Tips for a Trip to London

A short trip to London from Ireland can work out quite good value – especially when the Euro to Sterling Exchange rate is still fairly good for Irish visitors .
As travel gradually gets back to normal between Ireland and the UK – Here are a few of our top tips for spending and saving money on a visit to London .

Flying to London

Ryanair fly 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 Ryanair Baggage charges – so just be aware if you haven’t flown with Ryanair for a while that it is no longer possible to bring a bag onboard 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 will mean some 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 and has 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 them to other airlines.

Accommodation in London

For a budget option – you can’t really go far wrong with a Premier Inn. They are mostly good quality, clean, value-for-money hotels.
There are loads of Premier Inns in London and if you book early, you can sometimes get a room for as little as £29 a night. You can book without paying and cancel right up to 1pm the day of your stay.
Their Premier Inn Hubs offer smaller rooms – at lower prices but they are modern and comfortable.

Tip : 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 some of the cheaper Premier Inns near tube stations are:

  • Wembley Park (if there’s nothing on at Wembley stadium),
  • Hampstead,
  • Archway
  • Harrow
  • Hammersmith
  • Greenwich
  • Lewisham
  • Edgeware .
  • Goodge St

If you don’t mind spending larger amounts – then there are dozens of upmarket hotels in London looking for upwards of £400 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” usually about 2 or 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 per day – for example, travelling between zones 1 and 3 these are the current daily caps when using contactless payment. (April 2023 ). No matter how many journeys you make within these zones in one dau you won’t be charged any more than these caps.

Transport for London Zone 1-3 Capped Charges
Daily £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 distance of each other. By the time you’ve gone up and down to the tube – you could have walked half a mile.

London Spending Tips

Fee Free Cards

When you are paying for hotels or shopping in the UK with an Irish debit card or credit card you will nearly always be charged “foreign transaction” fees by your Irish bank.
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 Revolut

See our comparison of N26 and Revolut.

Always pay in Sterling with your Irish card – never accept a hotel or shop’s 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 – 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 to get cash – but you can also check our Comparison of the places to buy Sterling in Ireland.

buy sterling

Some 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.

If you attend the Choral Evensong you don’t have to pay to get in to St Paul’s Cathedral

There is always something for FREE going on at the Southbank Centre

Hear some free lunchtime Music at the Royal Opera House

There is regular free music in this church near Trafalgar Square

You can get Free comedy at this popular comedy club (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- Ian Visits is good for listing quirky daily events and exhibitions in London.
Also check Eventbrite for free London events

Eating and Drinking

If you want to check if a restaurant or cafe is clean before you eat – you can search the food hygiene ratings online here.
Probably best to avoid anything less than a 3 rating.

We have found that we always get good value meals at the chain Cote Brasserie – with a 2-course set menu for under £17 (plus service charge)

Pizza Express sometimes have vouchers available.

Celebrate your Birthday with a free pub meal (Buy one get one free). You just have to register your birthday on the Shepherd Neame Brewery website.

A floating 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 higher than most “normal” London pubs and the view is great from the deck in the summer.

Treat yourself – after a busy day seeing the sites we recommend going to an upmarket hotel such as the Ham Yard Hotel – even just for a pot of tea. Ok, it might be nearly £6 – but you get a free small piece of cake, lovely china cups, very pleasant surroundings and fabulous toilets!

You’d probably pay £3.00 for a teabag in a cardboard cup in a Starbucks or Costa – so £6 for a big pot in a nice hotel is not really that expensive.