Money Saving Hacks in London

Tower Bridge

London is a very expensive city to live or to visit but there are countless ways to save money. Some of these do require some time and administration on your part but it’s worth it for the thrill of knowing you got a great deal or the feeling that haven’t been duped into paying for too much. Even if the savings don’t feel like much, every little bit helps.

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Chelsea and Belgravia Floral Displays

It’s spring and if you are an avid gardener, you could go to the Royal Horticultural Society Worlds Most Famous Chelsea Flower Show for between £58 to £116, depending on the session. Or you can take the freebie option and check out the amazing exhibits at Chelsea in Bloom and Belgravia in Bloom held the very same week. These displays have been an unexpected gem. Wandering about these posh suburbs and seeing these amazing, artful displays was such a treat!

The themes this year are “Flowers on Film” for Chelsea and “Into the Wild” for Belgravia. The artists do an incredible job working with flowers and natural items like bark and twigs to create amazing sculptures. It is wonderful to be able to walk around these suburbs enjoying the spring weather and viewing these artworks!

Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland (Chelsea in Bloom)
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Another Dispatch from London

London is a major city and there are always fabulous events happening, something to feast the eye around every corner and the opportunity to see and do things which are quite special. These are but a few recent examples.

Grand Designs is a TV show where the host, Kevin McCloud follows home owners building their dream home from blueprint to completion. There are often elements of interesting architecture or design and lots of drama in the form of cost and schedule overruns. Recently, there was an event held called Grand Designs Live. We had the opportunity to peruse stalls related to all aspects of home-building and design but best of all, we could see Kevin McCloud himself! He looks and sounds just like he does on TV!

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Tower of London

Considering the crowds, a visit to the historic Tower of London seems to be a “must do” for anyone visiting London. This building complex which dates back to 1066 has been used as an armoury, the Royal Mint, a dungeon, a menagerie, the home of the Crown Jewels and the site of a number of executions. Amongst the executions are some of the wives of King Henry VIII. Here are my tips for a good visit.

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Lovely London in Springtime!

London is gorgeous in springtime. People start to wear lighter jackets and sometimes you even see some shorts and skirts with bare legs! The flowers that sprout up everywhere are simply joyous. These flowers can be observed just doing everyday things around London. No special trip to some pricey gardens required. Just keep your eyes open and feast them on the cherry blossoms, daffodils, bluebells, hyacinths, tulips and all the other plants bursting into life to celebrate a new year of growth.

Columbia Road Flower Market – so unbelievably beautiful (but you will have to battle the crowds!)
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The White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury Cathedral

The white cliffs of Dover is famous but there is nothing like seeing something like this in person on a beautiful, blue sky day! The cliff-side walk is really stunning. Best to pay for parking up near the cliffs. You could search for parking close to Dover town but then you would have to climb up the hill to get to the cliffs!

I kept my eyes peeled on the water for some whales or dolphins but I didn’t see any but is that France I see? The high location also gives a stunning view of Dover port.


Stretch your legs on the drive home from Dover by stopping in Canterbury for a look at the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral. Tickets are about £15.50/adult or you can time your visit for a service so you pop your head in for a quick look for free!

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral

Bath, Stonehenge and Windsor

When visiting London, there are a number of places which can be visited on a day trip from the city.

Bath is a beautiful city. If you want to go to the famous Roman Baths, the tickets are best pre-purchased and are allocated in 15 minute time slots, so check your transportation timings! The tickets are quite expensive (approx. £26/adult) and can sell-out during peak periods such as school holidays and bank holidays. When you go in, you will be provided with an audio guide in your choice of language to help you understand the history and context of the Roman Baths. It is not a particularly large attraction but it is interesting. Take your time, try to ignore the crowds of tourists and try to feel the serenity and history of the baths!

Roman Baths
Roman Baths

Stonehenge is another interesting day trip destination not too far from London. Once again, tickets for this can be pre-purchased for approximately £21/adult or you can brave the long queue if you get there on a busy day without a ticket. A ticket will get you free parking at the carpark for the Stonehenge Visitor Centre. You will also get to view the exhibition at the Visitor’s Centre. No ticket required for the toilets or the gift shop. You can then choose whether to join the queue to be herded onto one of the giant coach buses that will drive you 2km to Stonehenge or you can walk the 2km. This walk is a delightful amble across some well kept paddocks and is quite lovely on a sunny day. Many people who paid for tickets chose to walk one direction and bus back once they had seen Stonehenge. It is important to note that even with a paid ticket, you will be unable to get close to the stones and you will never be able to touch them.

The cheaper alternative is to do the 2km walk to Stonehenge. Without a ticket, you may have to pay to park. Once you are within sight of the stones, you will see the crowds in the paid section. There is actually a small, heritage trail that runs parallel to the paid trail. This is free for the public. This trail is further back from the stones compared to the paid area but not by much. It’s a great free alternative to see the stones. You can read up on the history of the stone formation online and then check them out for free!

Whilst we were there, we did see some vehicular roads that get quite close to Stonehenge. If you don’t have a great desire to walk and don’t need to get close, it might be worth using your GPS and driving around the area. It is probably possible to get a good view from the road and then perhaps pull over for some photos.

Stonehenge – the view from the free path isn’t bad at all.
Stonehenge – free walking track to the left. On the other side of the fence on the right is the paid section.
Stonehenge – note the crowds of people to the right of the stones. They can’t approach the stone either!

A visit to Windsor Castle is also an easy day trip from London. This castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Once again, pre-booking of tickets is recommended on busy days as they do sell out. Tickets are around £28-30/adult.

WIndsor Castle
WIndsor Castle

London is not dismal!

All across the world when you speak to someone about their home country, you will get a stream of negativity. I have seen this from Australians, Canadians, Germans and now the English. You could argue that there can’t be anything too terrible by this list of countries. They are affluent, high-functioning, first world nations and not war torn, famine-stricken back-waters. In the UK, the most common reaction when a local finds out you have relocated there from the paradise that is Australia is “but WHY!!?? It’s DISMAL here!”

Dismal, what a horrid word and what a sad sentiment to say about ones own country. Defined as causing a mood of gloom and depression. Common synonyms are bleak, cheerless, desolate, dreary, and gloomy.

No country is without it’s problems, big or small. This is the case with the UK. Things are tough for many in the UK. Energy costs are high and inflation is high and yes, the weather is often grey and rainy. In London, the city is grimy, the rental market is insanely competitive and the cost of living vs average earnings makes things very difficult. You could also argue that politicians are lousy people no matter what country you are in. Nevertheless, there is plenty to be positive about.

Big Ben – looking spectacular on a gorgeous blue sky day!

It could be argued that without having some bad times you don’t appreciate the good times as much. Similarly without experiencing some grey and drizzly weather, you don’t appreciate the gorgeous sunny, blue sky days. Weather reporting in the UK is unreliable (apparently there are good meteorological reasons for why forecasts are more difficult in this part of the world). There have been many a day that have been predicted to be rainy but all of a sudden, the clouds will part and the sun and spectacular blue skies emerge. The side effect of the drizzle and rain is a beautiful shade of lush greenery here in the UK. This is something that someone who has lived in the dry parts of Australia really appreciates.

Anyway, the worst of the winter is over and there are the most glorious signs of spring everywhere. There are snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils. The cherry blossoms have come out and they are so enchanting, that it is impossible to say that London is dismal!

Cherry Blossoms in London – Aldgate Square
Snowdrops – the first harbinger of spring!
Turn the snowdrop over! There are all kinds of variations on the inside of the flower. A hidden secret! Exquisite!
Purple Crocuses near Horses Guard Parade
Springtime Daffodils

If you are sick of the cold, grey London weather, one of the best things is that London is a major transport hub. From here, there is so much of the globe which is easily accessible. Perhaps a short trip to the south of Spain for some warmth and Moorish architecture!

London is a massive city and the result is a melting pot of diversity. A huge number of people from all over the world live and work here and also plenty of tourists. The result is a dynamic city with lots of diverse, delicious choices to tickle your fancy in food and events.

An array of paella at the Portobello Road Markets
A lion dance during Chinese New Year blessing a restaurant for a good business year ahead.

There are plenty of other advantages of living in a big city. There are plenty of free and paid events, performances and lectures. There is also loads of opportunities to meet interesting people. The population density also means that the apps like Olio, that helps to reduce food and non-food waste work really well.

Olio is an app which helps prevent waste. Food Waste Heroes collect food which can no longer be sold and help to distribute it into the community. On this night, we got all these lovely Pret items for nothing.

London is very famous for it’s theatre scene. There are so many shows which are playing that the competition is fierce and the talent and quality of the productions outstanding. Whilst it may seem expensive to go to a big name show, there are plenty of ways to score a cheap(er) ticket.

West End Production of Sylvia based on the life of famous feminist activist Sylvia Pankhurst.

London is full of iconic sights. It’s hard to feel dismal when you look up and you see something majestic like Tower Bridge.

Tower of London
Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace
Victoria Memorial – crowds anxiously waiting for the changing of the guards
A great view of St Paul’s Cathedral from One New Change
City of London Skyline
Tower Bridge – often mistaken for London Bridge. It was painted in browns during the war to minimize visibility to protect it from bombing but was painted since in white, red and blue to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee. An iconic sight in London. Yet, before it was built, there were a huge number of competition entries as to the type of bridge that should be built across the Thames that can allow ships to go through. This bridge could have looked and operated in a completely different way! That’s the beauty of design! Different ways to achieve the same outcome!
Glass walkway on Tower Bridge. You can see the cars and river go past below!
These old motors used to be the way that Tower Bridge was raised to allow boats through. The system has been upgraded and these are no longer being used.
London City Hall
Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey

In addition to the iconic sights are the hidden gems. Walk around, look up, look around and you may see something interesting. Here are some cool places and things in London that I’ve accidentally stumbled across whilst wandering about.

The Iconic Lloyd’s building
Westminster Cathedral
Triton and Dryads Fountain – Regent’s Park

The people in London are kind and friendly people. This has been unexpected. It has not been difficult to meet people who have transitioned from being new acquaintances to being friends.

The public health system in the UK is dysfunctional at times but is free and is very good. The medical staff do their absolute best and are kind, supportive and competent.

When you need to get out of London, the UK is a big country with centuries of history to explore.

Castle Acre Castle
Bailey Gate, Castle Acre built in about the year 1200 and you can drive through it today!

No place is perfect. There will always be good and bad. Hopefully you can look around your life and there are some positive things, some joys, however small in size and that things are not dismal for you.