Sunday, 26 February 2017

London On A Budget

Now it goes without saying that London is a goddamn expensive place to live and visit. There’s so much to see and do (and eat!) but some of it is very, very expensive. But it can be done! Read on for my tips and tricks for remaining fiscally responsible in the capital AND still have a good time!

Sign up to restaurant newsletters and online magazines
I know the thought of wading through dozens of emails every morning doesn’t sound like a good time but trust me when I say you can get some truly excellent deals this way. If there’s a restaurant you love, check if they have an online newsletter. Lots of restaurants have discounts or special offers for their online subscribers. Also, you know those free magazines that you see being handed out at Tube stations? A lot of them will have partnerships with bars and restaurants across the city offering some pretty great deals. The ones I particularly like are Stylist, Mr Hyde, the Nudge and London On The Inside. Not only can these guys net you some sweet deals at existing venues but they can also let you know when new restaurants are opening which brings me to my next point…

Soft Launches

A lot of restaurants will hold a soft launch while they tweak the menu; train the staff and iron out any other operational wrinkles. If you can forgive a waiter who doesn’t know the wine list off by heart or waiting an extra five minutes for the cheque in return for 50% off and eating off brand new crockery, then soft launches are for you. At most, the staff may ask you for a bit of feedback on the service or the menu. Other than that, it’s a fun way to find new places or to check out a restaurant that may otherwise be out of your price range.

If you’ve ever worked in hospitality, you’ll know that alcohol is where venues make their bread and butter. The mark ups on booze are huge and while this isn’t an issue if you’re a teetotaller, London gives you far too many reasons to drink. Enter the BYOB restaurant. Now, BYOB isn’t a big thing in London and while many places will let you bring your own booze, you’ll find some charging exorbitant corkage fees for the privilege. So if you can find a place that offers free BYOB, you’re golden. Tayyabs in Whitechapel is a personal favourite.

Nightkey was a happy accidental find of mine. Sometime last year I was at a warehouse party in West London (wanky, I know) and these guys were hawking their new member’s card. I didn’t think anything of it, signed up to their free trial and quickly realised how amazing it is. Nightkey partners with bars, restaurants and clubs across London and gives members 30% off food and/or drinks on designated days of the week. Again, it’s a great way to visit places that the old purse strings may not usually stretch to. Standard membership is free for a limited time so get on to it!

Free Museums
There are dozens of free museums to visit in London on a lazy weekend. The V&A (Under 26s get half price membership!), The Natural History Museum, The Wallace Collection etc. etc. they’re all pretty great and while you will have to pay to enter the special exhibitions, I’m sure you’ll be able to find something to interest you in the regular collections. Try some of the more off the wall museums too – The Geffrye Museum in Bethnal Green, The Wellcome Collection in Euston and St Barts Pathology Museum.

Cheap theatre tickets
Visiting the West End can be a nightmare on the pocketbook. But you can get cheap theatre tickets if you’re willing to put in a bit of effort. Lots of the big shows will have ticket lotteries that can net you dirt cheap tickets on the day of (I won The Book of Mormon one!), theatre ticket resellers will occasionally have the odd cheap ticket if you’re on your own or willing to sit apart and weekday and matinee shows are generally cheaper than the weekends. You can also get great group rates if you can round up a big group of mates. It goes without saying that smaller shows will have smaller ticket prices so keep an ear to the ground for those great finds.

Cheap Day Trips (Oxford, Bath, Brighton)
You know what? London is damn expensive. So get out. There are dozens of cheaper places to visit just a couple of hours out of London by train. And if you book far enough in advance, the train tickets should be nice and cheap as well. Historic university towns like Oxford and Cambridge are gorgeous and just a smidge over an hour away from London. Bath is stunningly beautiful and if you book cheap tickets in advance, you can splurge on a spa day at the Bath Thermae Spa. Soaking in a rooftop mineral bath overlooking the Somerset countryside will do you a world of good.

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