How to Spend Money in London

In London, The Art of Travel Spring 2015, Tips by Kerry Candeloro

The last time I wrote a  list for a post, it seemed to go over really well. So let’s do another one.

Top Seven Things To Get the Most Bang for Your Buck While Studying in London:

1. London is a walkable city, even more so than New York. Maybe it’s the beautiful ancient structures still standing in the midst of a busy metropolis. Maybe it’s the wide layout of the city. Or maybe it’s the fact that there’s actual elbow room between you and the person walking next to you. To this day, I can’t say what it is for sure. But take time to walk around London and find out for yourself.

2. That being said, public transit is really helpful. However, you sometimes get that dreaded “insufficient funds” light flashing on the turnstile when you forget that you were out too late to top up your card the night before. And, sure, weekly/monthly passes are convenient, but they can get very expensive. One way to alleviate the stress in your mind (and your wallet) is to apply for a 18+ student Oyster card. Not only is it free to do, but you get 30% off weekly/monthly passes as well as some discounted rates for the trains. It’s definitely saved me a lot of time and money, especially since I’m at work most days of the week.

3. If they’re not already free, most events/museums/tourist sites have ‘concessions‘, which are special discounted rates for students and seniors. Take advantage of them. Use them. Abuse them. Treasure them.

4. Theatre kids: always talk to the box office about cheap tickets and flash your NYU ID. I’ve gotten West End theatre tickets anywhere from £5-£17 without having to rush at an early morning hour just because I am a student. And the National Theatre will do £15 season passes for students so you can see all of their amazing shows. Not exactly a student-specific deal, but the Globe also sells £5 tickets to be a ‘groundling’ and stand in the yard to watch Shakespeare.

5. Fun fact: so when you come to NYU London, you are given the option of getting a (free) University College of London ID card [n.b. UCL is the school that NYUL is affiliated with in London]. Make sure you get that card. Not only is it a great back-up in case you drop your NYU ID (exhibit A: me), but having a student card from a European university will also help you out big time in the long run. For instance, a lot of the major sites in mainland Europe (ie, the Parthenon) will allow you to enter for free if you have a European student card.

Your student card truly does wonders, my friends.

6. Okay, this sounds kind of weird but this is perhaps the best piece of advice that I personally can give to students planning on studying abroad in London: become a member of Historic Royal Palaces. For those of you who don’t know, HRP is the umbrella organization that runs some of England’s most famous attractions (eg. Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, etc.). Registering as a member costs around £40, but that initial payment gets you a special little card (known affectionately as ‘the Henry card’) that will grant you free entry into all of those attractions for an entire year, for free, and for as many times as your delicate heart desires (and, trust me, those admission prices add up). My roommate and I both got Henry cards and, because of that, we have been able to go to every attraction at least once without having to spend extra funds on admission. Not only that, but the card gives you 10% off on souvenirs and food on the grounds. On days when we’re bored, we sometimes decide to visit the Tower on a whim, or, because of our membership, we have access to exclusive opportunities like taking a rooftop tour of Hampton Court Palace. Basically, the Henry card has allowed us to constantly live out our Disney Princess fantasies for a fraction of the cost of a tiara.

and, lastly:

7. Spend money on things you actually want to spend money on. There’s no one way to have a study abroad experience, so if you’re not doing everything that other people are doing, don’t feel obligated to change your life or empty your wallet just to fulfill what you think you should be doing during your time away. Wanna go club hopping in different neighborhoods? Great. Feel like jetsetting to a new European capital every weekend? Awesome. Enjoy waiting outside at 10am for cheap theatre tickets? Cool. Want to take walks around London during your free time? Sweet. Have the urge to run around English castles pretending you’re a princess? Same.

The thing is, you’ll get the most out of your time here if you spend the time, energy, and money doing things you really want to do. Sure, I’m all up for trying new things and having new experiences, but don’t feel pressured to do something just because you see other kids Instagramming about it. You do you, because your study abroad experience is about you and what you want to get out of your time in a new place.

Image source

  • Shakespeare’s Globe: Kerry Candeloro