London Expert Travel Tips: A Holistic Guide to Discovering Hidden Gems, Budget-Friendly Experiences, Long-Term Travel, Nightlife, and More
What is GAFFL?

GAFFL connects solo travelers with similar itineraries to explore destinations together. Whether you are backpacking in Asia, road tripping in Australia, or exploring national parks in the US, simply type the destination you are traveling to, find travelers who are going there at the same time as you, connect with them, plan trips, meet, and travel together.

21st Jun | 14 min read

Table of Contents

    In 2021, Jennie, a British travel blogger and the creator of Jennie Wanders decided to leave the 9–5 world behind and fulfill a lifelong dream; to travel full-time as a digital nomad. Fast forward to now, backpacking Central America with her boyfriend and work partner, Tom, and making chaotic and crazy memories that will last with them for a lifetime!

    Through her blog and Instagram, she writes about her backpacking trips from a personal point of view. Jennie’s content shares the highs, lows, truths, realities, and behind-the-scenes moments of travel, giving an all-around honest view of what backpacking actually looks like.

    Jennie's mission is to inspire others to explore the world beyond their comfort zone and on a backpacker's budget. If you're looking to follow in her footsteps and discover London like a local, read on! In this blog post, she shares her insider knowledge on the best things to see and do in the city, along with expert budget travel tips and a one-week itinerary to help you make the most of your trip.

    Join The GAFFL Newsletter

    Join our subscriber list to receive the best tips on solo travel, helpful travel guides, inspirational travel stories, and more. You can unsubscribe anytime with just one click.


    Discovering London: From History and Shopping to Parks and Nightlife

    London is a big city, and if you’re a backpacker exploring it for the first time, you’ll have a lot to do! From once-in-a-lifetime bucket-list experiences to world-famous monuments, beautiful green parks, buzzing nightlife, traditional English pubs, bustling food markets, and an abundance of English history, London may end up as one of your favourite cities in the world. 

    If you’re traveling around London, you’ll notice a contrast in each of London’s diverse and different areas. For example, Central London, where most tourists flock to, is full of history, monuments, and buildings that date back to the 1600s. Here you’ll find the most expensive shopping malls, the West End theatres and some of London’s most famous parks. 

    Travel further east, and you’ll be greeted with the eclectic world of Shoreditch, Hoxton, and Hackney; some of London’s most up-and-coming spots for those wanting to party. Or by heading south, to Brixton or Elephant and Castle’s thriving music scene, you’ll experience food and cultural influences from the Caribbean, with reggae music on every street corner. Brixton also hosts large music events that attract artists from all over the world. 

    Wherever you end up in London, there will be something to do and something new to discover. Even after living in London for almost 30 years, I’m still finding secret hidden gems I had no idea existed!

    If you are worried about where to stay, don’t be. Just be sure to stay near a tube station; then you’ll be able to travel to every corner of London within the hour (well, unless there are tube delays, which, let’s be honest - happen often!).

    The Ultimate One-Week Itinerary for Exploring London

    One week in London gives you enough time to get a feel for the city. If you only have a short amount of time, be sure to base yourself near a tube station, and wear comfortable shoes as you’re going to be doing a lot of walking!

    Day 1- Explore Central London (Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Buckingham Palace) for all of the ‘iconic’ and famous London views. All of the major monuments in London can be accessed via the London Underground. In the evening, head to Kingly Court or Soho for a cocktail. If your budget allows, watch a show in the West End, or a comedy show at Leicester Square. Both of these can be booked last minute and in person near the venues.

    Day 2 - For your second day in London, check out some of the free museums. Some of our favorites include the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the National Gallery.

    Day 3 - If you enjoy live music, head north to Camden. Camden is known for hosting some of the best live music events in the country - not just London! It’s also home to the famous Roundhouse, where Amy Winehouse began her singing career. There are live music events and gigs that take place every evening in Camden!

    Day 4 - Want to see a different side of London? Head East. East London is one of my favorite places in the city and is especially good for travelers wanting to experience some of London’s best nightlife. Head to Brick Lane for vintage clothes shopping, Stratford for shopping, and Shoreditch for a night of letting your hair down.

    Day 5 - Head to the City of London with Liverpool Street or Tower Hill being a great place to start. Take a walk to see Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, and even hop on the Uber, boats sail along the Thames to Southbank - an area full of food markets and street performers.

    Day 6 - Catch a train to South West London or Notting Hill for quintessential London streets. Our favorite locations include Richmond, Putney, and Chelsea when exploring this side of London. Pick an area, stop for coffee and brunch, and take photos of the pretty houses, roads, and buildings.

    Day 7 - Squeeze in anything you didn’t get to do. From Colombia Flower Market to Borough Food Market, to shopping in Harrods or Hamley’s, taking a stroll along Oxford Street, or eating a picnic in St James’ Park. Leave this day free to soak up your last few hours in one of the best cities in the world.

    Hidden Gems To Explore In London

    Southwest London is a hidden gem to me. Many heads straight to Central London or to the most famous spots, like Camden and Shoreditch. However, I think Southwest London has so much to offer - even for budget backpackers like myself. 

    Southwest London includes spots like Richmond, Putney, Wimbledon, and Twickenham. All of these are incredible places to visit and justify a trip to London! 

    Richmond is home to London’s biggest park, and is one of the best places in London to ‘escape to the countryside’. Full of woodlands and open, vast fields, you can spot wild deer, take your own picnic, admire the views of the London skyline, or even go paddleboarding on the River Thames. The town of Richmond in itself is one of the best places in London to eat and drink, with lots of riverside restaurants and pubs. There’s even a pub that floods every afternoon from the changing tide of the Thames, which is definitely an adventure when you have to huddle inside with your pint out of the water!

    River Thames

    Wimbledon is home to the Wimbledon tennis courts, but even when it’s not tennis season, Wimbledon has so much to offer. There are plenty of pubs, restaurants, shops, and bars for travelers to visit, and just walking down the colorful high street is an experience in itself.

    Twickenham and Putney are both great for sports. From the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race taking place in Putney and Twickenham being the home of rugby, there’s always something going on in this corner of the city. Twickenham is great for travelers wanting a day full of drinking and watching - whether on the street or in the pub - Twickenham is known for hosting a great party. Putney is popular on the weekend with local rowers and tennis players, and it always has an incredible atmosphere.

    A Budget-Friendly Way to Experience the City

    There are so many budget and low-cost activities to do in London, which is another thing that makes the city so great! Some of the best budget activities in London including:

    - Having a picnic in one of the royal parks. Check out Richmond Park if you’re a fan of deer; they often come and sit with you whilst you’re eating your sandwiches!

    - Boarding the Thames Clipper/Uber boat to get around the city. Not only do you get to sail along the Thames for the price of the tube, but you get to see more of the iconic views!

    - Walking around Soho and China Town. Just simply walking around these areas and enjoying the atmosphere is an activity in itself.

    - Attending one of London’s major street parties or events. For example; Gay Pride takes place in Central London in July. This is a free all-day activity for all.

    - Visiting London’s museums, like the Natural History Museum or Tate Modern Art Gallery. Entry to most museums in London is free.

    - Browsing some of London’s best food, flower, and clothes markets. You can visit Borough Market, Old Spitalfields, Camden, and Colombia Flower Market for free. Just take enough money to get some street food - you won’t want to miss out!

    - Walking around some of London’s prettiest streets; for example, Notting Hill and King’s Road. Plus, some of London’s best street art and graffiti can be found in East London.

    How to Explore London on a Budget of £40-50 a Day

    Budget backpackers can explore London for around £40-50 a day. This includes a night in a dorm room, cooking your own food, and making the most of the free activities.

    However, if you have a bit extra to spend, I recommend heading out to some of the street markets for cheap food. This would increase your daily budget to around £60, still staying in a shared dorm room.

    If you want your own private space, private rooms in hostels or hotels cost upwards of £100 per night. And if you want to take part in paid activities, it’s best to budget at least £150 a day.

    Click here to connect with other solo travelers who want to share costs and experiences while traveling to London.

    Long-term Travel in London

    If you’re planning a long-term trip to London, I recommend staying out of Central London. Central London is busy and expensive; you’ll end up paying such a high price, you won’t be able to enjoy London properly. 

    If you enjoy fun nightlife and a good social scene, look at East London. This includes places like Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Stratford, Mile End, and Hoxton. They’ll be cheaper, and it’s still easy to get to Central London via tube.

    If you like a balance between nature and greenery and busy city life, look at Southwest London. With big parks such as Richmond, Old Deer Park, and Putney Heath, you are still only a 20-minute tube ride from central London but have a good balance of both worlds.

    Finally, if you’re looking for somewhere with a mix of nightlife, parks, atmosphere, and culture, head to the south or north of London. Areas like Camden and Brixton are popular with long-term backpackers as they’re well-located and well-priced.

    Wherever you stay in London, just be sure to stay near a tube station. Hardly anyone drives in London, and the most popular way to get around is via the London Underground. If you’re near a station, you can access all areas of the city within an hour.

    Meet locals in London and go on trips with them

    Jennie Wanders

    Best Time To Travel To London

    You can visit London at any time of year and still have an amazing time. With many rainy, drizzly days, London is prepared for even the worst cases of weather. You’ll never run out of rainy-day activities, that’s for sure! 

    But summer in London will always be my favorite. The days are long, sunny, and dry, and your time can be spent with friends in rooftop bars and beer gardens.

    London at Christmas is the most expensive time to visit, but for a good reason! Christmas isn’t taken lightly in England, and by the start of December, most shops, houses, and streets will be full of lights and decorations to boost your Christmas spirit.  There are endless events and festivals taking place all over the city, and there isn’t a quiet moment to spare. It’s an incredible time to visit London if your budget allows it!

    If you’re on a tighter budget, I recommend visiting London in the shoulder seasons(either Spring or Autumn). Prices for accommodation and transport will be lower, and there are fewer tourists. From the crunching of golden orange autumnal leaves under your feet, and the pink blossom trees lining the city in spring, shoulder season is still a great time to visit!

    London After Dark: Staying Safe at Night in the City

    London is generally a safe city to be in, even for solo female travelers. However, as with anywhere in the world, you need to use your common sense and be careful.

    Always stick to busy and well-lit areas, and don’t flaunt your new iPhone around for everyone to see. London is known for its pickpockets, so guard your belongings and keep them safe.

    The London Underground is generally busy from the morning until midnight. However, if you’re traveling alone and are unsure of the area, I recommend ordering an Uber to travel long distances at night.

    Visa Requirement for London

    This differs depending on the country you are from. If you’re from most of Europe, you can enter the UK for holidays and short trips without a visa. They can stay in London for up to 6 months without a visa.

    You must have a valid passport to enter the UK. It should be valid for the whole of your stay. You may also need a visa, depending on which country you’re from. If you’re from the US, you can stay in the UK as a tourist for up to 6 months without a visa, but you must meet the Standard Visitor Eligibility Requirements.

    The Pros and Cons of Different Transportation Options in London

    London has one of the best underground tube systems in the world; the London Underground. Similar to New York’s metro system, it has over 270 stations all over the city. If you’re using the underground for the first time, you simply need a contactless card to the board. There’s no need to buy an Oyster card anymore; as your debit/credit card won’t allow the costs to go over a certain capped daily amount.

    You can also use our famous red buses to travel around London. Sitting on the top deck is an experience in itself, and is inexpensive compared to the tube (although there’s a high chance you’ll get stuck in traffic). 

    Ubers are commonly used in London, or if you want something a little more authentic, hail a black cab. Black cab drivers have extensive knowledge of London but tend to be a tiny bit more expensive than Ubers.

    For the most eco-friendly option, you can hire a bike. Known commonly as ‘Boris Bikes’, Santander bikes can be found all over London. Anyone can hire a Santander bike with a debit/credit card, either through the app or at the bike stations.

    Pubs in London: Where to Find the Best Sunday Roast and Fish and Chips

    One of my favorite activities in London is visiting all the new (and well-established) food markets. They’re perfect for trying foods from all over the world, and usually have DJs, live music, and entertainment while you’re eating!

    Try out Mercato (Mayfair and Metropolitano), Seven Dials Food Market, and Camden Market if you’re new to London. The food stands here change often, but there will always be a variety of foods for both meat-eaters and vegetarians. 

    London is also known for its traditional roast dinners. Most pubs, big or small, will serve a roast dinner on a Sunday. This is a meal that consists of meat, vegetables, a Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, and lashings of thick gravy on top.

    Our favorite spot for a roast dinner in London is The Gun - their Yorkshire Puddings are nearly the size of my head!

    Make sure to try the food from a traditional fish and chip shop. Londoners are known for loving their fish and chips, and for some, it is a staple weekly routine! These are again dotted all over the city.

    Unique London Experiences

    There are so many unique London experiences, and more pop up all the time. One of our favorites is “Shit-Faced Shakespeare”; which is a unique spin on a Shakespeare classic in which the actors drink alcohol and improvise at the same time. The company that runs this event tours all over the world, so keep an eye out for when they’re performing in London! 

    Other unique events include drag race brunches; where you’ll pay a set price for live music, unlimited alcohol, and hilarious performances from the drag queens! We also have an Alcatraz-themed bar, where you’ll need to dress up in a prison outfit to be served any alcohol.

    If you want a big night out, try a BYOB Cocktail event. You’ll take your alcohol to create your cocktails in a fun and lively bar. This option is great for big groups!

    Worldpackers: Your Ticket to Affordable Volunteer Opportunities in London

    One of the best volunteer opportunities in London is Worldpackers. As a backpacker, you can apply to work in a hostel, kitchen, hotel, childcare facility, and many other places for as little as $10 a day. Check out the Worldpackers website for more information!

    Some more helpful travel tips from the pros!

    Join The GAFFL Newsletter

    Join our subscriber list to receive the best tips on solo travel, helpful travel guides, inspirational travel stories, and more. You can unsubscribe anytime with just one click.