Readers Answer: No-Budget Tips for High-Budget Destinations

August 18, 2007

in Contest, Europe, Reader Tips, Sweden, Travel, United Kingdom

As I mentioned in my RyanAir sale post, I’ll be traveling to London and Stockholm in October — not exactly low-budget travel meccas, especially for travelers with the dollar in their pocket.

These are destinations I’ve never been, but I know some of you faithful readers have visited or even lived in these two cities. Therefore I’m turning to you for advice.

  • What can a no-budget traveler see for free in these cities: which are the free museums (and are they worth visiting)? are there attractions with one day a week free? free concerts or festivals? where do you recommend one head with one’s picnic lunch?
  • Which are the attractions that are worth splurging for?
  • Any tips on eating out? Where are the cheapest groceries sold? Recommended markets?
  • Any other bargains to be had? Theater tickets, shopping, student discounts, etc.?
  • What is the cheapest way to get around? Multi-day pass vs. pay-as-you-go card, etc.? Cheapest transfer from Stansted and Skavsta?
  • Are the toilets free? If not, recommended places for a free pee?
  • Do you have any time-saving tips, like buying tickets online to avoid the long lines at X, etc.?
  • Any things to avoid, time and money wasters?

Please send me your tips as comments. I will naturally be trying them out and reporting back in the future with my own discoveries as well. Best tip for each location wins a small local souvenir. Happy reminiscing!

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No-Budget Tips for High-Budget Destinations, Revisited « Less Than a Shoestring
10.24.07 at 1:14 pm

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 akdmyers 08.20.07 at 5:46 pm

Ok, I’m going to do my best with some London advice here, some of which may be out of date since I haven’t spent real time there since 2000.

Free museums worth seeing:
British Museum (though it can be overwhelming; best taken in small bits at a time)
British Library (usually has neat things on exhibit)
National Gallery
National Portrait Gallery

Not free museums worth seeing:
The Tower of London (absolutely one of my favorite things in London)
St. Paul’s (and the climb to the top is totally worth it)
Museum of London (for the serious history geek; also, tickets are good for a year, and the museum is free after 4:30pm)
Courtauld Gallery (small museum with a beautiful collection of Impressionist paintings (among other things); free Mondays 10am-2pm

I also thought Greenwich was well worth a splurge.

I highly recommend self-guided walking tours. Most guidebooks will give you some routes to try. I recommend trying to see:
Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey (I didn’t find going inside either of these was worth the admission price, but others may disagree)
Tower Bridge
Millennium Footbridge
Fleet Street, including St. Bride’s
Charing Cross
Picadilly Circus
Trafalgar Square
St. Martin-in-the-Fields
Oxford Street
Regent Street
the Portobello Road market
walking along the Thames

I also recommend finding out where some of the old Roman walls are still standing and taking a look – I think there are some in a sort of park below the Tower tube station, but my memory’s a bit hazy.

A lot of the churches don’t charge admission, or only suggest a donation. Also for the ones that do charge, including St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, you can attend evensong most days at 5pm, and St. Paul’s often holds organ concerts Sundays at 5pm. (But then you’d miss the fantastic view from the top of St. Paul’s.)

Practically everything in London, including the movie theaters, offers student discounts, so don’t be afraid to ask for one, but do be prepared to show id.

Tips for eating out:
Sainsbury’s is one of the main grocery chains in London, and is loads cheaper than Marks & Spencer (another major chain). You can buy a fresh baguette and some fruit and cheese and have yourself a picnic for under $5, if memory serves. You’ll find fast-food style shops on practically every corner selling pre-made sandwiches and overpriced drinks, but you’ll get sick of these pretty quickly.

Most attractions have a cafe or tea room of some sort. I think I subsisted on tea and scones with the occasional apple much of the time I was in London – cheap, tasty and filling!

I’m afraid I don’t have much advice for dinners out, though relatively inexpensive Indian restaurants abound and are worth checking out.

Good places for a picnic include:
Hyde Park
St. James’s Park
Bloomsbury Square (just up Great Russell St. from the British Museum)
There are any number of other squares and parks scattered throughout the city.
If it’s raining, try the glass-enclosed courtyard at the British Museum which surrounds the old reading room. It is one of my favorite spaces in London, always full of light even on a gloomy day.
If you really need an escape from the noise and crowds of the city, a long (and slightly more pricey) tube ride will take you out to Hampstead Heath, which is beautiful and peaceful and gives you a great view of the city.

For cheap theater, the absolutely best thing to do is go to the Globe Theater and be a groundling – only 5 pounds, though you do have to stand and if it’s raining you’ll get wet – but they give great performances and the experience is memorable.

The only place I remember having to pay for a toilet was in one of the train stations (don’t remember which one). Otherwise, public restrooms were free.

If you have more questions, let me know and maybe they’ll job my memory.

2 akdmyers 08.20.07 at 5:46 pm

Er, jog my memory.

3 jennie 08.20.07 at 9:13 pm

I did London cheap because I stayed with friends and made them feed me. But! The V&A is awesome. And free. Also, a lot of the nighttime walking tours are cheap (but I didn’t do any of them…)

And where it isn’t free and I didn’t go, Dan says that the Tower of London is totally worth every pence of admission price. But London is crazy expensive.

Parliament was pretty cool, but I can’t remember if it was free. But hey! Magna Carta!

4 jennie 08.20.07 at 9:14 pm

Oh, and Boots, the chemist chain? Great lunch deals where you can get a drink, sandwich, and candy bar for something ridiculously reasonable.

5 Leann Wilson 08.21.07 at 3:18 pm

Since the topic is pricier destinations:
Did you ever make the jaunt up to Helsinki when you were in Piter? I’m considering doing this sometime, but I’m a little wary of the costs.


6 poetloverrebelspy 08.21.07 at 7:01 pm

Hey Leann. Thanks for your comment.
Of course I went to Helsinki — I think 6 times last year. If there’s no hurry, I’ll write a separate post about Helsinki after I’m out of the hospital, okay?

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