Last Updated 22/09/2020.
The cost of living in London is billed as high and on previous visits taking rentals, lets, or AirBnb apartments we’ve needed a lot of cash just to support ourselves. This time, our full 5 weeks living in London gave us zero housing or accommodation costs. We’ve been taking care of friend’s beautiful cats and borrowing their home while they’re on holiday. We don’t use a house sitting agency, so no affiliate links here, this was simply an arrangement with friends and one that has cut our costs to almost nothing. So what have these 5 weeks in London cost us in food, transport and entertainment and what’s the bottom line, how cheaply can you “do” London?
Living Cheaply in London – Our Way
We are Londoners. My kids were born in London but these days we don’t own a house there. We spend every summer in London, using hotels, staying with friends and family and on this occasion, house sitting. As digital nomads our lifestyle allows this. London is one of the most expensive places we visit ( But it has never been as costly as Singapore, Scotland, Bhutan or Australia for us) so we keep our living costs low to enjoy more time there.
What Have We Been Doing in London, How Are we Entertaining Ourselves Cheaply?
Much as I dislike the expression “living like locals”, this time we really have been, after all, we are Londoners not tourists. My husband has been working nights and paying taxes and it’s school holidays so all the other kids are enjoying their freedom too.
This visit hasn’t been about The London Eye, The Aquarium, The Science Museum and British Museum. We’ve done all of those places so many times that on this visit we didn’t feel much of a pull to visit them.
We didn’t sign the kids up for any groups or classes this time either. Previous visits have seen them enjoying Forest School or high diving lessons at Crystal Palace. This visit has been too short. We haven’t even bothered to seek out the extensive London homeschooling network, we’ve been busy. So what have we been doing instead?
- Catching up with friends young and old for play and chat.
- Shopping online, a rare chance to use Amazon for a few essentials.
- Real-life shopping, replenishing backpacks and wardrobes.
- Planning our next move, and preparing for our return to Vietnam and Asia.
- Selling our car. We’ve owned her for 2 years and it’s time to let her go.
- Training for sporting events, Chef for Ironman Langkawi, Boo for Ironkids, me for my first 10K run in 6 years, D swimming like a superpowered fish at Crystal Palace National Stadium. We seem to have become one of those fitness families.
Gear Upgrades For Our Next Adventures
This is where we’ve spent the most money, on essential items to make our travelling life easier and more comfortable. We have bought:
- An Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Pack. Boo’s new carry on / general luggage with lifetime guarantee. This will be Boo’s new carry-on size main backpack.
- An ebags flat wash bag ( I love it, seriously, it’s fantastic!)
- We tested travel towels and found the EcoDept large towel with free hand towel was the nicest We have plenty for the whole family now plus a couple of hand towels.
- New camera memory cards, phone cards, batteries, chargers, headsets, things that have worn out.
- Laptop protectors
- Lots of running gear for me and essential Ironman/bike gear for the chef.
- Nerf guns and Pokemon cards
What Our 5 Weeks in London Cost
Zero, this includes utilities and wi-fi. If we were staying in London in an Airbnb, rental or hotel, we would be paying AT LEAST $50/ night or quite easily double that. That’s $2000+ we saved. Plus we get to look after our 2 favourite cats in the world, it’s a win: win.
We got here by car and ferry from the other end of Europe but now it’s time to move on to a new phase, our trusty 4×4 that has seen us through 2 Romanian winters is sold. We only lost £400 on the price we originally paid and that’s a great deal. We used her in London a couple of times but travel by car in London is slow and tedious but with friends in Twickenham and Richmond, we’ve had to drive the 80 minutes or so from our side of London to theirs. A full tank of diesel cost us £80.00. In Romania it’s more like £62.00. Where we are staying there is no tube. If you ever stay in London be absolutely certain to be on the rail system, buses are cheap but boy are they slow. To go into central London from where we are by bus, it takes an hour.
Bus: £1.50 to £3.40 maximum per day ( unlimited rides), it’s capped. Free kids to 11. After that kids need a child Oyster Card to access free fairs. 2 week Oyster Cards are available to visitors.
Diesel: around £1.15- £1.18 per liter. Petrol around £1.12 – £1.16
Free: We walk, we run, we cycle, we use ” Boris Bikes”. Transport costs have been almost non-existent.
Food: £80 per week in groceries from the supermarket plus the odd treat from nearby shops and convenience stores
Coffees and Eating Out: I’d estimated £100 total. We’ve massively cut back for health and fitness reasons.
5 Km Park Runs Every Saturday: Free
London’s Museums: Free
London’s parks and playground: Free
Enterring running events : £15 for me, £7 for Boo.
Swimming at Crystal Palace: £3.00 adult £2.00 child
Hiring Banana Bikes in the Park for an Hour: £10 each
A Meal For 4 at Yo Sushi and Birthday sweet treats: £70.00 Yo Sushi, is VERY expensive, go to Itsu instead!
Weekly Costs for Living in London
We are spending between £100 and £200 per week. That’s a ballpark figure only as costs vary and we’re not penny-pinching at all. We’re trying to eat right for the benefit of our health, not our bank balance. So happy days, London is working out extremely cheaply for us, possibly Asia-cheap, talking of which, see below.
If you are a digital nomad and thinking of basing yourself in London for a while, just know that living cheaply in London can be done.
Getting Ready to Return to Asia
We’re on a plane in under 2 weeks, London to Kuala Lumpur on an Air Malaysia A380 then the short hop to Ho Chi Minh on something less glamorous. Our guest house in Ho Chi Minh city is booked and will set us back around £30 per night including breakfast. Our month in Hoi An is also booked, a lovely looking place, no breakfast, around £20 per night. Our flights to Malaysia are booked for later in the year. So we’re back on the road and back to total freedom, we’re happy, excited and fully equipped with some excellent new gear. Next year, back to the Himalayas, possibly Myanmar, possibly Australia to sell our house. If you’re interested in the travel gear we love and use, you need this post, it includes the above.