Cheap vacations/trips are somewhat of a speciality of mine, when I went to Paris in December I paid 82 Euros for transfer and hotel and I am currently planning to go to Vienna or Amsterdam in February or March. However the last time I went anywhere was to London. It was my third time there and despite the fact that I & a friend went over New Years, it was my cheapest time ever. We got there on Dec 30th and left on the third of January. We paid 70 Euro for our flight and roughly 50 for 3 nights of accommodation. Additionally I spent 200 Euro in London (about 35 for a name necklace by Tatty Devine and about 13 for a DVD & I guess roughly 40 for day card on the London tube/underground. Adding it all up, I spend about 112 Euros for food and my own amusement.
If you’re not from Europe then that will be pricy and would definitively blow my budget. If you are you are pretty lucky and will find a cheap flight with Ryanair, AirBerlin or EasyJet. You should book ahead though. A friend of mine went to London over New Years as well, she booked in January 2012 and paid 270 for a one week stay in a private room in a hostel and the flight. We booked in late October and weren’t so lucky, we ended up in mixed dorms but I will come to that later. Also you should be spontaneous and not mind great discomfort, we spend the last night on the airport and I thought it would be a complete nightmare but it actually was okay. There were lots of people our age and all of them were sleeping on the floor just like us and there was security so I felt pretty save as well (the airport is London Stansted which reminds me that we had to take the bus from Stansted to Liverpool Street which costs you about 11 pounds I think but we paid at Bremen airport, which is where we started so I haven’t counted it as part of my expenses. In general Stansted is way cheaper than Heathrow but if you have a long distance flight I guess there is no way around it)
We had 2 different hostels one with a mixed dorm for 18 people and another one with a mixed dorm for 24.
The first hostel was The Greenman Bestplace Inn, in Paddington. We shared our room with 16 other people, most of them Americans actually. Everybody was really nice and the rooms where clean. The staff is very friendly and you get a coupon for a half-priced drink since the hostel happens to be above a pub. This is really cool especially if you haven’t been to London and don’t know where to go, you will get to talk to some of the other guests (not just from your room) and somebody will always be able to recommend something.
The other Hostel was really close to Hyde Park, sadly I forgot the name. It was twice as expensive as the Greenman tho and not as clean. Plus they did not have free Wi-Fi which is rubbish as you can get it at any decent hostel nowadays. The bathroom was a complete disaster and the rooms weren’t to clean either (but it was okay, you get what you pay for and we got extremely lucky with the Greenman). Just like in the Greenman there where mainly young people (with one exception he was a creep tho, sleeping underneath me, and when I woke up he was starring straight at me, sort of touching my bed).
I guess if you want it cheap, got to Tesco its less expensive than most others and they are all over the place and easy to find. Pub food is great too and not too pricy and McDonalds can be found everywhere just like Nandos (who are a bit more expensive but so good). So I guess if you really try, eating on a budget is no problem.
Since you are in England you probably want to drink a pint which come in at 4 pounds (roughly) so drinking can be pretty expensive. I got lucky on New Years tho. We went to see the Fireworks at 6 a clock and got a really good place (in front of the London Eye). They started playing music at some point I didn’t recognize a single song at first, and I didn’t like a single song. But they got pretty mainstream at the end which was fine because at that point I was slightly drunk. We met two English girls and they had everything Jack Daniels, tequila, vodka and beer and they were really happy to share (also they were really drunk).
Well, we went to the New Years Day Parade which had a surprising number of American Marching Bands and Cheerleading Squads. But there are other things to do which are free as well:
1) Go to a Museum, lots of them are free in London
2) Go to a Park (Hyde Park or any other)
3) You can have a look around London’s many free Markets (my favourite is Camden Market but Portobello, Spitafields and Greenwhich Market are great too
4) Go visit Covent Garden and make sure that you visit Tatty Devine who are located in Monmouth Street (they have another shop in Brick Lane)
5) The Changing of the Guard is free too of course
6) Also you can look at most of the sights from outside (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey)