Is London Expensive? London Trip Cost Guide in 2024

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by Maggie Turansky


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Is London expensive to visit? Though it is one of the most diverse and dynamic cities on earth and has so much to offer visitors — from an incredible history to world-class museums to an incredible restaurant scene to some of the best theatre in existence — London also has a reputation for being quite a pricey destination. So how much will a London trip cost?

While London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, it is possible to visit on a budget with an average trip to London costing £75-245 per day (roughly $95-310 USD).

You can budget at the lower end if you’re staying in budget accommodation, cooking your own meals and visiting mainly free attractions. A higher budget is required if you prefer to stay in nicer accommodation and want to eat out regularly.

Having lived in this incredible city for a few years, I gained some great insight into the general costs associated with travelling to London.

London Trip Cost Guide

This guide will break down prices across accommodation, transport, food, activities and entertainment to help you understand how expensive is London and where you can potentially save some budget.

Accommodation Prices

The first aspect of any London travel budget that you need to consider is the cost of accommodation as it is likely to take up the biggest percentage of your average cost of a trip to London. I am going to be frank here; traditional accommodation options in London can be expensive. This includes even the budget traveller strongholds of backpacker hostels.

And if you want to stay in a hostel dorm in or around Central London (and you don’t really want to be far from the centre because you will inevitably end up spending quite a lot of time on public transport if not), then you can expect to pay at least £35 per night for that privilege.

The Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge in London.
The Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge in London.

If you’re travelling as a couple or with a friend, you might think you can save money by getting a private room in a hostel. However, Central London hostels tend to be just as expensive as a budget hotel, with prices clocking in at around £150 for the most basic of rooms.

It might seem a bit fruitless to expect to save any money on accommodation in London, however, this doesn’t have to be the case. Enter: Airbnb.

While entire private flats on Airbnb in London can be quite expensive, nevermind the fact that there is a considerable amount of controversy surrounding them (ie. they’re driving up rent prices and contributing to a housing crisis for people who actually live in the city – there is already and incredibly high cost of living in London), renting a private room through Airbnb is an incredibly popular and cost-effective way to cut down on your overall trip cost.

On average, a private room on Airbnb located in or close to Central London will start around £75 per night, depending on the location. If you are splitting this cost between two people, it can actually work out to be quite affordable to stay in London.

Of course, you’re not going to get all of the amenities associated with staying in a hotel or hostel, however, you do get the added benefit of seeing exactly what it’s like for locals in London (it’s not nearly as glamorous as you might think!) while saving money at the same time.

For those looking to stay in a hotel while in London, expect a budget to mid-range hotel to start at around £1050 per night a bit outside of the centre and going up to about £200 in Central London. For a high-end stay in the centre of the city, don’t expect to pay anything less than £250-300 per night.

St Paul's Cathedral in London.
St Paul’s Cathedral in London

Transportation Prices

London is HUGE and a surprisingly large amount of visitors don’t seem to realise this. However, this will become immediately apparent as soon as you leave the airport (any of them) and realise it takes at least an hour to get to Central London.

So basically, you’re going to be spending some money on transportation unless you are keen to walk about 20 miles each day.

Getting from the airport to Central London

The first thing you need to consider when it comes to transportation costs is getting to Central London from the airport. Greater London is served by a whopping six different airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, London City, and London Southend — only two of which (Heathrow and City) are actually technically IN London.

It is most likely that you will begin your trip at Heathrow or Gatwick Airport, which is where the majority of long-haul flights arrive. However, if you’re coming to London from elsewhere in Europe and are flying a budget airline such as Ryanair, Easyjet, or Wizzair, you will probably fly into Stansted or Luton.

We travelled frequently and our trips were mostly limited to these airports when we lived in London. Though we have flown in and out of Southend a couple of times, we have yet to have the opportunity to travel through London City and I’m not even sure which airlines operate out of it.

There are trains from all airports that serve most major London stations and it is almost always less expensive to book these trains in advance. Make sure to do your research before you arrive to find out the best route to your accommodation and book try to book your train at least one week ahead of time in order to get a good deal. Expect the journey to cost around £15-20 one way. It is also cheaper to book a return ticket.

If you are flying into Heathrow, however, there is another option for transport into the city that, for some reason, is rarely marketed toward tourists. You might have only read that you have to take the Heathrow Express from the airport, which goes from the airport to Paddington Station in about twenty minutes. This is fast, yes, but it’s also quite expensive — even if you book in advance.

It is also extremely likely that you’re going to need to transfer to the bus or underground in order to reach your accommodation unless you’re staying in Paddington itself — and you really shouldn’t be if you’re trying to save money.

The best option to get from Heathrow to Central London is to take the Piccadilly Line (which is dark blue on the tube map) of the underground. It might take more time, however, it will save you a considerable amount of money (it will cost roughly £4 depending on the time/day you’re travelling).

There are signs for the tube around every Heathrow terminal and you can’t miss it. Take this time to purchase an Oyster Card (you will have to pay a £5 deposit, which you can get back upon returning the card when you leave) and load some money on it as well. You also can use a contactless credit or debit card in the same way. This is your ticket to affordable transport all around London.

St Pancras station in London
St Pancras station in Central London

Cost of transport in London

Once you’ve figured out how to get from the airport into Central London, you’re going to need to factor in the cost of actually getting around London. As I mentioned earlier, London is a massive city and it is entirely unlikely that you can see everything you want on foot.

Luckily, the British capital has an excellent public transport system that will get you everywhere you need to go. However, it just so happens to be one of the most expensive in the world.

Your best bet to combat high travel costs is to invest in an Oyster card, which you can get at any tube station and top off with however much money you might need. The benefit of using an Oyster card vs purchasing single-journey tickets or travel cards is that the Oyster has daily travel caps.

You can also use a contactless credit or debit card in the same way, and save your £5 for the Oyster card. Contactless cards are still subject to the same caps as Oyster cards.

This means if you are travelling within zones 1-2 in the transport system (and it is highly unlikely that you will travel beyond that) the maximum amount of money you will be charged per day is £8.10. When one single tube journey costs around £2.80, this can be a significant amount of savings if you are going to take more than three trips in a day.

Another way to save money on transit is to take the bus wherever possible. Any journey on the iconic red double-decker buses in London costs £1.75 no matter where in the city you are going. Another benefit is that if you need to change buses on your journey, you won’t be charged the £1.75 fee again if you switch within an hour.

A great way to keep on top of all of the best routes to your destination and to weigh the expenses of them is to use an app called CityMapper. This is what most Londoners use to get places and it can be invaluable to tourists as well.

Another tip to save money while travelling in London is to avoid taking black cabs whenever possible. These taxis, though iconic to London, are notoriously expensive and I know very few locals who use them frequently.

If you need to get somewhere and public transport isn’t running (say it’s after midnight or there’s a tube strike), then use Uber or Bolt. These ride-sharing apps are considerably less expensive than the traditional cabs. Keep in mind that if there are public transit issues, fares may be inflated.

All in, you really shouldn’t have to spend more than £10/day on transport when you’re visiting London, factoring in the cost of getting to and from the airport.

London buses
The bus is a more affordable option than the tube

Food Prices

As one of the most international cities in the world, London has a thriving food scene and it is possible to get cuisine from nearly every single country in this one city. It is time to shed any preconceived notions about British food when visiting London because the restaurant and street food scene here is absolutely fantastic. It can, however, greatly impact your overall London trip cost.

While London is home to some of the greatest restaurants in the world, these can come with a steep price tag. It is, however, entirely possible to enjoy some of the best cuisine that London has to offer while still maintaining a tight travel budget.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to limit your eating out (in a restaurant, at least) to once per day. Stop by a supermarket and pick up some things for breakfast to make at your accommodation, or stay somewhere that offers breakfast in the room rate.

For lunch, the best way to save money is to take advantage of “meal deals” from local supermarkets. These include pre-made sandwiches, a packet of crisps or popcorn, and a drink all for around £5 depending on where you’re shopping.

All major supermarkets offer these, but it is worth noting that Waitrose tends to be more expensive (they’re the posh supermarket). We would recommend looking at Sainsbury’s, Co-Op, or Tesco.

Street food can also be affordable and London is blessed with a seemingly endless amount of street food markets. The most popular for tourists would likely be Borough Market near London Bridge, which is open every day but Sunday, and has so many food stalls that it can be incredibly hard to choose what to eat.

Other popular markets include Brick Lane (open weekends), Broadway Market (open Saturdays), KERB Camden (open daily), and Southbank Centre food market near the London Eye (open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).

Camden Lock
London markets are a great place to eat at!

A street food meal can be more expensive than a meal deal from a supermarket, but you do get more option and a higher quality of food. Expect to pay around £5-10 for a meal from a food market.

If you want to eat out in London — and you should, there are a number of great restaurants in the city — follow the advice I say for literally every single city in the world: don’t eat anywhere near a main tourist attraction.

Restaurants like these are catered directly toward tourists and can cost more than 20% more than a restaurant catered toward Londoners and savvy visitors such as yourself. Eating away from tourist sites can really cut down on your overall cost of a trip to London.

If you do go eat out, expect a main dish at a mid-range restaurant to cost somewhere around £12-15 and a starter to cost around £8-10. Add about 10-20% to that if you’re eating at a higher-end place.

All in all, you really don’t need to break the bank if you want to experience the food culture of London. You can expect to spend around £15-20 per day if cooking the majority of your own meals and closer to £30-40 if having one or two mid-range meals out per day.

Activity Prices

Now that we’ve covered such basic needs as food, shelter, and transportation, it’s time to cover the cost of actually doing things in London.

There is a ton to do in this amazing city and, luckily for travellers, a vast majority of it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Sure, tourist attractions in London like Madame Tussauds, the London Eye, and the Tower of London can charge quite a bit to enter, some of the most famous and best museums in the world are completely free.

These include the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Science Museum among numerous others. If planning on visiting a number of the paid attractions, the London Go City Pass can save money on entry fees.

You could easily spend a number of days hopping from museum to museum in London and only spend money on your transport and food for the day.

Tower Bridge in London
Tower Bridge in London

Another great and affordable sightseeing option in London is to take a free walking tour. There are myriad tour operators throughout the city that offer different free tours through various boroughs and neighbourhoods. While the tour themselves are free, you do need to tip the guide — usually around £10-15 depending on the quality and length of the tour.

There are also a number of paid walking tours you can take — such as an East End street art tour — that won’t break the bank either, usually these clock in at around £20 depending on the operator. Often, it can be cheaper for you to book the tour online in advance, so make sure to do your research beforehand.

If you’re keen to go to the theatre while in London, note that West End tickets can be very expensive. However, there are definitely ways to get around the steep price. If you don’t mind sitting in the nosebleed section, it can actually be quite affordable — the cheapest tickets often cost around £30.

Another fantastic way to save on West End theatre is to enter a ticket lottery. Many of the top shows offer these where you can enter in to win some of the best seats in the house for around £20. How shows run lotteries differ, however, it can be worth doing a quick Google search of “west end show” + “lottery” to find out the process for whatever you might want to see.

Another great way to save on theatre is to look away from the West End. There are fantastic productions all throughout London and it can be a lot cheaper than staying in the main theatre district. Some theatres, such as the Hampstead Theatre in North London, offer £10 tickets to those under 30 and they have incredible production quality and some big-name actors as well.

All in all, though, if you’re planning on keeping your average London trip cost low, you don’t really need to budget more than £10-15 per day on activities.

Natural History Museum in London
Many museums like the Natural History Museum are free to enter!

Entertainment Prices

Now we come to the last factor you need to consider in your overall London holiday cost: entertainment. London has a famous nightlife and pub culture and no visit to the Big Smoke is complete without sampling it.

Well, unfortunately for budget travellers, booze prices in London can be exceptionally high. While that should stop you from heading to a cosy pub and grabbing a beer, it is worth knowing that a pint will set you back around £5-6 in Central London, often more depending on what kind of beer it is.

London is also famous for its cocktail bars, however, a cocktail in the city will set you back considerably more than a pint.

If you head to one of the hip, subterranean, speakeasy-style cocktail bars that have become so popular in London over the past few years, expect to pay around £12-15 per drink. Oftentimes, it is more depending on the esteem of the bar and where it is located.

If you want to have a great London drinking experience without breaking the bank, consider purchasing your booze from the supermarket or liquor store. A bottle of beer will cost around £1.50-2 and a decent bottle of wine will cost around £10-15.

If the weather is fine, find a place in a park or a bench along Regent’s Canal or River Thames and enjoy your drink while watching London go by.

Not only do locals do this kind of thing frequently, but your bank balance will also surely thank you as well. One of the best ways to cut down on your overall trip cost is to limit how much and where you drink alcohol.

All in, if you want to enjoy a few drinks daily while visiting London, then plan to budget about £10-20 per person per day for this.

Lovely Regents' Canal
Lovely Regent’s Canal

Average London Travel Cost

The above factors considered, here is how much you should expect to spend per person per day if you’re spending a week in London. This is assuming you are travelling as a couple so are splitting some costs and doesn’t include any pre-trip expenses (like investing in a good coat for London!) If you are travelling solo, expect some things (namely accommodation) to cost a bit more.

Accommodation: £35-150/night

Transport: £10-20/day

Food: £15-40/day

Activities: £5-15/day

Entertainment: £10-20/day

Overall, you can plan to spend an average of around £75-245 per day while visiting London. The lower costs will apply if you’re staying outside of the centre in budget accommodation and cooking most of your own meals. While the higher end will apply for travellers who wish to stay in nicer accommodation and eat out around once per day.

Many people think that London is an expensive place to visit and fail to do the proper research on how to adequately budget. If you are smart about where you spend your money and how you travel, your total travel costs can be minimal.

Are you planning to visit London? Have questions about the prices? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie

Comments

  1. Going to travel to London this August. Thank you Maggie. Your page answered ALL my questions and now I have a better attitude and peace about this trip.

    Reply
  2. Planning on living in London for a while and this helped a lot with the preparation. It’s made me a lot more excited to live in a different city. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    Reply

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