A Student’s Guide to Experiencing London on the Cheap

My boyfriend and I have certainly been lucky with the places we have visited, particularly our frequent visits to London. However, this isn’t due to us having vast bank accounts – though we both work, we are students*. We’ve picked up lots of techniques for saving money whilst making the most of the big city, so I thought I’d share them.

*aka POOR.

1. Tube? What Tube?

Don’t get me wrong, I love the tube. It’s fast, easy to navigate and goes everywhere you need. However, one thing it is not is cheap. There are options to get a student Oyster card, but this requires a large joining fee, and a lot of extra hassle for students just visiting for the day. The cards themselves cost £10, and journeys are about £2.80 upwards! My solution to this is simple: use your feet! A few weeks ago I was in London alone for the day, and went everywhere, but only got one tube. Admittedly this was a little extreme as I later found out I’d walked 13 miles, but my point still stands. Check the distances between where you are and want to go to see if it’s walkable, and if so you’ll get such a better feel for the city! You truly miss out on a lot being trapped underground.

2. Hotels

I am a big believer in Groupon – Jamie and I once went to Amsterdam for three days for £169 each, flights and hotel incl.! So I’d definitely give that a check before booking a hotel. We’ve also done a one night stay with Omega Holidays which included a trip to Winter Wonderland, transport to and from the hotel and the bus journey there and back for £100! It’s all about shopping around.

3. And while you’re at it, buffets are good for shopping around too! 

Most hotels do breakfast buffets, so make the most of them! Stuff your pockets with bread rolls, pots of jam, fruit, whatever you can get your hands on, grab a seat on the steps of St. Pauls, and hey presto! you’ve got a free picnic! 

Me choosing a step for lunch at St. Pauls…


4. Museums

Tate, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and many more are all FREE! Each one takes up at least half the day, and doubles up as something to do on a rainy day, which there are plenty of in London!
 

Trendy cars at the Science Museum


5. Follow the Happy Hour

Happy hours often differ between bars, so follow it and switch when the hour ends! Share 2 for 1 deals, split bills, etc… Of course, the cheapest way would be to only order soft drinks, but as the title says, this is a student’s guide.

Belushi’s bar in Covent Garden – a bottle of Prosecco is £15 in Happy Hour!! 


6. Don’t pay for what you can already see! 

On my last trip to London, Jamie and I were horrified to have walked four miles to St. Pauls, to find admission was £16 (yes that’s s-i-x-t-e-e-n!!!!)!! Obviously, we did NOT pay. However, we were perfectly happy to walk around the outside of the building, which is truly beautiful! We also nearly paid £7 for a boat trip up the Thames (it was actually a good offer to be honest!), but then thought, what’s the point? We were just going to walk the same way, looking at the same river, but also experience the Thames-side atmosphere by walking. If you don’t need to, don’t pay! 

St. Pauls looked gorgeous enough on the outside, we didn’t mind giving the inside a miss! 


7. Graffiti walks


One of my favourite ways to see London is by following the graffiti. I love Banksy, and you can download tours of his graffiti which take you around Brick Lane, for example. It can take up to a whole day to cover an area, and is a great way to see a part of London you wouldn’t usually see. 

8. Use the bus instead of the tube

Since moving to London, my boyfriend has discovered that just £1 gets you on to any bus, for any number of stops! Yes, that means if you want to get the bus from Embankment to Trafalgar, it’s £1, and if you want to get the bus from SW Kensington to Southbank, it’s also £1. Who needs the tube?!

*photo and edit by me*



Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment with anymore tips you have and let’s change the opinion that ‘London is too expensive for students to visit’!!! 

My Heart in Istanbul

I have written before about the beauty of Istanbul, however the recent attacks in the Sultanahmet Square gave me an impulse to write once more.

When I was in the city last summer, I made sure to take note of any mention of terror (as a normal person would), but paid particular interest to how the locals reacted when it was mentioned in front of them. My boyfriend’s Turkish father, for example, did not know what the term ‘ISIS’ meant – because they call it something different over there.

Sultanahmet Square

My experience of the Sultanahmet Square was one of amazement. Knowing I was in the tourist and cultural centre of the city, a place with such history. Of course, we went to visit the Blue Mosque, which I had been apprehensive of due to the clothing requirements. Naturally, the place was full of tourists – women in short shorts and men in vests. The workers at the mosque required females to cover our heads, and some women were asked to wear a full cover up. This was all done in a very polite way – no annoyance was shown to the tourists disrespecting their culture.

Me being a typical tourist
Photo’s inside the mosque weren’t allowed but we got plenty outside!

The square was so full of life. Stalls selling simit and water as the heat was incredible.

My boyfriend’s dad’s BBQ’s are the best

People in Istanbul get on with their lives despite the threat that is all around them. I suppose me writing this is me expressing my own conflict: I am desperate, yet scared, to go back. Of course, the fear of terrorism is not something we in the West have conjured up. It is real and it is happening. But in Istanbul, life doesn’t stop for terrorism. People don’t not go on trips to the coast because of terror fears. I’m not saying we should not be vigilant, but should we let terror stop us from living out lives?

amsterDAM

During my time at college I wrote for the student newspaper. In the last edition, I wrote an article about my trip to Amsterdam that I was very proud of, and that others seemed to like. Sadly the article had to be edited due to it’s topics… I thought I’d post the original on here as I am pleased with it! 

Sitting on the plane to Amsterdam I had no idea what to expect, all anyone ever talks about is the drugs! I didn’t have long to contemplate what the on-coming weekend had in store – no sooner had the flight taken off I was seeing (unsurprisingly) stretches of green fields and canals. Travelling to the city centre, the first thing I noticed was how friendly the locals were. I almost cringed when my boyfriend started a conversation with a hairy, heavy coated local on a train with the line “where’s the best place to get some green then?” But was surprised when the man launched into an apparently rehearsed description of the local area’s hot spots. 
My classic ‘I am in Amsterdam’ shot – just beautiful!
The Ice Bar was something I was really looking forward to, however it wasn’t long before I realised I’d paid £25 to stand in a room of ice with a very small drink, and I can’t even remember if there was any music on! The experience came with a free cocktail beforehand, which was far more enjoyable than the drink I had in the room of ice. Oh well, the photos looked good! 
Me and my boyfriend Jamie, can you seen the chill in our eyes?
I feel obliged to inform potential Amsterdam-visitors of the annoyance that is the power of the bike in the city. In May 2012, DutchAmsterdam.com reported that the population of the city was 780,000, and they own an estimated 881,000 bikes! This became particularly obvious to me when I walked past a multi-story CAR park, filled with bikes. This sounds like a lovely, environmentally-friendly idea, which of course it is. It seems that when an Amsterdammer gets onto a bike, they become invincible. Bikers weave through cars and trams, fly through red lights, and travel at high speeds in bike lanes to scare tourists (like me) that stray onto the bike paths. You are warned with a ring of a bell, but rest assured, you never hear “excuse me” or “sorry!” I suppose it’s our fault for being a driving nation. 
iPhone camera doesn’t do this justice
A place you’ll be perfectly safe from being rammed by a bicycle is the Red Light District. Even if you don’t plan to use the area for its purpose, it’s definitely worth a visit! Just like the availability of cannabis, the RLD is incredibly surreal. Set along a picturesque canal (which you supposedly get chucked into if you get your camera out), the red lights illuminate window after window of women, surrounded by gawking men. The weirdest part is when you see a woman open her door to invite a man in, and you realise this stuff actually happens. 

This shock is all forgotten with a trip to one of the many coffee-shops. Need I say anymore? 
Manage to get a cheeky pic didn’t I!