London – New Year’s Eve on a budget

Thinking about New Year’s Eve in London? It sounds great, but this famous English city can evaporate your budget very quickly. Check out those 5 points, which we tried this year, to see how to spend New Year in London on a budget!

Spending New Year in London wasn’t something that we really have planned before. We wanted to get out of Aberdeen for that time but not to spend too much money. We looked at different options in the country and abroad, however travel to London turned out the best. With accommodation at Alex’s brother we had it a bit easier, although, we still needed to figure out how to not to spend a fortune on all the other things.

How to do spend great New Year’s Eve in London on a budget?

1. Book in advance or find new friends. 

Travel and accomodation booked in advance is much cheaper. It’s a busy period in the city’s life and most of the cheapest places to stay are reserved months before. If you decided to go there last minute check airbnb and some of the last minute hostels websites – people often cancel, so you can get good deal! Try to check what your friends are doing that time, or check couchsurfing. You may be able to provide your nice company to some people and get great fun in return.

There are plenty of ways that you can get to London – from buses (with megabus being one of the cheapest), trains (more expensive) and flights (from cheap airlines through more expensive ones). Important thing, though, is to check where your chosen transportation will take you, as, especially with some cheaper providers, you may end up at the far end and it will take you more time and money to get to the city centre.

2. Choose transport wisely.

London underground is one of the best options to use in the city. And it’s free between New Year time – from around 10pm to 3am. Now, you don’t have to have Oyster card, you can just use your debit or credit card to travel. There are also plenty of buses to choose from.

However, sometimes you need to get somewhere by car. Taxis can be quite expensive, but Uber works perfectly almost everytwhere in the city – waiting time in the city centre is usually 3-4 minutes and 10 minutes journey can cost you even 6-7 pounds.

3. Eat local food, street food and go to Chinatown.

London is one of the best places if you are a foodie – it has something for everyone. You shouldn’t have any problems with finding cheaper places to eat, with pie shops, famous fish and chips, eateries in Chinatown and more healthy choices in smaller places all around. You can also always cook by yourself in the accommodation kitchen or make sandwiches, that’s always the cheapest option 😉

4. Swap New Year’s Eve luxury activities for outdoor fun.

If fancy dinner parties are not necessarily your thing and you don’t mind spending some time outside, there’s plenty of other free or cheap things to do.

London New Years Eve fireworks

London is famous from its spectacular fireworks display. It got so popular that couple years ago they decided to charge people for standing in the best spots for watching them – this includes Westminster, places next to London Eye and around that area. Prices are around £10.
For me, however, it doesn’t really make much sense to pay for standing in the crowd just to see 20 minutes of fireworks over people’s heads and not even be able to bring your own alcohol on the spot.

Where to go to watch London New Year’s Eve fireworks for free?

Fortunately, you can find other good places to watch fireworks, where you can bring your friends and favourite alcohol. We watched them from the river shore in Vauxhall, which is the next bridge down from the London Eye. Although there were quite many people around us, we had a great view and a lot of fun by the river:

5. Find other cheap activities

London has a lot of free or cheap activities to offer, from roaming around the famous streets to free entrances to some of the best museums in the world (check here and here).

We’ve seen most of them before, so this time we just focused on the winter and holiday options.

Winter Wonderland

Every year in the Christmas period the Hyde park in central London is being transfered into the magical kindgom. You can warm yourself up with mulled wine, hot whisky or stand by the fire pot. There’s live music, lots of food, many rides to choose from and it’s all covered in the mixed smell of roasted chestnuts, coffee, beer, spices and sausages.

Some people might find it tacky, but I think it’s nice just to see how big it is and walk around with sugary mulled wine in your hand to look at different stols and feel Christmassy climate. We didn’t really do any of activities inside, as it’s not our thing, but we enjoyed watching live music bands with fairy lights sparkling all around us.
Entrance is free but you need to pay for everything else. Mulled wine costs around £4, beer £4-£5.

New Year London Parade

Picture from http://www.lnydp.com

Every year on January 1st, the big parade is organized in London city centre. The entrance for spectators is free. It usually starts at Piccadilly, but you can check more details and the exact route here: http://www.lnydp.com/. We didn’t manage to attend it, as we had plans for Oxford that day (that we didn’t manage anyway), but it is something to do.

Picture from http://www.lnydp.com

Visit cities around

If you’ve seen most of what the city has to offer and you want to explore some more (like us), then short trips to the nearby towns is a good idea.
Oxford and Brighton are easy to get to by bus or train and tickets are quite cheap if booked in advance. For the train to Brighton they were still reasonably priced at the day of our trip. Just try to not to repeat our mistake and don’t book very early bus departure the next day after the crazy New Year’s Eve party, because you may have some problems to catch it 😉

Museums in Oxford are also free (just check opening hours, because during holiday period some of the sights can be closed), and Brighton is a lovely place just to walk around the pier, and admiring beautiful Royal Pavilon.

Emirates air line cable cars

Emirates air line cable cars is something, that I haven’t tried before, and since I love view of cities from the top we thought to give it a go. The ticket prices are quite cheap, so it’s worth trying. If you use “pay as you go” – by just swiping your Oyster or debit/credit card at the entrance and exit – it’s £3.50 per single journey. When you buy boarding pass in a ticket office it’s a bit more expensive – £4.50 one way or £9.00 return. Better choose not rainy day if you want to take some photos – ours have rain drops everywhere 😉

Emirates Air Line crosses the River Thames between Greenwich Peninsula (by the O2) and the Royal Docks. You can board from either the North Greenwich or Royal Victoria sides of the river.

I hope this will help you to plan your trip to London next year for spectacular New Year’s Eve!

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