This is my story of how I visited London with only $100 and without a visa. I have dreamt of visiting London since I was a little boy. One morning, when I was 10 years old, I woke up to get ready for school and I told my mum about the dream I had the night before. I was so excited because the dream was very elaborate. It was a dream of me in London.
My 10-year old mind left no stone unturned in imagining me in London. It was not just a trip around London in the hop-on-hop-off tour buses. Thinking back, the dream must have been influenced by the movies I watched around the time. In it, I wore an oversized warm black jacket with black leather gloves and a hat (I can’t remember the color or style anymore lol). No detail was spared as I also dreamed of the food that I ate and saw myself on top of the London Eye.
It was the start of a good day for a 10-year old.
Many years after that, in February 2019, I got to visit London by myself during my 10-hour layover in Heathrow. I did this with my Nigerian passport without a Visa and with less than $100. If you’ve been looking to visit London but have no time, like me or are on a tight budget, like me, this post is for you.
I followed a very strict schedule during my short time in London. From landing at around 5 am to boarding at around 4 pm, everything was planned to the teeth.
- 5 am — 6 am: Arrival and clear customs
- 6 am — 7 am: Carryon dropoff and route planning
- 7 am — 8:10 am: Train from Heathrow to Green Park station, Breakfast, Purchase tour bus ticket
- 8:20 am — 10:15 pm: Use the Big Bus Tour red line tour bus with stops at Trafalgar Square and other places.
- 10:20 am — 11 am: Cruise between London Tower and Westminster Pier with City Cruises. Included in Big Bus Tour ticket.
- 11 am— 1 pm: Continue on the red line tour bus with stops at Buckingham Palace.
- 1 pm — 1:20 pm: Quick lunch and transfer to Big Bus Tour Blue line tour bus
- 1:20 pm — 2:30 pm: Blue line tour with no stops
- 2:30 pm — 3:00 pm: Train to the airport
- 3:00 pm — 4 pm: Pick up carry on bag, go through security, locate gate and board. Leave London
The $100 Budget Tour
I already mentioned that I spent around $100. Here’s how it went down:
- London Travel Card** (Adult Zones 1–6):** £18
- Carry-on luggage storage** **(You don’t want to carry your bags on the tour): £12
- Tour bus pass including Boat Cruise and walking tour: £32
- **Breakfast, light lunch, coffee: **£15
Total: £77 or $99.72
Entering the UK without Visa
Before I booked my flight, I did some research and I found that because I have a Canadian visa and I am traveling to Canada, I do not need a Visitor in transit visa to do landside transit or transit between airports in the UK. Although all my flights were in Heathrow and I did not ordinarily have to go throw customs, I had to since I wanted to visit London. For this, I technically needed a tourist visa but because my layover was long and the border officer was convinced that I will leave the UK, he stamped my passport and I was able to leave the transit area and enter the UK with my Nigerian passport. Here’s how it went down.
- Officer: Where are you traveling to?
- Me: Canada.
- Officer: What are you going to do there?
- Me: I work there.
Another officer comes to the desk. Scans my passport to check if it’s genuine. I smile.
- Officer: So you checked your bags already and you don’t need to go through immigration since you leave from Heathrow?
- Me: Yes. I have a long 12hour layover and I was hoping to visit London.
- Officer: Ok. But you need to apply for a tourist visa to do that.
- Me: Yes. I was hoping that the Visitor in Transit visa will be sufficient to see London since I have a long layover.
- Officer: Yes and No. Since you are not transiting at another airport but visiting, it might not work that way. But, hmmm, the layover is long… Was that the only flight available when you were booking?
- Me: Yes.
- Officer: Ok. What do you do for work?
- Me: Software Engineer.
- Officer: How long have you lived in Canada?
- Me: Over 5 years.
- Officer: How long were you in Nigeria for?
- Me: Just a couple of days. 11 days.
- Officer: Have you been to the UK before?
- Me: No
Looks through my passport. Examines scans of multiple visits to the US, Canada, Nigeria, and other countries. Realizes I have the larger 64-page passport as opposed to the regular 32 pages one.
Completes and signs my landing card, stamps passport and hands them to me.
- Officer: So I am letting you enter the UK. Please, do not miss your flight to Canada.
- Me: Yes. Thanks, man. Have a good day.
All these happened in less than 5minutes. The questions were many but the experience was positive because the officers were courteous and respectful. Will totally recommend. Just be nice.
The architecture in London is very impressive. Gold embellishments are very common. And everyone was very nice. I was alone so I always asked people around to take pictures of me and everyone obliged. I did not have google maps so asked around and people took their time to help me figure out where I was and how I would get to my next destination.
Everyone I talked to went above and beyond to help out. I will definitely want to visit again.
It is possible to tour London in less than 12-hour layover. I recommend you do this only if you have a layover that is over 7 hours as you will spend about
- 3 hours on round trip travel between the city center and Heathrow,
- 2 hours for customs and security check, both ways
- 15–30 minutes to store and pick up your carry-on and
- 30 minutes just waiting around for your tour buses and figuring out what bus to board
With a 7 hour layover, you will only have about an hour to see London. With 10 hours or more, you have ample time to see multiple parts of the city.
TL;DR: A step by step guide for visiting London in a day for dummies
To visit London in a long Layover:
- Go through immigration
- Drop off your bag in storage on the arrivals level
- Buy zones 1–6 travelcard in the vending machine on the same level
- Board the Piccadilly line at Heathrow
- Disembark at Green Park station. The tour bus leaves from here.
- Buy a Big Bus Tour tour pass which includes a boat cruise and walking tour.
- Hop on the red line. The first bus leaves 8:20 am and 20 mins between buses.
- Make stops at Trafalgar Square and London Eye
- Stop at Tower of London and board a boat
- End boat cruise at Westminster Pier
- Hop on the red lin3 bus at 18 —Westminster Pier and continue the tour
- Stop at Buckingham Palace
- Jump on the next red bus and end red line tour at 4 — Marble Arch
- Jump on the blue bus at 4 — Marble Arch
- Continue tour until the 27 — Gloucester Road stop
- Jump on Piccadilly line to Heathrow at Gloucester station. Make sure you board the train that stops are your terminal. There was Piccadilly — Terminal 1,2,3 and 4 and Piccadilly — Terminal 1,2,3 and 5
- At Heathrow, take the elevator/lift to arrivals and pick up your stored luggage
- Head down to departures and go through security
- Find your boarding gate and leave London
Let know if this article was helpful. Until next time!