© 2012; 2005 Connecting: Solo
Travel Network & Carol Perehudoff. Information
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.
London on a Tight Budget – A Solo Travel Report
By Carol Perehudoff
The biggest mistake you can make when visiting London is to convert dollars
to pounds in your head. At nearly C$2.40 (or US$2) to £1, this will result
in an immediate feeling of faintness and a conviction that you should never
The only way to enjoy yourself is to accept that a pound won't buy much
more than a dollar back home, pretend the exchange rate is 1:1, and maintain
this illusion until you get your VISA bill.
That said, there are ways to make a holiday in London, if not cheap, at
least within the realm of reasonable.
This is always the biggest expense for solo travelers, but there is one
appealing option. During vacations many universities open up their residences
to vacationers of all ages.
- The Urban Learning Foundation near Canary Wharf in East London offers
private, lockable single rooms in shared suites, a garden courtyard, and
a chance to check out the up and coming area of the Docklands. Daily prices
start at £27 per night but drop to £130 for a full week, or even less for
- Another lively area slightly off the tourist track is Islington, once
home to Tony Blair. The City University of London offers a variety of residences
in and around this area. While all residences are open to visitors during
summer months, the "Executive" rooms (equipped with TV and en suite) at
Walter Sickert Hall are available year round. Prices range from £21 per
night to £60.
- For central stays, the London School of Economics has a number of residences
available during Christmas, summer, and the month-long Easter vacation.
Prices start at £26 for a single room with shared bathroom, or £42 with
Before departure, ask your travel agent for current Travelcard prices,
which usually offer savings for tourists.
- London museums are one of the top bargains in the world. Unbelievably,
the best are free: the National Gallery, the Victoria & Albert Museum,
the British Museum (don't miss the Elgin Marbles which were spirited –
rightly or wrongly - out of Greece in 1806 by Lord Elgin).
- If, like me, you have an obsession with the court of Henry VIII, check
out the National Portrait Gallery just around the corner from the National
Gallery on Trafalgar Square. There you can become intimately acquainted
with the high-flying courtiers of the time.
Food and Drink
If you're in Trafalgar Square anyway, and fancy eating lunch over someone's
grave, the cafeteria in the crypt of St-Martin-in-the-Fields offers reasonably-priced
English fare and, considering its location, a surprisingly cheery atmosphere.
For those intrigued by the idea of subterranean snacks, St Paul's Cathedral
also has a crypt café, just a stone's throw from Nelson's tomb.
Though visiting historical sites like the Tower is pricey, a good dose
of lore can still be had for the cost of a pint.
- The Anchor Pub, at 34 Park Street on the bank of the Thames (Tube Station:
London Bridge), is where Samuel Pepys watched London burn during the devastating
Great Fire of 1666. No less importantly, it's also where Tom Cruise stopped
in for a pint in Mission: Impossible.
If you're there on a Friday or Saturday, grab a cheap meal at the nearby
Borough Market picturesquely located under the railway tracks. With a history
dating back to medieval times and crowded with jostling gourmands, it's
an atmospheric spot to stop and grab a lamb-burger, or a freshly-squeezed
- Another good pub/market combo starts at the Ten Bells Pub at 84 Commercial
Street in Whitechapel (Tube Station: Aldgate East). An artsy, laid back
bar now, it was once patronized by some of Jack the Ripper's victims; the
prostitute Mary Kelly, for example, is said to have plied her trade right
outside the doors.
- If this lurid legacy hasn't killed your appetite, check out the food stalls
across the street at the hip organic Spitalfields Market (on Sundays).
Finally, if all this budgeting (and too much warm beer) has left you feeling
bedraggled and not fit to be seen on trendy Kings Road, a hair cut at the
Toni & Guy Training Academy at 75 New Oxford Street (Tube Station: Totenham
Court Rd) will only set you back £5. In the UK, call 020-7836-0606 to make
Now that's a hair-raising good deal.