With expensive living and crowded trains, life in the capital can seem like one endless grind. So stumbling on a shortcut, an empty tube carriage, or the opportunity to grab something for nothing, makes life just a little bit sweeter.
While they can’t change the rental market or part the crowds on the Northern Line, our number nerds have consulted their clipboards and sussed out some of London’s secrets to an easier life. Follow our must-have life hacks and give yourself a commanding lead over your fellow Londoners.
Out and about
1. Even with some of the fastest transport in Britain, we can sometimes feel that waiting for the tube doesn’t seem worth it. And we could be right. Between certain stations on the Underground network, it can actually be quicker – and cheaper - to make the route on foot. According to Transport for London’s tube map of walking times, King’s Cross to Euston station is just a 10-minute walk, and Mansion House to Cannon Street is just four minutes on foot.
2. Despite what the ads say, contactless can sometimes be cheaper than using an Oyster card on Transport for London (TfL). When taking multiple journeys across London’s zones, it would seem journeys are calculated more efficiently on contactless cards than they are on the Oyster. For example, an Oyster card might only calculate the daily cap across the total zones travelled, whereas a contactless card may cap travel within zones, giving you a cheaper rate of travel. Fortunately for the number nerds, our range of credit cards are all contactless enabled.
3. Pink oyster pads aren’t just there to look pretty. If you don’t mind circumnavigating busy zone 1, which triggers a higher fare, clever commuters can save money. Tapping a pink oyster pad on your journey basically tells TfL that you’ve taken a route that avoids zone 1.
For example, a journey from Earl’s Court to Wembley Park via Green Park in zone 1 costs £2.80. But travel westbound on the Piccadilly Line from Earl’s Court to Rayners Lane, tap the pink oyster pad and continue on the Metropolitan line to Wembley Park, and you’ll only be charged £1.50.
4. Drinks on the house? You don’t have to be a VIP to enjoy the celebrity treatment. With the Drinki app, you can get free drinks and discount offers at top bars all around London simply by downloading the app. You’re entitled to one free drink a month, but if you ‘Level up’ on the app by sharing it with friends you can access more drink offers, as well as more bars on the Drinki App map.
5. If you don’t mind a busy inbox, you could benefit from special offers, discounts and freebies by sharing your email with trusted locations. Eateries around London run special promotions throughout the year, especially around food-related holidays like National Burger Day, so checking emails every now and then could help you bag a free bite.
Taking some time off
6. You can’t waste a minute of your time off, including the time you spend on your commute. With free Wi-Fi at TfL stations you can contact your friends for a meet-up on your Underground commute using WhatsApp Messenger to make calls.
7. Having a barbecue is a great way to ‘dine out’ and save money. Plus, you get fresh air and you’ll never be told the tables are fully booked or turned away for wearing trainers. You have to be a bit picky with the location however, as not all in parks in London let you barbecue. You’re safe to set up in London Fields, Caledonian Park and Waterlow Park though, and you can check out more BBQ-safe spots on the Londonist.com.
8. If you don’t mind embracing the morning or lunchtime rush, you can usually find brand reps giving away freebies outside big railway stations such as King’s Cross, on major thoroughfares, like the route over London Bridge, and outside stadiums during events like the Ashes and Wimbledon. While you might not save any money, you won’t be spending any either - and you might receive something tasty for your trouble.
9. Living in the capital, it’d be a shame not to take advantage of London’s glorious views. But when you’re keeping an eye on your finances, taking in the best views in London can fall outside a tight budget. For example, the Shard’s viewing gallery – the highest platform in London - costs £30.95i on the day and a ride on the London Eye will set you back £23ii for a walk-up ticket. But a beautiful view can still be enjoyed for free, if you’re happy to put the legwork in. Many of London’s hilltop parks and gardens offer sweeping views of the city, such as Primrose Hill or the Horniman Museum Gardens in Forest Hill. Exploring the sights and scenery of London needn’t cost you, and you’re less likely to queue for your view either.
Wins for your wallet and watch
Whether your aim is to eke out an extra few minutes’ peace on your commute or challenge yourself with getting the best food for the lowest price, these practical tips can put time back in your hands and pennies in your wallet at the end of the week.