Tips for a Trip to London

A short trip to London from Ireland can work out quite good value – especially now that the Pound is weaker. Here are a few of our top tips for saving money on a vist to London .

Flying to London

Ryanair flys to London airports from all the Irish airports. If you can book a couple of months in advance you will get cheaper prices. There will be the usual extra charges for bags – so just be aware if you haven’t flown with Ryanair for a while that it is no longer possible to bring a bag on board for free unless it’s smaller than 40 by 20 by 55 cm . You can get a bag that size from Amazon .

London City Airport : Flying to Gatwick or Stansted means there will be added expense getting from the airport to the city. But Aer Lingus and CityJet fly to London City Airport from Dublin – which is in docklands with easy access to the rail & tube network. The flights might cost more – but you will save money on train or bus tickets.

You can use Google Flights to check for the best prices and compare to other airlines.

Accommodation in London

You can’t really go far wrong with Premier Inn. They are mostly good quality , clean, value for money hotels.
There are loads of them in London and , if you book early, you can sometimes get a room for as little as £29 a night. When you get on to the Premier Inn website and search for London hotels – it will show you a list sorted in order of distance from central London (Leicester Square).
If you scroll down that list and get it to load a few pages of hotels – then go back to the top of the page and sort by price you will see the cheapest ones available. Our tips for cheaper Premier Inns near tube stations are Wembley Park (if there’s nothing on at Wembley stadium), Hampstead, Harrow, Hammersmith , Greenwich , Lewisham and Edgeware .

With Premier Inn you have the option to pay in advance and get a cheaper price (but no refunds if you don’t go) . If you pay on arrival it will be a bit more expensive but you can cancel the booking upto 1pm the day before check in.

Another option to consider is University Rooms

If you don’t mind spending larger amounts – then there are dozens of posh hotels in London looking for upwards of £500 a night.

Paying for Travel in London

The easiest option is to use your Irish contactless debit card on the London underground, DLR, overground rail and buses. You just tap the card in at the turnstiles and tap out again at your destination. No need to queue for tickets. There will be a small charge by your bank for “foreign transactions” of about 3%. If you have a debit card from N26 or Revolut – there will be no extra charge.
Underground and bus fares in London are capped – for example, travelling between zones 1 and 3 these are the current caps when using contactless payment. (Autumn 2019)

Transport for London Zone 1-3 Capped Charges
Daily Anytime£8.20
Daily Off-peak£8.20
Weekly (Mon to Sun)£41.20

Save even more money by walking.
Getting around on foot is easy around most of central London. Oxford St , Picadilly, Mayfair, Soho , Covent garden, are all within easy walking distances of each other. By the time you’ve gone up and down to the tube – you could have walked half a mile.

Spending Tips

When you are paying for hotels or shopping in the UK with most debit cards and credit cards you will be charged “foreign transaction” fees.
These charges can be as much as €3 on every €100
Full details of the card charges by Irish banks can be found here.

You can avoid these extra charges by getting an online bank account with N26 or a payment card from Bunq Revolut or Monese.

See our comparison of N26 and Revolut.

Always pay in Sterling with your card – never let a hotel or shop offer to let you pay in Euros. The conversion rate they use will be a lot worse than your card.

Cash at ATMs
– most Irish banks will add on conversion fees for ATM withdrawals in Sterling. Full Details Here. If you have a Revolut card or a Monese card – the first £200 of withdrawals a month are fee free.

Buying Pounds before you go . Sometimes it’s handy to have some cash available. Using an ATM is the easiest option – but you can also check our Comparison of the places to buy Sterling in Ireland.

buy sterling

Tips on Things to Do For Free in London

For a great free rooftop view of London – try and book the Sky Garden. It’s a free viewing area near the top of the building sometimes known as the “Walkie Talkie” – Tickets are normally available to book on a weekly basis up to three weeks in advance. Tickets are usually released on a Monday.

All the big museums and galleries are free to enter – but there will usually be special exhibitions that cost extra.
The Wallace Collection is a lesser-known but interesting free museum and gallery in Marylebone

There is regular free music in a church near Trafalgar Square

You can get Free comedy (some nights)

All of London’s big parks are free – St James, Hyde Park. Kensington Park – Green Park – all close enough to each other to do them all in a day.

This website is good for listing daily events and exhibitions in London. Ian Visits

Free Beer

Fullers is a London brewery with several pubs in central London. If you visit the Fullers website , find a pub that is near where you are visiting , then click on the “sign up to fullers” button and the pub will email you a voucher for a free drink.

It looks like you are limited to one voucher per email address – but there’s nothing to stop your partner or other family members signing up too at the same pub or other pubs.

Eating and Drinking

If you want to check if a restaurant or cafe is clean – all the food hygeine ratings are online here.

We have found that you can always get good value meals at Cote Brasserie – with a 2 course set menu for under £12. Breakfast £10.95 .

Pizza Express always have vouchers available.

A Bar with probably the best view on the Thames –
It’s on a boat (moored) – opposite the London Eye and just down the Thames from the Houses of Parliament. Prices are no worse than most “normal” London pubs.

Treat yourself – after a busy day seeing the sites – we recommend going go to an upmarket hotel such as the Ham Yard Hotel – just for a pot of tea. Ok, it might be nearly £5 – but you get a piece of cake, lovely china cups, pleasant surroundings and fabulous toilets!
You’d probably pay £3.00 for a cardboard cup of coffee in a Starbucks or Costa – so a hotel is not really that expensive.