Avoiding London’s Olympic Tax

A question I’m often asked as I flit between business bases in London and Sydney is whether it is more expensive to live day-to-day in London. And the answer quite honestly is, no, it is not.

Of course it depends on variables but in terms of living expenses, it is easier to find bargains in the UK in absolutely everything. Rule of thumb, if during your visit you are prepared to do your homework and avoid the tourist traps, you’ll do very well, otherwise it’s just like any major city.

Shopping

If you’re looking to stock up on groceries and toiletries, hit the supermarkets and department stores upon arrival since offer bulk deals galore. If you and a friend shop together, even better as you can take advantage of the good old BOGOF: Buy One, Get One Free, the UK is obsessed with them and you will find them in all the chain stores.

Retail shopping has always been one of London’s most glittering calling cards, and if you found it irresistible before, you’ll need wild horses to drag you away now, since you’ll find more, more and more  choice. So many bargains and so little time!

From the ubiquitous Primark stores ridded throughout every retail precinct, to the Olympic Westfield, proudly providing the gateway to the Games visitors, and of course, the best that Mayfair, and the world of haute couture beyond has to offer. And oh, did I mention bargains? The retail slump of 2011 which saw a large number of retailers disappear has hit back with ferocious price wars. Consumers are the winners as the retailer giants battle it out. The time to shop is now!

Entertainment

Shop around and do your homework. Happy Hour is rampant throughout the West End, if you know where to look, with some of the bigger chains offering 50% discounts.  http://www.latenight.london.co.uk offers dozens of decent bar and food choices throughout the West End and City. Likewise most bars and clubs offer incentives, discounts and offer in return for online membership. A little time and savvy spent researching entertainment online *before* you go can save you loads of ££ during your visit.

Seeing the Sights

The purchase of an official tourist voucher book at the beginning of your trip will result in heavy discounts only IF you are prepared to lock down times to do those things in advance, otherwise you’ll have voucher rich, but time poor. Or by the time you get around to it, you’ll find that 50 millions others have as well, and it’s booked out. Sign up for www.groupon.co.uk  before you go, and look for offers you can activate upon arrival, but be warned, it’s wasted money if you don’t factor in the time to take advantage of it.

Tighten Your Purse Strings

What form will your travel spending will take? If like many thrifty Australians, you have embraced the cashless option of debit cards rather than running up your credit card debt, ensure that funds are topped up and organise a back up emergency card. Contact your bank also to tell them your travel plans so they don’t shut off your account when they see from your bank transactions that someone has snapped up the entire cosmetic floor of Harvey Nics!

Beauty

If you are after Glam with a capital ‘G’, a visit to Oxford Street’s bustling Selfridges is essential. With hundreds of make-up counters offering complete make-overs you can’t afford not to be beautified! Be sure to book in advance since many of the big brands are too busy to do them on the spot. And hey, if it’s an important occasion, why take the risk? Refer www.holidaygoddess for more shopping and beauty tips.

Transport

Getting around central London is easiest and most cost effective with an Oyster card which will cover you for all tube, rail and bus travel, (though tube travel is still hellishly expensive). The great news for any Games Ticket holders is that you get free transport on the day of the games. Register at any train station when you arrive, and don’t whatever you do forget to swipe in or out or you will pay double for your tardiness!

UK Travel

For travel round the UK, coach is often more affordable than train, and early bird bookings offer heavily discounted rates.

Flying:

Most airlines fly out of Australia to Heathrow a couple of times a day with Olympic partners Singapore and Emirates. If cost is king check out Royal Brunei flights which at the time of writing were still available for around $2,000.

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