Saturday, August 15, 2009

How to save money when buying London Theatre Tickets

If you're desperate to see one particular West End production, then this post probably won't help you, and you'd probably better off buying your full price tickets in advance online or over the phone (try for info).
If, however, you're in a mind to go to London to see a show, but you're not really bothered which one, or you have a handful you'd be happy to see, please read on.

The best, cheapest and easiest way to see a London theatre production is, in my opinion, to hop on a train (might post about the best way to get train tickets at a later date) and head to the Capital. When you get there, head straight for Leicester square. Dotted around the square are numerous ticket booths which are selling off last-minute tickets for the vast majority of the shows available in the West End. Don't run for the first booth you see- take your time, wander around and have a look at the what's on offer (most of the booths have stands outside them current prices listed for a number of different shows). Prices for individual shows can vary wildly from booth to booth, but most will represent a considerable saving on full price tickets- sometimes well over 50%.

What time should I get to Leicester Square and start looking?

If you get there early in the day you'll have your pick of the shows and seating locations that are left over for that day's performances, but the prices may not yet have reached their lowest point. If you turn up a couple of hours before the evening performances are due to start the prices will be as low as they're going to get, but you run the risk of the shows you want to see being sold out before you get there. It very much depends on what your priorities are. One suggestion is to get there early, check out some of the prices, then if you feel it's worth leaving it for a couple of hours, do something else* for a while.

Anything else I should consider?

Two things spring to mind as I'm writing:

First thing: There are always differently priced seats available- sitting in the stalls gives you a better view than ducking under the rafters in the dress circle, but you pay for it. The same is true with the reduced priced tickets. They're all reduced, but upper circle tickets are still cheaper than dress circle tickets, which are still cheaper than seats in the stalls. Again, what you go for depends on your priorities: Are you looking for the cheapest evening out you can muster, or are you looking at getting a discount on more highly sought after seats? If it's the latter, bear in mind that cheaper tickets may be upgraded once you arrive at the venue if few of the more expensive seats have been sold. See the example of our Blood Brothers trip below.

Second thing: Be aware that the booths will charge a 'booking fee' on top of ticket prices. This is usually around £2, so doesn't push the price up too much- certainly not into the realms of the full-price tickets!


  • Blood Brothers: Purchased upper circle seats for £20 each (full price: £44.65). Upgraded on entry to the Phoenix theatre to dress circle seats (full price: £60.60). Saving: £40.60 (67%).
  • We Will Rock You: Purchased circle seats for £20 each (full price: £54.85). Saving: £34.85 (64%).

More information

Just some of the shows on in London at the moment:

*Like what? If you've got to Leicester Square, chances are you have a travel card, so London is your oyster- there are free museums dotted here and there and various tourist attractions with varying levels of admittance prices. If you don't have a travel card and want to stick around for a while, there are caf├ęs and restaurants galore in Leicester square itself.