It’s not exactly unknown for people to visit the notoriously expensive city of London, England while their bank account is looking a little sparse. Indeed, travellers from around the globe do it all the time, and with its welter of free things to do, the city itself also makes it surprisingly easy for them. Right now, though, the British capital is in a somewhat different situation. Visitor numbers from around the world have plummeted since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This naturally raises the question… if you’re planning a visit to London while the coronavirus situation still rages, what are the best ways to save money while remaining safe?
Consider less obvious parts of the capital
An obvious need that we all have at the moment is to practise responsible social distancing, in order to minimise the likelihood of inadvertently catching the virus or spreading it to others.
In theory, that might seem tricky to consistently achieve in a heaving metropolis like London, even one emptied of many of its usual overseas visitors. So, why not take the opportunity to centre your next London break in a less ‘touristy’ part of the city?
Hotels in Shepherds Bush like Dorsett Shepherds Bush, for instance, combine comfort and generous amenities with prices that are often much more reasonable than their equivalents in the centre of London. This part of west London is also well-connected with the rest of the city’s transport systems, just in case you do change your mind mid-holiday and wish to visit the more ‘household-name’ sites.
Speaking of transport systems…
…in pre-COVID-19 times, an obvious money-saving tip might have been to purchase a bus or tube ticket that you could use all day or right through your break, thereby giving you the freedom to continue using these public transport options as often as you liked without incurring any extra costs.
In this strange era, though, those buses and tube trains could become perilously crowded. So, we’d suggest following the advice that even London’s official online visitor guide was giving at the time of this article being written, of avoiding public transport at peak times.
Some of the obvious ‘peak times’ will be mornings and evenings on weekdays as London’s workers head to and from their jobs, so you might need to be especially careful with your timing if you visit the capital on weekdays.
Otherwise, as the Visit London website recommends, we would advise you to take the opportunity to save even more money while experiencing London in a different way, by walking or cycling around the city instead.
Focus on broad experiences rather than specific events
One of the difficulties inherent in visiting London right now – or indeed, any ‘tourist magnet’ big city – is that it isn’t always clear when certain major attractions like museums, art galleries and theatres will be open. Indeed, even such venues that have reopened by now may operate restricted programmes compared to before the COVID-19 crisis.
That means that when you’re planning a London visit, whether on a budget or not, you should certainly check in advance which venues will actually be open, and how other aspects of their operations may have changed to adapt to the new circumstances. If you are on a budget, it might be the best time to book your European tour, as many travel agencies offer discounts.
But it also means that your next London break may turn out to be more focused on broad experiences – such as leisurely walks along the South Bank or Regent’s Canal, or taking photos of the capital’s varied and fascinating streetscape – than specific attractions or events such as theatre shows, music concerts or arts festivals.
And of course, many of those experiences also come with the advantage of being free or cheap for the person engaging in them. It just goes to show that even in the coronavirus era, London may still turn out to be an excellent budget city-break destination for you.