Under £300: 5 Day London Vacation Guide

budget-travel-guide-itinerary-london

Currency exchange is a killer when you're hit by the dreadful USD to GBP conversion. We learned our lesson pretty quickly when visiting London in August 2015, and I decided that creating a realistic vacation guide for you was essential. 

I've done the math and conversions, and with unique tours, a multi-day Tube pass, free time for exploring, and a keen eye for meal deals, you can spend five activity-filled days in London for $425 USD (under £280)! It could be even less if you're super budget conscious and want to replace some of these tours with free London sightseeing instead (walking around and observing beautiful buildings and scenery still doesn't cost a thing... yet).

Here is my custom Five-Day London Travel Guide beyond your usual hop on-hop off bus tour and Queen Elizabeth cruise. Note, I'll be mentioning all prices in GBP for accuracy. 
 

Accommodation:

Park Villa Boutique Hostel: starting at £20/night

cheap-london-hotels

To begin, I recommend you book a lovely 4-night accommodation at the boutique hostel, Park Villa. You can avoid the typical overpriced hotel and head east to the up and coming Mile End ‘hood. Conveniently located down the street from the District and Central metro lines, this hostel is just a short tube ride away from everything you want to see in London. 

I know what you're thinking... don't worry. It isn't a dorm shack with bed bugs and annoying uni lads indulging in snoggle sessions (you see what I did there?).

While Park Villa does have some (classy) dorm rooms, this new boutique has single and double bedrooms as well, with Olivia-approved comfort mattresses and bedding. The hostel also provides free breakfast (morning meal expense: check!) and coin operated laundry machines. 

The approximate per person price for dorms are £20, and £28-46 for private rooms. Read my detailed review on the hostel here.

TIP:

Don't just take my word for it, check out Booking.com for the best London deals. When choosing my lodging: I filter 85% ratings or higher, free breakfast, and in-room wi-fi. I love their site because most listings on Booking.com won't charge a per person fee for private rooms, like on HostelWorld. That's annoying.

 

Transportation:

Oyster Card: £32

Even though you are only there for five days, I recommend purchasing the 7-day oyster pass. There aren't any unlimited tube passes for a shorter time frame and if you do the math, even for your five-day stay, it will save time and money. If you don't already have an oyster card, ask someone for theirs, or else pay £5 for a new one.
 

Day 1:

The Greedy Cow - Lunch: £7

Upon your London arrival and Park Villa check-in, you'll probably want to grab a bite to eat. 

Check out the Greedy Cow down the street and take advantage of their lunch deals for £6.99. You'll get a filling entree with salad or fries and an unlimited soft drink. I got a veggie burger without bread on a bed of salad with onion rings, while Alex went all meat and fries. They were both delicious. The special lasts until 4:00 pm.

Evening Ghost Bus Tour: £21

Photo Aug 01, 4 01 42 AM.jpg
ghost-bus-tour-london

For an entertaining start to your evening, why not join a Ghost Bus Tour? London has a big ghost history, and if you are into history and theatrics, this bus ride is very fun. 

Across from the Sherlock Holmes pub (don't buy a drink there, it's expensive and out of your budget!) the classic 1960's Routemaster double-decker bus departs twice every evening and includes a guide/conductor and haunting surprises. 

The 75-minute experience drives through the city of London, for a night tour of notable statues and famous attractions such as The Houses of Parliament, London Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Tower Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, and The Tower of London.

The tour is just £21 and is intimate enough that you'll be guaranteed at least one fright and lots of laughter. Visit their website for more information. 
 

Day 2:

Breakfast: FREE

Enjoy free breakfast at your hostel. But not too much because your first tour will be overwhelmingly filling. 

Chocolate Tour: £40

london-chocolate-tour

Taste the Queen’s favorite chocolates and experience London’s most famous chocolate shops on the Chocolate Ecstasy Tour. Don't be misled by the chocolate, though: you’ll truly be stuffed when you are done the three hour tour – with no room for lunch! Perfect for our budget :-) 

I chose the Mayfair tour, but there are plenty to choose from with varying time slots and price points. 

The Mayfair tour kicks off with a short lesson on chocolate from bean to bar and includes a heavy, hot chocolate beverage and a pastry in the morning.

Along the city walking tour, tastings include large, rich pieces of chocolate with a range of edible fragrances (ie. Violet chocolate, rose, etc.).

We also visited a number of unique establishments, including Sketch - a destination place for food, art, and special "potty" experiences (noting the egg-shaped bathrooms and Swarovski designed toilet stalls). 

chocolate-ecstacy-tour-london
sketch-bathroom-london-design

It is a special way to get to know the ins and outs of London and I recommend you put on your walking shoes and join the experience. Learn more and book here.

Afternoon Break and Exploration: FREE

I was stuffed after my chocolate tour and went straight to my hostel for a free NAP! If you are more energetic than I am and want to skip the nap, I suggest you make the most out of your Oyster Card and hop on the tube to visit some local free sites. You'll have about five hours to spare before your evening tour. 

Consider visiting the highly acclaimed British Museum for free!

Jack the Ripper Tour: £10

jack-the-ripper-tour

If the mystery of the infamous serial killer keeps you awake at night, the two-hour Jack the Ripper Tour is just for you. While most of the murder sites have been knocked down or rebuilt, the haunting tales will still give you chills as author and historian, Lindsey shared facts and insight on the murders of the never-caught killer and showed us exclusive photos. While there seems to be many Ripper tours running, she was great at creating an interactive experience suited for anyone who wants to test her knowledge on their “Who done it” theories! Information on this affordable two-hour walking tour can be found here.

Late Evening Bite (Secret Supermarket Deal): £5

Back at the Park Villa hostel, the local supermarket two blocks away slashes the prices of perishable items by 50% during the hour before closing. I often grabbed a pre-made sandwich for the night or frozen lasagna (surprisingly delicious) to cook up in the open kitchen at Park Villa.
 

Day 3:

Breakfast: FREE

Sleep in or take advantage of the free food included in your accommodation fee.

Charles Dickens Tour: £10

charles-dickens-tour-london
charles-dickens-tour-london

At 11:30 am, take a step back in time and head to the Charles Dickens Museum: the home where Dickens wrote Oliver Twist. 

Kick off this tour with expert author and historian, Richard Jones, dressed in guise, and learn about the life and times of Charles Dickens.

The three-hour tour will take you to the buildings (mostly still standing) where Dickens lived, worked, and wrote!

Jones’ enthusiasm and storytelling approach make the tour worthwhile as he reels you in (chronologically) from Dickens' early days as a poor boy turned journalist to his later years in fame. Using theatrical quoting from Dickens' many works, Jones helps us visualize and relate with the many characters and settings influenced by Dickens' real life experiences, and London's landmarks. Full deets on the walking tour here.

Late Lunch/Early Supper at Reform Social: £17

reform-social-best-restaurants-london

After the enjoyable Charles Dickens walking tour I found myself very hungry. If you decide to do the tour, I suggest you head over to Reform Social for a late lunch, as they have a special running until 4:00 pm. They have a delicious two-course set menu for £14 or three courses for £17.

If you packed a lunch from the supermarket the night before and just fancy a drink, you can grab their bar menu and order a half pint lager for £2.50 and choose from their array of tasty (and affordable) bar snacks, including poached duck egg, Scotch egg, sausage rolls, and fish fingers.
 

Day 4: 

Breakfast: FREE

Sleep in or take advantage of the free food included in your accommodation fee.

changing-the-guard-times-london

Changing of the Guards: FREE

Take a deep breath and bear the crowds to watch the changing of the guards at one of these locations.  Remember the dates vary by season.

  • At Buckingham Palace, Guard Mounting takes place at 11.30am
     
  • At Horse Guards Arch, Changing the Guard takes place daily at 11.00am (10.00am on Sundays)
     
  • At Windsor Castle, the ceremony takes place at 11.00am

 

Speedboat Along the Thames: £40

If walking tours aren’t your thing, or you are traveling with someone who wants a bit of thrill on the vacation, London Rib Voyages is the best fit. You get picked up by a fiery red speedboat and feel cool passing by those waiting for the overpriced, packed cruise lines. Our guide and driver were two friendly, enthusiastic dudes ready to burn through the Thames River and show us various bridges and sites along the way, paired with hilarious stories.

london-rib-speed-voyages

One example would be the genius American who was rumored to have purchased the London Bridge for over $2M without knowing what it looked like! Needless to say, he didn’t realize it was NOT the ornate Tower Bridge, but couldn't get his money back. But that rumour has been denied, of course.

I booked the Ultimate London Adventure, but there are plenty to chose from. You have to book this tour if you want to try something new and fun. They're #1 on Trip Advisor for a reason!

Dine at the Atrium: £10

Head over to the Atrium in the Imperial Hotel for art deco decor and cheap bites (Fridays and Saturdays have free live Jazz music at 7:00 and 7:30 pm, respectively) . A sandwich here is as low as £2.50 and cocktails start at £5.50. Me personally... I'd spend my cash on the food. 

Late Evening Bite (Secret Supermarket Deal): £5

I'm really into my late evening bites... head to the local supermarket two blocks away And buy perishable items for 50% off during the hour before closing. Buying items I can snack on all day works for me.

Day 5: 

Breakfast: FREE

Sleep in or take advantage of the free food included in your accommodation fee before checking out. The owner will gladly hold your bags while you venture out before you leave. 

Don't Forget: Photos are FREE

london-telephone-booth-red-olivia-christine

The aforementioned tours will give you perfect opportunities to get great pictures of London, but if you have extra time, spend the day riding the tube around the city before you hit the airport. I suggest you take advantage of these awesome photo ops before you go:

  • Classic Red Phone Booth Picture
  • Photo of the Coca-Cola London Eye
  • Cross Westminster Bridge to get a shot of The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (if you forgot to during your speedboat tour)
  • Abbey Road for a Beatle Remake (it's a bit far, though - past The Regents Park)
  • Tower Bridge
  • National Gallery
  • "Look Right / Look Left" street signs
     
london-on-a-budget

Have Fun!

I really hope you enjoy London! We had so much fun there and were glad to incorporate alternative tours into our experience. Tell me, what free and affordable activities are your favorite?

Like this post?

Pin it and share it with your friends using this cover: