London on the Cheap

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Been there. Done that.

Shaun and I don’t go to London for the main attractions any more. I mean, this was his third time and my second time visiting. You can only visit the London Eye so many times before it starts to get a bit old. Awesome? Yes. But with the money we were working with for our big Euro trip, it just wasn’t in the cards to spend a lot. It isn’t like we were spending our time in luxury London hotels.

After our breakneck race through Iceland and the Ring Road we were tired and frankly, a bit worn out.

And this time around I found my little London spark. That knowledge and intimacy with a city that goes beyond your main tourist attractions. We had a week to hang out with friends and live like locals. We experienced London on the cheap.

And it was the best time I could have asked for.

If you are looking for a good, authentic time in London, here are a few things we got to do with our friends Jungle James and Safari Kate. You may recognize them from our posts in Bocas del Toro, Panama or Xela, Guatemala. These are those travel friends that stay with you for life and I’m still trying to convince Kate to try and get me a job in London so we can stick around a bit longer next time. 😛

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I digress…

Here are a few things we did in our week in London that were budget friendly:

Walk around Canary Wharf. This business center is insane with the massive buildings. It is completely different than the rest of London and you can window shop at the awesome underground mall. Make sure to check out the awesome canal boats lined up around this area.

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Try the local fare of a budget by raiding your local TESCO. Shaun went with the Scottish Eggs. We only finished one. You can say it was an “experience”. We also got heckled by our Londoner friends. Side note: Did you know the groceries in London can be cheaper than in the States? BLEW OUR MIND.

Get beers from your local East End pub. We chose the Old Duke of Cambridge because it was near where we are staying. For £3 you can’t beat the price. We also got a free little bowl of crackers and cheese!

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Go to the Mile End Skatepark. This was a big one for Shaun. Not only was he impressed with what was available but it is entirely FREE. Keep in mind that they do have a youth club that takes over the park in the late afternoon.

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Rent a bike and ride down the canal. The investment is £1 for the day but the first 30 minutes is free. Get your bike. Haul balls. Dock it. Recheck it out. Continue your day.

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Get cheap noodles on Kingston Road. East London is chocked full with multiculturalism. Make sure to take advantage of the plethora of great noodle shops that are both authentic and delicious. My bowl of pho put us back a whopping £5.

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See a free band in one of the hundreds of pubs around London. Ours was the pub in Victoria Park. No, I am lame and do not remember the name of the bar. Sue me. We were drinking in London.

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Hang out in London Fields on a sunny Saturday and drink cheap beer. This is one of the trendiest most hopping places in town on the weekends. Scores of young and old people hang out on the grass and drink beer they got from the store. This was also where Shaun tried to explain cricket to another girl. SNOOOOOOOOOOOZE. 😀

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Head to the market near London Fields and taste test the goods. There is this really rad artisan market full of yummy foods. We ended up with a £3 bratwurst after nearly having a heart attack with what to pic. Cheese, bread, quiches and more can be found in this area. Yum!

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I would love the chance at living in London for a little while. There is just something that clicks with me there. Sure I would still miss the warm sun and legitimate tacos but I can’t help but be charmed like the millions before me. We have friends there. We have a life there. This is MY big city.

What city has made YOU feel at home?

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40 Responses to “London on the Cheap”

  1. Cate Brubaker October 17, 2012 at 2:49 am #

    I’m so glad that you love London, because I sure don’t! However, after reading your post, I might consider giving it another try, especially if I could visit with people who actually live there! As to my “home” city, it’s Istanbul or Kiev, Ukraine. I could easily set up shop in either city!

    • Erica October 18, 2012 at 8:10 am #

      It took me a while to be honest. The first time around I was confused and bewildered but now that I’ve had time to soak in the “real” London, my mind was changed. Kiev?! I think that is the first time I’ve heard that one!

  2. Dani October 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Aaah, this makes me so homesick!! When we left London in 2010 we decided to go on the hunt for a new city to live in but I have to admit that we still haven’t found one 🙂 London’s just an awesome city and your friends did a great job keeping you entertained off-the-tourist trail (Mile End, seriously?! Who goes to Mile End 😉 .. love it!)

    • Erica October 18, 2012 at 8:11 am #

      Sorry! What really surprised me is how Hackney has changed so much over the past 10 years. It is trendy?! But yeah – I love it. I think I would totally live in the East end if we were there.

  3. Heather October 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    Even though it was my 7th trip to London back in May, I only truly started to appreciate how much cheaper groceries can be there! Glad you had a great time 🙂

    • Erica October 18, 2012 at 8:13 am #

      Isn’t it weird? I was shocked and a little mad that we had been taught that the US is the cheapest. Period. Land of Walmart can’t compete with Tesco?

  4. Steve Whitty October 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    It is London for me. I am fortunate with a work perk I can travel from Birmingham almost every week for free. You can never get bored of London.

    • Erica October 18, 2012 at 8:14 am #

      Awesome! I’m always glad to have like minded people ’round these parts! I’m already looking forward to returning at the beginning of November.

  5. Jarmo October 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    London is great, picnics and markets especially offer cheap good day out, when it isn’t raining 🙂

    • Erica October 18, 2012 at 8:14 am #

      This is true. We got super lucky and were able to experience the September sunny awesomeness that occasionally happens. It was no wonder so many people were out that day!

  6. Lindsey October 17, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    Oooh this makes me miss London. Some of the best experiences from visiting places come from just kicking back, living like a local and doing it cheap. Looks like you guys had a wonderful time!

    • Erica October 18, 2012 at 8:15 am #

      I’m loving the London love right now! We really just wanted to keep it cheap and authentic. We had a million opportunities to go and do all the touristy stuff again but we were just not feeling it (thank goodness!).

  7. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures October 17, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Great tips!!!

    • Erica October 18, 2012 at 8:17 am #

      Thanks Andi! Thought I would pass them on for people looking for a cheap getaway!

  8. Addison S. @ Visa Hunter October 18, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    London is one of the truly great cities and I defy anyone to not be impressed. The fact that so many museums and galleries have free entrance always amazes me. My favorite market – although a big tourist trap – is definitely Borough Market, such history and a fascinating array of food.

    • Erica October 19, 2012 at 4:29 am #

      I still LOVE Borough Market – but I’m a huge fan of markets and the sort. We were actually going to head to the Tate but apparently there was a fire or suspect package on the tube and we were stuck in Canary Wharf.

  9. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy October 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    This is a good reminder that you can find cheap fun anywhere if you really look for it. I haven’t tried the bike rental thing while traveling but London seems like a good place for it.

    • Erica October 19, 2012 at 7:59 am #

      I don’t think enough people take advantage of the cheap or free things there. I had no clue. SOMEONE has to say what there is!

  10. Lee Carter @ Global Goose October 19, 2012 at 4:22 am #

    Scotch eggs need moisture, slap some branston pickle on there and they are a different experience.

    • Erica October 19, 2012 at 7:59 am #

      You know – that would have made everything much better because it was a bit dry. We ate the whole first one but left the second.

  11. Ayngelina October 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    I’ll be there in two weeks! You’ll need to show me the ropes.

    • Erica October 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

      Right on! We will see you at WTM!

  12. Caz Makepeace October 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Oh makes me miss my old home. Love the local side of London in the summer time. Great post

    • Erica November 13, 2012 at 10:44 am #

      The local side is definitely what sealed the deal on the dream to move to London. Although, experiencing the winter side did make me a bit batty.

  13. Sebastian October 22, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    Sounds like you guys had a great time… I look forward to Berlin on the cheap 🙂

    • Erica November 13, 2012 at 10:44 am #

      That is all we keep saying to people. OMG BERLIN IS SO FREAKING CHEAP. No one realizes this!

  14. Emily in Chile October 23, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    I love London! It’s true that it can be crazily expensive, but I’m glad you guys were able to find plenty to do without going broke.

    • Erica November 13, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      I honestly have no clue what someone would do during the winter now (drink into the oblivion?!) but at least I know summers are nice!

  15. Alex October 23, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    Your trip to London sound a lot like mine from this summer. I did nothing but eat and drink and visit with friends and saw zero tourist attractions. BEST TRAVEL BLOGGERS EVER HIGH FIVE!

    • Erica November 13, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      *HIGH FIVE*****

      Seriously the best thing in the world.

  16. Pete October 24, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    We lived in London for a month, and that was definitely enough. We got a taste of the city from plenty of locals, who didn’t show us the touristy things, and it was totally sneh. We went in with high expectations and were quite disappointed. Oh well, you can’t like everywhere right?

    • Erica November 13, 2012 at 10:46 am #

      HAHA! Not all cities are for everyone. I honestly think that I enjoy it more because we have a community of friends. I can see it being all blah if you didn’t have people constantly harassing you to come out.

  17. Kent @ No Vacation Required October 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    Wanna know the truth? Our favorite activity was running around Hyde Park and then sitting around watching all of the HOT people hanging out. Free AND exciting 🙂

    • Erica November 13, 2012 at 10:47 am #

      I guess all the hot people are hiding in Hyde Park?! haha!

      Londoners aren’t my type. 😛

      I can’t speak for Shaun though.

  18. Federico October 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    Some great ideas guys! I am not a big fan of London either, but I do admit it does have many cool things. Maybe if it was smaller…?

    • Erica November 13, 2012 at 10:47 am #

      The size does get to me. Shaun is a big city kinda guy and I like the smaller communities. Austin is starting to get too big for me!

  19. amy November 22, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    My bf and have lived in London for the past three years and are leaving in March to travel. As much as I’m itching to get on the road I’m so sad to be leaving my city – I love London and can’t imagine ever finding a city as amazing. Some of the things I love most are those you mention – the parks and markets (Borough is the best!), the pubs, festivals and free entertainment. With only 15 weeks left till we leave I find myself wondering every day – why am I leaving this city that I’m so obsessed with? Yet, at the same time I’m desperate to see the rest of the world – travel is a strange beast!

    • Erica November 22, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Oh man Amy, you are preaching to the choir here. Besides London I haven’t found a city that I love so dearly like Austin.

      I do have to say that it is such a nice sight when we come back home though. We have a stuffing our face fest/activities binge every time we get home!

  20. Istanbul November 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Good article and great shots thanks !

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