A Backpacker’s Practical Guide To Affordable London

London Eye and Big Ben at Sunset

My Backpacking Adventure, exploring the best of London on a tight budget

Low on budget as I was already visiting Paris, I took the high-speed train to London for a 3 day backpacking expedition. London, being one of the busiest cities in the Europe, was not an easy place to visit while being almost broke. It was a test of my patience to take walking trips to busy places like the Buckingham Palace and museums but at the end of the day, it was well worth it.

London Eye and Big Ben at Sunset

I took it as a challenge to pack light and not get attracted to pricey diversions the city had to offer, so I just got on with it. I forced myself to buy a smaller backpack with packing cubes to better organize all my things that I had to carry. As I was travelling light, I brought with myself low maintenance, wrinkle-free (or almost wrinkle-free) clothes and a light weight scarf as a minimalist fashion accessory. My shoes were a comfortable pair of sandals and a pair of fashionable sneakers which were no less cozy. Small packs and bottles of toiletries and a quick drying travel towel.

Day 1: Starting off my London adventure!

I had read plenty of blogs on backpacking in London and so I planned to stay in a hostel called Clink78. It was an old converted courthouse in Earl’s Court. Although it was a bit out of the way, the hostel was close to King’s Cross Station from where you can travel almost anywhere in London (anywhere but Hogwarts, sigh). Clink78 gave a community vibe which made me feel like I was back in my university all over again.

I had a private room in the hostel which wasn’t exactly the definition of perfect but it was good enough as I only had to stay for two nights. There were plenty of bathrooms and showers on each floor so I didn’t need to wander for the facilities. Though I did buy rubber flip flops for the shower (who knew what lurked in there?). The former courthouse, now the TV room, had free Wi-Fi as well! The staff wasn’t as good as it would be in a 20 bed hostel but they were really helpful to me and offered the same treatment to every guest that arrived.

As I was only staying for three days, I bought a Travel Card which was quite useful. I could travel unlimitedly in certain zones around the city. My first walking trip was to the National History Museum. Most of the museums in London are free but this one caught my attention. It has an enormous collection of exhibits spanning multiple feeds – from giant dinosaurs to tiny insects.

London Chinatown

From there, I took a walk to the Buckingham Palace. The only problem was the rain that started as soon as I got there. I remembered an advice from a friend that whenever it rains, head to a pub! And as there are so many in London, it didn’t take me long to find one on the Palace Street. I headed over to this pub called Bag O Nails, with striped floors and a long bar. The rain ended soon enough and so I finished my pint of beer, took a free tube map, studied the bus route and made my way to China Town. Why China Town? Because there’s plenty of cheap food at loads of street stalls and some markets as well. The variety they offered was amazing!  From American fast food to Middle-eastern and Asian take-out, I had a little of everything I could eat.

Day 2: Taking in the street culture

The art galleries in London are free as well but I couldn’t help but go to East London on the second day for its famous street art. I took a walking tour, sticking pretty close to Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road, where almost every surface is filled with graffiti, sculptures and paste-ups. Though it was crowded, I found the best art on the side streets, which meant a break from the crowd. The graffiti shows a variation of styles – from traces of strong artistic heritage of the area itself, to bright colors of the shop shutters on near Fashion Street, to Eine’s Anti and Pro walls on Ebor Street.

London Street Art

Day 3: Hiking through the mainstream (no pun intended!)

I got to see London’s most iconic landmarks by paying an extra pound or two on top of my travel card for a boat trip along the South Bank with a public ferry. The Thames River is famous for its travel photography opportunities, where you get to see sights like the London Eye, the Parliament and Big Ben. I hiked up the river from where I could get a great glimpse of London Tower Bridge as well.

Big Ben London

For cheap and cool souvenirs, I was advised by a friend to head over to Camden Market. The shops in the market were a sight to behold. Some storefronts were brightly colored, while the others were decorated with sculptures representing the goods they sell.

Camden Market London

I encountered Camden Lock while making my way further north; the entrance to another labyrinth of shops of the market. The food court inside had foods from all over the globe – Korean, French, Malaysian, Turkish, and many more. No wonder it’s called the Global Kitchen. Vegetarian, organic, and meaty delights, there was something for everyone. I made my way through the Stables Market and into the North Yard, my final stop where I bought a few beers with the friendly tourists who were also visiting there.

So there you go, my expedition to the amazing London! I will recommend a backpacking trip to every avid tourist, it really opens up the city to you and is so much more educational (and fun!) to explore.

About The Author:  Emmeline Brown is a passionate travel blogger. She shares an uncanny love for food and travel and has been dreaming of exploring the world ever since she took a trip to the Grand Canyon with her parents when she was 13. You can read more of her work in her blogs written for a Dubai travel agency Travelex Travels & Tours.

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