London house sitter and culture vulture Kelly Hayes-Raitt shares her favorite London travel bargains while house sitting!
By Kelly Hayes-Raitt
In Part I of this blog, I described 12 of my favorite London travel bargains that I’ve experienced during my many house sitting assignments there. Here, I expand on some of the London vacation ideas I recommend!
More London travel bargains
13. Double-decker buses. Forgo the expensive sight-seeing buses and catch the #15 double-decker bus. For a lot less, ride through Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and Fleet Street. Pop off at Trafalgar Square to visit the National Gallery, St Martin-in-the-Fields Church and the National Portrait Gallery (all free!).
For an even more special experience, nab a seat on the bus’s upper deck and head back to Limehouse Station for a stroll around Limehouse Basin dock.
14. Oyster cards. Use the same payment – either a credit or debit card or an Oyster card) to take advantage of daily and weekly Tube and bus price caps. If you plan to be in London for a while, create a free account at Transportation for London to safeguard against overcharges.
15. Bikes. Santander, Lime and Barclays offer pay-as-you-go e-bicycles throughout central London.
16. Uber or Bolt. Both ride apps cost far less than the iconic black taxis.
17. Walk! London’s best travel bargain is its compact size.
Offbeat London Travel Bargains
18. MeetUp. This free organization lists hundreds of one-off classes, themed dinners and workshops organized by everyday people that can be great bargains – as well as opportunities to meet new people.
19. Internations. As mentioned in Part I, this membership organization curates fun get-togethers, such as day trips to places like Stratford-Upon-Avon, group excursions to iconic London sites, such as the Sky Garden, and picnics and happy hours. Many events are free or pay-as-you-go and they can introduce you to new London travel bargains.
20. City farms. In London? Yep, get your sheep or burro groove on at one of the city’s inner-city farms. From Spitalfields to Stepney, these free farms offer a respite from the human crowds!
21. GroupOn. Free to subscribe, this web site of discounted or 2-for-1 experiences can really expand your “must do” list beyond the typical tourist spots. I once purchased a discounted 2-for-1 makeover and glamour photo shoot – complete with prosecco – for a girlfriend and me. We had a ball!
Other experiences include massages, dance lessons, cooking classes, spa days, and more.
22. Black History Films & Tours. A series of free and low-cost walking tours, bus tours, river boat cruises, lectures, panel discussions and film screenings are held regularly by BlackHistoryWalks.
23. Somerset House. This gorgeous Georgian building hosts regular free events – music, dance, photography, and more – throughout the year. Its rooftop view of the Thames (free!) is one of my favorites in the city.
24. Walk under the Thames. What? Walk under water? Yep, the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and the Thames Tunnel were built under the Thames and are freely used by 1.5 million Londoners every year to get from one bank to the other.
25. People-watching. London boasts 3,000 parks from the iconic Hyde Park to neighborhood “pocket parks.” They are great spots to take a sightseeing break and watch the world go by!
26. Charity shops. The UK is known for its various charity shops that sell all types of clothing – from baby clothes to formal wear. I’ve bought many “gently used” dresses, skirts and tops – and books – at the shops that support non-for-profit organizations that fund cancer research, animal welfare, and human rights programs.
27. Museum gift shops. London travel bargains can be found in some unusual (and surprisingly affordable) gift shops at various museums (Imperial War Museum, National Gallery, Natural History Museum, etc). Check the sales bins!
28. Talk’n’Draw. The National Gallery offers several free events for the whole family. I like their monthly series providing in-depth knowledge of a particular painting and then allowing participants (for free!) to sketch their interpretations. I’m not an artist – at all! – but I appreciate the insight into a particular painting’s contextual history.
29. Street Art. My favorite graffiti spots in London are Brick Lane and Leake Street Arches under the Waterloo Train Station.
30. Sothebys. Huh? Yes, the famous auction house opens its upcoming auction collections to the public for free. I recently saw private art from my favorite artists that I would never have seen displayed at a gallery. This is a great way to see art that is rarely available to the general public!
31. Friday Lates. The Tate Museum and a few other museums offer once-a-month “late” night hours that are free of the normal entrance fees to their paid exhibits. This is one of my favorite London travel bargains!
32. Tube Stops. There is fabulous art displayed at various Tube stations. My hands-down favorite are the mosaics at Leytonstone on the Central Line.
This is where Alfred Hitchcock grew up and the Tube entrance is adorned with fabulous iconic mosaic scenes from his most famous movies: Tippi Hedren arms up fighting birds. Janet Leigh arms up fighting a knife. Cary Grant arms up fighting off planes. And more!
33. The Actors Church. Really it’s St Paul’s Church, this iconic church on the edge of Covent Garden, which has been the spiritual home to many actors through the years…Many are buried here. The church offers a variety of free musical and theatrical events…or drop by and hope to hear the choir rehearsing!
34. Southwark Cathedral. This church on the border of Borough Market has a rotating list of chorale events. But you might drop by and get lucky to hear a free rehearsal!
35. Covent Garden buskers. Inspiring buskers are all over London – Tube tunnels, underpasses, tourist squares…But nothing beats the opera buskers at Covent Garden.
Kelly Hayes-Raitt has been house sitting in London for more than a decade. It inspired her to write her book How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the Housesit Diva. She loves sharing London!
FURTHER READING ON HOUSESITTING, LONDON TRAVEL BARGAINS AND AFFORDABLE TRAVEL
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