London the most multi-cultural and vibrant cities in the world is one of the most expensive places to live or visit, surpassing even New York and Tokyo. High prices can be found everywhere, sometimes even I feel embarrassed by my own fare prices, although admittedly not very often.
For those with more sense than money and without bottomless pockets here is how to spend less and get more in the Capital.
Don’t buy from touts or always believe in the cut price theatre ticket sellers are cheaper. The TKTS kiosk run by The Official London Theatre Organisation in Leicester Square is open every day. Outside is a list of what’s on offer. Many are returned and unsold tickets for that evening’s performances at half price.
If even half price West End prices are too much and you fancy watching a work from England’s greatest playwright performed in a unique setting, then for £10 become a Groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. You will be near the front but it is standing room only; or queue up outside the Royal Opera House for a chance to purchase one of that day’s allocations of only 67 discounted seats.
Don’t be taken for a ride
I can’t say that I’ve ever been into extreme sports but if you get a thrill from a white knuckle ride weaving in and out if traffic in London’s West End then a rickshaw ride is for you. The vehicles and riders are not officially regulated so check out the price before you climb aboard and haggle, haggle, haggle.
Finding your way back to the hotel at night can be daunting. Consider getting a Licensed Black Cab, they are not are expensive as you might think. Some cabs take up to 6 passengers, so consider this: the fare from the West End to Bayswater (where many mid-priced hotels are to be found) at night is approximately £20, split 6 ways, not much more than you might have had to pay in bus fares; and if you travel during the day it is considerably cheaper.
Sky high prices
If you have a head for heights and want to see the London skyline, you could join the queue at The London Eye, it is a unique experience, or you could wait forThe Shard to open its doors at £25 for the highest view in London. Alternatively head for The Monument built to commemorate The Great Fire of London. No queues and a great view, and when you have come down you receive a certificate to say you have climbed its 311 steps.
Lunch for less
If your idea of a lunchtime snack is chargrilled crayfish on a bed of handpicked rocket that has been lightly tossed in a basil vinaigrette dressing wrapped in stone-ground bread head for a sandwich shop with a French sounding name. But for a budget lunch Covent Garden and Soho have numerous small cafes that will prepare an economical sandwich while you wait. Do you fancy yourself as a cabbie? Head off to one of the Green Cabmen’s Shelters.
You can’t sit inside (only cabbies are allowed to do that), but some have outside seating and you might persuade a driver to take your picture behind the wheel of his cab.
Watering down the cost
Want to take the weight off your feet and join a tour? London grew up alongside the River Thames, and many of its tourist sights are to be found on the water’s edge. For little more than the price of a bus fare you can travel by River Bus operated by Thames Clippers from Embankment Pier to Hampton Court. The boat doesn’t pass The Houses of Parliament so take your pictures first from Westminster Bridge before taking a 10 minute stroll along the river to start your river cruise.
And finally . . .
London might be a big sprawling giant of a city, but many if its ‘sights’ are in close proximity to each other. Get a map and walk, walk, walk. And when you have had enough hail a cab, ask the driver you might get tales and anecdotes about London for free.