Traveling cheap at the London Olympics is possible but you will need to plan ahead. I found some great deals on lodging (75$ per night) and meals in Central London. If you want to save even more you can find rooms as cheap as $58 in Brighton (1 hour from London) or a bed at a hostel from $25 in West London. Most major hotel chains have raised rates an average of 300% but it is possible to find reasonable prices as I've shown below.
Is it Possible to Eat Cheaply in London?
While it will be difficult to find inexpensive dining options in London, you can find deals in the UK with a service called tastecard. Tastecard is a website that offers discounts of up to 50% off at over 1200 popular London restaurants. They do have an app for smartphones that allows you to find deals while you're out and about at the games. Bars will be charging $7.75 for a small glass of red wine and $11.50 for a pint of beer, double the going price. Toasted teacakes will run $3.40, tea will cost $3.23 and $3.70 for a coke. Other dishes served at the London Olympics are: Chicken and jacket potatoes $9.37, Singapore noodle stir fry $13.73. According to NPR's Vicki Barker, “Spectators will be paying the equivalent of $9 for what's being billed as “line-caught” tuna, $13 for fish and chips and $2.50 for a 16-ounce bottle of water.”
Resources for Cheap Eats in London
Cheap Eats Near London Olympic Venues – Places to eat for well under £10 near London Olympic venues such as Wembley, ExCel Centre, Olympic Stadium, and more.
Time Out London – London's best cheap eats – A great comprehensive listing of some of the best places to get a cheap meal in London.
The Guardian – Central London's top 10 budget restaurants – Renowned restaurant critic Tony Naylor chooses the best budget restaurants in Central London.
Eating in East London on a Budget – Top places for a great deal on eats in East London plus some great reader recommendations.
Getting to Olympic Park
There are many options for travelers to get to Olympic Park. The National Rail has stations within a 15 minute walk in Stratford and about 25 minutes from West Ham. The London Underground also has stations in Stratford and West Ham. Be sure to buy passes in advance to avoid lines at the station. Another option is to ride a bike and park it at the free, secured parking facilities for bikes at Victoria Park (15 minute walk to Victoria gate) and outside Elton Manor and Greenway gates. The Official London Olympics site has a spectator journey planner that allows visitors to choose preferred transportation options such as public transport or cycle and then generate a plan for your journey between lodging and Olympic venues. You can even purchase tickets for the train, underground, or water taxi right from the web site. Kids can travel free or discount across London's transportation system so be sure to visit: Transport for London.
One of the best ways to get around London while at the London 2012 Olympics is to use Barclays Cycle Hire better know as Boris Bikes. The Transport London website has a great resource to help you plan your bike trip to the Olympic venues with route maps and docking station locations.
Camping at the Summer Olympics
Camp In London, from 26 July – 13 August 2012 is a campsite and festival in one. It provides visitors to London with an affordable accommodation solution while celebrating the best in food, beverages, culture and art.
Camp In London is just a 5 minute shuttle bus ride from the Olympic Park, with shuttle buses running from the campsite to the Park from 6.45am to 1.30am.
Pitch-your-own camping starts from $16pp per night for volunteers and $24pp per night for general public. Pre-erected and luxury bell tents are available from $64pp per night and $162pp per night respectively.
Campers have access to an abundance of onsite facilities including:
– bicycle hire & tours
– kid’s club
– shuttle bus services
Plus, free entry to the entertainment zone featuring stage, bar, food stalls, large screen TV and live entertainment all exclusively available to campers. [Source]
Camping at the Games – Run by Campingninja.com, this site allows you to pitch a tent on the grounds of a London sports venue. It sounds primitive however the facilities at one typical venue include: parking, 24 hr running water, showers, toilets, allocated washing up area, bar – serving cold beverages, alcohol, hot drinks and food (including breakfast), charging points, laundry service, large screen TVs, BBQ nights, security and Pre-erected tents available to hire. Source: campingatthegames.com
Where to Find Cheap Lodging
Brighton – 1 Hour from Central London
Hove – From $58 per night 15 minutes to Brighton Station
A double room, suitable for a couple or just one person, in a first floor flat with balcony. Quiet, cozy, comfortable. Excellent bus and Railway services. Just 15 minutes from Brighton Station, 5 minutes from Hove. Brighton is a wonderful coastal town made popular in Victorian times. There's a wealth of historical sites in and around the South East of England, easily accessible by train and bus. Arundel Castle is just 20 minutes away by car, 30/40 minutes by train, 1hr.20min by bus.
Our guest rooms feature handmade wood beds or traditional metal ones, natural wood floors and extra power sockets, reading lights, lockers and free Wi-Fi. A free continental breakfast will fuel you in the morning and the pub, communal kitchen and T.V. room lounge will be there to welcome you back.
It is comfy with a Double bed in a large room in a cosy flat in Kings cross, near the tube which is 5 mins and close to all tourist sites. Sheets, towels, bedding , duvets included. Use of TV,DVD, WIFI available.
ALSO use of large kitchen , washing machine , gas cooker , large fridge etc… All within a quiet block , lift , intercom , security gates , private park ,own keys.
Refurbished modern flat has intercom , security gates and a lift and a private park ,high gloss walnut flooring , WIFI , walnut flooring, Mirrored sliding doors as storage , a table, chair . Duvet sheets/ towel provided- very safe and secure and quiet -perfect loacation to explore London from.
We offer guests free during their stay:
-Fresh towels and bed linen
– Shampoo/conditioner and shower gel
– A hairdryer is supplied for guest use
– Breakfast including: coffee, tea, toast, cereal and yogurt
– Guidebooks for London and local information from us, including public transport connections from our home, favorite restaurants/bars/museums
Other Inexpensive Ways to Enjoy London
Pick up a traditional meat pie or if you fancy something lighter, some fresh baked bread, cheese, and fruit at one of the 20 Farmer's Markets scattered around London and head to a nearby park like Hampstead Heath or Holland Park.
Free wifi is offered at the following places in London: Barbican Centre, Camden Arts Centre, Royal Festival Hall or just use the free Wififreespot.com to locate the nearest wifi hotspot to you.
Take in a free exhibit at the British Museum.
Kids can travel free on London's transportation system. Visit the Transport for London website for details.
Catch a free concert, film, comedy shows and leisure activitiy.
Or how about a free (suggested $3.50 donation) lunchtime concert at St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday at 1:00
One of the best places to have a cup of coffee is Bar Italia on Frith Street about a block from Soho Square.
As I have shown, you can travel in London for less than you would expect to pay especially during a major event like the Summer Olympics. The key is to plan well in advance to get the best value.