London is seen as an expensive city for Filipinos but do you know you can really make your dream come true? My friend started with just a dream: watching movies, reading novels and searching about the place. I used to picture out myself having photo with Big Ben. We were just dreamers like you; then we made it happen. If we did it, you can! Lucky for me because my company assigned me there for a four-month work but my friend managed to visit London on her own, on her own money, own her own hard-earned money. Believe that you can and you will!
1. Apply for a visa.
First things first. Whether you have luxury and money to travel if you don’t have a visa, then you can’t enter United Kingdom. Let’s start with how to apply for UK visa. Here are steps on how to apply for a UK Visa.
- Step 1: Visit AccessUK website to apply for a visa online. Register if you are a first timer. Fill in the application form and pay the visa fee. Visa fee for a short-term (6 mos) tourist visa costs $119.
- Step 2: Book an appointment. All applicants need to book an appointment to submit all requirements and to have their fingerprints registered in their biometrics. There is only one accredited agency who processed UK visa and that is the VFS Global and they have two branches: Manila or Cebu. So for people in Mindanao, make sure to book your tickets to and from Manila or Cebu months before your appointment date.
- Step 3: Prepare all the requirements needed. Here is a link for the document checklist.
- Step 4: On the day of your appointment, arrive at least 15 minutes of your scheduled application and submit all your requirements.
- Step 5: Choose on how you want your visa to be claimed: delivery or pickup. By the way, you are allowed to apply for a visa three months before your scheduled trip. You can’t apply a year before but can apply a week before but for a higher cost of course
2. Know your budget.
Even before getting the visa, you should have saved enough money to your trip. Your budget depends on your itinerary and your lifestyle. Our budget for the 10-day England and Scotland itinerary cost us approximately, GBP 500. See budget and itinerary. This, however, excludes accommodation and fare. My friend got his fare from Davao-Singapore-London and vice versa for just Php 45,000 via Singapore Airlines. He got it from a travel agency and he booked it two months before the scheduled trip. Isn’t it amazing? Haha. Our accommodation is again not included because we stayed in a room paid by the company I am working.
3. Forget about getting tour packages within London, just do it your own.
This is where you can save huge bucks! My friend initially planned to get a hop on hop off package tour which include other attractions sites for around GBP 150 and I definitely said NO. Why? Because attraction sites like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge Westminster Abbey, London Eye and other London landmarks are free of charge and can be done on your own. See free attractions sites in London. You can basically visit these sites by walking! Once you are in Westminster station, everything is just a walking distance. After all, everything in London is just so picturesque that you want to just walk wherever your feet will take you. Google Map will be your best friend here! Trust me.
4. Get an Oyster Card to travel around London.
Voila! You are now in London. How will you get around? The best thing and the cheapest way is to get an Oyster Card. Oyster Card is a transportation card in London. You can use this when riding a tube (train) and bus. Like I said, you don’t have to get a travel tour packages in London because you can do it your own. What’s best about this Oyster Card is that it has a cap or limit. This means that no matter how many times you ride a tube or a bus around all zones in London, it will just cost you GBP 10 max. If you are just in Central London which covers Zones 1 and 2, it will just cost you GBP 7 max.
5. Ride double-decker red bus and try tube hopping.
Now you got an Oyster Card, it’s time for some adventures. I suggest that you spend a day doing tube and bus hopping where you don’t have no planned places to see but you will just take a bus or tube and alight wherever you want. This is the time where you can discover something new, something not overrated.
6. Experience different ways to wander around London.
Apart from bus, taxi and tube, London is best viewed in London Eye. It will give you a bird’s eye view of Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and even Buckingham Palace. We had a tour combo of GBP 39 which includes SEA Aquarium and London Eye. Note that London Eye has long queue so allot quite some time for this.
Another way to tour around London is via River Cruise. We had our river cruise from Greenwich, and passing under Tower Bridge and to Westminster. It cost us GBP 10.
7. Watch a musical show.
This is something you should not be missing when in London. If I will be ranking the MUST DO in London, watching a musical show will be the first. It was my first time to watch a musical show and it was extremely fantastic. Everyone was so talented and energetic. The first show I watch was The Kinky Boots then Aladdin. If only I got more money, I will watch musical show at least once a week. It is really awesome that you will want to watch it again. I suggest that you book your tickets weeks before your plan because it is cheaper.
8. Visit different markets particularly Camden and Borough.
London offers a number of markets but Camden Market, is the best for me. Apart from tons of antique, clothes and cheap finds, Camden Market offers wide selection of food stalls. I suggest you spend at least half day here or even a day. This is where you can find the cheapest “pasalubong” like key chains, miniature Big Ben, shirts, bags, etc. By the way, I suggest that you buy items at the center of the market not along the streets because it’s a lot cheaper there. Say for example a key chain costs GBP 1 from a store along the highway while it only cost 0.33 pence if you buy it from stores located at the heart of the market. Also, located here is the newly opened, The Cheese Bar! This is heaven for cheese lover like me. A must try especially their Mozarella Sticks.
Another market which is located near the London Bridge is the Borough market. Yup, this is the market where the recent stabbing attack happene. 😦 Nevertheless, I suggest that you still visit this market during lunch as it offers great food. It is more of a food market as compared to Camden which offers clothes, antiques and trinkets.
9. Enjoy an afternoon tea party.
Tea time! This is something amazing I did in London. We had our tea time at Double Tree Hilton Hotel inside Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill. It just cost us GBP 15 for an afternoon high tea. Book a table with www.afternoonteaonline.co.uk to find the best tea party that suits your budget.
10. Brace yourself and do shopping.
Last but definitely not the least, SHOPPING! On a budget but want so be stylish at the same time? Worry no more because Primark got your back. This is a department store which offers wide variety of items. They sell almost everything from shoes, bags, belt, accessories, clothes, coats, candies, tumblers and whatever your needs are. I suggest that instead of bringing loads of clothes from PH, pack light and just buy stuffs here. It is heaven for a budget shopper like me. Head to their Oxford branch as it huge and has wide selections.
Another heaven shopping place for me is Bicester Village. Located in Oxford (outside of London), Bicester village is a shopping capital for people who wants designer items for a cheap cost. This is an outlet store that houses designer brands like Prada, Gucci, Roger Vivier, Dolce and Gabbana , Tory Burch, Yves Saint Laurent and a whole lot more. See my post about Bicester Village here. You can buy items 20-90% cheaper than the retail store price.