London on a budget – updated for 2013.

Last year I published a piece on enjoying London without the benefit of a banker’s salary – so that’s most of us then! I had so much feedback about the post that it seemed logical to update the information for 2013, for all those eager visitors planning to come to London over the coming months.

For despite these so called times of austerity, London is always packed with tourists in the summer, but more than ever we quite rightly demand value for money when on holiday. Something which I’m afraid London can be terrible for. Rip off hotels, restaurants and other venues abound, so be very judicious in your choices and always research a restaurant before wandering in. Bad food and indifferent service can be surprisingly expensive in London and awful establishments survive precisely because they pray on unsuspecting visitors.

But, on a more upbeat note intense competition for your money, certainly in the hotel department, can work to your advantage. It’s always a good idea to shop around — sites like Travel-zoo and lastminute.com are very useful — and to book early, most hotels have deals advertised on their websites. The following are very useful:

www.expedia.co.ukwww.travelzoo.com/ukwww.lastminute.comwww.laterooms.comwww.trivago.co.uk

As always, your accommodation is the top priority. Well, the already reliable Travelodge chain have added value to their locations across London with a £223 million investment into the brand. New, more stylish and comfortable bedrooms – including new beds! – have been installed, in addition to revamped bathrooms. It makes staying at a Travelodge branch an even more attractive option, considering that pricing has largely remained the same despite the refurbishment programme. I stayed recently at the newly refurbished Covent Garden branch, right smack bang in the West-End. Rooms can be booked for under £80 – even in high season – if you book early. It is less than 5 minutes walk from the underground station and the staff are friendly and helpful, everything you need from a budget hotel in London.

Back to my favourite subject — dining out in London — as I’ve said before gourmets are spoilt for choice but those on a strict budget will struggle in all but the most basic eateries, certainly in the West-End. So here is where those trusty websites come handy again — www.toptable.co.uk features scores of restaurant offers, updated daily and the canny tourist can save up to 50% of their food bill. Here are some good value eateries worth checking out:

Ariana II – 241 Kilburn High Street, 0203 490 6709

Bi Bim Bap – 11 Greek Street, 0207 287 3434

Busaba Eathai – 106-110 Wardour Street, 0207 255 8686

Dishoom – 12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, 0207 420 9320

Franco Manca – 4 Market Row, 0207 738 3021

Mildreds – 45 Lexington Street, 0207 494 1634

Marsala Zone 9 Marshall Street 0207 287 9966

Pizza Metro 64 Battersea Rise, 0207 228 3812

The ubiquitous lunch time menu also remains a better value way of dining out, particularly if you want to sample London’s finer establishments. And the number of free attractions continues to grow: museums, galleries, shows and attractions are plentiful in the British capital. Entry into the world renowned British Museum, Natural History and Science Museums won’t cost you a penny. Should keep the kids amused for a few hours, at the very least!

If you have any further questions on your planned stay in London, please feel free to email me at James@thewineremedy.com

Cheers!

James Lawrence

James Lawrence is a self confessed wine obsessive, passionate about discovering and promoting the lesser known wines and wine regions of the world. He is a frequent contributor to decanter.com and runs an interactive, community led wine forum, thewineremedy.com In 2004, he went to study in Bilbao, Northern Spain. Luckily for him, the famous wine region of Rioja was just over an hour away by car. He began to spend a great deal of time there, visiting the wineries in Rioja and speaking to local wine makers. Their passion for the subject and their pride in the wines was infectious. He began to realise what an amazing subject wine is and how wide and complex the world of wine could be. Subsequently James moved into wine retail while finishing his degree, and was hooked. James also enjoys food and travel writing - he lives for Italian and Thai cuisine!

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