London is an infamously expensive city. With sky-high transportation prices, soaring cost-of-living rates, and record housing costs, it would seem like a tough place to live – particularly for students. But don’t be deterred by the scary stats: beyond the numbers, it really is possible to enjoy London on the cheap. And for those looking to shop and explore, to visit museums and go to the theatre, to dine and to imbibe, these London student deals will help you experience the very best of the capital”¦all with your wallet intact.
First things first, time to address the basics: cut down on London’s lofty rents by shacking up in self-catered student halls or browsing housing on Accommodation for Students. A 16-25 Railcard gives you 1/3 off National Rail tickets, while a Student Oyster Card proffers cheaper fares – and you can combine the two for even more discounted rates. And instead of buying new books, supplement your university library membership with a card for your local lending library. Once you’ve covered the essentials, it’s on to the excitement. Browse the tips and tricks below to start your London adventures.
Arts and Culture
London is, unquestionably, one of the world’s cultural capitals – from exhibitions to West End productions, there’s virtually a never-ending supply of shows to see. And luckily for students, there are plenty of concession prices and discounts to go with.
Begin with the National Theatre Entry Pass, available to those aged 16-25. Members have access to allotted numbers of £5 tickets, are invited to special events and workshops, and can even grab their friends a bargain with discount Mates Rates tickets. If your theatrical interests tend towards the Shakespearian, the Royal Shakespeare Company offers a similar scheme: the RSC Key, which offers £5 London performances (note that select other plays – not authored by the Bard – are also included in the deal). The Old Vic’s PwC Under 25s Club provides slightly pricier but still affordable £10 tickets for the first five previews of every production, while the Barbican’s FreeB programme comprises discounts for theatrical performances, gigs, cinema screenings, and more.
Speaking of cinema – if you fancy a last-minute evening outing, make your way to Camden: the Odeon in NW1 boasts some of the cheapest student tickets in London, with £6 rates. With an NUS Extra Card in hand, those prices will drop a further 25%; head over for a Supersaver matinee and you might even get in free (!). If it’s a Tuesday or Wednesday, students can also take advantage of Meerkat Movies‘ 2-for-1 tickets.
And that’s only the start for London student deals. From the Roundhouse to the Southbank Centre, the bulk of London’s cultural venues offer accessible student concession rates. And then there are institutions like the Tate which are, of course, free.
Food and Drinks
Discounts on snacks? If you’re feeling peckish but are conscious of your spending, keep an eye out for eateries that cater to the student lifestyle. Chains the likes of Yo! Sushi and Gourmet Burger Kitchen offer cut-rate deals, while training restaurants like Open Kitchen in Hoxton let you sample dishes made by apprentice chefs – for cheap. As for your nights out, student unions and other student-frequented bars (The Roxy and The Loop Bar are both popular nightlife spots) offer regular happy hour rates and deals on drinks.
Consider yourself something of a gourmet? Many of London’s more gastronomic haunts also offer impressive discounts. Start your evening at Polpo, say, which offers a spritz happy hour from 4pm-6pm – or, if it’s a Monday, take a trip to The Remedy wine bar for a selection of 50% off bottles. Investing in a Tastecard or a Time Out Card also promises plenty of discounts on hundreds of restaurants and bars around the city.
And then there’s London’s thriving street food scene, which is characterised by its tasty, globetrotting dishes as well as its low prices. Though more established stops like Borough Market can tend towards the pricey, Street Feast, KERB, and Brixton Village and Market Row all promise affordable eats – and a party vibe.
If you’re watching your spending, clothes shopping might seem out of reach. And yet, London is one of the world’s great retail capitals – though some boutiques are far from budget-friendly, there are certainly deals to be had.
It goes without saying that seasonal sales are the very best time to hit the high street. But then again, with a student ID in hand, you can reap the rewards at any time of year: a number of popular brands, including Topshop, Topman, and Urban Outfitters, offer student discounts at the till. Even if it’s not widely publicised, ask the sales assistant – you may just get an extra 10% knocked off your total.
Looking to stock your wardrobe with pieces that are one-of-a-kind – and even more affordable? It’s time to go thrifting. For bargain basement prices, it’s hard to get cheaper than East End Thrift Store, which hosts £1 sales. Other vintage stores like Rokit and Beyond Retro have several branches across the capital and huge stocks to comb through. And then there are the hubs like Camden Market – as long as you dodge the tourist gear, there are plenty of cool finds.
Shopping, museums, music, food – London may have a reputation for being expensive, but with a bit of research and pre-planning, you don’t have to sacrifice your urban explorations.
Have you explored the best London student deals? Any other tips to share? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Claire Bullen