I remember when I first moved over to London three and a half years ago, how much my bank balance appeared to drop when I converted my hard earned Aussie dollars into pounds. I was lucky though, that the exchange rate of dollars to pounds was much higher then than it is now. For new expats in London or people who are just holidaying here from Australia the cost of being in London and experiencing everything it has to offer is probably a little overwhelming!
I was set a challenge by Travelex to create the BEST day possible with a budget of AU $150 to show you just how far your dollars will get you in one of the world’s most expensive cities. You can easily spend money very fast in London but if you’re on a budget there are a number of ways to make your money last longer without compromising on fun and still having an authentic London experience.
My day started out at the Tower of London Travelex store to collect my Multi-currency Cash Passport. This is a prepaid currency card which can be loaded with your choice of 10 available currencies and can be used just like a debit or credit card. $150 was converted into pounds using the day’s exchange rate and loaded on to my card, leaving me with £78.72 spending money.
My first stop for the day was Monument to the Great Fire of London, where you can climb the 311 steps to the top for views over London. This is a great place to go if you want an aerial view of London but don’t want to pay the £25.95 admission price to The View from The Shard. The Monument only costs £4. It’s tiring walking up all those stairs but you are rewarded when you reach the top.
My other favourite place to get an amazing view of London is the Sky Garden. It’s free to enter but you need to book in advance and unfortunately there were no time slots available on this day.
Climbing up and down those stairs had made me hungry, so I made my way over to Borough Market. All the food stalls looked and smelled amazing but this insane toasted cheese sandwich was calling my name. I also couldn’t resist getting a hot mulled apple drink to warm me up. This is the middle of January after all and it was freezing!
With my hunger satisfied I wandered down to London Bridge City Pier to catch the Thames Clippers - a river bus service that runs up and down the Thames. A cruise down the Thames is a great way to see London from a different perspective and the Thames Clippers is the cheapest way to do it. It runs all the way from Putney in the west to Woolwich in the east and you can hop on and off at any point along the route. It cost me £6.50 to travel from London Bridge to Greenwich and you can even use your Oyster card to pay for your journey. If you’ve got a Travelcard on your Oyster you’ll save one third off the price of your journey.
You’re able to spot Cutty Sark, the iconic British clipper ship, as soon as the boat approaches the pier at Greenwich. I’d been to Greenwich a couple of times before but hadn’t yet visited Cutty Sark so this was my first stop of the afternoon. The full price of admission is £12.15 but you can get half price entry with an ArtPass so I only had to pay £6. I’ve got so much value out of my ArtPass over the last 6 months, I highly recommend getting one if you live in London!
I was interested to learn that after a few years of service in the tea trade with China, Cutty Sark was then used in the wool trade with Australia, transporting wool from Sydney to London. The ship has been restored remarkably well after fire damage in recent years. I enjoyed exploring the decks and the staff were very knowledgable and happy to answer questions.
The Old Royal Naval College is just a short walk from Cutty Sark. It’s completely free to visit and there are three main attractions here: the Discover Greenwich visitor Centre, the Chapel and the Painted Hall (the painted hall is definitely my favourite!)
Starting to feel a bit peckish again, I stopped by Greenwich Market for a delicious snack - churros filled with caramel and chocolate fudge sauce!
I then climbed the hill in Greenwich Park to see the view over London. The Royal Observatory is also located here although I didn’t go in this time. If you plan to visit both Cutty Sark and The Royal Observatory its worth getting a combination ticket to save a few pounds, or the ArtPass will get you half price entry here as well.
Daylight was fading fast so I hopped on a bus over to North Greenwich to catch the Emirates Air Line cable car. You can use your Oyster card again here and I definitely recommend doing so as it’s cheaper than paying cash and there always seems to be a queue to purchase tickets, at least on weekends. A single fare on the Oyster card will cost you £3.40 and the journey takes around 10 minutes.
From the cable car it was an easy DLR ride over to Canary Wharf for the final activity of the day. I had a little bit of time to explore the Winter Lights festival before meeting up with my boyfriend for a bite to eat and some ice skating!
So here’s a little breakdown of how I spent my budget:
- Monument - £4
- Oyster card (including Thames Clippers and Emirates Air Line) - £20
- Food and drink - £21
- Cutty Sark - £6
- Card fee - ATM Withdrawal - £1.50
- Ice skating - £16.20
Surprisingly, even after a jam-packed day of activities I still came in around £10 under budget!
A big thank you to Travelex Australia for providing the Multi-currency Cash Passport, I had a fantastic day!