Traveling to London on a budget poses a royal challenge even during non-peak times. So you can only imagine the kind of hurdle London presents to travelers minding their pounds during the upcoming Olympic Games, which run July 27 through August 12.
Thankfully, the city does offer some relief. From discounted transportation to free sights, here are several ways you can keep your travel budget in check if you're heading to the Olympic Games this summer.
1. Use your free Games Travelcard to get to and from the Games.
If you've purchased a ticket to an Olympic event in or around London, you will receive a free Games Travelcard good for free public transport in zones 1-9 and valid for the day of your event. Remember that private parking at the arenas will be virtually impossible for spectators -- you really must take public transportation.
Read more about getting to the Games and the Games Travelcard on the London 2012 website.
2. For travel on non-game days, use an Oyster card.
For non-Olympic trips on the Tube, bus and other modes of public transit, nothing beats an Oyster card. Locals and tourists alike benefit from the snappy little blue passes, which lower transit costs substantially. A single ride on the Tube, for example, costs £4.30, but with an Oyster you'll never pay more than £2 per ride.
American tourists can buy an Oyster in advance through the Visit Britain website, or just buy one from ticket offices in Tube stops upon arrival.
If you're planning to take several rides a day on public transportation, it may be worth investing in a Travelcard, good for unlimited public transportation for one or seven days. With an Oyster, however, if your daily travel expenses surpass the cost of a one-day Travelcard, you'll be charged the lesser amount for the Travelcard. How thoughtful! Read more on the Oyster website.
3. Get to your event early!
Okay, this isn't technically a savings tip, but if you miss your event you will have wasted some serious cash. Don't forget that public transit will be jammed with other attendees, you may have to wait for a train with space, and that special security measures underground may slow down your commute. Start out early!
The London 2012 website has a fantastic Journey Planner which plots your trip from London to your Olympic venue, along with suggested departure times to ensure that you arrive plenty early.
4. When visiting the city, don't forget that many sights are free.
When taking in the sights of the Queen's fair city on non-Games days, take advantage of its many free attractions. Most notably, admission is free at national museums, including the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and Tate. In this respect, this otherwise expensive city is a Cheapo museum addict's dream. (See our list of free museums in London.)
If you're planning to visit attractions that do charge admission, including Westminster Abbey (£16), Tower of London (£19) and St. Paul's Cathedral (£15), consider investing in the London Pass. It's not exactly cheap (£66.60 for a three-day pass, for example), but if it matches your itinerary it could present some savings.
5. Still need a place to sleep? Consider a hostel or a tent.
If you've waited this long to book a hotel for the Games, well, you probably don't need us to tell you about sky-high hotel rates. Still, it's worth checking out some of the budget hotels we recommend on EuroCheapo in our London hotel guide, as a few still have availability during the Games. You could also book a private room (or dorm, if you're up for it) in one of the city's hostels.
Camp in London is pitching another option that is even cheaper and perhaps more exciting. For only £20 per person, you can sleep in your own tent, or call it a night in one of their tents for £40 per person. "Luxury" tents (at £200) are also available.
The field of tents will be pitched in Walthamstow, a 5-10 minute shuttle bus ride to the Games (included in the price). Clean bathrooms, food stalls and outdoor event screenings round out the deal.
Have any tips for keeping it cheap while visiting the Summer Games? Share a comment with us below.