London Insider Travel Tips: Sightseeing on a Budget

By Kirsten McCroskrie

Ensure you have the perfect visit to London with some London insider travel tips and tricks!

Everyone does their research before they get to London, but does anyone consider the best practices once they get there? You don’t want to travel around London unawares or unprepared, so here’s a list of travel tips to make your trip just that bit easier. From how to make the most out of your sightseeing, to downloading the best travel apps and guides, stay one step ahead.

See more, and spend less - Sightseeing in the city

When you get to London the first thing most people want to do is explore the rich culture and history on offer. Just looking around the city, London has buildings that date back centuries waiting to be explored, not to mention picture-perfect landmarks and monuments for that all important selfie. To take the stress and cost out of sightseeing The London Pass is the ultimate package to unlock all the best sites for a snip of the price. A pre-paid for package, it gives you accss over 80 top attractions from the iconic Tower of London, to Westminster Abbey, a Thames River Cruise and lots of fascinating museums and art galleries like the Churchill War Rooms and Queen’s Gallery. You can even add on an Oyster Travelcard to make the package even more all-inclusive as you can explore the city’s famous underground at ease.

Get from A to B the easy way

The Oyster Card is London’s electronic travel card to the entire London transport network, including the famous tube, overground, DLR and trams. It covers up to 9 zones and you can get anywhere through its intricate network covering 250 miles of tracks, stopping at 270 stations over 11 separate lines. London’s underground is in fact the world’s oldest underground, opening with the Metropolitan line back in 1863 and it’s grown into a vast system connecting all the corners of the city. Visitors can make the most of a pre-paid Oyster Card and scan it in and out of the underground and on buses etc to get from A to B. It’s the cheapest way of travelling, and certainly the easiest. But word of advice: don’t travel between 8am-10am - 4.30pm-6.30pm as these are the busy rush hour times when most Londoners will be making their commutes home.

Wine and dine at London’s best restaurants

London is a great city for its broad spectrum of restaurants and bars on offer, so if you’re a foodie it’s the place for you! No matter your preference, you’ll be sure to find something you love - you only need to walk around the streets to notice the queues of people outside the doors waiting to go in, a sure sign it’s worth the wait. There are some great areas in London which have a really unique feel, such as Soho, or Brixton, and where you’re guaranteed to find independent restaurants and bars to be well fed and watered. New pop ups are always appearing every season, so don’t forget to try BoxPark in Shoreditch for rotational restaurants from Caribbean to Malaysian. In the more ethnic areas you’ll also find great Thai restaurants and curry houses in North London. The options are endless!

The best downloadable Travel guides and apps

Everyone has a mobile or smartphone these days and most can’t live without a stream of information at their fingertips. One of the best things to download before you go is a handy travel app you can use offline whilst you’re exploring London. The London Pass® has an app which is your guide to the city, providing you with a list of useful information from attraction opening times, to ideas for days out – and exclusive pass holder offers if you sync your London Pass with your App when you arrive. As well as this you can use their handy maps for the underground to get you from A to B. Another useful App to help you get around London is CityMapper which will help you plan the quickest route – which might often be on foot. The BBC Weather App is another great one, just so you know what to wear for the day ahead!

Where to stay

Accommodation to London is easy to find, whether you arrive on the day and simply turn up, or book months in advance. There are hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms to choose from, not to mention B&Bs, hostels and, the latest trend to sweep the travel industry; Air B&B. From five star luxury along Park Lane and boutique hotels, to smaller rough-and-ready rooms, London has everything to suit every budget. Whether or not you’re visiting with kids, or with your loved one, you can choose to stay central or further out. Just make sure you read the reviews on Trustpilot first as sometimes websites can be misleading and out of date!

Other useful tips

Like any city, pickpockets operate around certain areas of London. Be advised to keep an eye on your belongings at all times and not keep any bags or pockets open, or full of valuable items. Should you need to report anything stolen, go to the TFL information office if you are on public transport, or go to a local police station. In case of emergency, carry your mobile phone on you at all times – and not just for those spontaneous selfies! Make sure you save the number 999 if you don’t already know it which will hotline you through to the Emergency services. Save some in case of emergency phone numbers in your phone as well, should someone need to get hold of your next of kin whilst you’re on holiday.

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Thames London

All About the Thames River Boat Cruise

As you plan out your trip to London, you won't want to miss out on a Thames River boat cruise. It's simply a must-do. Whether you're interested in a sightseeing tour or a dinner cruise, there are plenty of Thames River cruise options. Take in all of the incredible sights and sounds of London from the comfort of a boat, including historic landmarks, modern architecture, and stunning parks and gardens. There are so many River Thames cruises available to suit all budgets and interests, but our favourite has to be the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers. Sailing along the Thames allows you to experience the heart of London from a different angle. We've got answers to all the key questions, so read on to find out about travelling the fabled River Thames by boat. Where does the Thames River Boat Cruise leave from? And where does it go? The boat departs from four locations: Westminster Embankment London Bridge Tower Bridge To validate your ticket, you'll start from one of these four locations between 10am-6pm. The boat tour has 23 stops - and much like the London Underground, it has different zones through West, Central and East London. If you're rding the full length of the river from west to east, you'll travel from Putney Pier to Barking Riverside Pier. Starting in West London, you will travel through Wandsworth, Chelsea Harbour and Battersea Power Station. See the London Eye, Westminster and London Bridge, before travelling towards East London. You'll pass through Canary Wharf and Greenwich before arriving at Barking Riverside. Most of the piers are wheelchair accessible, and many have nearby Santander Cycle stations for easy commuting. How much does it cost? The hop-on hop-off Uber Boat by Thames Clipper normally sets you back: Adult River Roamer: £24.60 Child/Concession River Roamer: £12.30 Family River Roamer: £49.20 However, it’s included with The London Pass® How often do the boats run? The boats run every 10-20 minutes at key London piers. The service operates every day of the year except for Christmas Day. Make sure to check the latest timetable for the most up-to-date information. How do I use The London Pass®  to board a hop-on hop-off cruise? Simply show The London Pass® at the ticket office at one of the four main entry points. You will receive a 24 hour hop-on hop-off ticket. The 24 hours starts at the time you receive this ticket from a City Cruise ticket office. What are the boats like? All boats have an indoor lower deck, while most have an open-air upper deck, giving you unimpeded views as you sail by lots of iconic London sights. What can I see from the boat? From the comfort of the sightseeing boat, you can see many of London’s most famous buildings and cherished landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern, Cutty Sark and The Shard. If I get a return ticket, do I need to stay on the boat for the return journey or can I disembark? You don’t need to stay on the boat. You can disembark, explore the area and get on a later boat for your return journey. Just be sure to check that the service will still be running! Are the sightseeing boats fully accessible for people in wheelchairs? Most of the boats are, with a maximum of two spaces for wheelchairs. It’s best to call the reservation team to check which services will be best for you. You can reach them on +44 (0)207 7400 400. Their hours at 8am - 6pm, Monday to Friday, and 10am - 4pm on weekends and bank holidays. Are the sightseeing boats heated? Yes, they all are, and all Thames River Boat Cruise boats have indoor seating. Can I get food and drink on board? You can. There’s a bar onboard all sightseeing boats offering hot and cold drinks, snacks and sandwiches. Is there an audio guide? There is a live or recorded commentary in English on board all sightseeing cruises. This is entirely complimentary. Is the guided tour available in other languages besides English? Yes, you can get an audio guide in seven other languages: Italian, French, German, Russian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese. Pick up your free audio guide from the bar aboard the boat. Can I bring a bike aboard? No, unfortunately not, but kids' scooters are allowed aboard a Thames River Boat Cruise. Experience everything London has to offer with The London Pass® Planning your London trip? With The London Pass®, you can explore big-name landmarks, local hotspots and epic tours, all on one pass, all for one price. Not only that, but you'll enjoy savings of up to 50%, compared to buying individual attraction tickets. ✈️ Buy The London Pass®✈️
Matthew Pearson

ArcelorMittal Orbit London: FAQs

What is the ArcelorMittal Orbit, London? The ArcelorMittal Orbit, London is Britain’s largest piece of public art and tallest sculpture. Built to celebrate and commemorate the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, the structure is now a fixture of the East London skyline. It has reopened as an observation tower, with two viewing platforms. It’s also a popular ride: you can whizz down the structure in the world’s longest tunnel slide. How long is the tunnel and how long does the ride last? The tunnel is 178 metres long and it takes you on a 40 second journey of loops and corkscrews, all the way to the bottom. What can I see from the ArcelorMittal Orbit viewing platforms? You can enjoy 20-mile views from the viewing platforms, including many highlights of London’s skyline, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, Alexandra Palace, the O2 and Big Ben. You can also see the stadiums built around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, including Zaha Hadid’s London Aquatics Centre and Hopkins Architects’ Lee Valley VeloPark. Where is it? The ArcelorMittal Orbit is in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the site of many stadiums used during the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics. The park has now reopened as an open space, with waterways, cycling routes, wetlands, cafes and meadowland, as well as the stadiums. How do I get there? You can get the Central Line, the Overground and National Rail services to Stratford. You can get to Stratford in just 11 minutes from the City of London. It’s a 10 minute walk to the attraction from Stratford Station. Buses stopping nearby include the D8 and the 339. Are the viewing platforms accessible for people with disabilities? Yes, there’s a lift to take you up and down. How much does it cost? Usually, it’s £12.50, but with the London Pass, access to the viewing platforms is free. You have to pay £5 extra to upgrade your ticket to include the slide down. Upgrades are subject to availability on the day. What are the opening times? Monday to Friday, it’s open from 11am until 4pm. On weekends, it’s 10am - 6pm. Is it open every day of the week? Yes, 364 days a year. What day aren’t they open? Christmas Day. No sliding on Christmas? No sliding on Christmas. Do I have to slide down? Nope. You can walk down the 455-step spiral staircase or take the lift. Can I buy a ticket just for the slide? Nope. You need to go up to come down. What are the age restrictions on the slide? You have to be at least 8 years old and over 1.3m tall to ride the slide. Can I ride the slide more than once? You can, but you have to buy another ticket for a second go. And what about, you know...friction? You head down the slide with your legs and bottom in a sack, much like one used to transport coffee beans. Where can I leave my stuff? I don’t want my phone/wallet/keys falling out of pockets. There are some lockers at the bottom. Can I buy any kind of mementos when I’m there? Yes, there’s a small shop selling T-shirts, tea towels, mugs and the like. What about eating and drinking? There’s a cafe called The Last Drop located right next to the ArcelorMittal Orbit. What is it made of? The ArcelorMittal Orbit is made of steel. Enough steel, in fact, to make 265 double-decker buses. Who designed it? Turner Prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond. Kapoor’s other famous works have included Chicago’s Cloud Gate and the Sky Mirror in Nottingham. Balmond has worked on the Centre Pompidou-Metz in Paris, and the CCTV Headquarters in Beijing. What is it supposed to look like? It was designed to look like an ‘impossible’ structure, something almost ‘mythical’ in its twisted, looping form. It’s inspired by the Tower of Babel and the Eiffel Tower. Maybe it looks a bit like someone's made a helter skelter out of the Eiffel Tower. Or angrily scrunched up a train track. It is thought to contain the five Olympic rings. Some people think it looks like a massive shisha pipe. Who knows. See where else you can get a great view of London here.
Matthew Pearson
Tourist on Westminster Bridge by Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

How to get Cheap London Attraction Ticket Deals

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that London is not a cheap place to visit. Indeed, it’s regularly cited alongside the likes of Hong Kong, New York, Singapore and Sydney as one of the most expensive cities in the world. That’s largely due to its well-deserved reputation as one of the planet's top bucket-list destinations, with household-name attractions like Westminster Abbey, The Shard, Oxford Street, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Tower of London around almost every corner. And, as surely as night follows day, high demand means high prices. But London isn't just for lottery winners, celebrities and Russian oligarchs. No! This vast playground of historical attractions, world-class museums, stellar theatrical performances, and destination dining is for everyone to enjoy. And it is possible for savvy travelers to visit on a shoestring, as detailed in our self-explanatory blog ‘How to Visit London on a Budget’ right here. Read on below as we take a deeper dive into how to get cheap ticket deals at London attractions, including all the most highly sought-after landmarks and theaters. The London Pass Serious sightseers who plan to hit up a lot of major attractions and tours should consider The London Pass – basically a catch-all way of ticking off the big (and little) hitters in town while saving cash in the process. It’s the only pass of its kind that gives you access to Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge (plus some 80 or so additional attractions and tours across London), and it’s conveniently stored on your phone or mobile device for speedy scan-through access at each address. And here’s how it works. You choose a duration for your London Pass package – (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10 consecutive days) – download the Go City app to your phone and you’re good to go. Your pass activates as soon as you scan in at your first attraction and is valid for consecutive days (not 24-hour periods), so you should make sure to start early on your first day of sightseeing. The London Pass can save you up to 50% on gate prices if you make full use of it and visit several attractions each day, but its value weakens when you only visit one or two places each day. Fear not though: the pass’s savings guarantee means that, if you visit at least three attractions each day for the duration of your pass, and don’t save money, you can apply for a refund of the difference. Some of the 80+ attractions you can visit with your London Pass include: The Tower of London – William the Conqueror’s notorious 1,000-year-old fortress on the Thames. The View from The Shard – dizzying panoramic views from atop the UK’s tallest building. London Zoo – a family favorite with over 750 species of weird, wonderful and downright cute critters. Hampton Court Palace – the grand former home of gouty serial monogamist Henry VIII. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – lovingly reconstructed replica of the bard’s 17th-century London playhouse. Kew Gardens – kaleidoscopes of colorful wildflowers, tropical foliage, treetop walkways and more at London’s best botanical garden. Get The London Pass here. More Cheap London Attraction Ticket Deals There are several other straightforward methods of making savings on tickets to London attractions. Traveling to London by train? National Rail runs a promo that gives you 2-for-1 prices on major London attractions when you buy train tickets. There’s a decent list of attractions included in the promo, such as Madame Tussauds, London Dungeon, the ArcelorMittal Orbit and the Tower of London. You’ll need to register on National Rail’s Days Out website, from where you can then download and print vouchers for your chosen attraction. Present these with your train ticket (bearing the National Rail logo) at each attraction to claim your discount. You’ll get these when you take pretty much any train into London (with the exception of the Tube and some airport trains), or you can get them by buying a London Travelcard at any London railway station (as opposed to Tube station) such as Victoria, Liverpool Street, Paddington, Charing Cross and Waterloo. Remember to check your chosen dates are available before pitching up at the attraction – some of the biggies have blackouts on the 2-for-1 offers during peak periods. Other potentially money-saving options include the likes of the Merlin Pass, which includes access to Merlin attractions like the London Eye, London Dungeon, SEA LIFE London and Madame Tussauds, but has a lot of date restrictions during school holidays on the cheaper basic passes. Then there are cash-saving voucher sites like Groupon and Wowcher, which are great for finding bargain London attraction tickets, especially outside of peak season. Cheap London Theater Tickets The West End’s reputation for astronomical ticket prices is almost as famous as its world-class plays and musicals. We’re talking the likes of Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Matilda and The Mousetrap (only the world’s longest-running play, fact fans). Incredibly, it is in fact possible to bag cheap last-minute tickets to all of these and more, as long as you’re a) savvy and b) willing to queue for several hours at the box office on a wing and a prayer. Here’s the lowdown: very few shows are ever completely sold out and many West End venues offer day seats. Tickets for these are cheap and are generally released between 9AM and 11AM for same-day performances, so you’ll need to be flexible and yes, for the more popular shows, you’ll definitely have to queue and may still end up disappointed. Some shows also run lotteries via their website or app. This is much the same as the day-seat option, but means you can avoid schlepping to the venue and do it all from the comfort of your armchair. Winners are chosen at random. You can also get last-minute bargains from the tkts booth on Leicester Square, again for shows that same evening. If you can afford to be really flexible about your plans, it’s also well worth taking a gamble on ultra-last-minute cheapies direct from the theaters. And by ultra-last-minute we mean, like, an hour before the performance begins. The Royal Court does 10p tickets. Yes, that’s just ten new pence. These are standing only but hey, that’s a small price to pay, right? Similarly, the hip Donmar theatre in Covent Garden has been known to release £10 tickets for same-day performances, and you can bag tickets to the pit at Shakespeare’s Globe for £5-£10 at most performances. An absolute bard-gain. Save on things to do in London Save on admission to London attractions with the London Pass. Check out @londonpass on Instagram for the latest top tips and attraction info.
Stuart Bak

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