Student to Student
Cutting Costs in London
When students travel to the U.K., one of their biggest disappointments is the ever increasing exchange rate, not in their favor. At first, Americans see $15 when looking at £15. Soon, however, they get in the habit of converting the £15 price tag, but it's a dispiriting adjustment. Luckily, there are ways to be frugal in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Limiting your spending doesn't mean sacrificing the joy of studying in London. The following tips can help you save pounds and pence.
- Don't eat out too often. Grocery stores like ASDA and Sainsbury have delicious foods that are sometimes even cheaper than in the States. If you choose to dine out, pubs are the prime spots for filling meals that will only cost you about £5.
- Money spent on public transportation can quickly add up. The key is to buy daily travel cards, which cost around £4.10, before you get on the bus to the tube station. This saves you the £.70 that you would pay for the bus. You can find day passes at liquor stores all over the Greater London area.
- Pick and choose which tourist spots you want to spend money on. Some of London's most beautiful and memorable sites, like many of its museums, don't cost anything at all. Gazing at Big Ben, sitting in on a session of parliament, or wandering through Green Park are all cost-free.
- Don't blow your money on the latest trends. London is a fashionable city, and you'll probably have the urge to splurge on some pricey clothes. While H&M and Top Shop are fairly economical, the pounds on price tags can be deceiving. As an alternative, charity shops—or thrift stores—are fun to explore and can be found on the busiest shopping streets in London.
- Buy a Britrail pass. If you are planning to travel all around England, the Britrail is an excellent investment. The 8-day pass does not have to be used on eight consecutive days, and it costs only $245 if bought in the States before you leave. The pass takes you anywhere in England, Wales or Scotland.
- Go to Harrod's, but don't buy anything. Walk around the massive store and take in the atmosphere. Use the luxurious bathrooms, and visit the dazzling, year-round Christmas shop.
- Get a student discount card. If you're a student traveling abroad, your university may provide them. If not, you can obtain discount cards from a number of web sites. The cards are accepted at a variety of stores, theaters, eateries, and hostels. Check out www.studentflights.co.uk and www.isecard.com.
- Hostels are a must. They are reasonably safe and affordable. Most hostels cost around £10-18 a night. The Internet is probably your best resource for finding the cheapest hostels for wherever you plan to go. Check out www.eurotrip.com and www.hostelworld.com.
- Pick only two or three unique items to take home, such as a special pair of London boots or a watercolor painting from a vendor. Above all, buy tea. The cheapest tea in England is still better than the most expensive tea in the States.
- Take some time to journal, reflect, read, and just be in London. You don't always have to do things. Rather than shopping or sightseeing, sit in Hyde Park and take in the scenery and local atmosphere with a camera and your favorite book by your side. What you buy isn't what you will remember—it will be the adventures you experience and the strangers you meet.