London is by far a top destination for world tourists. I doubt that if you ask most of your friends where they would like to travel to soon, many of them would be missing London in their lists – either they would plan to go or they would have already been to the capital of Great Britain. But the most prominent obstacle for tourists is that London also resides in the top most expensive destinations in the world….And with so many places to go, so many things to see and do, to buy, to try out…you would unavoidably break the bank during your trip; London is huge in all senses of the word.
So to try and help you out a bit, I am making a suggestion here. Unless you are a gourmand and are coming to London exactly because of the city’s renowned mixture of cuisines, exquisite restaurants and meals, you could try to save up on food and drinks and have more money to spend on attractions, shops and, of course, accommodation so that you spend more time in London!
The Benefit of the Kitchen
Looking out for how to save on food in London should start from the very planning of your trip. When thinking about the kind of accommodation you are going to settle for, think about hiring an apartment. I know at first it would seem as a more expensive option indeed, but look closely: do you think that booking a small room and being force to eat out three times a day would be more cost-effective than paying slightly more for having a kitchen where you can easily prepare your food or dine in before you go out?
A great option for such an apartment could be found at Wimdu Appartments – this is a well-known chain offering small cozy apartments all over London. Their location is cleverly tuned with the location of a nice supermarket – you need just several minutes to get to one and buy all the products you need to make home meals. Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Ocado and more – just look for the closest one to you and scan prices carefully.
As we already started talking about supermarkets and how they can save us a lot of money on meals, let’s continue the discussion further. You all know about the sales and discounts at supermarkets – they are not exclusive to London, so I don’t need to remind you to look for the best deals when hunting products.
But what could prove as even more effective is to shop online. Many supermarkets offer online shops and the prices are slightly lower. Plus, you can compare the amount of money you are going to spend in each and then decide. There are even some kinds of ‘outlet centers’ where you can browse through products from all chains and go to the special section with hottest offers – you would be surprised how much money you can save even compared to the option of going to the closest supermarket yourself and shopping there. One such website is My Supermarket – various categories, discounts and other options.
You are also bound to get some coupons for new visitors and save even more. Just don’t forget to plan ahead, because delivery would take a day or two and we don’t want you to starve or pay the same money for 2-3 meals out, completely diminishing the benefits of online grocery shopping!
Vouchers can save you at least half the money you would normally spend on meals. Some supermarkets have such, some restaurants or local shops would give you such with your order so that you can have something for free or half-priced next time, so look carefully and buy from shops would likely want to revisit during your stay.
Many UK websites would offer you lists of such vouchers and discounts. Here you can look at the current restaurant saving options.
And Here you can browse through many supermarket coupons on all kinds of goods.
Food Trucks and Fast Food
An option in the middle between cooking for yourself and eating out are the food trucks scattered around London and the fast food chains. Firstly, I don’t want to lead you on – you know how bad for your health fast food can be, you can read more about the bad habits surrounding Chicken Shops. I advise against making fast food an essential part of your daily diet, as many Londoners do. But if you are staying at the capital for several days and you want to grab a bite while touring around, because you are out of cooked food let’s say, fast food is a reasonable option. Besides, when in London, do as Londoners do – it is almost an attraction!
The same goes for food trucks. You shouldn’t leave London without taking a picture in front of one of our famous food trucks! And for that purpose, it’s best to actually be buying something, otherwise the guy behind the counter won’t be very thrilled. You can even browse around websites and photos to choose the food truck that seems most attractive to you and head straight to it.
Chain Restaurants and Buffets
In London you can find a lot of chains of small diners that offer quite reasonable prices and would also give you some discounts for next time you go. Some such chains are Spaghetti House, Yo Sushi!, Pizza Express, Masala Zone and many more.
Saving up at restaurants
Many restaurants in London offer daily/weekly/monthly or permanent deals. You can check them out individually if you have a particular restaurant in mind or you can check Hot Deals for example, where all deals (and not only for restaurants) are gathered together.
You could also have a look at Open Table and see the special offers – fine London restaurants offering special discounts.
I advise you to food such a special offer and try out a London restaurant at least once during your stay, because even if you are saving up on food, London’s fine dining is one of the key experiences for tourists!
Saving up on Drinks
Yes, we are talking about food here. But what kind of a trip to London would it be without alcohol? I wouldn’t forgive myself if I leave you without a single word on London’s drinks…
The easiest, and frankly most common, way to save on drinks is to pay attention to bars’ happy hours. Usually nobody goes to a bar on their own, so ‘Pay for 1 get 2’ sort of discounts are perfect. Don’t be discouraged if you see that you have missed most happy hours or that they start too late for your plans – many bars have different timetables, so you should be able to find at least some that fit your plans for tonight.
Also, look for student nights – alcohol is as cheap as it gets in London. Just be careful, avoid the most suspicious bars, because cheap drinks are not worth it in exchange for a filthy hole after all.
And lastly, keep in mind that drinks can cost more when you have the entry price in mind. So to avoid some nasty entries, try to enter clubs before 10 p.m. – it might be a bit empty at the beginning, but the place will eventually liven up.
I hope my tips will prove effective. If you want to know more about the ways to save up during your stay in London, you can read my other posts as well – compliment the cost-effective eating with cost-effective accommodation, transport and flights!