So we all know that London is undeniably one of the most expensive cities in the world.
In fact, recently, London over took Hong Kong as being the most expensive city to live and work in.
It is said to be twice as pricey as living in Sydney. To me that is just insanity, Sydney is already hard enough to get by in, and we are getting paid quite literally twice as much as what any 20-something-year-olds in London are getting paid.
I take my hat off to all of you crazy Australians who come to London, especially those with minimal money, and start a life here. After getting paid $22.50 an hour as a casual in Australia’s entrepreneurial supermarket Woolworths, I can’t imagine starting up a shitty 12 hour job in London getting paid minimum wage.
Having said that, London is an incredible city. I was surprised and taken aback at how quickly I started to like London, especially because coming back to London was something I initially did not want to do. You may have to deal with grumpy women and men aging from 18-50 plus through peak hour on the tube, and wear multiple layers during winter just to enter a pub and have to strip back down to a t-shirt and jeans, but this city sure does have something about it that keeps pulling me in.
Maybe its the fact that this International city has all kinds of independent human travelers from every centre of the earth, people who come here as a pit stop to enter Europe, inspired people who come here for the opportunities that perhaps Sydney, New York or Tokyo may not be able to offer their career, and people who, having been sick of their day-to-day life back home, book a one way flight to London in hopes of something fresh, something a little more exciting and eccentric.
Whatever it is I have really enjoyed my past week here, being a traveler, traveling on literally nothing, London to me was a gate way to becoming super thin as I wouldn’t be able to afford to eat, and a harsh haven of bitter cold that I would come to resent it for.
Instead, I have eaten an abundance of food and I have been walking around wearing less than what I was in Germany (which to me is heaven in itself). It may be cold, but my Aussie thick summer skin has started to evolve to the European winter, and I may be broke, but I am definitely not going without food and water.
Who said being a broke traveler in London had to be expensive? Here are some ways to explore the city and enjoy your time in London without spending a dime.
1. Walk – Ok I know right now it’s Winter. But that is no excuse not to walk here and there, you’re traveling, you’re in no rush to get to work. Put on an extra layer of clothing and get out and enjoy that hour walk to Camden, or the London Bridge! After all, the cold weather probably means you haven’t been doing as much exercise as you should be anyway. London is a beautiful city to get lost in, and people, although they might seem a little bitter, can be super helpful and friendly, I doubt anyway would be rude to you if you walk up to them with a smile on your face and your radiating that positive energy out from you from walking the streets of a new city! A brisk walk every day will also help with your blood circulation, which in winter can go a bit astray. Getting your body moving and your blood circulation flowing will help your immune system fight off any nasty’s that try to invade you over winter. It will help all those fluids and nutrients in your body flow the way they are supposed to flow and it will help your body proportion the heat you so desperately need. As well as that, it will get rid of any toxins you may have throughout the body (beer and wine to name just two).
2. Museums (but especially The Natural History Museum) – If you think you don’t like museums, think again. London’s Natural History Museum has something for everyone! I have been there twice in the past week, spent easily over 4 hours there, and I am still going back for more tomorrow. It is so much fun, so interesting, and completely free! The Natural History Museum is open from 10:00AM to 6:00PM. I am not a big museum girl, I don’t really understand modern art and I have such a short attention time span that I just can’t concentrate long enough to take anything of museums in, but when entering this museum, my eyes as big as a fishes, my attention span grew and I was that of a small child in a candy store. I have never been so enthralled in a museum before. If you get to this museum and you feel it’s not for you (very unluckily) then take appreciation to the architecture of the building. Inside you will find that each terracotta tiling that that rises up to the ceiling of this beautifully built building, has different animals and plants creeping and carved up them. Snakes slither up the sides as well as birds flying towards the top. The building was first opened in 1881, it is a historical landmark in itself without even looking at what it holds inside of it.
As well as this museum you can also add the Science Museum, National Gallery, National Maritime Museum, Tate Museum and the Imperial War Museum to the penniless pleasures of London.
A little monkey creeping up the Natural History Museum
3. Dumpster Dive – Yes, it is what you think. Dumpster diving is a fun, vibrant way to get yourself some food… for free! Think about how many sandwiches Starbucks make each day and don’t get eaten, how many bakeries bake fresh pastries every morning that they can only sell until they close that night. How many fruit and vegetables come in and out of our super markets everyday, they get bruised or a little battered and are seen as unfit fruit to feed us (they can be kept in freezers for months and shipped half way across the world but if they fall on the ground for less than 5 seconds they are trash, how can you justify that?). Dumpster diving, or dumpster searching is a way to minimize waste and it won’t put a dent in your bank account! In London, my usual way of Dumpster diving, (going to the back of unspoiled bins of big co-operations and swimming through their bins for goodies) is a little hard as most super markets here have a inclosed area where they have their ‘waste’. However, London is home to many a Starbucks, Pret-A-Manger, Eat, Costa, and hundreds of bakeries. If you are aware of what time the one you are closest to closes, you can usually gain a few not even day old pastries or sandwiches from behind the store! Sometimes you can even go in and politely ask them if they are about to throw out their food, would they mind giving you some to take home. This of course doesn’t always work, employees can be scared to get in trouble from their bosses, or bosses can be reluctant as they don’t want a law case on their hands, but if you never ask you shall never receive! There is a whole community of people all over the world who get food from alternate, creative ways that are non-cost affective, support a minimalistic lifestyle and provide freedom of food for thought whilst supporting our environment instead of hurting it. For instance, some of these people are known as Freeganisms. There are websites to help you sort through some trash and to help you start a life of ‘Freeganisming’. Try looking on trashwiki.org or freeman.info for some inspiration on getting creative with feeding yourself and others. Also, there is a wonderful collective called “Food Not Bombs”, an all-volunteer run community that collects food that would other wise go to waste, and feeds it to others. They are world-wide and anyone is welcome to join the movement to help collect, cook, feed and eat. I am going to one of their free lunches this Friday! Like their page on Facebook to hear more about them or read about them here: foodnotbombs.net or alternatively on Wikipedia’s page foodnotbombswiki.
4. Drink some tea and get to know the locals – I cannot even express how much fun I have had the past week, sitting on the couch, at the table or lying on the floor, drinking copious amounts of tea, with the three girls I have been staying with in London. There is something about London apartments/houses. They are so quaint and architecturally different to those of what I have back home in Australia, you look out the frosted window and you see that grey British sky with a little bit of blue seeping through, the birds are still chirping and depending on where you are, you can faintly hear the tube passing by, making its way around the city. Herbal Tea is a part of my every day life, but since being in Europe and especially London, tea has become my savior. There is just absolutely nothing better than sitting down with good company, a cuppa in your hand, and chatting about… well absolutely anything! From how everyone’s day was, to what is next to come in each others lives, to (and yes I’ll admit it) a little bit of guilty pleasure gossiping. A free event for all, a great way to warm yourself up and connect with those in your life around you, whether it’s reconnecting, or connecting for the first time, tea can open you up to those around you.
5. Pubs and bars – Who says you need to go to a bar and spend a stupid amount of pounds on your beer. The pubs in London are those of that as well as being a way to keep out of the cold, are also a cultural kind-of thing to do. AND! Usually the pubs have a whole range of board games for you and your friends to sit down and enjoy! Last night I spent a good hour and a half asking my friends questions from Trivial Pursuit. We were tempted to play Guess Who, and give a few card games a go but we had to meet a few others at another pub that was to full and loud to play any games.
It’s such a great way to pass the time, next time you go out have a few drinks (if you’re a drinker, for me this isn’t an issue, as I no longer really drink besides perhaps your casual glass of red every now and then) at home before heading out, so that when you get out you don’t have to waste so much money on alcohol… Or alternatively, just don’t drink!
6. London Markets – The London markets, a great day event that will leave you full from all the free taste testers, and inspired to create some delicious new meals of your own, or maybe start up some new crafts. I LOVE markets, it is a dream of mine to make my way around the world selling the crafts I create and the food I make. So for me, markets are a great way for inspiration and I usually get so caught up with whats around me it pushes me to create new ideas and plans on how I am going to construct it into my life. My favorite markets are usually those you find at small festivals or country towns (If you are ever in Ireland and find yourself near West Corks countryside, ask about the markets that get shipped each weekend to the different small county towns that lie near the waters edge, they are MAGNIFICENT), but London’s markets are really something else! My favorite are the Camden Lock markets. I love Camden, it is my favorite area in London, I have met some of my favorite people in Camden there and had fabulous times by my self, and with others. The best bit about the Camden markets (for me) is the vast range of food stalls they have, every thing you could imagine, made fresh in front of you, catering to all, from vegan sweets to meat galore. Ethiopian, Brazilian, Italian, Turkish, English, French locals of London, cooking their authentic food for you. Just walk through and grab some testers, it will take you about an hour just to pick what you want to eat, you don’t want to make the wrong decision!
There are also the Brick Lane flea markets in East London, which are every Sunday, these markets are filled with vintage clothes, little knick-knacks and antiques that you can bargain down. Columbia Road Flowers market, a lively, colorful market are also located in East London, situated close to Brick Lane and are also every Sunday!
The Portobello Road Market has been around since the 1800’s here in London, located near Notting Hill. I am yet to go to these, (I will be going this weekend) but have nothing but wonderful things about it!
There are always things to do and see that can cost you nothing! There are so many ways to explore a city, you don’t have to necessarily spend money to do these things. Get creative and learn to research what to do. You’ll be surprised how much is actually for free! Check out the London locals page on Couchsurfing as well, that is a great way to discover free events and like-minded people to hang out with! London may be the most expensive city in the world for some, but with some perseverance you can make it possibly even the cheapest you have ever been in! All it takes is an empty wallet and a little bit of character 😉
A little note – Apologies for how little photos I have on this post! Haven’t been keeping track of my surroundings with my camera the past week!