Every Singaporean makes it to London at some point. Even if you have barely travelled, there’s a high chance your very first long overseas trip will involve London. The fact that Singapore is a former British colony and thousands of Singaporean students head to the UK for university each year could be one reason. Whatever it is, London is not cheap, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to squandering your life savings on a trip there. Here’s how to keep it affordable.
Good news: because there are so many flights to London from Singapore, during off peak periods you can find tickets for prices as low as $900.
The bad news is that there’s a ton of Singaporean students jostling to get flights to London at the beginning of the three school terms, and back to Singapore after the terms end. This means you should avoid trying to fly to London in late August/early September, late December/early January or April, or flying back to Singapore in January/April and late June, as you’ll be paying grossly inflated prices.
The cheapest times to fly are usually February, March, October or November. Just sayin’.
So you’re past the backpacker stage and want to stay somewhere a little bit nicer, but now it seems the only thing you can afford is a storage locker at the airport. Head to AirBnB, where you can get a cosy room for two in a central area for 150 SGD a night and below.
The thing to remember is that London is a huge city, and you’re going to want to make sure you’re not forced to take the Tube for hours just to get to the city centre. Most AirBnB hosts will tell you where the nearest Tube station is, so pull out a copy of the Tube map and see how far the accommodation is from the centre.
Avoid anything that’s not in Zone 1 or you’ll end up paying more on the Tube.
Most of the cultural attractions in London are museums, which are wonderfully, gloriously free. Whether you’re gawking at art at the Tate Modern or enjoying a date at the British Museum, it’s nice knowing you don’t have to pay a cent. Yes, there are expensive attractions like Madame Tussaud’s and the London Eye, but these tend to be more touristic than cultural.
So our top tip for keeping the price of attractions down is to just stick to where the locals go—museums, galleries and parks—and stay far away from the glut of camera-toting tourists.
While London might not have spawned fashion brands like Chanel or Prada, it’s heaven for High Street shoppers who are fans of fast-fashion brands like Topshop and Miss Selfridge. If you’re a student, be sure you bring your student pass with you, as many high street stores offer discounts.
When shopping at high street stores, note that many of them have fairly generous returns policies, meaning that if you return the items by a certain date you simply get a full refund, which can be sent to you via your credit or debit card.
We all know how easy it is to buy things on impulse that you later regret when you’re on holiday cos you’re so afraid you won’t be coming back again. Periodically going through your purchases and returning the ones you don’t want to keep before you leave can save you quite a bit of wallet-ache.
It’s also a great idea to hit up the many vintage stores and markets such as Portobello Market. While not dirt cheap, quality tends to be excellent rather than crappy imports. I’ve found 20 pound leather boots and 10 pound snakeskin belts at random market stands.
Eating well in London is not cheap at all, and if you’re here on a romantic vacation and want to enjoy a bit of comfort, expect to feel the pinch. To avoid spending a ton, you need to plan ahead. London is not like Bangkok, where you can wander into just about any restaurant and be confident that it’ll be fairly good and also affordable
Your best bet is probably to get on Groupon, do research on the restaurants for which deals are available and then Google the establishments to see if they’re any good.
Of course, making sure you save money on your spending wherever you can is important, and that’s why it’s also good to make sure that regardless of whether you’re a cashback or air miles person, you’ve got the right credit card for spending overseas. Do your planning in advance first by comparing the best credit cards for your travels
Do you have any tips for lowering the cost of a trip to London? Share them with us in the comments!