London is England's thriving capital city and the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom. Home to such iconic attractions as the Tower of London, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, London attracts approximately 15 million international visitors each year, according to Visit England's London Tourism Statistics report. Though London has a reputation for being an expensive city to visit, carefully budgeting for airfare, accommodations, meals, transportation and attraction entrance fees will give you peace of mind and help you better enjoy your trip.
Plan to spend between $1,000 and $2,500 for round-trip airfare from the United States to London. The cost of the ticket varies dramatically depending on the season and whether you're flying coach, business or first class. London's peak tourist season is June through mid-October, according to Fodor's. Save money and beat the crowds by visiting London in the spring and flying coach class.
Decide what type of accommodations you want during your stay in London. Choices range from small backpacker hostels that average between $12 and $24 per person, per night, to luxury hotels that cost more than $300 per night. Note that though these prices are listed in U.S. dollars, British pounds will be used when booking accommodations and other travel considerations. Consider booking your hotel reservations when you arrange your flight; some travel agencies and websites offer discounts for booking both at the same time.
Set aside plenty of money to cover your meals in London. Plan for at least three meals and two snacks per day. Pubs and cafes generally offer the best value for money, with meals ranging between $10 and $25. Expect to pay $180 or more per person for a three course dinner in a fine dining restaurant, such as Gordon Ramsay's signature restaurant on Royal Hospital Road.
Decide which London attractions you want to visit when planning your attractions budget. London offers many free attractions, including the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum and the Tate Modern art gallery. Admission to other popular attractions, such as the Tower of London and London Zoo, runs between $20 and $30 per person.
Budget money for transportation in and around London. London has a comprehensive public transportation system that includes a subway, buses, trams and light rail to help you get around the city. Pay around $5 for a single fare or purchase a one-day public transportation travel pass for approximately $16. Note that taxis are also available; fares vary based on time of day, distance traveled and journey time.
Don't forget to budget for souvenirs. Keep in mind that tourist shop T-shirts range between $20 and $30 each.
Stay at a hostel or hotel that offers free continental breakfast to shave a few dollars from your meal budget.
Consider buying the London Pass, which offers free admission to many popular attractions and discounts on transportation passes.
Remember that the U.S. dollar and British pound do not convert dollar for dollar. Though conversation rates vary, plan to spend up to $2 for each pound.
Taxis in London are expensive, starting at a minimum fare of approximately $5.
All prices mentioned in the article were valid at the time of publication.