Frugal Travel Tips to London and Paris?

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Time to cross another ocean! I’m going to London for a conference next week. My flight and most of my hotel stay is all paid for, but I’m going to try and tack on a few days for personal leisure. (That’s my cheap travel tip – take advantage of business trips!). I’ve already been there about 5 years ago as a backpacker, so I’ve hit most of the touristy spots.

Similar to my San Francisco itinerary, eating the food is right up there with seeing the sights. My usual thing is to go for small hole-in-the-wall food stalls, simple food like pub grub, and also fancy restaurants that do a nice prix fixe lunch for less than $25. For activites, I like to try off-the-beaten path stuff. I know London is like New York City and even more expensive, but if anyone has been recently and has suggestions please leave a comment!

I’ve already got tickets to the Mary Poppins musical with a friend, we booked ahead to ensure a space even though I know you can try to stand in line the day of to get cheap tickets.

Here are some other places I have in mind so far:
Costas Fish Restaurant or Rock & Sole Plaice – Fish & Chips
Incognico – Fancy French, ?25 3-Course Dinner + Champagne
Wagamama – Popular Asian noodle bar, for a change of pace
S & M Cafe – British Diner, Bangers ‘n Mash

Haven’t had a chance to look up anything in Paris yet – I’m debating whether a short trip is worth it. Hotels are cheaper than London and the food is better, so maybe. I’ve been there before also, so no need to rush to the Eiffel Tower or anything. Maybe some Da Vinci Code highlights…

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  1. For Paris, my best meal the last time I went there was at the Pied de Cochon ( Sure, it’s nothing new, but I mention it in case you’ve never been there.

    Bon app?tit!


  2. I went there about a month ago on business for the first time and let me tell you it was EXPENSIVE. I recommend the Rick Steve’s London travel guide (borrow it from your local library). I only got to sightsee for one day so I started out by going to the Tower Of London (~$28 for entrance, take the Beefeater tour). From there I took the tube to Waterloo, checked out the London Eye (didn’t ride it, was like $25), walked across the bridge to see Big Ben & Parliament, walked to Westminster Abby, walked through the park to Buckinham Palace (unfortunatly missed the changing of the guard), and then walked back to Tragalaf square. Yea, I don’t mind a lot of walking.

    I also took the London By Night sightseeing tour, it was one of those doubedecker bus tours but left at dusk and was considerably cheaper than the normal ones. Downside was you couldn’t hop off and on like the daytime counterparts, but I had already seen everything major I really wanted to see anyways and it was a nice relaxing way to end the evening.

    I didn’t really have any good food while I was over there – I was on the corportate card and over in the Canary Wharf business district so everyone always wanted to eat over there after work. The Chinatown is supposed to be fantasic there as well with reasonable prices.

    Good luck!

  3. I’ve been to that Rock and Sole Plaice fish & chips place, on Endell St., and it is really good, I used to stay in that neighborhood a lot. There was also a good sushi place around the corner but I forget exactly which street it was on or what it was called.
    My favorite restaurant in London is Andrew Edmunds– it’s neither super cheap or super expensive, but it’s yummy and a nice atmosphere. If you’re walking there from Picadilly, don’t be alarmed by all the strip joints you’ll pass on the way!
    Also try going to some of the food stalls at markets, like Spitalfields.
    The food I would most avoid in London is sandwiches. They are always really gross, with too much butter or mayonnaise. Or worse, too much butter AND mayonnaise! For cheap fast food, I would often go to the Indian or Pakistani-run fried chicken shops. It could be hit or miss, but sometimes they make the chicken with really yummy spices in the batter.
    Have fun over there, I’m jealous!

  4. I haven’t been there recently but one of the places I recommend although pricey is the Red Fort (Indian). The director of Bend it Like Beckham did an add on piece on the DVD for this film and was cooking at the Red Fort. This movie is only a couple of years old so I assume it is still around. It was there when I lived in London in ’86 (only for six months).

    Also check out TIME OUT magazine. It was for me a pretty good guide to London restauants and it is available online.
    Also check out Poons (Chinese). It rates a star under budget in TIME OUT. Red Fort is a CRITICS CHOICE on TIME OUT. Your Costas Fish Restaurant above gets a star under budget on TIME OUT.

  5. Buckingham balti for some cheap but tasty indian food, outside of buckingham palace.

  6. Paul DeMonth says

    I was just there in London – the food is GREAT! Hotels are reasonable too. Lots to do – couldn’t justify the cost of going to Paris by train, car, or air for the prices they wanted which were crazy. You need to book way in advance to get a good rate on Paris from London. I’d suggest going to places like Birmingham and the home of the GMT line south of London – there are great pubs, canals, places to see and go.

  7. Duh, I totally forgot about the Indian food! Gotta hit that up too. I don’t know about reasonable hotels, maybe compared to NYC. 🙂 My hotel is going to be a few hundred a night I think.

  8. For entertainment, I suggest walking tours ( They are relatively inexpensive and a great value. I personally take 2 or 3 of them on each visit to London.
    You can buy sandwiches at Marks & Spencer which are filling and decent in taste. I liked Wagamama as well.

  9. I second the vote for Wagamama – very fun place.

    One place that offers a convenient, quick, cheap & quality meal for lunch or breakfast is Pret-a-Manger (ready to eat). It’s a chain that has a self-serve concept for sandwiches (the pine nut pesto chicken sandwich is great), salads, desserts. Coffees & other drinks. They’re all over town. Nothing fancy, but great if you want a bite between seeing the sites & want to save your $ and time for dinner!

    Have fun!

  10. hey – i just came back from london last week. bring an umbrella. i got one of those tiny ones and literally had to pull it out everyday. it was actually my first time in london. it was great to see that it was so similar to new york. everyone here’s right that it’s sooo expensive. but here are a few things i would highly suggest:

    British museum – even if you’re not a museum person, you should just go there oh and it’s free. you can do it in under an hour – go see the HUGE Egyptian statues, most of the Parthenon, and the Rosetta Stone.

    go to Harrods. it’s a glitzy shopping place , BUT the highlight is the most unbelievable food court on the ground floor.

    walk around. london is like new york in that a lot of the ‘londoness’ can be experience only by walking around. there’s always a lot going on in the streets. but use the subway (i overestimated how much i could walk). it’s cheaper to buy a day pass, it’s not much more than a one-way. the subways are in different ‘zones’ but the main part of london is in zone 1 anyway.

    have fun 🙂

  11. I used to live in London and would hop over to Paris pretty often too. A good resource I love for travelling in general is timeout – their free website has lots of info.

    A few notes
    – note that the “Indian” food in London is generally Bangladeshi, and therefore not authentic. I still really enjoy the food though.
    – Wagamama: I used to love it as a student, but if you have good Japanese ramen places available where you are (Chicago, right?), it’s not really worth going to and be more expensive than US prices.
    – Time Out Cheap Eats Guide: go to a bookstore and browse, or just get one. It’s a great guide, and “cheap” meant up to around $50 I think, so it won’t limit you to just the bottom range.
    – No matter what, eating out in London will be very expensive. If you don’t want to do 100% restaurant meals, the major grocery stores (Marks & Spencer, Sainsburys, Tesco) have high quality ready to eat food.
    – Travel card: a must. If you’re staying for long enough, get the week long pass. You may need a passport photo for the week long one though, can’t remember for sure.

    This is getting rather long so I’ll skip Paris except for this: definitely go if you can!

  12. It’s been several years that I have been in London, but a really great place to eat is in the crypt of St. Martin in the Fields right next to Trafalgar Square. It is cafeteria-style, they are non-profit. Operating times Monday thru Saturday 8am – 8pm. Sunday noon to 8pm.
    See their website for prices, etc.
    Good luck.

  13. Last feb. I surprised my girlfriend with a trip to Paris. We stayed in the George V. It is a truely beautiful hotel and highly recommend it.

  14. I used to live in the UK, and my favorite restaurant for a good, inexpensive meal is Pizza Express. You will find them all over the place, the food is delicious, they have a nice wine by the glass menu, and the service is pleasant. Love it.

    Also, any Indian food you get in the UK is great. Just scrumptious. And don’t forgo fishnchips in any local pub.

    In Paris, you’ll have a much easier time finding affordable food. Bakeries sell baguette sandwiches (my favorite is a jambon et fromage, aka ham and cheese) that you can just munch as you walk around. Fresh baked bread, artisan cheese, and all for like 3 Euro.

    My favorite place to stay in London is the Citadines Trafalger Square. It’s very clean, very hospitable, and perfect for business travelers with amenities like free internet, washer and dryers, and kitchenettes in each suite.

  15. I went to London and Paris a few years ago and yes it was expensive. We actually did pretty good on a small budget. We didn’t really buy too many gifts to bring back. Most of the money we spent was trying out the various food places there. I don’t recall the place we stayed in London but in Paris we stayed next to the busy street Champ De Elyss for around $90 USD a night. That place is alive at night!

  16. Check out

    It’s a UK based money saving site which is always up to date on specials and discounts.

  17. Any other places near Paris one could stay with a family of 4 and possibly tour on train?

  18. Would like to see some of the ‘tourist’ spots but more importantly be able to soak up the atmosphere and culture on a shoestring budget.

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