit card . There is a small fee charged for using the Credit cards . A printout of your ticket should be carried with you to be shown at the ticket window on the day of the sightseeing.They either scan the bar code on the ticket printout or issue tickets. The queue at this ‘online booked tickets’ window is quite less than the ‘on the spot ticket booking’ window.

Another benefit of booking tickets online are the rates . The ticket rate is a little less when booked online than booking across the counter. And even a little lesser rate while paying in pounds makes a whole lot of a difference . Some places have a group discount. Check on their sites to avail of a group discount.

Warwick Castle

Hope you liked this blog. Do share your views in the comment section .

Next Blog will be on how to cover the major attractions of London with tips on sightseeing