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london prices

While planning my vacation to London, I keep reading about how expensive it is. Food, drinks, etc. However, I live in NYC where the prices are outrageous!! A glass of wine can easily cost $15, a pint of beer $10, and forget about food. At least $20 and thats in a cheap restaurant. So I declined to look at menus in London just to get a feel, and didn't think the prices were as extreme as NYC. I felt relieved looking at prices, were beer and wine seems significantly cheaper. But maybe I missing something?

Posted by
7050 posts

Alcohol is usually marked up at any restaurant so you can expect high prices, but in large cities like NYC and London, there is wide variation of food at all price points - from inexpensive, informal to very formal, fine dining. You can eat Indian food (or other ethnic fare) in both very cheaply depending where you go. Also, it depends on the exct exchange rate between USD and British pounds.

Posted by
470 posts

when looking at prices a US pint is only 16 fluid ounces an Imperial Pint 20

Posted by
344 posts

For you to compare to NYC prices. an Americano or a Coke cost about £3-3.50, a glass of beer in a restaurant from £5-8 depending on what beer and where, a ready-made sandwich about £4-6. These have increased quickly in the last year and we’re expecting them to increase even more this year, so better come quickly!

Posted by
53 posts

I'll be coming in April, so hopefully the prices dont raise to much by then. lol. I'm not a huge foodie, so expensive restaurants and food are not really my thing. I love a great atmosphere and will be looking forward to all the beautiful old pubs. (I made of list of some historic ones) So I'm sure many of my meals will be in pubs. Also looking forward to some Indian food, which I hear is amazing in London. I would also like to check out the China town.

Posted by
4604 posts

I found the prices to be like most big city prices, which is what I expected. One thing I didn't expect was for the exchange to ping pong as much as it did on a day to day basis. Hey you're on vacation, pay what it takes to have the trip you want. If you'd rather not do a fancy sitdown meal, please don't. There are millions of Pret locations, for example, where you can quickly get a cheap breakfast or lunch. Rick lists other popular chains that are all over town.

Posted by
1196 posts

As I understand it, London is at present cheaper for eating out than NYC. Everything I’ve heard about New York recently is that it’s extremely expensive. I don’t think you’ll find London prices a problem.

Posted by
1196 posts

And just to add, when you see a menu price here it includes all taxes and you’ll only need to tip 12.5%. That’s the standard service charge which the majority of decent restaurants now add on to the final bill. If no service charge is included I tip 10%.

Posted by
15724 posts

I can tell you supermarket prices in the UK are lower than in the U.S. Restaurant prices vary depending on the restaurant.

I spend time in both NYC and London. London is slightly cheaper from a visitor's point of view.

In NYC, you can find a slice for a buck. In the UK, most smaller markets have meal deals--sandwich, side/snack, drink for under $5. Neither is the best quality but they are economical.

Posted by
53 posts

Oh thats good to know about the tipping. In NY, we tip 20-25% of the bill. Again outrageous.

Posted by
4604 posts

Yes, read the bill carefully at a sitdown restaurant. It's now very common to have the tip already added, so fight the American urge to tip again. A portable terminal will be brought to your table and you'll pay right there with your card.

If you wish to tip in addition to that, apparently there is no ability for the terminal to add something so you will need cash.

Posted by
5428 posts

I've just returned from the US and I was shocked at the prices for everything. I last visited in 2018 and whilst I noted some things were more expensive than the UK it was a lot different on this occasion. Even London, easily the most expensive city in the UK, has nothing on the US at present, even outside the major cities so those prices you were looking at.......you're not missing anything (they also include tax).

Posted by
5428 posts

If you wish to tip in addition to that, apparently there is no ability for the terminal to add something so you will need cash.

That depends on the establishment. Some terminals offer the opportunity to add a tip, others don't.

Posted by
53 posts

So for tipping.. 12% if it is not already included and 10% if it is?
What do they call the included tip on the bill? a service charge?

I'll tell you, coming from the US, It is so ingrained in our brains that anything lower than 20% is bad here.
But it is very different. Wait staff here count on those tips as part of their salary. They get paid much lower here.

Posted by
53 posts

Seriously though the tipping culture is one reason I have given up travelling to the States.

Sorry to hear that, but I completely understand. We literally have to tip EVERYONE lol.
You need a whole budget just for tips.

Posted by
5428 posts

I'll tell you, coming from the US, It is so ingrained in our brains that anything lower than 20% is bad here.
But it is very different. Wait staff here count on those tips as part of their salary. They get paid much lower here.

That's not the case. I've recently learned that the minimum wage in most US states is higher than that in the UK. Wait staff in the US are better paid on average than UK staff and that's before tips are taken into account. Wages appear to have improved in the US but the tipping mentality has remained the same.

Posted by
10403 posts

Minimum wage may be higher for most jobs, but I believe the restaurant industry has a lower minimum wage to account for tips.

Posted by
1 posts

We just got back from a little over 3 weeks in London, and there are expensive places and there are cheap places! Overall, though, I think your gut feeling is correct. I am an ex-New Yorker and still have lots of family there, and yes, it's a skosh more expensive overall to eat out/drink out in NYC vs London, I think.

That said, prices really are all over the map in London. For example, we paid as little as 12 pounds for a pint of Guinness and a double gin and tonic, and as much as 20 pounds for the same drinks, at places a short tube ride from one another.

As for food, you can pop into a Tesco Metro or a M&S Food and pick up a pre-made sandwich for under 4 pounds, and a drink for a pound and a half, and have a decent lunch. Or pay only slightly more at one of the ubiquitous Pret a Mangers. Or you can push the boat out and pay... as much as you want!

Key is to wander away from high-traffic, high-tourist areas. Admittedly, most of central London is touristy, but even 3 or 4 blocks into a less crowded area will bring an associated reduction in prices. It's kind of mind-blowing, actually.

Posted by
53 posts

I would definitely rather eat in restaurants, than quick eats. While not a foodie, I do love good ambience and will pay for it if need be. Sit in a beautiful old pub with some food and I'm happy. lol. So while prices aren't going to hinder my trip, it was just an observation I had made during my research and was very curious for the discussion. But of course I'd love to come home with some of that saved spending money! lol

Posted by
5428 posts

Minimum wage may be higher for most jobs, but I believe the restaurant industry has a lower minimum wage to account for tips.

The minimum wage is the minimum wage for all jobs, it's the same irrespective of job or industry. Tipping in the US is now all about guilt, it's the biggest factor in my consideration of not visiting the US in the forseeable.

Posted by
7659 posts

The minimum wage is the minimum wage for all jobs, it's the same irrespective of job or industry. Tipping in the US is now all about guilt

Actually, “Tipped Employees” get a lower minimum wage than non-tipped employees in many U.S. states. And what constitutes a Tipped Employee can vary from state to state, as well as the dollar amount of that minimum wage. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/state/minimum-wage/tipped

Tipping is an established practice in the U.S.A., but a patron is free to stiff a server, if they so desire, or if service has been particularly bad. While we really enjoyed our week in London this past spring, it was noticeably expensive, as anticipated. Food, as well as lodging, are not exactly cheap, but there are strategies to deal with that, in London as anywhere.

It’s been a long time since I lived in Manhattan, but I understand that what jennfur is saying about NYC prices being outrageous is completely right!

Posted by
8885 posts

Really? Not visiting the US because of tipping?

Rather a silly perspective.

I can think of many jobs I’d not like to do and food service would be one of them. Customers can be rude, obnoxious and condescending. So, for me, tipping a waiter, waitress or bar keep is something I’ll always do. Now, if food service individuals are rude, obnoxious or condescending in away they get zilch and told why.

Happened recently. A new, restaurant with roof top bar opened last year here in Hollywood. Friend wanted to try it.

The young man who acted as the maitre d was all of the above. Thankfully our waitress was wonderful.

As we were leaving the restaurant I took the young man aside… “ lovely meal, great waitress but you young man need to check your ageism and attitude. My friend here has Emmys for Executive Producing the biggest series in the history of TV ( Game of Thrones ) and little oh me was the Location Manager for the 2nd unit ( the stunt unit ) on the first Fast and Furious. We older broads deserve your respect as customers and trust me the owner of the restaurant will hear about your arrogance. Get over yourself!” Left him speechless.

Waitress got a huge tip. He got reprimanded.

Posted by
9436 posts

JC, minimum wage in the US varies from State to State, and by cities.

Posted by
27450 posts

Here's a table showing (in the next-to-last column) the minimum cash wage for tipped workers by state. As others have pointed out, servers in some states can be paid very, very little. It is absolutely not the case that the standard minimum wage automatically applies to tipped workers; that is the case in only eight states. In the others, the tipped-employee minimum cash wage is usually much, much lower--in fifteen states it is $2.13!

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/state/minimum-wage/tipped

Posted by
5428 posts

Really? Not visiting the US because of tipping?

No, there are other reasons but I didn't want to go completely off topic however the constant nickel and diming in the US is very off putting (resort fees anyone?) and serves only to encourage me to take my money elsewhere.

When you buy a sandwich from Subway and the server is friendly and chatty however when you press the 'no tip' option on the terminal and her attitude changes completely to one of complete disdain then you realise that service in the US is little more than a shallow charade intended solely to extract as much money from the customer as possible. Even leaving an extortionate 18% tip instead of the proposed 20% or 22% on a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine elicited a discourteous response in one restaurant and I could go on and on about similar experiences. Quite frankly there are plenty of other countries I'd rather visit where I'm not treated solely as a cash cow.

Posted by
5428 posts

JC, minimum wage in the US varies from State to State, and by cities.

I know but the minimum wage is the minimum wage irrespective of job. If someone is paid the minimum wage in California it doesn't matter if they're a server in a restaurant or a cashier in a supermarket, the minimum wage is the same.

Posted by
1196 posts

You just need a different attitude to tipping when you visit the US. The price you see is not the price you pay. Just accept that and tip accordingly.

Posted by
15724 posts

JC, yes, all workers must make a minimum wage. However, that minimum does not have to come from the employer if the position includes tipping. Then the employer can pay less as long as the worker makes it up in tips. If the employee does not make it in tips, then the business must make up the difference.

So you can keep saying a minimum wage is a minimum wage but there are exceptions.

If you don't want to come to America, that's fine. I flew back into the USA yesterday and the arrivals hall was packed with hundreds of people who do.

Posted by
470 posts

in the UK it is illegal to include tips to make up the minimum wage
some outfits used to do this and were exposed
There is no need to tip in UK and you can get service charge removed if not clear from menu that it is applied
You can of course tip is you think it has been deserved .
No one would tip in a pub when ordering food from the bar

ps just bought a sandwich from Lidl, it was £1.09

Posted by
1196 posts

Yes in the U.K. you can ask to have the service charge removed from the bill and I have been out for dinner with people who do this! They will bring you a new bill without any fuss as you are not legally obliged to pay the service charge. I never would but the logic is they get minimum wage anyway, why I should I pay them more?

Posted by
15724 posts

And we are all familiar with the nauseating “Do you know who I am” ploy.

You think only Americans do this? I've heard your countrymen use the same phrasing.

And yes, if a server can't make minimum wage via tips, they will probably be
replaced. The take home pay for a server in the U.S. I would almost guarantee is higher in the U.S than in the UK or anywhere there is no tipping. So you will find few Americans with the attitude of "they are making minimum wage so why should I give more."

And contrary to what some think, you don't have to tip everyone. Just because someone puts out a tip jar doesn't mean you have to contribute.

Posted by
5428 posts

And contrary to what some think, you don't have to tip everyone. Just because someone puts out a tip jar doesn't mean you have to contribute.

Of course not and I don't. If the service is counter service then I don't tip, if it's a sit down meal and I'm being waited upon then I'll tip. What is irksome is the response when you don't tip the counter service staff or any others who feel obliged to place a tip jar on the counter or suggest tip percentages on the card terminal.

As for the minimum wage argument where it's only paid if tips aren't sufficient, I find it an abhorent practice, it's not the customers job to supplement wages particularly when it invariably results in a hamfisted attempt at good service. No, I don't want to be interrupted every few minutes to be asked if everything is all right, taking away a plate when someone has finished but the rest of the table are still eating is very rude and handing me the bill when I have only just finished eating in an attempt to move me on just makes me feel unappreciated as a customer. My record for dinner service was made recently at a restaurant in Palm Desert, CA. We were seated at 6 pm, drinks served, starters and mains eaten (I didn't eat mine as it wasn't very nice) and bill presented before being out of the door at 6.30, I think I've spent longer in a McDonalds.

Posted by
5428 posts

I never would but the logic is they get minimum wage anyway, why I should I pay them more?

I've asked for the service charge to be removed not because I have the attitude of "why should I pay them more" but because I don't like the percentage system. If I order a bottle of wine that costs £60 where is the justification for paying more than if I'd ordered one that costs £20? The work involved in opening the wine is the same so why pay more because the item you've ordered is more expensive. What I have done on those occasions is leave a cash tip which I also know will not end up in the restaurant owners pocket.

Posted by
5428 posts

You think only Americans do this? I've heard your countrymen use the same phrasing.

You're quite right Frank, I've heard it many times as well. I've also lost count of the times that I've sneeringly been told "I pay your wages" by members of the public I've dealt with in my job as a police officer. Such boorish sentiments are found everywhere.

Posted by
15724 posts

I've never had a counter person give me attitude if I don't tip. As an example, there is a very good bakery near where I stay in the US. I go in for their bread. The counter person takes my bread, puts it in the slicing machine, then puts it in a bag and hands it to me. All of 30 seconds. Then someone else takes my money. I'm always asked if I want to leave a tip.

No.

As for attentive service and leaving the check, that's what most Americans want especially at casual restaurants. Get them in and out. Unless you're at a fine dining restaurant. Then it's different. And...ordering "starters" in a casual restaurant is rare for Americans but common for British. Why...because the portions are huge.

Posted by
8662 posts

Isn't the sales tax issue another significant difference? In my city, the tax on restaurant bills is about 10%. So a meal with prevailing tip will cost you around 30% more than the menu price. That would be startling to me if I was visiting.

Comparing wages should consider the other benefits - health care day care, education, paid multi-week vacation, parental leave, decent public transportation, and a lower crime rate. All things that have monetary value beyond the hourly rate. The US servers I have known have all said that a server working at a decent restaurant will make a heck of a lot more than minimum wage with tips, so all servers are not low wage-earners, needing our charity.

When I was a child ('60s - '70s) the standard rule of thumb around here for calculating a tip was "twice the sales tax" which was a more normal 3-5%. And it was based on the pre-tax amount of the bill.

Posted by
5428 posts

And...ordering "starters" in a casual restaurant is rare for Americans but common for British. Why...because the portions are huge.

The restaurant I was visiting wasn't exactly tourist central, every other customer was American and I observed plenty ordering starters (there must be a demand otherwise why include them on the menu?) As it was, the food servings weren't large, we shared a calamari starter and my main was three fish tacos, the typical palm sized taco.

Posted by
53 posts

My record for dinner service was made recently at a restaurant in Palm Desert, CA. We were seated at 6 pm, drinks served, starters and mains eaten (I didn't eat mine as it wasn't very nice) and bill presented before being out of the door at 6.30, I think I've spent longer in a McDonalds.

This is a big cultural difference, honestly. I was in the UK in September of last year, and UK/Hungary the year before that, and after just about every meal we had in a restaurant, we were ready to leave long before our server brought the bill. It's not a bad thing to linger over dinner, have after dinner drinks, etc.; it's just not something many Americans are accustomed to, at least in my experience.

Posted by
8885 posts

@JC

too bad you won’t get the see The Smithsonian Museums, the Statue of Liberty, Lake Michigan, the Everglades, Cape Canaveral, Green Mountain National Park, Mt Rushmore, Gettysburg, NYC, Savannah, coast of Maine, a baseball game, enjoy a Philly Cheesesteak, the vast plains of Nebraska, The Alamo, 1st Mondays in Dallas, the Rocky Mountains, hear musicians in Nashville, eat bbq in Alabama, see Bison and thermal geysers in Yellowstone, visit Bisti Bandlands, look for pottery and art in Taos, see Canyonlands, Bryce and Zion and Salt Lake in Utah, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, enjoy Balboa Park, lose money in Vegas, take the Palm Springs Aerial Tram, see Salvation Mountain, be disappointed by Hollywood, enjoy the Pacific coast via Hwy 1. Monterey Bay Aquarium. Wander about Pacific Grove. The galleries in Carmel. Have artichoke soup At Duarte’s Tavern. Visit Hwy 9 wineries. Visit the Stanford theatre in Palo Alto.
Enjoy the City By The Bay starting with lunch at The Ramp. See the Central Valley farm land. Tour the Presido grounds and Fort Point. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. See Sausalito or Muir Woods. See California’s Gold Country. Tour the Sacramento State Capital and Sutters Fort. See the Sacramento Delta. Wander about the Redwoods. Visit Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino. See the beauty of Yosemite. Hike around Mt Lassen. See Mt Shasta. Stay in Ferndale. Visit Bodega Bay. Stay in Trinidad. And sail on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. See Mt St Helens. Visit all the California Missions. Enjoy the beauty of Lake Tahoe. Olympic National Forest. Whitby Island. See whales, sea lions, elk, bighorn sheep, red fox, eagles, black bears, grizzly bears, coyotes grey wolves, desert tortoises, ski in a number of states, sun tan in Hawaii…. Countless parks, museums, cities, regional dishes to enjoy and experience.

Not visiting the United States because of tipping is your loss.

Posted by
5428 posts

@ Claudia,

Thankyou for the tips however after visiting the US over the last 15 years (Covid hiatus excepted) I have experienced much of what you've highlighted. I've travelled all over the country, my interests lying mainly in the national parks, Yellowstone being my absolute favourite. I've seen the big highlights, the "must sees" although I haven't been to Hollywood as it is of no interest to me. I've been to most of the Smithsonian museums in DC, I've "done" NYC, I've queued up to see the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and I ate a cheesesteak. I've visited the sites of Jamestown and Yorktown and learned the history of the US. I've seen bison, bears, wolves and a whole plethora of native animals, plants and natural wonders. I've eaten the best BBQ in Texas (arguably better than Alabama), the best Mexican in the South, bison in Wyoming, alligator in Florida, rattlesnake in Texas, incredible fish tacos in San Francisco, the best steak ever in Cincinnatti and drank some great beers and fantastic wines.

I've visited the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City and hiked the surrounding mountains and lakes. Flown over the Grand Canyon and rode horseback through it. Admired General Sherman in Seqouia. Rode an airboat through the Everglades. Toured Cape Canaveral. Endured Disneyland. Baked in the summer heat in Georgia and South Carolina. Watched a Friday Night rodeo in Idaho. Lost money in Vegas. Sailed on Lake Tahoe. Watched the sealions in SF, coyotes in Death Valley, tortoise, tarantulas and Bighorn sheep in the deserts of Mojave and Sonora.

I've probably experienced more of the US than most Americans.

My latest trip saw me visiting Death Valley, Redrock Canyon, Valley of Fire, Saguero, Coachella Valley, Joshua Tree and a whole host of other smaller parks, four weeks of hiking amongst some of the most amazing scenery. However, I experienced some unpleasant factors. Being racially abused and intimidated within five minutes of leaving my hotel in Vegas (I'm white btw) was one of them, dealing with the most obnoxious, ignorant and dangerous drivers was another one and there are other experiences that I won't list because it will risk taking the thread completely off topic. However, the most tiresome aspect of my trip was the constant nickel and diming everywhere. The constant request for money, tips, donations. I pay $30 to visit a museum yet they still ask for donations.

There are still several national parks that I'd like to see however to visit from the UK requires a number of flights and/or long driving distances. For me, the negatives now outweigh the positives. My family want to explore more of Europe and parts of Asia that we've yet to visit so those places take priority. I feel that I've experienced what I want from the US and have no real desire to return. My intention is not to cause offence to Americans so please don't take umbrage, I just want to go elsewhere.

Posted by
470 posts

Re Tax
In UK the price you see on the menu is the price you pay
VAT, sales tax at 20%, is included in the listed price
It is normally shown on the bill. So a £15.00 meal will include £2.50 VAT

Posted by
4604 posts

Not to fuel this fire JC but every church/cathedral I visited in the UK kept asking for donations even if they charged admission, that's just how life is.

Posted by
5428 posts

But Phred, how many free musuems did you visit where your admission was subsidised by the British taxpayer?

Posted by
1624 posts

I once tried to point out how important I was to an odious, mithering waiter.

"But I'm a carpenter," I said.

"Is that all?" he replied. "Most of our patrons are involved in the film industry or the theatre."

I told him straight, "I'll have you know that Jesus was a carpenter, pal, so don't knock it."

Posted by
2075 posts

"but every church/cathedral I visited in the UK kept asking for donations even if they charged admission"

Think of the cost of upkeep of those buildings. Tourists do tend to regard them as 'attractions' rather than places of worship. They don't receive any government support and are dependent on ticket sales which may not completely cover the cost. Why should the congregation be expected to make up the shortfall rather than the tourist?

If visitng some of the smaller churches which don't charge admission , please do put a contribution in the box to help with upkeep.

Posted by
369 posts

I don't usually carry cash, so I didn't tip at my local Subway until they added the ability when you use your card. They never gave me attitude about not tipping. Now I add $1 to my bill as a tip. I leave a little tip because they work very hard, and often there is only one worker, and I can see she's stressed when there's a line, but she keeps on going and is polite and nice.

I don't tip at the cafe in my fitness club when I get a fountain soda. There's a tip jar but I don't leave a tip for that tiny amount of work. I've never gotten attitude about it.

At restaurants I tip 20%-25%.