5 Downsides To Dating In London (And What You Can Do About Them)

Living in London has real advantages for dating: everything you need is an Oyster card away, it’s full of fascinating people and unique things to do.

Unfortunately, all this comes with some downsides: soaring prices, travel and tiny flats with no privacy are just the tip of the iceberg. But there are things you can do to take advantage of the good stuff, whilst minimising the bad.

Here are five ways living in London can make dating difficult – and what you can do about them.

1. Travel

London’s public transport system is amazing for getting from A to B. With the tube / night tube, the DLR, buses and overground rail, you’re only ever minutes away from something exciting.

Unfortunately, it’s also hot, noisy and crowded. Those minutes can feel like hours when you’re crushed like sardines on the Central Line, counting the seconds until your stop.

With all that, you might be reluctant to even travel to the next borough for a date, or to get out there and meet new people in the city.

What you can do about it

1. Switch from evening to daytime dates

If you can, avoid planning dates during ‘rush hour’: that is, 5-7 in the evening on weekdays, when the trains and buses are most crowded (and most expensive).

Instead, why not go for a lunch date, breakfast date or coffee date?

2. Find your ‘go-to’ areas

If your job means you usually have to travel between 5 and 7 p.m., have you thought about scheduling a few dates near to where you work or live?

Finding two or three favourite date spots within walking distance and keeping them as your go-to locations can be a great way to avoid crowded trains and cut down on any extra journeys you might have had to make.

Use your imagination and don’t just consider bars, cafes and restaurants – museums, parks, galleries and one-off hidden gems can be excellent for dates as well. If you’re stuck, check out our list of 100 unusual date spots in London.

3. Share the travel

If you and the person you’re seeing live far from each other, but you find that you’re the one doing all the travelling – don’t!

Instead, keep things fair and agree to meet in the middle.

2. Messy flatmates and lack of privacy

Rent prices in London make it hard to have your own place, and taking your date back to a flat which you share with others can be a bit of a mood killer for so many reasons.

It can be hard to convince your date that you’re surviving life as an adult when there are dishes piled up in the sink and dust bunnies in every corner, thanks to your roommates refusing to share chores. Add to that a lack of privacy and absence of any general space to hang out (since most London flats have no living room) and it’s a real challenge to feel like you can be yourselves at home.

What you can do about it

1. Find a home away from home

If you share with flatmates and really feel the strain of it, think about where you could go to relax and do some of the same things you would do at home.

One amazing hidden gem is the Wellcome Collection’s reading room, which has cosy beanbags, sofas and cushions, as well as over 1,000 books and magazines.

Of course these options won’t give you the same privacy as being in your own place, but they are spaces to sit and talk where you don’t have to spend a lot of money just to be there (like you would in a cafe).

2. Consider booking a day hotel for special occasions

If you want some alone time with your partner and it’s really impossible to get any privacy, consider going to a hotel.

You might be wondering now how can you afford that if you can’t afford your own place. Luckily, there are hotels which offer cheap day rates, where you can rent a room for up to 75% off the price of an overnight stay. Sometimes this is as low as £50 or £60 for a basic room (not bad if you split the cost between two), and for a little more you might have access to some extra amenities, like a spa or pool.

It’s probably not something you can do regularly, but for a special occasion like an anniversary it could be a life-saver.

3. If you have to stay in, clean when you can and keep your own space immaculate

If you want to bring your date home anyway, you might just have to bite the bullet and do the cleaning before they come round, even if the mess wasn’t your fault.

Sometimes you might not have time to do that, but at the very least you can keep your own room as clean as possible.

Clean until you think it’s good enough, and then clean a little more. Err on the side of doing more than you normally would, rather than ‘just enough’ – your date will appreciate it.

3. Crowded, noisy bars

How many times have you had the experience of going to a bar or restaurant that looked great online, only to find that it’s so loud and crowded that you can’t hear each other?

What you can do about it

Expand your ideas of what a ‘bar’ should be like

For years after coming to London, I stuck to regular bars like All Bar One, Revolution, etc. – but I only ever had a good time there at the ‘off-peak’ hours. As soon as things got busy, the atmosphere went out the window. I wondered what I was missing, because the low-key, romantic bars I wanted to go to seemed to exist only on TV.

Eventually, I realised I was looking in the wrong place. There are actually plenty of quiet bars in London, if you know where to look.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Wine bars

I used to think wine bars were stuffy and old-fashioned, but they can be some of the most romantic places.

A few of the best in London include:

2. Hotel, restaurant and theatre bars

Some of the best romantic bars in London are those connected restaurants, hotels and theatres.

For example:

3. Cafes and co-working spots

For casual but quiet bars, look for bars connected to cafes and even popular unofficial co-working spots (these are often full of cosy sofas and tend to attract young professionals).

A couple of suggestions:

  • The bar at Hoxton Grill (Shoreditch) is a popular workspace – it’s huge, full of comfortable seats and does great coffee and house wine
  • Grind is a chain of London-grown cafes that double as cocktail bars at night

4. Huge Prices

It’s not only the big attractions that are expensive in London. Everyday things are as well.

Going for a drink? Be prepared to spend twice as much as you would anywhere else. Travelling for a date? Ditto. Even going to the gym or getting your hair cut is likely to be more pricey than it would be outside the city.

What you can do about it

1. Decide on a budget for dating and plan around it

Budgeting is good advice for any aspect of life, but perhaps you’ve never thought about putting aside cash specifically for dating.

Drawing up a dating budget – and having a handful of ‘go-to’ locations at different price points – can help you to pace your spending throughout the month, so that you’re not splurging it all in the week after payday.

2. Talk to your partner

When you’re having so much fun going out with someone new, it’s incredibly easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. If you’ve never spoken about it as a couple, it’s likely you have no idea how much they can afford and vice versa.

If you’re in this situation with someone you’re dating, have an honest conversation with them about it and decide on a sensible amount to set aside for dates.

3. Look for cheap or free things to do

Keep things interesting by planning some unique affordable dates.

Some ideas:

  • Make dinner together
  • Go to a park, gallery or museum
  • Visit a bookshop
  • Go stargazing
  • Have a picnic in the Summer

5. The Weather

It’s a classic British complaint, but the weather makes it pretty hard to plan anything outdoors. It’s also hard to look your best when it’s bucketing down with rain and freezing cold.

What you can do about it

1. Have a plan B for outdoor dates

Check weather reports, obviously, but also have a backup plan for any date which relies on good weather to be a success.

For instance, a summer picnic. If you’re in a park, have a look around for a bandstand – if it rains, relocate there until it passes.

Sometimes, you can turn the bad weather into an opportunity to go somewhere cosy together. Being in a bookshop, pub or cafe can be even better when it’s raining outside!

2. Capture that summer feeling indoors

Alternatively, you could get into the summer mood by going to a Hawaiian bar, or to Swingers Golf (which is like a tiny, indoor Brighton Pier with a roof, complete with ice cream stall, bandstand and plenty of great cocktails).

3. Stay home

Sometimes the best date for a rainy day is wrapping yourselves in a blanket and having a hot chocolate at home. Why not have a cosy movie night?

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