I am travelling to London in September but I am wary of spending too much money. Can you recommend any cheap places to stay, and is there anywhere I can find information on things to do? London has always had a reputation as an expensive city, but this week it slipped 13 places to 16th in Mercer's worldwide cost of living survey 2009, falling below Paris, Hong Kong, Geneva and even Caracas. The survey covers 143 cities across six continents and analyses the cost of over 200 goods and services to reach its conclusions (for more details, visit www.mercer.com/costofliving).
Still, you need to plan for your biggest holiday expenses, which will be accommodation and transport. Our recent Weekend Guide to London by Kipat Wilson cited www.easyhotel.co.uk as a good place to bag a clean, secure, centrally-located double room from just US$36 (Dh132) per night. EasyHotel's cheapest rooms are small, windowless and very orange, so you may prefer to pay a little more for a better room or to stay at somewhere like the Premier Inn at London County Hall, which occupies a wonderful position right on the Thames overlooking Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Double rooms here cost from $160 (Dh590) per night (visit www.premiertravelinn.com for more details).
For transport, it's best to obtain an electronic Oyster card (www.oyster.tfl.gov.uk) before making any journey on the Tube or bus network, as tickets for individual trips will cost around twice as much. You can get the card at any London Underground station for a refundable deposit of $5 (Dh18): it can then be loaded with credit for your journeys. Once your accommodation and transport are organised, you can get on with enjoying all of the great free things to see and do in London. Most of the major galleries and museums, including Tate Modern and the British Museum, are free to both residents and visitors; there are also parks, markets and walking tours. To keep an eye on what's on visit www.timeout.com - on which free events are helpfully labelled; for example, the National Theatre's free festival of street theatre, is happening on the South Bank until Sept 27. You can also use this website to search for cheap restaurants - the huge number means you'll always be able to find a bargain. The website of Visit London, the capital's official tourism agency, also has a section devoted to those on a budget (see www.visitlondon.com for details).
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