A broke gal’s guide to surviving Londonland.

As someone who moved to this cosmopolitan metropolis in the hopes of pursuing a career in the arts it is really not a surprise to say that my bank account let out a little wail and a whimper any time I put my card into an ATM upon my arrival here, and now two internships and a glorified waitressing career in, it’s fair to say that I still have not grown 100% accustomed to the expense.

It’s one of the most gloooorious cities in the world but there is too much choice in what to do and where to go and half of the time you don’t even realise how much money you are actually spending.* After spending a year here as a self-described residential tourist, I’m penning my tried and tested tips for new inhabitants or those of you here for the weekend on how to have an absolute hoolie in the Big Smoke without having to pull a Bonnie and Clyde before hopping on that Ryanair flight to Stansted that you got in the flash sale.

Finding a solid gaff and saving that transport dolla:

  1. Choose the area that you’re living in/staying in veeeerrrrryyyyy wisely. I know that this seems extremely obvious, but there are dzivine areas around London outside of the usual suspects. There are so many options that won’t break the bank and will leave you in a super central spot so set the notions aside and do your research pals. Before moving here I had the aforementioned notions and chose to live in Chiswick, which I did not realise at the time is probably one of the most expensive residential areas in London. Absolutely. Ideal. Anytime other London pals ask me how much my rent is they genuinely recoil in horror and when I subsequently learn what their rent is I proceed to have a tiny blackout. The essential moral of the story is that unless you’ve successfully gotten all three numbers on a scratch card, don’t move to/book a hotel in an area full of millionaire yummy mummies who pick at gluten-free avocado toast before driving their Range Rovers to collect Arabella from a cello-ballet hybrid class and Montgomery from cricket practice.
  2. Transport tip numero uno: Try and walk from A to B instead of using public transport. This is something that I am an extreme advocate of and furthermore it is something that causes great distress any time that my friends come to visit as suddenly they have been submerged into a personal walking tour of London. In all fairness now, when you think about it, by the time you get to the station, wait for the train, hop on, halt at every stop, get held at a red signal and eventually get off, it’s probably taken you the same amount of time that it would have taken you to walk it. I also find that walking around the city helped me to settle in to London a little bit more as my navigation skills were really being put into play and I felt like it was a little exploration on top of just trying to find a Pret. By the time I was finally able to get from one place to the other without having to use Google Maps I was slightly expecting an OBE from the Queen herself or at the very least an invitation to Archie’s christening but neither have been commissioned and I am a little salty.
  3. If, like my pals, you are not that keen on the personal walking tour, then I would bus it instead of getting the tube. It’s half the price of the tube fare and you also get to see so much more of London which is a solid plus in helping with navigation skills and just getting used to the city in general. You also get to feel like Mary-Kate and Ashley in “Winning London” which is a win-win because that was during their peak.
  4. If the aforementioned are not to your satisfaction and you are a keen tube-traveller then here is my gift to you: CityMapper. It literally does what it says on the tin and maps out the city for you. My first few solo trips here were met with severe disdain as I attempted to navigate my tube journeys. When I was 17, myself and my best friend were somehow entrusted to travel here on our lonesome for a weekend.** We did not take into consideration that the line we needed to be on would have an eastbound train and a westbound train, and furthermore each direction would still have trains veering off to varying stops, so when we hopped on the good old District line we were met with extreme confusion when we realised that we were travelling away from where we needed to be. We now live here as adults and have the same issue after 2for1 cocktails of a Monday at AllBarOne.
  5. For all of the above transport, just invest in an Oyster card. It is a fiver. You will use it again. It is a solid purchase and will help you avoid daily travelcards at all costs because honestly what a rip off. I’m lucky enough to live in Zone 2 so my travel is capped at a lower rate of £7 daily so I never buy a daily/weekly/monthly ticket because I know that it will end up costing me more than just topping it up as I go and getting capped at the end of the day so do a little bit of research before arriving to see where you’re at on the old fare zones.
  6. Don’t fly home as often as I do, but if you do, suss it out. In biblical terms, we are Eve, Michael O’Leary is the snake and Ryanair is the apple that we succumb to because it is beyond tempting but after spontaneously seizing the latter, everything turns to shite. Basically, what I’m trying to say, is that although Ryanair prices are graciously appealing, they involve the most ludicrous treks of life which involve paying additional fees for baggage and trains to bring you to the airport and then schlepping across London at 3.30am because the 7.30am flight was on sale and there were only “two seats left at this price”. Depending on where you’re based, compare and contrast Aer Lingus and Ryanair because by the time you weigh up all of the additional Ryanair fees, you’re probably not saving that much and have a much easier journey just by hopping on that trusty Picadilly line out to the Queen’s Terminal.

Absorb that culture but save that money am I right or am I right

  1. Lads. I love a good musical. I love a good play. I love a good performance piece. Since moving here I have definitely spent the majority of my money on tickets buuuutttt I have 100% learned how to get the best deals possible and save that cash dolla while also having fab seats so I am going to have to subsection this because I have tried and tested an abundance of ticket purchasing options.***

    – My number one rule of thumb is don’t have your heart set on a show because you will only be met with devastation when you learn that tickets for “The Lion King” are £150 each and you’ll be sitting in front of your friend as opposed to next to them. Truly, not an ideal situation. Best bet always is to just have an open-mind and look for the best deals, and I know that I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, TodayTix is the best friend of any theatre-goer in London. There are lotteries, rush tickets, 24 hour flash sales, honestly it is the dream with aaaalllll of the offers.

    – Secondly, if you’re under 25, sign up for EntryPass at The National. Like right now. Just do it. You have the opportunity to get tickets to EVERY SHOW for, wait for it, £7.50. £7.50!!!! For some of the best theatre in the city! What. A. Deal.

    – My third and final trick of the trade which has worked out a treat in the past is if you’re in central and you’re like “ah here sure I wouldn’t mind seeing a show tonight”, then head to the theatre’s box office close to curtain-up and see if they have any tickets that they’re hoping to shake last minute. The lovely gentleman in the box office of an unnamed ABBA-filled musical**** informed us of this glorious trick when upon our inquisition re tickets, he told us to come back ten minutes before the show began and he could give us fifth row tickets for a quarter of the original price. Nice to see that he saved us some… money, money, money.*****
  2. I am possibly the worst tourist ever but I have yet to do a single stereotypical attraction in London because hooooonestly I cannot justify the abhorrent price that is charged for them when you can do other supa cool stuff in the city for half price or less instead, ya feel? Places that I am beyond weak for that are solid tourist spots or just places to hang out for the day without spending an abominable amount of cash include Brick Lane, Camden Market, Vinegar Yard, Borough Market and Spitalfields juuuuust to name a few. You can spend the day here having a wander around, check out vintage shops etc. and get a solid bite to eat and still feel like a bit of a tourist as they all have a proper London vibe. 10/10 would recommend to a friend.
  3. There are also so many museums and exhibitions which are either free or under a tenner and they are right on your doorstep. If it’s a grim day and you don’t know what to do, the Tate or the Natural History Museum fills your day while also making you feel slightly advanced in both your intellectual and socialite status.
  4. As previously mentioned, I am a big fan of itineraries and knowing where to go for brunch/ a drink/ a coffee etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am beyond weak for stumbling across places that turn out to be absolute hidden gems, but sometimes you just want to be able to name a place off the top of your head when your friends say that they really fancy an Italian for dinner before heading to Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. The trouble with being in one of the most amazing cities is that there is an abundance of choice in both cuisine and location. What I’ve started to do, and it seems to be a solid trick, is googling “best Italian”/ “best hot chocolate”/ “best desserts” etc. and then pinning the best-rated and most affordable to my maps app so that when I’m out and about I’m able to whip out the cracked-screen iPhone 7 and see the various options within close proximity. It just makes settling on a place in this urban jungle soooo much easier and just think of the time that you’ll save by being able to bring your friends for the perfect lasagne****** at the drop of a hat. Borderline futuristic if you ask me.
  5. Right. If, like myself, you are partial to an overpriced cocktail in attaining to the Sarah Jessica Parker style notions you aspire to then sis lemme tell you something and that is that you need to download the Dusk app ASAP. It shows you all of the bars in your area and which will give you a free drink and then further discounted bevs. There is no looking back for the overly ambitious yet financially unstable twenty-somethings on a Saturday night now am I right or am I right.

Right now, these are only a selection of my tiny tricks of the trade that are slightly far and few between but have gotten me through the last year here while attempting to stick to my budget-bound bank account without disregarding all of the fun that I planned on having.

Hope ye found them as useful as I did, because this is my life until I reach the point where I am swept off my feet by some multi-millionaire producer just looking for someone to move into his three-storey in Chelsea.

Much love and respect to ya pals,

Al x

*I came here for the weekend two years ago with two of my pals, upon my return home I checked my bank account expecting to be left with around 150 quid. I had €26.37. Conversion rates can suck it.

** I say “somehow entrusted” suggesting a wild-streak in our youthful selves, but the sole point of our trip was to see Miranda Sings in concert so I think our parents knew that we were pretty safe. By “safe” I mean “uncool”.

*** I do find it slightly ironic that I am preaching the importance of seeking discounted tickets for all forms of theatre when I have just dipped in greatly to my Irish bank account in order to purchase tickets for “Sunday in the Park with George” which I will not be seeing until June 2020 but honestly what a buzz Jake Gyllenhaal hun I am broke and I am on my way x

**** Surprise. It was Mamma Mia.

***** I hate myself.

****** It is always lasagna when it comes to my friends, it’s as if they were raised alongside Garfield.

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