The wonderful world of theatre is one of my biggest passions and one of my most favourite ways to spend my free time, but recently it has become more and more difficult due to the expensive prices. The whole experience is at risk of becoming an elitist hobby, but believe it or not there are ways to visit the West End on a budget. Here are some tips on how to not only book tickets, but to experience the West End whilst saving as much as possible.
If you live outside of London and need to travel in leaving it to the last minute to book can be a risky game. Most train companies release tickets up to 12 weeks in advance and generally, the earlier you book the cheaper the tickets are. The same applies to coach companies like Megabus and National Express. You just need to decide what you value more, extra comfort or cost. If you prefer a shorter journey and more space it would be best to go for a train, if you prefer to save those pennies I’d (and usually do) lean towards the coach. It’s cheap and it gets you from A to B, what more could you want?
Once you get to London you then have to book a show. A daunting thought I know but don’t panic, there are a number of ways to get discounted tickets.
A number of West End theatres offer the chance to buy on-the-day tickets at a discounted rate. All you have to do is to queue up outside the box office on the morning of the performance you want to attend. Tickets generally go on sale between 9am and 10am but this can vary between theatres. This isn’t 100% guaranteed you’ll get a ticket as they are subject to seat availability and your position in the queue. If it’s a show you’re desperate to see and you know it will be popular it’s better to get to the queue as early as you can. Before heading to the theatre check the production website to make sure they are actually offering Day Seats. There’s nothing worse than queuing for hours to only be told you’ve wasted your time.
The best Day Seats deal I’ve had was tickets to see Dick Whittington at the London Palladium this January. We managed to pay £20 for seats which should’ve been £125.
West End lotteries are another way of getting cheap, on-the-day tickets to some of London’s most popular shows. All you need to do is head to the production’s app or website, follow the links for their daily lottery, and apply. You will be advised later that day or the day before if your application has been successful and how to pick up your tickets. Again like with Day Seats, not all productions have a lottery and each lottery has different application rules or times so make sure you check out their website before the big day. Some of the productions which offer lotteries are Hamilton, Kinky Boots, and Dreamgirls to name but a few.
All around the West End you will find ticket booths offering both full price and discounted theatre tickets. You can find these booths in places like Victoria, Piccadilly Circus and one of the most popular vendors is the TKTS stand in Leicester Square. These booths can offer a little more freedom as you can book tickets in advance, and not just for that days performances.
Also be sure to visit the Theatre Cafe on Shaftesbury Avenue – they also offer discounted tickets.
TodayTix is a fantastic app which offers tickets to a wide number of West End productions. Like the ticket booths you can book on-the-day tickets, or you can book up to four weeks in advance. This app offers the chance to book for some of London’s most popular musicals and plays such as Aladdin, Wicked, Quiz and Frozen (staring Doctor Foster herself, Suranne Jones). Tickets are subject to availability and shows and prices are subject to change. This app is completely free to download and is simply fantastic.
If you think tickets are expensive wait till you get to the theatre and see how much they charge for snacks. There is nothing wrong with getting your drinks and snacks elsewhere and taking them into the theatre. Seriously, who’s going to pay £3.50 for a pack of chocolate buttons when the corner shop sells them for £1? My motto is save money on your snacks so you can afford to see more shows!
The only thing I don’t necessarily agree with is taking alcohol bought outside into a theatre.
West End Live:
If the choice is all a little too much why not head down to West End Live? West End Live is a free annual event which takes place in London’s Trafalgar Square and sees the majority of West End musicals each performing a few numbers for the audience. Not only can this event give you a taster of a wide number productions, you can also then head to the ticket booth and book discounted tickets to see your favourite production. Last year we bought on-the-day tickets for Half a Sixpence. Each tickets should’ve cost around £95 and instead we paid just £25.
This year’s event will take place on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th of June.
I know the theatre industry is slowly getting more expensive, but please don’t be put off or deterred by the prices. There are so many ways to do the West End on a budget. You just need to look around and do your research. Have a wonderfully stagey time!