Of all the European capitals, London is one of the most popular. From the Tower of London to Hyde Park via Trafalgar Square, there’s so much to see and do.
However, one of London’s biggest problems is how expensive it is. The strength of the pound sterling makes the city rather costly for tourists.
In this article, we’ll see just how much it’ll cost to visit London. We’ll look at the cost of getting there, accommodation, and how much you should budget for food, drink, transport, and entertainment.
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How Much Does it Cost to Get to London?
The first thing to consider when planning a trip to London is the cost of getting to the city itself. There are a number of ways to get there: train, plane, bus, or car. Getting there should cost no more than 25% of your total budget.
From mainland Europe, one of the most comfortable ways to get to London is by train to St. Pancras station. There are direct trains from France and thanks to high-speed rail, passengers from France and Benelux countries can get to London quite quickly by train.
The return train ticket from Lille to London costs €179 per person. There are several trips a day and you can buy your tickets on Eurostar’s website. Of course, it depends when you go and the time of year.
Another way to get to London is by plane. There are a number of airlines offering cheap flights to London from major European airports. There are six “London” airports (Gatwick, Luton, Heathrow, Stansted, Southend, and Blackbushe) and once you’ve landed, you’ll need to pay to get to the centre of London by public transport, taxi, shuttle, etc. Try to book your transfers ahead of time as the distances from some of these airports are quite ridiculous and it can cost almost as much as your flights to get into London itself.
Low-cost airlines offer cheap flights to London but often land in the airports furthest away from the city with the costliest transfers!
You can always take your car if you’re driving from Europe. For example, driving from Paris takes around 6 hours and will cost you around €50 in fuel. You’ll need to cross The Channel either by ferry or train.
The bus is also an option for getting to London. There are buses and coaches offering trips to London and return tickets from Paris, for example, can cost anywhere between €35 and €70, but these trips can take between 8 and 10 hours!
If you’re in northern Europe, driving may be the most economical option but trains and planes are usually more practical. Don’t hesitate to shop around before deciding on how you’ll get there!
The Cost of Accommodation in London
Accommodation will probably make up a large part of your budget (around 30%). There are quite a few options when it comes to staying in London.
Firstly, choose your accommodation according to where you’ll visit and make sure that it’s near a Tube station so that you can quickly access the rest of London. Where you’ll sleep will depend greatly on your budget.
There are a lot of youth hostels in the centre of London. On average, they cost around £60 a night and are the cheapest way to stay somewhere in London.
London is home to many Airbnbs so you can find accommodation by checking the website. The prices will vary greatly according to what you want and where it’s located.
Finally, there are hotels. Hotels in London tend to be quite expensive. Here are some sample rates for 1 night:
- 1-Star Hotel: £75.
- 2-Star Hotel: £80.
- 3-Star Hotel: £130.
- 4-Star Hotel: £170.
- 5-Star Hotel: £350.
Keep in mind that the rates will vary according to which area of London you’re staying in, too. Some areas cost much more than others. For example, Mayfair is more expensive than Camden Town.
Staying in London isn’t all fun and games, especially when it comes to the cost.
The Cost of Dining Out in London
Ah, the food! Eating is one of the best things about travelling and London is no exception. In London, you’ll find British cuisine and a range of international cuisine.
Generally, restaurants in London are quite expensive. A dish can cost around £15 per person with a 3-course meal averaging around £35 per person. It’s expensive, but affordable if you find the right places.
Beer in pubs is also usually quite expensive and more expensive than what you’d pay elsewhere in the UK. That said, soft drinks aren’t usually that much more expensive than elsewhere in the UK.
You could always self-cater if the cost of eating out is too much. Here’s the average cost of everyday items in the supermarket.
- A loaf of bread: £1.20.
- 1kg of rice: £1.40.
- 1l of milk: £1.
- 1kg of tomatoes: £2.50.
- 1kg of potatoes: £1.30.
- 12 eggs: £2.20.
- Roast beef: £9.
This is more than the average around the UK but similar to that in neighbouring European countries. If your budget allows it, we’d recommend eating in one of the many fine restaurants in London.
Transport in London
Once you’ve found your accommodation in London and found the best restaurant in the area, you’ll want to discover all London has to offer. London has an extensive public transport system.
However, in comparison to other cities around Europe, London’s public transport is very expensive. Fortunately, you can walk between a lot of the most popular attractions in central London.
A ticket for the bus starts at £1.50 with a cap of £4.50 and a trip on the Tube costs £4.90 for one zone (though this is halved you use a contactless debit card or Oyster Card). It’s still quite expensive, though. Taxis are also quite expensive in London. On the other hand, Ubers aren’t.
Let’s talk about leisure activities. There are plenty of things to do in London and a lot of things are free, especially museums. Of all the places to see, here are some of the most popular:
- Tower Bridge
- The British Museum
- The National Gallery
- The Tate Modern
- Portobello Road
- The Palace of Westminster
- Big Ben
- Buckingham Palace
- The Natural History Museum
- Saint Paul’s Cathedral
Don’t hesitate to go shopping on Oxford Street or visit Madame Tussauds during your time in London. You can always hang around Piccadilly Circus and pick up some souvenirs.
The amount you spend is up to you and your budget, really. On average, a 3-day trip will cost two people around £1,000 based on the following estimates:
- £130 return flights.
- £50 per person per night accommodation.
- £40 on food per person per day.
- £30 on transport per person per day.
- £15 on activities per person per day.
As you’ll have understood, these prices are just examples and you could always spend less on accommodation and more on activities or self-cater and save money on food and drinks. That said, a £500 budget per person will mean that you won’t feel that you’ve missed out on too much.
Of course, the cost of a day in London can quickly ramp up if you're not careful. As one of the most expensive cities in the world, if you're not from somewhere like Paris, Zurich, or Tokyo, you'll probably find most things to be quite expensive and purchases that you normally don't think twice about can eat into your budget.
Try to avoid unplanned purchases so that you can save your money for the things you wanted to do. Make sure you get the appropriate travel card so that you don't waste your money on single trips on public transport. Similarly, instead of getting a ticket to a certain attraction, check if there's a pass that includes it and some of the other things you wanted to see.
Food can also be quite expensive so you probably don't want to waste money on eating in the same chain restaurant you have back home. There's nothing wrong with paying for good food, but you shouldn't pay twice the price for something you can enjoy for cheap without having to fly to another country!
Now you should know a little bit more about how much it costs to visit London. To learn more about it, check out our other articles! You can even brush up on your English with a private tutor on Superprof.
Many of the tutors on the platform offer the first hour for free so make sure you try a few tutors out before choosing the right one for you. It's important you get along with some who you'll be talking to for quite a bit!