Backpacking London: London On A Budget Guide 2024

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London is on many people’s travel bucket lists- and rightly so, the city is incredible.

But it seems expensive, right? Is backpacking London possible? Can you visit London on a budget?

These are questions I had before visiting London. As a budget traveller, I want to travel as cheaply as possible.

It turns out it is possible, and this guide will teach you exactly how to save money on a London trip.

Backpacking London

London is known for being an amazing city to visit, and that’s why millions of people visit London each year.

I spent 2 days backpacking London, and I can say with certainty that London is without a doubt worth visiting on a budget. It seems a daunting task, but it’s easier than you think when I break it down.

During my trip, I spent approximately £120 which in my opinion is very very reasonable for London, at £60 per day. Especially considering I include my return flight price in this. Comparing this to how much a “normal” person would spend on a trip to London, I was pretty happy with the outcome.

To help you understand where my money was spent, here is my budget split into 4 categories.

Return flights from Dublin£30
1 Night in a hostel£30

Immediately, you can see that a hostel in London is extremely expensive for a bed. Compare the £30 price to the £1-2 hostels you can get backpacking Southeast Asia, and it’s night and day.

My activities expense was one single purchase, but I would recommend it in a heartbeat: London Hop-on Hop-off bus tours. There are so many landmarks and sights to see in London that makes it one of the few cities I actually recommend using the hop-on hop-off buses.

But let’s go into further detail on how you can save money while backpacking London!

How To Get To London On A Budget

First off, in order to reach London on a budget, you need to be somewhere in Europe. If you live outside of Europe, I recommend visiting multiple places in Europe at once to make those long flights worth it. As London is definitely worth visiting, but I’m not sure if it’s worth 2x 10-hour flights to spend 3 days in.

From Europe, you can reach London pretty cheaply. There are always cheap flights to any of London’s airports (there are 6) but make sure you get one closer to the city itself rather than Luton, for example. SkyScanner is a great tool to use to find the best price for a flight.

A picture of a Ryanair plane. The budget airline I used when I was backpacking London.

It’s essentially Google, but for flights. It’s a flight search engine and it allows you to find the best deals. If you can be flexible with your dates, you can often find flights for £30 or less from cities like Dublin (as I did), Paris, Rome and loads of places in Europe.

➡️Use SkyScanner to find the best prices for your flights to London or anywhere else around the world you plan to fly to.

Another option for reaching London is to take the Eurostar. The Eurostar is a train which runs underneath the English Channel and connects mainland Europe to London by train. You can go between London and Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels. If you are Interrailing, the Eurostar is included in your Interrail pass, meaning it could be a great budget option.

Where To Stay While Backpacking London

Finding the right part of London to stay in is crucial to saving money while visiting London on a budget. I always say that accommodation can save or break your budget and this couldn’t be more true than about London.

If you stay in a hotel with a view of Big Ben, you’re spending at least £200 a night whereas if you opt for a hostel near Hyde Park.

As a backpacker, you will probably want to choose to stay in a hostel. One of the biggest differences between a hotel and a hostel is the price, and you want to keep it as low as possible.

In my opinion, the best hostel in London is Astor Hyde Park, the dorm beds are pretty cheap (for London). Mine cost £30 but they can go as low as £15ish. Definitely value for money, as it’s rated 8.9/10 on Hostelworld. The hostel was also voted as the best small hostel chain, so you know you’re in for a good stay.

If you are a couple or family, or if hostels aren’t for you, you may wish to simply stay in a budget hotel. Again, the area is crucial here. I suggest staying in the Alexandra Hotel. It’s usually about £100 a night, which seems a lot but compared to the £200-£1000 hotels elsewhere in the city, it’s not too bad. For the money, it’s definitely a good option too.

➡️ Best budget-friendly hotel in London: Alexandra Hotel.
➡️ Best hostel in London: Astor Hyde Park

Where To Eat While Backpacking London

The trick to saving money eating while backpacking London is to eat like a local. You won’t find a Londoner paying £30 for lunch, it’s more likely to be about £5 maximum.

There are two main options in my opinion: meal deals, and Greggs.

Meal deals are a great way to save money. You pay £3-4 and get a sandwich, snack (chocolate bar etc) and a drink. Most shops sell them like Tesco, Asda, Spar, etc. and they’re usually quite tasty too. You can’t go wrong with a meal deal.

A picture of a meal deal made up of a ham sandwich, Kit Kat and bottle of water. Meal deals are an awesome way to save money while backpacking London.

Greggs is another amazing option, and you should definitely try it at least once during your trip. You can get 2 sausage rolls for £2.20 and they are absolutely delicious. There are other tasty things on offer too such as pasties, bakes, and more. Greggs is one of the UK’s most loved things, and you’ll see why when you try it. Wow!

A picture of a Greggs bag.

As for dinner, it’s just a case of not going somewhere too fancy or too expensive. If you find a pizzeria or something, you’ll probably spend £10-15 per person which is a pretty universal price in my opinion.

Or you may want to try Fish and Chips. I recommend trying this at least once while in the UK! As someone who grew up having a “Chippy” once a week, you’ll love what you try. The prices are pretty similar to those above and you will probably pay about £10 each. Again, not too bad. You can choose a sit-in chippy or a takeaway, it doesn’t matter, they’ll both provide the same delicious food.

A picture of a Fish and Chips meal consisting of battered cod, chips, lettuce and peas.

How To Get Around London On A Budget

As I said in the introduction, I recommend using the London Hop-on Hop-off bus tours to get around the city and see all of the main landmarks. While parts of London are walkable, there are simply too many things to see.

Sure, you can walk from Big Ben to Downing Street as it’s only 5-10 minutes, but can you walk from Buckingham Palace to Tower Bridge which is a 1 hour and 7-minute walk? Probably not.

That’s why buying tickets for the London Hop-on Hop-off bus tours is a good idea. There are over 50 stops and it passes by and stops at all of the main tourist attractions. It allows you to see quite literally everything a tourist could want to see in London.

The London Eye with a London hop-on hop-off bus driving past. The hop-on hop-off buses are great to use when backpacking London.

You can even see London in a day with these buses! But I would recommend buying a ticket for the duration of your stay as it will allow you to get around London as well as see all of the main tourist attractions.

That’s the biggest benefit, it combines transport with sightseeing tours. It really is the best option.

🚍Book your Hop-on Hop-off bus pass now to see ALL the attractions and get around London on a budget.

10 Free Things To Do In London

Of course, when backpacking London, you’ll want to do some free activities. So here are 10 free things to do while visiting London on a budget:

1) Watch the changing of the guards: The changing of the guards is quite the spectacle and I would encourage anyone visiting London to watch this performance. At 11 am every other day, there is an incredible performance outside Buckingham Palace and it’s truly amazing. You can find out more information here.

2) Listen to Big Ben’s iconic chimes: Big Ben is actually the bell inside the clock tower and its chimes are something London is famous for. The bell has quarter bells every 15 minutes and of course, strikes each hour. It’s a truly special sound and if you are from the UK, you’ll recognise it as the sound on BBC news.

A picture of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from across the River Thames.

3) Visit the British Museum: The British Museum is one of the top things to do in London and it’s completely free. In my opinion, it’s one of the best museums there are, and I would definitely recommend visiting. Even if you aren’t too keen on history, there’s something fun for everyone to learn at the British Museum.

4) Take a free walking tour: A free walking tour is something I suggest doing anywhere in the world, particularly when you visit for the first time or are visiting on a budget. It’s a great way to see some famous sights, learn a bit about the city and meet new people. I use FreeTour and although it is free, I do encourage you to tip your guide, but £5 would be enough.

A picture of London China Town.

5) Sit in the Houses of Parliament Public Galleries: The Public Galleries are seated areas in the Houses of Parliament from which you can observe the proceedings of the government officials. Tickets are not required for general debates and it’s completely free for UK and foreign residents. Something quite unique!

6) Step inside Westminster Abbey: Westminster Abbey is a beautiful church and you can step inside completely free of charge. It is a functioning and active church though, so make sure you check if it is open to the public before going in. There are so many iconic things that have happened in the church such as the wedding of pretty much any Royal Family member.

7) See the screens in Piccadilly Circus: Piccadilly Circus is London’s version of Times Square and it’s a great place to people-watch. The electronic advertising screens are fascinating and you can spend a good few minutes simply watching the adverts.

A picture of Piccadilly Circus.

8) Enjoy a free busker show: London is packed with buskers and there’s always such a wide variety. There are magicians, singers, and even comedians. If you walk around central London, you’re never too far away from a busker. Some of them are actually quite good and definitely worth watching and enjoying.

9) Go statue hunting: There are tons of statues around London, both of real people and fictional ones. It’s up to you what you go after but all I’ll say is there are amazing statues of Mr. Bean, Paddington Bear, Mary Poppins, Bugs Bunny and more in Leicester Square…

10) Enjoy a walk through St. James’s Park: One of my favourite things to do in London, which just happens to be free is to take a walk through St. James’s Park. Not only are the walks and paths surrounded by beautiful greenery, but there is also an abundance of extraordinary wildlife. There are ducks and geese, pelicans, and even wild parrots. And you can feed them!

A picture of me holding a green parrot in St. James's Park. One of my favourite things from my time backpacking London.

Backpacking London: Top Tips

And of course, how could I be a backpacking site without giving you tips about backpacking London. There are lots of general tips for how to travel on a budget but as with everywhere, there are some tips which can be specifically applied to London. Here are 6 top tips:

Use the hop-on hop-off buses: The London Hop-on Hop-off bus tours are the perfect combination of transport and sightseeing. You can use the service for both and it’s more than worth the money.

Tips are not mandatory: Although it is a nice gesture to tip exceptional service, tipping in the UK is not mandatory or expected the way it is in America, for example.

You still need travel insurance: This is a case of spending money to save money. You won’t want to rack up a huge hospital bill if something goes wrong, so make sure to buy travel insurance. I always use SafetyWing and recommend it to anyone travelling.

You can drink tap water: Tap water in the UK is completely safe to drink, and you can save a good amount of money this way by having a refillable water bottle and not paying 3-4 times a day for bottled water.

Take the bus from the airport: Regardless of which London airport you land at, the cheapest way to reach the heart of London will be by bus. The best company to go through is National Express.

Don’t stay too long: As London is so expensive in terms of accommodation, you don’t want to stay longer than you need. I suggest 2 days is the right amount of days in London.

Backpacking London: FAQ

How much does it cost to backpack in London?

I spent about £60 per day while backpacking London. Hostels are more expensive in London than in other parts of the world and you can expect to pay up to £30 for a bed in a decent hostel.

What is the best hostel in London?

The best hostel in London is the Astor Hyde Park hostel, where you can expect to pay between £15-30 per night for a bed. It’s highly rated and in a good area.

Can you visit London on a budget?

Yes, of course. It’s a little harder than elsewhere in the world but it’s definitely possible. I spent £60 per day while backpacking London.

How much should a backpacker budget for London?

I recommend budgeting about £80 per day in London. I spent £60 per day but that was pretty hardcore. London is expensive and for this reason, I wouldn’t stay more than a few nights.

Backpacking London: Conclusion

And there you have it, a complete guide to backpacking London.

Visiting London on a budget is easier said than done, but hopefully, this guide will leave you feeling confident about how to save money and have an affordable trip.

London is amazing and if you follow my tips, it’s definitely possible to spend less.

Have a great trip and I hope you enjoy London 🙂