Everyone who has been there has a horror story about London prices: the slice of cold pizza and a warm pint that cost the equivalent of $30; the dinner when you treated friends and later had to shove your mortgage repayments back a month ...

However, with the economic downturn having hit Britain worse than most, plus the squeeze on company credit cards, London is having to be more accommodating to the money-conscious traveller. Restaurants and hotels, many of which have been struggling lately, are offering deals.

Some may not look like real bargains (the approximate currency conversions are done here for you), but remember the horror stories and compare with what things used to be like.

Eating can be cheap anywhere if you are prepared to be courageous, but you don't want to risk your health to save a few dollars. However, some of London's better restaurants and mid-level operations are offering enticing lunch and dinner options. While I was there the attractive Ten Tables on Gloucester Rd, which specialises in contemporary European food, was offering a two-course lunch for $35, three courses for $48. Around the West End theatre district you could easily find two-course set dinners for between $35 and $60.

The highly praised Chinese restaurant D.Sum2 behind St Paul's in Paternoster Square had a set lunch for two at $28, a takeaway lunchbox for $20. (Incidentally, this area is worth checking out late in the day: the many pubs are the gathering grounds for the White Fronted Black Suited Lawyer Bird and their potential partners. Grab a drink and watch the mating ritual.)

Pub lunches are always a good deal because you get the ambience as well as your toad-in-the-hole or beef sausages with a mountain of mash.

Typical is the Pitcher and Piano near the Tower of London, a decent old-world pub where all lunch meals were $12 and if you buy two large glasses of wine you get the rest of the bottle free.

And if none of that appeals then the ubiquitous Pret A Manger outlets are everywhere for sandwiches and the like. You should try Brick Lane, where the Indian restaurants offer everything from a free bottle of wine with every two curries, to buy one and get one free on mains. Walk slowly, listen to the offers being made by guys in the doorways and take your time. Confirm exactly what you have agreed on. But if you can't get a decent dinner here for under $25 you've done something wrong.

Accommodation in London is always the most crippling part of any trip. Those on a lean allowance should look at hotel options a bit further out: there's no disadvantage in staying in places half a dozen Tube stops from the tourist attractions.

Booking online will certainly save you money, and you'd be wise to check visitlondon.com for the special deals that many places are offering. Users also rate hotels (as well as restaurants) which is helpful because as we know the gorgeous Georgian exterior gives no hint to what awaits inside the doors.

Be prepared to ask what specials hotels can offer. Many would rather have you in cheaper than not there at all.

Some of the attractions you may want to see - the London Eye, the O2, Shakespeare's Globe and so on - can be heavily patronised so to save time (and to know in advance how much you have spent) it can be wise to book online before you go. It does commit you to being at a particular place, but at least you can plan other things around it.

If the theatre is what excites you then look at the deals on offer, which can be two-for-one on tickets, a decent restaurant-plus-show package, or even hotel-and-show options. A little time spent at lastminutetheatretickets.com is worth it.

Getting around is easy in London, but buy an Oyster travel card as soon as you can. The price includes your Tube and bus trips.

Finally, the cheapest thing you can do is gather memories.

Unfortunately they sometimes won't come budget-priced. But in six months' time when you are telling that story to friends over a dinner, do you really think you'll remember how much it cost?

CHECKLIST
Getting there: Cathay Pacific offers daily flights from Auckland to London via Hong Kong. Special fares are available. For full information on fares and flights, check cathaypacific.co.nz.

Further information: Check the websites mentioned, but the following may also be helpful: visitbritain.co.nz and look under "see and do/things to do for people like me/budget Britain". And visitlondon.com and look under "offers" and "people like you/London on a budget".

Graham Reid flew to London with assistance from Cathay Pacific Airlines and visitbritain.co.nz.