Updated on March 26, 2014
Updated on March 26, 2014
London on the cheap is a good way to guarantee an adventure, like getting lost in the outskirts of East London with my mother in law.
Let me back up a bit and forewarn you all that you’re going to see a spike in our expenses for the next few weeks but we have a good reason. We’ve invited Drew’s mom to come join us to do some family-history hunting and so we’re picking up a third person on our costs for awhile. She’s had us all around the countryside in a rental car sniffing out traces of her family history. We’ve seen crumbling abbeys, ancient churches and thatch-roofed houses all as a result of her research. She tells us to which family each location is relevant, but it’s mostly just a pleasure to see her diving into this interest.
But before we got into all that rental-car goodness, as I alluded to earlier, she and I took a day to tackle London on the cheap, while Drew stayed back to work.
London’s expensive reputation is also true for its attractions. Here’s what we were up against. (Here’s where we didn’t visit).
1.) London Tower for instance is $31.51 per adult, and that’s only if you specify that you don’t want them to assume a $3 donation added to the ticket. We were satisfied to snap pics from outside the tower walls.
2.) St. Paul’s Cathedral entry is $23.43 per adult
3.) Westminster’s Abbey entry is $29.08 per adult
4.) The London Eye is also around $30 per adult.
Already we would’ve been at $115.02 per person.
We were so busy tracking down the cathedrals on Mary Ann’s list that we didn’t have time to even think of what we were missing. Not to fret. There are still quite a few free attractions for those not interested in hunting down cathedrals:
1.) The British Museum has free entry and only charges for special exhibits.
2.) This is also the case for the Victoria and Albert Museum.
3.) Tate Modern, a modern art museum also has free entry…
4.) as does the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square …
5.) and the Natural History Museum.
Due to my fervent determination to check every single church off of Mary Ann’s list, we did not make it to any of the above free attractions. Just the churches and there are oh…so…many. It was actually a neat way to go about exploring London because the churches significant to MaryAnn’s family history are scattered and took us all the way from the East Side to Cheapside area right in the shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
I’m not the most directionally confident person (…in fact I may literally be the least directionally confident person) and as I said Drew had stayed behind to get work done, so Mary Ann and I did a few needless circles and hopped on a few wrong busses throughout the day but we found each and every one of those churches.
Including her favorite, St. Dunsten’s church on Stepney where we followed 10 police vans down the street and walked right through a sidewalk brawl.
Seeing anywhere on the cheap side
There are so many things you can do for free, even if you’re visiting a city. Europe has beautiful architecture all over the place and we find ourselves very entertained simply by finding “Old City” and reading the plaques to get a background of history. This can entertain us for hours. Or in Kiev there are quite a few cathedrals that don’t charge admission as well as an open-air arts market where artists line the streets with beautiful paintings.
This entire trip, we’ve spent $281.14 on sites.
1.) Boat tour to Navagio “Smuggler’s Cove” in Zakynthos Greece
2.) The Acropolis in Athens, Greece
3.) Museum Island in Berlin
4.) Salzburg Castle in Salzburg
We could have spent much more but there are honestly so many things you can do for free.
A bit of travel philosophy
It’s easy to feel like you should go see all the tourist attractions when you arrive somewhere. And if you’ve got the funds, totally do it.
But we are always traveling. And if we said yes to every “site” everywhere we went, there’s no way we could make this last more than a few months. Are we missing out? I guess it depends on what you’re looking for when you travel.
This goes a long way back for me. A few years before the gas prices got so crazy, my family and I went on a road-trip from Ohio to Alaska and back. We slept in the van most nights and spent a whole lot of time driving, but it was the only way my family was able to afford the trip. And it was epic. I watched the landscape change from the window and I watched the aurora borealis floating ethereally in some middle distance above our little family van. We watched salmon jumping up the stream and we saw the clouds roll out over the peak of Denali.
Alaska offers such a wealth of natural beauty that it might not make a fair example of how tourism on the cheap works, but in this London experience with Mary Ann, I saw Cathedrals that were over 1000 years old, and remnants of the Roman wall and the London wall hiding in the cracks between high-rises.
The list of things that make travel enjoyable for me is so long, that I can sacrifice some amazing sites if it means I’ll get to go. The longer your list of demands for a meaningful trip, the less likely you’ll be able to go or rather, keep going. If you want to see all the sites, you can absolutely do that feasibly for two weeks or so. But for non-stop travel, you just have to be a bit more intentional.