London Haul + Must Know Tips on How and What to shop in London, UK!
If you follow me on Instagram (@littlemsvivian), you will know that I went to London recently. It was my first time traveling to Europe on my own so I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Now it’s been 2 weeks since I first arrived in London and I wish someone had told me the tips I will be sharing with you!
Although this is also a haul, I will not be showing everything I bought because I feel like it’s only worth it to mention things that will help you make smart shopping decisions while you’re on your trip! Also, I live in Canada, and our currency isn’t the greatest at the moment, so things might be a little different for you if you’re from another country. But keep in mind that the concepts will be the same.
Good to know: You can get tax return in UK.
I am sure you know this already if you have been planning your trip there. If you didn’t know, then here’s what to do. When you shop at each store, you can ask for a tax return receipt when you are paying at the counter. Most stores has a minimum purchase (£25-£35), but you can always add-on the receipt later. (except the first purchase will have to exceed the minimum amount) Also, most stores allow you to shop at different locations and still able to combine the receipt for tax return, but a few of them don’t do that (ex. Lush), so it’s always good to ask. Lastly, cash refund will charge £3.5 to £4 service fee for EACH return receipt (that’s why you want to combine the receipts if they’re from the same store). Refund to your card will be free of service fee, BUT your bank may charge commission. (Plus it takes up to weeks to receive the refund)
Knowing how you can get the most with least buck is important, but now let’s move on to the fun part, SHOPPING!
How to shop: Local Brands/Currency Converter
The smartest way to shop abroad is to find brands that were created in that country. Lush, Burberry, The Body Shop, etc. are all international brands that started in London. An easy way to identify when you’re on the street is to look for “London” right below their brand name.
Tip: Underground Wifi
Speaking of wifi, there’s a really great tool for travelers in London. You can buy affordable unlimited wifi in their tube stations from your phone. There are a few servers but I purchased the 7 days pass from Virgin Media because it was cheap (£5) and provides wifi in many tube stations (Click Here for all the tube stations with Wifi). With tube station wifi, you can go to all the central London without getting lost. I also use it to find good food around the area!
If you get a chance to talk to the salesperson, also ask questions like, “where are the products manufactured?” and “Do all the raw material come from London?”. Not all salespeople would know, but if they do, then you can approximate how the prices will be like in other countries. If the brand ships all raw material out or ships the products out from UK, then you know prices in other countries will be much more expensive than if they produced their products from around the world. (Don’t feel intimidated to ask those questions, because not only you can understand the brand more, but also can make sure you are not over paying.
What to Shop: Brands, Souvenirs, and UK FLAG!
Let’s start from the basic for all the fellow tourists, post cards. You can get post cards from 10p to £1, and the average price is 50p per card. I would not pay over 50p for a post cards because they’re all very similar. The cheapest ones I found was on Oxford Street for 10 for £1.
Other touristsy things you can buy in London are Starbucks London Mug, I <3 London T-shirt, London cover notebooks, and M&M products with London things on it. I never buy useless decor like a mini model of London busses, or a Queen doll with a wobbly head because no one wants to receive that as a souvenir, NO ONE (even if they give you that awkward smile and say they love it). Go for something cute/chic, and still practical or useful.
Girls, are you ready? Here’s the stuff you can buy for yourself (and for others) in London!
The reason why I put this first is because Burberry is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper in London comparing to other countries. The best place to shop Burberry is their Burberry Factory in North of London (See on MAP). You can easily find things that are from about 15% to 60% off. (I got this pair of flats for 50% off) The small sizes are usually gone unless you go on a good day. You can also ask for sizes because they do have a lot of stock in the back. (Sometimes even in different colors)
Lush was my second favorite place to shop at when I was in London. Their minimum purchase was £35 for getting a tax return receipt, but it was easy to go over. Lush ships some of their ingredients out to other countries for manufacture, so some products are definitely worth buying and some are NOT. There is a Lush factory in Vancouver so make sure you check the prices online to make you are you buying the right things. Below are the things I bought that I have checked the prices. The best purchase of these was the Dream Cream!!!!
Bath Bombs: Amandopondo & Sunnyside
Primark was founded in Dublin, but they locate throughout Europe (not yet in North America). Their stuff is cheap but the quality is not dependable. I would not recommend shopping for clothes there unless you are looking for something that’s really in the season and will probably be out of trend next year. I did not buy any clothes myself, but I bought some small things that didn’t look very cheap or I will only wear for a short period of time. (I also like buying rings and earrings for cheap because I lose them ALL THE TIME!) There is a HUGE Primark on Oxford Street (See on MAP) and I spent about two hours there looking through everything.
Tip: At Primark, I would suggest buying small bags, accessories, pajamas, intimate wear, slippers, swimwear and home decor (pillows, candles, etc)
Pajamas, Tweezers, Rings, Shower Gel, Lotion, Necklace, Earrings, Flip-Flops, Purse
Hunter makes mostly rain resistant wear. They are most famous for their rain boots. Hunter is cheaper in London but not by too much if you don’t do tax return (which I didn’t because I lost my tax return receipt…). But even if you don’t it’s still cheaper..! I bought a short pair but also bought long socks for the long pair I already own. I would recommend buying their socks if you are in colder areas (like -40 degree Toronto).
Tip: Hunter is not supposed to be a very fitted fit. Reason being that when you wear thick socks, the shoe won’t stretch. Hunter doesn’t keep your feet warm at all so I would recommend getting socks.
5. Marks and Spencer
Also known as M&S, is located everywhere in London. They sell products from beauty products to clothing to food. I would say their quality is more like department store quality. You can find some very comfortable pajamas there. You can also buy affordable skincare products as gifts there. I bought some lotion and sets of bath stuff that looked super cute and smelled great. I also bought some local snacks there and I am so excited to try some of them out! (See 7. for pictures)
Pajamas Pants, Infant Toy, Skincare Set, Body Butter
I got most of these as gifts for family and friends. They body butter smelt amazing and unique.
If you are traveling to other parts of Europe, specifically France, then don’t buy Longchamp in London. However, if you’re only in London for the trip, then buying Longchamp would be a good bet. I’ve been told that people go in to buy several bags at once, but since I already spent so much money on myself, I only bought one classic short handle bag (in purple) as a gift.
The blue one is mine, and the purple one is a gift.
You’re in Britain and you’re not getting English tea…? Just kidding. Did you know, tea is mostly grown in Asia, Africa, and some in Russia? The place for buying awesome tea is definitely not in London, but since England does hold the reputation for tea-drinking, they have some pretty unique flavors. The most popular is Early Grey and Breakfast tea. I picked up a few because I drink tea at home sometimes, so instead of buying the same brands all the time, I could try something new. I searched for great tea shops on the Internet and a couple of results gave me “Tea Palace”, but when I got to Covent Garden (according to google map), the shop itself was actually empty. I’m guessing it either moved location or closed down. I didn’t bother looking it up, I just went to the tea shop right beside it. So there is your heads up if you are interested in going to Tea Palace.
Left to Right: Green and peppermint (John Lewis), Earl Grey (John Lewis), Earl Grey (East India Company), infusion Formula (East India Company), Jasmine Pearls (East India Company)
I thought the Chakra tea was very interesting because it’s a mix of ingredients which helps the body function better. I got the Life Force and Balance which is supposed to give body energy and aid digestion. Ingredients include ginseng, ginger, peppermint, etc.
Bringing back unique snacks and having friends and family to tryout is always fun for me. Not only that it’s affordable, but also often an enjoyable experience. In London, the most common snacks you can buy are probably biscuits and butter cookies. Hotel Chocolat is also a nice choice if you are looking for something fancier. Hotel Chocolat is also the only UK chocolate provider that grows cocoa on its own plantation.
most are from Marks and Spencer except for the sticks at the bottom on the top left, the small waffle cookies in the center, and the biscotti on the top right. These three are from Tiger (found in Spitalfield Market).
8. Market Finds
One of my favorite things to do when I travel is going to local markets. I find that it’s the best way to experience culture and see the lives of locals. Unfortunately, many great markets in London have so many tourists that many stores end up selling souvenirs and the typical things you can see on Oxford street. Things that are worth getting at the markets are mostly handmade or antique. You can get some really affordable antiques for decorate your home to achieve a collector’s style.
Homemade Soap found in Convent Garden
Calendar from Southbank Centre Shop
Bonus: What NOT To Buy
☹ Umbrella from Boots was expensive and low in quality. Uniqlo, Primark, and many other shops sell prettier umbrellas that last longer.
☹ Buying Pounds(£) at the rate they tell you is also a bad idea. If you go to a small private exchange place, you can often bargain and get a better rate than a fixed priced exchange place.
Bonus: Jo Malone
I am not sure if Jo Malone is cheaper in London or not, but is was found in London. I bought one at the airport and I am obsessed with the scent (Peony and Blush Suede). If you love perfume or candles, you can check them out in London as well.
– Little Ms. Everything