The best kept secrets in London? It’s those little London hacks that all the long-term Londoners seem to know about. But you’re in luck. We’re breaking down the top 25 money saving hacks so that you can enjoy London for less, whether you live in London or you’re just visiting as a tourist.
We’re covering hacks like saving 1/3 off travel on the tube, getting free drinks, and scoring 50% off fine dining (as well as lots more!). If you want to spend less money in London, you’re in the right place. Now let’s get into these London hacks…
1. Add your railcard to your Oyster card
If you have a railcard, you can add it to your Oyster card to get 1/3 off off-peak journeys on the tube network. That means you can travel at a reduced rate on the weekend and during off-peak hours during the week. It makes a huge saving over the course of a year, particularly if you’re traveling around the city at the weekend.
And if you don’t have a railcard? Consider getting one! There are a number of different railcards available, including the 16-25 card, and the 26-30 card. It’ll also save you 1/3 off rail travel across the UK, and only costs £30 for a year.
2. Use CityMapper
Not only is CityMapper a great way to plan out your journeys around London, but it could also save you some money. CityMapper will estimate the cost of your journey, depending on which form of transport you take. It’ll also show you how long it would take you to walk your journey.
Sometimes it’s surprising just how close some areas of London are! Espeically if you are a visitor. Like did you know that you can walk from Oxford street to Covent Garden? Or that Leicester Square and Covent Garden are just a few minutes walk from each other?
3. Get a free gym pass
There are tons of gyms in London that will offer you a free trial pass. So whether you want to try out a gym for the first time, or perhaps you are visiting London and just need a one-time pass, you can save yourself some money without needing to commit to a membership.
You can also get free passes to classes such as Yoga and Pilates for free with the Classpass trial. The free trial is a whopping two weeks, and you have the choice of hundreds of studios and gyms across London.
4. Free water refills
Instead of purchasing water while you’re out and about in London, visit one of the many refill taps around the city. Use the Refill app to find water stations all over London.
Another tip? There’s usually a PRET on every corner of central London, and they offer free water refill stations too. Not only will you save money, you’ll also save plastic!
5. Sightseeing bus for £1.75
We’ve all seen the London sightseeing buses, and although they offer a great commentary with stops at specific locations, they can be expensive, especially for a family.
The good news is, you can also hop on a London bus to see the sights. And it will only cost £1.75 per person (and kids under age 10 travel for free on London buses). The £1.75 is also a hopper fare– meaning that you can hop on and off the bus for an hour after you first tap in, without incuring any further charge.
The best bus routes to see the sights of London are 24, 9, and 11 to see the tourist hot-spots. Check out the TFL bus maps to see which one is best for you. This is one of the must-do London hacks for any tourist visiting the city!
6. TKTS booth for cheap theatre tickets
Did you know that you can get cheap last-minute theatre tickets when you head to the TKTS Booth in Leicester Square? Tickets will usually be for same-day shows, so it’s perfect if you are a local trying to save money on the theatre.
The discount varies, but often you can expect 40% off performances, including on popular shows such as Les Mis, The Lion King and Mama Mia.
7. Use cashback apps
Whether you live in London, or you’re visiting as a tourist, you need to download cashback apps to get money back on all of your purchases (including entertainment, travel, and even theatre tickets).
The best cashback apps are Quidco and Topcashback. Sign up to both to start making money back on all of your online purchases. It’s one of the no-brainer London hacks for all Londoners who want to make a bit of free money back on their spending.
How does it work? Cashback works on the basis that a retailer will pay the cashback site a referral fee for “referring” you to their retailer website. The cashback site will keep some of the referral fee for themselves, and pass the rest to you! This referral fee is also known as an affiliate payment.
Psst- for more info on London apps, check out our guide to the best London apps for Londoners.
8. Food & drink deals
As you may already be aware, eating out and going out for drinks in London is expensive. Especially in central London where everything is on the pricey side.
I am also obsessed with the amazing spa deals over on LivingSocial, but perhaps that deserves another post!
9. Get free hair cuts
A free hair cut in London? Sound to good to be true? It’s not! With countless training academies and schools across the city, free hair cuts in London can be found in abundance.
Some of the biggest names in hairdressing offer free cuts including Percy and Reed, Aveda Institute and Rush Academy. Your hair will often be cut by a trainee, but the good news is that they are observed by a more experienced hairdresser- so you’re unlikely to get a bad haircut!
10. Use food markets
Food markets are found in abundance in London, and I’m not talking about the fancy places like Borough Market (although that’s still a lovely place to visit).
You’ll actually find fruit and veg markets in lots of suburban London areas- and they’re much cheaper than the supermarket! It’s the perfect way to spend less on groceries. Think punnets of strawberries for £3 or a bowl of avocados for £1. It’s fresh, and you’re also supporting a local business a lot of the time. It’s win-win.
And if you’re looking for more ways to save money on food in London, you could check out apps like Olio and Too Good To Go. These apps allow you to collect free or discounted food from your neighbours and local cafes and eateries that would have otherwise gone to waste.
11. Visit free museums and galleries
There are dozens of free museums and galleries all over London. In fact, some of the best ones are actually completely free to enter. Think the V&A, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Tate Modern and more.
Of course, many will have specialist exhibitions which are ticketed, but most have a evergreen displays that you can view for free year round.
12. Free coffee at Waitrose
Did you know that you can get a free coffee at Waitrose supermarket with a Waitrose card? This is particularly convenient given that there are so many Waitrose stores in London.
The best part? There’s actually a choice of coffee too! It’s not just a plain Americano on offer. So if you live close to a Waitrose store, or if there is one near your workplace, it’s a great way to cut down on the cost of coffee.
13. Get a free one time ticket from TFL
If you’re stuck in London with no way of getting home (perhaps you’ve run out of money or your wallet has been stolen), TFL will give you a free one time ticket so that you can get home.
All you need to do is go to the ticket desk and fill out a form. This is a London hack that every Londoner needs to know, as there’s nothing worse than feeling like there is no way to get back home after a tough day!
14. Find free toilets
If you’re in London for a day of sightseeing, you probably don’t want to have to buy drinks or purchase something every time that you need the loo. The good news is that there are toilets all over London, and you can use this toilet map to help you find them.
Failing that, every department store in central London has toilets, as do stores like Marks & Spencer. You don’t need to buy something to use the toilets, and it could really help you out in your time of need!
15. Cycle all day for £1.65
Word has it that when you opt for ‘pay as you ride’ with Santander Cycles, you pay £1.65 for your journey for up to 30 minutes. Each extra 30 minutes is charged at £1.65. So, apparently, if you only make journeys of less than 30 minutes each time after that, you don’t have to pay the extra.
Meaning, if you took lots of small 20 minute journeys all day, you could cycle all day for £1.65. If you try it, let me know if this London hack works! It’s certainly a cheap way to travel in London.
16. Go negative £1.50 on your Oyster card
Another option if you’re stuck for money or you have lost your bank card. You can go to -£1.50 on your Oyster card when you take the bus. That means that you can get a bus journey back home and not pay anything for that journey.
One for if you find yourself in a bit of a pickle, as of course, next time you top up your Oyster card, it will be credited to that negative balance.
17. Get the boat for a cheap boat tour on the Thames
You know those expensive tourist boat tours of the Thames? You can see the sights and the famous London skyline for less than £10 if you take the Uber boat! Step on board at Canary Wharf and go all the way to Battersea Power Station.
The journey takes about an hour, and is a cheaper way to see the sights. Of course, you don’t get the tour guide, but if you only want to take in the view, you needn’t pay over the odds.
And if you fancy a shorter boat ride? You can tap in or out to the TFL River Bus from various locations across London which, again, is a very affordable way to see the city from the water.
18. Swap The Shard for The Sky Garden
Paying to go to the top of The Shard will set you back a pretty penny, especially if you are travelling in a group or as a family. Instead, book ahead and opt to go to The Sky Garden for free. The Sky Garden is right at the top of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building in London.
You’ll still get a brilliant view of the city, and you won’t have to pay anything for the privilege. Be sure to allow enough time and book in advance on their website to avoid disappointment. If I had to pick my favourite of all London hacks? This would be one of them.
19. Free WiFi spots
If you’re a tourist in London, you don’t want to eat up all your data (and spend extra on data!) when you’re travelling abroad. There are plenty of free WiFi spots all over London, including in every PRET (there’s pretty much one on every corner in London), the same goes for Boots, EAT, McDonald’s and other big retailers.
You’ll also get free WiFi in the public libraries, and key spots such as Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, and even the London Eye.
20. Get a free alcoholic drink
You can get a free alcoholic drink (and more freebies!) with the DUSK app. Get free drinks and other rewards as you explore the city and use the app.
You can also get discount codes for bars and restaurants in London, as well as guides to shopping, eating, and Instagrammable places in the city.
21. Score reduced taxi fares with Bolt
If you’ve already used Uber, you need to try out Bolt. With good availability in London, and lots of discount codes and promos offered to you, it’s a good option if you need to get a taxi.
And if you’re still using black cabs in London? If you need to save money, I would seriously consider using a ride share app like Uber or Bolt instead- you’ll save a fortune!
22. See Westminster Abbey and St Pauls for free during Evensong
Usually visiting Westminster Abbey would cost you £19 per adult, and visiting St Paul’s would cost you £23 per adult. However, you can visit both of these locations for free during Evensong. If you’re a tourist in London, this is a great way to see the sights on a low budget!
Evensong is an evening prayer held daily, and is lead by a choir. You can find more details here for St Paul’s and here for Westminster Abbey. It is worth mentioning that due to the fact it is a service, you cannot wander around or take photos during the service.
23. Use The Fork to get up to 50% off fine dining
Fancy yourself as a foodie? You need to sign up to The Fork (it’s free) to get some amazing deals on fancy restaurants across London. All you need to do is book your table through their website, and make sure that you opt for a deal (the percentage off will show on the booking). The discount will then be applied to your final bill.
Keep an eye out for expensive restaurants that you’ve wanted to try out, and swoop in when a deal is available. You could be eating for half price! It’s a great way to save money as a foodie who likes the finer things in life.
24. Free walking tours in London
Free walking tours are available in most European cities, and London is no exception. If you’d like to increase your step count for the day and see the city on foot with a tour guide, a free walking tour might be your best option.
Although advertised as a “free” walking tour, it is customary to tip your tour guide for their time. This is often a ‘pay what you can’ kind of situation, so if you can afford to tip, please do.
25. Free comedy in London
Angel Comedy offers free stand up comedy shows 7 days a week, at 3 different London locations. As well as their free shows, they also host affordable stand up shows from up-and-coming comedians AND big name comedians as they prepare to go on tour.
If you’re a comedy buff, you won’t want to miss a visit to this fantastic venue. Subscribe to their mailing list on their website to keep up to date with their upcoming shows.