“My first international housesit was in London for six weeks – during the 2012 Olympics”, writes Kelly Hayes-Raitt in her latest blog for Housesit Match. In this blog entry, Hayes-Raitt gives you some tips on what to do while homesitting in London on a budget. With her tips you can visit London on a shoestring.
Top tips for homesitting in London on a budget
On one trip my homesitting in London assignment was in Leytonstone, two Tube stops from the Olympic Village. And it happened to be that the Olympics were in London at the time. Every ride on the Central Line was a joyous mix of international athletes and volunteers cheerfully clad in pink and purple vests. It all added to the excitement I felt homesitting in London.
I had always heard that London was one of the most expensive cities to visit. But that summer taught me otherwise. You can do it on a shoestring if you think carefully and research. Read on to learn how I did it.
Besides housesitting, here are my tips for doing up London on a shoestring …
- Graze the food markets – Back in 2012, during that glorious housesit, my favourite market was Brick Lane. I’d pop in a half-hour before closing and score discounted takeaway meals for the coming week. Today, Brick Lane Market is one of many established food markets. Borough Market is another favourite! that sell fresh fruit and veg as well as prepared meals for a fraction of the cost at restaurants.
- Sign up for GroupOn discounts – Besides restaurant deals, I’ve taken advantage of discounts on massages, yoga classes, and comedy shows. I even treated a girlfriend to a two-for-one glamour photo shoot complete with a makeover and champagne.
- Jump onto the food truck bandwagon – Pop-up food truck markets are all the rage these days and feature food from a variety of countries, from Brazil to Bangladesh. The best way to discover these hidden neighbourhood gems is to ask the homeowner you are sitting for.
- Join InterNations – This international organisation is an opportunity for visitors to enjoy group discounts on tickets to a variety of performances – theatre, dance, and music to suit every taste – as well as other multicultural events.
– While this is an international organisation (your membership fee allows you to join chapters worldwide), the London Live Music and Theatre group curated by event producer Faisal Shaukat is particularly active and robust. I once saw the Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe perform from the fourth row of the Sadler Wells for a fraction of the original price!
Explore cultural centres
London is one of the most international cities in the world – and the many cultural centres celebrate that. I recently saw an incredible performance by jazz guitarist Zayn Moham at The Nehru Centre, the cultural wing of the High Commission of India. This Centre, like others, also hosts film screenings, artist receptions, book launches, and panel discussions….and most of the events (like the concert I enjoyed) are free!
- Park it – London boasts 3,000 parks – from the 800-acre inner-city Hampstead Heath to small neighbourhood pocket parks. Hike, bike, lounge, picnic, or people-watch – for free – and watch London life unfold just like the locals do.
- Get arty – Most of London’s art museums – including the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery (closed until spring 2023), are free. Not just on certain days, but free every day! One of my absolute favourite things to do while homesitting in London is the National Gallery’s monthly (free!) “Talk and Draw” events where a docent describes a painting. Its’ historical relevance, the context in which it was painted, impact on the painter’s career, etc. Art materials are distributed, and audience members are invited to sketch their version of the painting.
I have zero artistic ability, so I can be free to “interpret” the masterpiece any way I choose … and going from museum to museum and taking part in these events allows me that journey of discovery.
- Museums of infinite variety – Get lost in the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the British Library or the Natural History Museum – for free! The British Museum boasts 50,000 articles on display, including the famous Rosetta Stone. The Victoria & Albert is the world’s largest design museum.
- War museum like no other – The Imperial War Museum has more than fighter planes; an entire floor is dedicated to the impact war has had on civilians. My favourite freebie is the British Library, where original folios of Shakespeare’s work are displayed – alongside John Lennon’s scribbled drafts of Beatles hits.
The fact that access to so many of this world class museums is free is quite an advantage to homesitting in London.
Lift your spirit at a free church concert
Many of London’s church choirs boast classically trained musicians. I’ve enjoyed free concerts and choir rehearsals at St Martin in the Fields at Trafalgar Square, The Actors’ Church at Covent Garden, and Southwark Cathedral at Borough Market.
Over the years while homesitting in London, I’ve enjoyed several West End “big name” shows for £15 or £20. Many of the theatres are quite intimate, so sitting in the “nosebleed seats” is just fine. Tip: Book a weekday matinee – that’s when you are more likely to get a last-minute move to a seat closer to the stage.
Shun the rideshares and taxis.
Walk or take the very affordable public transportation. Londoners love to complain about the Tube, but it covers a lot of ground for relatively little cost. For longer or repeated stays, get an Oyster card – which is also good for trains to Windsor, Cambridge, and other outlying areas. Transport For London’s journey planner is one of my go-to sites for unravelling the transportation lines.
Go as a Groundling
To experience Shakespeare as his non-nobility contemporaries (called “groundlings”) did get a £5 ticket to stand in The Globe’s central yard. Benefits include being so close to the stage you can make eye contact with the actors. But wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to stand for up to three and a half hours exposed to whatever the London weather decides to do.
Put your sightseeing on “pause” and enjoy a street performance
The ‘buskers’ or street entertainers are a delight – London’s streets are stages for some of the world’s best musicians, jugglers, acrobats, and artists.
And, of course, try homesitting in London!
I’ve housesat so often in London that I now have regular “homes away from home” from which to explore this incredible city. Some are luxury house sitting jobs uk based, others are my favourites because of the pets I’ve grown to love, and others are jobs for house sitting uk no pets to care for.
HouseSitMatch offers a variety of housesits – and fabulous customer service. Tip: Watch for seasonal sales to save on your membership and search for house sitting uk vacancies.
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Kelly Hayes-Raitt wrote How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the Housesit Diva while homesitting in London. Now based in Lisbon, she continues editing other writers’ books, exploring London, and pampering her favourite pets while housesitting.
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FURTHER READING ON HOUSESITTING, HOMESITTING IN LONDON AND AFFORDABLE TRAVEL
At Housesitmatch.com we like to share useful blogs and practical advice about homesitting in London and across the world. We hope you find this small selection of blogs on house sitters and sustainable travel useful.