Here’s What We Didn’t Do:
When we asked around for places to have “High Tea,” locals looked at us like we were out of our minds.
I don’t know if maybe we just asked the wrong people, or were in the wrong part of town, or if that really just isn’t something that they do over there anymore.
I REALLY wanted to eat some awesome Indian food while we were in London.
Alas, we never quite got around to it. Just thinking about this grave loss nearly brings me to tears.
Cost of The Trip
Here’s what the two of us spent (total) spent on our 4-day London excursion (not including airfare):
- Lodging (Hostel): $187.64 ($62.55 per night for private room + breakfast)
- Public Transportation (Underground): $93.38
- Private Transportation (Taxi): $173.85 (Heathrow to Greenwich)
- Food (including drinks and tips): $445.47 (average of $27.84 per meal, per person)
- Admissions & Tours: $184.60 (Big Bus Tour, Tower of London, London Eye)
TOTAL: $1,084.94 ($542.47 per person)
Now, you can definitely do this trip cheaper!
Staying in a dormitory instead of a private room would have saved us almost $100 at our hostel ($30 USD for two dorm beds per night).
We also spent quite a bit on food and entrance to tourist sites. There are lots of free things to do in London (like check out one the 23 free museums!).
Of course, that taxi ride really screwed us, too.
If you stay in a dormitory, skip the big bus tour, drink beer at the hostel instead of at a pub, and avoid taxis like the plague, you could easily do 4 days in London for under $400 per person.
I know plenty of travelers who visit major European cities for under $30 a day. That usually involves cooking your own cheap meals, avoiding alcohol, and crashing in the cheapest hostel available.
Just figure out what things are important to you, and be sure to budget for it. Eating local cuisine in restaurants is one of my favorite parts of traveling, so I always have a big “food” budget!
What I Wish I Knew
Ah, yes. I always come back from these trips with a list of “things I wish I knew before I went.” Here’s what you need to know:
You’ll notice in most pubs and restaurants that they’ll indicate a difference between “Real Ale” (also called Cask Ale) and regular beer.
Real Ale is typically unfiltered, unpasteurized and is served without pressure from nitrogen or carbon dioxide (read: carbonation).
Ordering in Pubs
In a bar, pub, or restaurant in the U.S., you might order a drink from the bar, but if you are going to sit down to a meal you are typically seated at a table and served by waitstaff.
Our first meal in London, we sat down in a pub, looked over the menus, and waited.
And…. finally got up, walked up to the bar, and asked if we could order some food. The bartender looked at me a little funny, but gladly took my order and handed over the WiFi password.
We quickly looked up standard food-ordering protocol in London and learned that in bars and pubs, everything is ordered up at the actual bar itself.
You pay when you order, food is brought to your table, and when you are done you simply leave. I actually prefer it to the whole waiting-around-for-the-check thing we do back home.
When you order food up at a counter and pay for it at the same time, there’s not a lot “table service” going on and not a lot of opportunity to leave a tip.
After a bit more googling, we found that while tipping is common in full-service restaurants, pubs and bars with pay-at-the-counter type operations don’t typically expect or receive additional tips from patrons.
You should check out this article on tipping in the United Kingdom to get a good run-down of common practices.
This is the Tower Bridge. It goes up and down. Contrary to Fergie-logic, the London Bridge does NOT. Two different bridges, people.
The public transportation system in London is pretty good.
While it was convenient for us to book a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour, there are plenty of public transportation options that are much more cost efficient.
With some of the all-day passes, you can hop on and hop off any of the buses, underground and overground trains, and the lightrail, too.
You also may want to check out the Oyster Card system if you’re spending more than a few days in the city.
When we landed at Heathrow we thought we’d take public transportation to our hostel in Greenwich (which is quite a ways away!), but we were so brain fried that we couldn’t figure it out and just took a taxi instead.
Which, you know, cost us $173 dollars.
We got smart and took public transportation from Greenwich back to the airport for about $18 per person. It was hot and we were hauling our luggage, but we saved $137!
Just so you know, Big Ben is NOT the name of the clock or tower at the Palace of Westminster. It’s actually the name of the BELL inside of it. The tower is known properly as Elizabeth Tower. The more you know!
Phew! That was a lot of knowledge to drop on you all just now. I think it’s about time for me to kick back.