The Cost of Travel in London: A 2021 Budget Breakdown


How has it taken me so long to get around to writing a budget breakdown for London?

London is everything to me.

I was born in this incredible city and spent the first 23 years of my life exploring everything it has to offer. Even now, a decade after leaving to travel the world, I consider London home and return every single year to spend my summers strolling its streets.

Whether you’re a local or a tourist, it’s impossible to run out of things to do and see in this magnificent place. A list of things to do would stretch into the hundreds, if not the thousands; my top restaurant recommendations would require months to visit them all. You could spend a week in London doing nothing but visiting world-class museums and leave with just as many left on your to-do list. And that’s before I even dive into the countless day trips that are up for grabs around the U.K.

And all of this wonder? Yeah, it won’t be a surprise to hear that it comes at a steep price.

London is expensive, but there are plenty of ways to keep your budget to a minimum — when I returned to the city after backpacking in Southeast Asia, I was still able to keep my costs low by staying in hostels and eating the delicious street food. But if you’re all about that luxury life? London is unlike anywhere else in the world, with so many world-class hotels and restaurants to dip into.

Today, I’m going to be sharing exactly how much you can expect to spend on a trip to London.

st pauls cathedral and millennium bridge in london

The Cost of Accommodation in London

The Lilac Door ($146 a night): The Lilac Door is an adorable family run bed and breakfast full of charm and warmth. Clean, comfy and simply decorated rooms provide guests with a welcoming vibe. And that welcoming air is carried throughout the establishment with attentive and kind hosts and a stellar breakfast with options of gluten-free, vegetarian or an English plate. In fact, they take the “breakfast” part of bed and breakfast quite seriously with a multi-tiered spread of croissants, yogurts and omelets. Use the energy from the breakfast fuel to walk to attractions such as Dulwich Picture Gallery and Crystal Palace Park.

Blackbird ($207 a night): Taking in all the elegance at this hotel, it might be surprising to learn this is a pub first and an accommodation second. Fuller’s Pub in Earl’s Court is a classic ‘pub with rooms’ and serves a high-end gastronomic menu. The brew is known best for their cask conditioned ale, but the impressive drink options carry over into wine and spirits. The best part? After you’ve had a few, you don’t have to stumble far to find peaceful sleep. This is a classy all-in-one kind of establishment. In fact, there is a wistful darkness to Blackbird. The dramatic touches of décor bring on the romance while the crisp cleanliness allows comfort to be on the forefront. 

Milestone Hotel Kensington ($428 a night): This is Cinderella’s escape. Glamour and British tradition mingle endlessly in this residence. The rooms and suites boast dramatic colored headboards, floor-stroking curtains and stylish chandeliers. Set aside some “me time” to reset and sweat at the 5-star Wellness Spa which offers a variety of rejuvenated treatments, a sauna, yoga and Pilates classes and a resistance plunge pool. The hotel is a haven for dining and drinking options with a list of bars and restaurants on the property and happenings such as teatime and a picnic in the park. When it’s time to leave the premises (and it might never be), the staff is flawless in accommodating their guests. 

THE AVERAGE COST OF ACCOMODATION IS $264 PER DAY

The Cost of Transportation in London 

Your first travel experience from London is going to depend a hell of a lot on which airport you choose to land in. Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, or even London City: all are potential options, but only London City is anywhere close to the centre of the action. For every other airport, you can expect an hour or two of public transport to get into central London. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass.

Once you’re there, though, moving between attractions is a breeze. Buses, double decker buses and trams are all frequent and notable ways to travel in London. Prices vary per trip from $2 to $6 but you will need a prepaid Visitor Oyster Card or Oyster Card to get on and off each mode. It’s important to note, you can hop on and off as much as you’d like within one hour of your journey’s first touch in and you will never pay more than $6.43 each day no matter how many touches you make. If you opt for the 7-day pass you’ll pay $26. 

The underground railroad, better known as the Tube, is a busy network that covers 9 zones. It’s a common and inexpensive way to get around, as long as you purchase the correct card rather than buying a single ticket pass during your journey. A single ticket costs $6.50, that’s more than double what you’d pay on an Oyster Card at $2.85. In fact, if you plan on using public transportation for more than one trip during your stay it’s best to get the Oyster Card.

The overground railway is another option, although not as commonly used as its underground counterpart. Stops are less frequent, but the view is better. Connected to the railway system, Docklands Light Railway, or DLR is an innovative driverless option linking Emirates Air Line cable car and London City Airport. Oyster Card applies. 

When you tire of the railway and bus system, hop on a boat instead. The Uber Boat by Thames Clippers is a unique way to skip the (oftentimes) chaotic London transportation scene and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding Thames River. Oyster Cards are accepted and kids under five ride free, while an adult single fare starts at $5.50 and an unlimited River Roamer ticket goes for $21.

And sometimes you just want to oversee your own pace throughout a city. In that case, pedaling through London will do the trick. There are many dockless bike share systems with companies such as Santander, Jump and Mobike. But if you’re looking for both quality and a measly price tag, Mobike is your pick. They offer some of the cheapest rides starting at $1 per 20 minutes but if you’re in town for a while, the best choice is the 30-day rental for only $14.

THE AVERAGE COST OF TRANSPORTATION IS $8 PER DAY

The Cost of Food in London

Yeah, I’ll point directly at the elephant in the room right now: English food has a terrible reputation. Jellied eels, spotted dick, and toad in the hole are often called out by visitors to my homeland, with many still believing the British cuisine pre-millennium is still in favour. That couldn’t be any less true!

London is one of the greatest cities in the world for eating these days, and you’re going to have so many delicious meals while you’re in town.

The full English breakfast is stacked with a smorgasbord of goodies: eggs, potatoes, sausage, baked beans, toast and tomatoes. Shepherd’s pie is a national indulgence, but it is not exactly a pie, more like a casserole of meat and gravy. The beloved pie and mash is set up with two flaky pastries sandwiching meat stacked next to mashed potatoes and smothered in gravy. It’s a tasty way to feast. 

When it comes to eating out, you will find breakfast to be a bit cheaper than lunch and dinner even when you go for the full traditional English breakfast for $9. If you’re not a big breakfast person, go for a croissant and a cappuccino and dish out $7 for the whole shebang. 

Lunchtime is a casual happening and might consist of a sandwich for $8 (we are known to use butter instead of mayo), a traditional English pie with various meats for $11, a sausage, mash and gravy plate for $11 or a plate of chips (also known as French fries) for $4. If you want a lunchtime beer at a restaurant you can save a few bucks as they run for $5 in casual cafes versus the pricier option of $7 in a pub. 8 14 28

Dinner is the most expensive spurge but it’s usually worth it. Fish and chips run for $21 but if you do it right, you’ll want to buy two! Fish and chips are my go-to during my time in London but not all dishes are created equal. Some are cheaper ($10) during the lunchtime hour but be mindful of the difference in price and tastiness. Grilled cod, flounder or salmon starts at $15 while a good steak will go for $20. A glass of wine starts at $8 and cocktails start at $10. Keep in mind, if you eat in a gastro pub, you’re more likely to see meal prices drop to about half of those in a proper restaurant but the quality is still high enough to do the trick!

After you’ve eaten your way through the city it’s ok to step outside the traditional English cuisine to taste the many flavors from all over the world. With an abundance of individuals from different cultures and backgrounds residing in London it’s sensible that their country’s cuisine has also set up shop. There is an overload of outside influence across the city. If you are craving any type of food derived from any culture, chances are there is a restaurant serving it.

AVERAGE COST OF EATING OUT IS $57 PER DAY

The Cost of Activities, Tours, and Entrance Fees in London

Where to even begin? There’s so much to do in London that I could write an entire article for each and every activity.

We’ll start things off with the big hitters.

When it comes to paid activities within the city, the London Eye is one of my favourites.

I’ve been for a ride on this giant observation wheel three times now — once in the morning, once at sunset, and once in the evening — and it’s one of my favourite places to take friends who are new to the city. It’s a great first destination in London, in my opinion, as it gives you a sense of the size of the city and where the attractions are in relation to each other. I recommend going at sunset, as at this time, you’ll still be able to make out the monuments but also get to watch the city start to light up. Prices come in at £24.50 for a standard ride or £34.50 to skip the line. As somebody who has spent over an hour queueing to board the Eye, I recommend the latter if you can afford the extra cash.

The Tower of London is another iconic location that you have to check out. Blending together over a thousand years of history, while you’re there, you can catch a glimpse of the Crown Jewels

Churches and museums grace nearly every corner, enlightening history fanatics of the centuries old religious presence and modern art spirit that lives there. Most of the to-dos are best seen by simply walking through them. Big Ben, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge are all a sight to be seen and an opportunity to capture that ‘London pic’. The London Eye is an experience for those craving a 360-degree view of the city. The windowed pods adjacent to River Thames carry you up and around for views you can only see on the Eye. Prices start at $28.   

Piccadilly Circus is London’s version of Time’s Square. It’s busy, brightly lit and full of people. But most importantly, it’s free. Yes, people watching at the circus is totally free of charge and totally worth it. For all you night owls, take notes. Pubs, Broadway productions, restaurants and clubs will keep you happily vibing until the wee hours of the morning if you so choose. 

Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens is a beautiful way to see a different side of London. Picnics, bike paths, swans, blooming gardens and a memorial walk pathed with history are all features of this must-do. There are no costs associated with this venture but there are vendors scattered around eager to serve you a coffee or lunch to accompany you on your stroll. 

And day trips?

There’s so many opportunities to get around the

After you’ve wandered every museum, toured every church and sat in every pub, it’s time to explore the outskirts. Oxford and Cambridge offer a portal back in time with winding cobble stoned roads, thousand-year-old churches and universities that hold both clout and tradition. Stonehenge is a mystery worth digging into during your time here. Just short of a three-hour drive from London, you will find a pile of rocks strategically placed. By whom? No one knows. Day trip tours start at $80.

London’s beautiful Hyde Park!

The Cost of Travel Insurance in London

Travel insurance: If you’ve read any other posts on Never Ending Footsteps, you’ll know that I’m a great believer in travelling with travel insurance. I’ve seen far too many GoFundMe campaigns from destitute backpackers that are unexpectedly stranded in a foreign country after a scooter accident/being attacked/breaking a leg with no way of getting home or paying for their healthcare. In short, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

Travel insurance will cover you if your flight is cancelled and you need to book a new one, if your luggage gets lost and you need to replace your belongings, if you suddenly get struck down by appendicitis and have to be hospitalised, have your camera stolen and need to buy a replacement, or discover a family member has died while you’re overseas and now you need to get home immediately. If you fall seriously ill, your insurance will cover the costs to fly you home to receive medical treatment.

I’ve used World Nomads as my travel insurance provider since 2012 and have nothing but wonderful things to say about them.

I’ve made two claims with World Nomads (once when my partner broke his brand new phone in Thailand, and World Nomads paid for the repair cost when I got home to London, and once when crashing a rental car in New Zealand, when World Nomads paid out the full $1,500 to repair the front bumper with no excess or fees to pay from my end). Because of this, I feel comfortable recommending them to you.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TRAVEL IN LONDON?

Accommodation: $264 per day
Transportation: $8 per day
Food: $57 per day
Activities: $38 per day

Total amount spent per day: $367

44 Comments

  1. November 19, 2015
    Reply

    We spent a couple of weeks pre-Christmas in Brixton two years ago (in a very cute Airbnb also!) and I fell in love with it. The first night our host sent us to Brixton Market for dinner, and we ate ALL THE DUMPLINGS at Mama Lan’s and after that we pretty much loved being in that neighbourhood. I wish we could afford to live in Brixton full-time – you and Dave don’t fancy going halfsies on a house for us all to share, do you?!

    • November 20, 2015
      Reply

      Um, yes, we absolutely do! :-D

  2. Katie
    November 19, 2015
    Reply

    I was wondering why on earth you were having conversations about candy, sidewalks, friends, pants, restrooms, drapes, parking lots , and jelly. Seemed like odd/trivial topics of conversation! ….Until I realized that those are all Americanisms and, being American, I didn’t even realize that there could be a second meaning to that sentence :D

    • November 20, 2015
      Reply

      Hahahaha! That made me laugh so hard.

  3. November 19, 2015
    Reply

    I just ate my oatmeal breakfast, but after reading this article and looking at your photos I think I need to eat something that contains fat.
    I should have stopped reading after a title, cause I knew this would happen to me.

    • November 21, 2015
      Reply

      Hahaha! I should have added a warning to the top of the post as well ;-)

  4. November 19, 2015
    Reply

    I lived in London for two years and didn’t venture to Brixton once. Now I’m kicking myself! But I’m a north of the river girl and you can definitely eat your way around Archway…

    • November 20, 2015
      Reply

      It’s funny how England has a reputation for having terrible food, but one of my favourite things to do there these days is eat!

  5. November 20, 2015
    Reply

    Aww what a lovely story! I should have timed reading this better though – it’s 5pm and I’m starving now ha ha! A friend of mine used to live in Brixton but I haven’t been for years – sounds like there’s some amazing places for food – I’m gonna have to pay it a visit next time in in the city I think…

    • November 21, 2015
      Reply

      Definitely do so, Keri! Brixton Village is so incredible for eating :-)

  6. November 20, 2015
    Reply

    Brixton is totally going on my travel list!
    Also, just looking at those photos makes me hungry (and I have just finished dinner…)

    • November 20, 2015
      Reply

      Then my work is done! :-) Glad you enjoyed the post!

  7. Lauren
    November 20, 2015
    Reply

    Lauren!! You absolutely have to go to Ms. cupcake – its a vegan bakery…..everything they make is to die for! X

    • November 20, 2015
      Reply

      Ah, amazing! Will add it to my list :-D

  8. November 20, 2015
    Reply

    I have only been to London once and never made it to Brixton. However I did spend a day at Camden Market and had an amazing time there.

    • November 20, 2015
      Reply

      I love Camden Market! Lots of fun and great for people watching :-)

  9. November 20, 2015
    Reply

    I got so hungry from reading this post and looking at pics :)

    • November 20, 2015
      Reply

      It took me longer than usual to write it because I kept having to head out to grab some food!

  10. November 20, 2015
    Reply

    My God, Lauren – these photos! Arghghghgh, it’s only 9:20am here and I’m now ridiculously hungry!

    I’ve always wanted to try out the mad-hatter’s afternoon tea. Have seen loads of my friends go and then paste the photos all over Facebook. Definitely one to add to the list for when I’m back home next!

    Brixton sounds like a food-lover’s dream come true. I love the idea of having a ‘local’ currency, too, in order to help support local businesses. Brilliant.

    • November 21, 2015
      Reply

      Haha, sorry! I’ll be writing a post about the mad-hatter’s tea party next week and sharing lots of photos :-)

  11. Alice
    November 20, 2015
    Reply

    I live here!! And it’s AWESOME! I love all the places you mention. Would also recommend Spanish… Brindisa, Gremio de Brixton, Boqueria… Or for slightly smarter meals go for Salon or Naughty Piglets. If you want cocktails there’s Shrub and Shutter (although that’s gotten more expensive recently) or the Beast of Brixton. Gremio does good cocktails too. I love the food in Brixton – I’m a triathlon blogger but reviews of Brixton restaurants always seem to creep onto my blog because I just want to give them a big shout-out – so I am so pleased you have done too!!

    • November 20, 2015
      Reply

      Yay! I’m glad I could do it justice :-) Thanks so much for the suggestions — I’ve added them all to my list of where to check out when I return (and maybe hopefully move there!)

  12. November 20, 2015
    Reply

    Yum, the food pictures look delicious! Being in your hometown with a traveller’s mindset is the best thing! I’ve rediscovered my own country recently as well and I’m happy to live at home. Also wandering around with a camera makes you appreciate all the sights you would normally miss!

    • November 21, 2015
      Reply

      It makes such a difference, doesn’t it? I was even admiring the lampposts as we were walking around London recently haha!

  13. November 20, 2015
    Reply

    As a born-and-bred Londoner for 27 years (I moved to Manchester 6 months ago), I’m almost ashamed to say that my only experiences of Brixton have mostly involved underage drinking and various emo gigs at the Academy. I’m travelling at the moment and trying to plan a Christmas visit home with my boyfriend and I think it’s safe to say that eating my way through Brixton is now firmly on my list! …as well as the rugby!

    • November 21, 2015
      Reply

      Hahaha! Yes, definitely add Brixton to your list! And the rugby was so. much. fun!

    • November 21, 2015
      Reply

      P.S. I love your Taiwan post!

  14. Davy
    November 21, 2015
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,

    Forget about the food in Brixton and drag Dave down to the O2 and watch a live band. Having just been to see Garbage play the 20th anniversary of their debut album I can definitely recommend it.

    Loved the book by the way and from your blog over the years I’m guessing there is more to come ;-)

    • November 21, 2015
      Reply

      Ha! Our music tastes don’t align all that often. I’m all about classic rock and he loves grunge. One of the the great things about London, though, is how many people play there! I’d be going to gigs all the time if I lived there :-)

      And thank you! So happy to hear you enjoyed my book :-D

  15. November 22, 2015
    Reply

    That Honest Burger looks and sounds amazing. I will definitely have to check it out on my next visit to London! I’ve never spent much time in Brixton, and now I’m wondering how in the world I missed it.

    • November 23, 2015
      Reply

      It’s definitely worth visiting! :-)

  16. November 24, 2015
    Reply

    Oh wow! I could probably live there too with all that food, and you are right they are not that pricey for London. I lived in the UK for almost 5 years around 12 years ago and haven’t been back since. I remember that I was always complaining about the weather (!) but now I kinda I miss it, especially during the hot and dry season here in Indonesia. And I also miss the prawn cocktail crisps!

    • November 25, 2015
      Reply

      Prawn cocktail crisps: so good! It surprises me how much I miss the weather, too.

  17. November 25, 2015
    Reply

    Oh yum, I could eat everything in this post.
    Looks like you had an amazing month!

    http://www.justbeingbrooklyn.com

    • November 25, 2015
      Reply

      It was definitely a month of eating! :-D

  18. Laura
    December 17, 2015
    Reply

    This has been so helpful. My friends live near Brixton, this article pushed me to get my friends to explore Brixton more. We’ve had great experiences at Mama Lans and Okan. Thanks for posting this!

    • December 17, 2015
      Reply

      So happy to hear that, Laura! :-)

  19. December 26, 2015
    Reply

    Looks like you guys had a fabulous time. Can I explore London with you?? LOL!! Why would you have to fake an American drawl? That is so terrible. Granted I think Brits can fake an American accent better than anyone. You sound even better than Americans do and I am American. LOL!!! Can’t wait to see what your new year of travel brings.

    • December 27, 2015
      Reply

      Haha! I fake the accent because nobody can understand my British accent and I get fed up with having to repeat myself 50 times only to have people ask me why I didn’t just pronounce it the American way. Americans usually can’t even understand me when I say my name!

  20. Deb at Headout
    August 20, 2016
    Reply

    Congratulations on your success with Dave. I have always felt that no matter where you go, home is home. I love food blogs, and yours was that and more. The apartment is stunning, and the food looks delicious. The Mad Hatter’s tea is one party I want to go to. You must have had such a delightful time. Prawn cocktail crisps sound so yummy.

  21. January 12, 2017
    Reply

    I just love Brixton one of my favourite areas in London always check it out for the Jamaican food to be found there. As for Borough market what a heavenly place for a market fan like me. I adore a good farmer’s market and am hoping to collect guest posts on markets around the world.

    • January 12, 2017
      Reply

      Yes! I definitely need to head back there for an eating holiday soon :-)

  22. Wendy
    October 14, 2019
    Reply

    It was interesting reading about your experience in Brixton.
    I would be interested to visit the place too if I ever go back to London, though I would not be interested in trying out most of the food.
    Perhaps, I could get a nice flat too that have a nice little kitchen that I can try out my cooking skills.

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