How To Get Cheap London Theatre Tickets – Tips For Budget Backpackers

This guest post comes from Simon over at – going to the theatre in London is a fantastic experience, so if you can manage to do it (even as a backpacker on a budget) it’s well worth the effort.

These tips from Simon will shed some light on how to go about getting yourself some cheap London theatre tickets.
London theatre tickets can be so cheap – yeah yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but it is true! Like everything on the road top price seats are given the maximum price that producers know they can get from a tourist. Some of them deserve that price tag and others don’t – but 9 times out of 10 you don’t need to pay it!

You can buy online in advance, or once you get to London at the theatre, or even with an agent. Potentially there will be less choice once you get there, but if you just want to see something and you are not too bothered what then I would wait till you arrive – you will still have a choice of over 40 brilliant shows that have wowed audiences for year after year and will hopefully do the same for you.

OK! Sure you can spend huge amounts of money going to the theatre – if you want to. You can get the best seats, if you want to. You can demand to go on the most popular nights, for the most popular shows, you can book through agents that charge 25%, you can buy drinks at the theatre bar and ice creams from the lady at the front if you want to: but you don’t have to.

If you can, check with the theatre first – pop in there and have a chat: they are generally open from 10am till 7pm each day and are based around the main tourist areas that you will be visiting anyway. Most will not do you deals but the friendlier ones will tell you where to get them from. What the theatre can do is offer the full range of tickets – which may include a cheaper ticket than a half-price deal!

Jersey Boys is a great example. You can get best seats for a Saturday night from the hostel agent, turn up and order drinks for the interval, buy a programme and chocolates for the boring bits and spend £218 for two people.

OR you can book cheap seats (in rows M and N in the upper circle – not restricted view – are recommended) from the box office, grab some Smarties from the newsagent along the road, pick up a free cast list in the foyer and, if you are absolutely desperate for a drink in the interval, dash out of the theatre and go to Norman’s Coach and Horses for a much cheaper half and spend £45 for two for the whole night!

The only down side about cheap seats in any theatre is that there are very few of them compared to expensive seats. At the Prince Edward there are only 130 of the cheapest seats out of 1600 and so they sell out quicker! But you can pick up odds and sods if you are willing to sit separately (just buy two packets of Smarties!).

Also cheap seats tend to be only available from the theatre so you may end up doing the rounds if you pick a popular night – a Saturday for example. Some agents do have them but what is the point of saving money on a seat only to pay it on commission?

Cheapest seats tend to be between £15 and £30 and are often restricted: so check – because who-ever you are buying from must tell you.

What is best of course is to get the nicest seats at the cheapest prices – that’s the ultimate backpacking “feel good” moment. Especially when you’re sitting next to a tourist and knowing that they have paid £40 more for their seat!


TKTS – The Half-Price Ticket Booth

The first place that you will hear mentioned for these nice seats at cheap ticket prices is TKTS in Leicester Square – the half-price ticket booth.

They offer top price seats for about half price. They are a “not-for-profit” organization and honest. Don’t confuse them with other booths that also say they are Official Half Price ticket booths. Look for the TKTS brand (visitors from the States will recognize it from the booth in Times Square).

They are open every day of the week and unlike any other agent will sell for that day (even Saturdays) and for the coming week. Not every show discounts so ask what’s on offer.

If you are in London and just want to see “something”, head along here from 10:00 to see what they have for that night. Don’t knock yourself out by getting there early to queue. Very rarely will they run out early, even for a particular show and if you must see that show then you are already running the risk that it may not be on offer that day!

The difference in price between a cheap seat and a half price top seat is around £10 to £15 but it can be a little more or a little less depending on the show. As I write today, discounted top price seats tickets vary from £23 to £39.50 with a few selling at full price (but without a booking fee!)

Other agents do have deals so don’t discount them totally. They tend to be on offer for Monday to Thursday performances outside of school holidays.

And remember, no agent has an exclusive deal although they may have their own allocation of specific seats. They are all operating with the same prices. Alongside the full priced tickets they also get top price seats for about half price (and enjoy a little inside commission) and then sell to you as they see fit.

  • The other “official” booths sell these tickets individually but also other tickets at full price plus commissions of 25% – make sure you know which is which!
  • There is also Show Pairs, which offer two for one deals on a limited number of shows – you’ll see their vouchers around town in pubs, hostels and attraction foyers etc.
  • The afore-mentioned TKTS.
  • The check-in desk at your hostel will also have discounts but will probably be affiliated to an agent who may also charge 25% – check first!
  • They are all basically selling a half price ticket just in a different way.

However you book your seats, remember to:

  • Always ask for seat numbers
  • Always ask for the face value
  • Always check the view
Last Note: There is a group of agents who operate under the STAR banner. These are self governed agents who promise not to rip you off. They have deals too but even they will charge up to 25% and sometimes a little more, but they will not lie to you.

Novello Theatre in London - Credit: flickr user ell brown.

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