Cheap places to store bags in London for a few hours?
Almost all of the main railway stations in London have left luggage facilities. However, unlike in some European countries, this is a privately run place that stores your bags, rather than lockers. The costs at all of the main stations are £12.50 for the first 24 hours, £7.50 per day after, and they round up (so the minimum charge is £12.50 for a bag). For most of a day, that doesn't seem too bad, but it feels a bit steep to me if I just need to stash a small suitcase for 1-2 hours...
Most of the main museums and galleries in London offer storage for coats and small bags (tends to be free at the paid for museums/galleries, a recommended donation of £1-£2 at the free ones). As an example, the National Gallery only allows bags up to 43 x 66 cm (17 x 26 inches). The British Museum only allows bags up to 40x40x50cm. In both cases, larger bags aren't allowed in the building. (Very small bags are normally fine, bigger ones up to the size limit generally have to be left in the cloackroom). Those sizes are a little smaller than most cabin baggage sizes.
If you have a small-ish bag with you, that's too big for museums, and you want to pop into a museum or gallery for an hour or two, is there any option other than going first to the nearest station and paying £12.50?
Worst case, you can always try at the museum, anyway. Especially if you have paid for a ticket, it may be just so much less hassle for them to allow a small bag than to give a refund to an upset tourist.
If your bag is too big, you won't be allowed through the door to the building to buy a ticket! Anyway, small bags are fine, it hand-luggage sized bags and small suitcases I've often got with me...
You can live you small bag [ mean: no oversize including backpacks ] in Harrods. It currently costs £3 per bag and £1 per coat.
When I've needed to do this in the past I've used Victoria Coach Station's left luggage facilities, which are cheaper and more flexible than the rail stations.
The prices went up slightly in 2017 but are still competitive. There are details on TFL:
- Deposits up to two hours: £3 per item (no weight consideration)
- Deposits 2-24 hours: £5 per item under 20kg
- Deposits 2-24 hours: £7 per item over 20kg
- Multiple days charged at daily rate as above (£5/£7 by weight)
- The left luggage facility is open daily between 07:00-22:45.
Check the link to make sure these are up to date.
It's priced almost like in a normal city!
The service is pretty much exactly the same as the rail stations - essentially a very large staffed cloakroom with a scanner for security. This means, you may have to queue (it's not simply unlocking a locker), and you might be asked to open your bag and show anything the scanner flags as being suspicious.
As far as I can tell, the only difference with the expensive rail station left luggage facilities is that those are privatised and run by companies who have exclusive contracts with the stations, while Victoria Coach Station's left luggage is run by TFL (Transport For London), the public body who run the coach station itself. It's half the price for the same service.
Just make sure you don't end up spending more with the transport there and back! Two rides on the tube and you've spent more than at a rail station... Victoria Coach Station is where almost all coaches to and from the rest of the UK and mainland Europe come and go though, so if you're traveling on a budget, you'll almost certainly pass through there.
Closest tube stations are Victoria and Sloane Square, about a 10 minute walk from each. If you walk the road between Victoria and the coach station, watch out for panicked people late for their coaches trying to run through the crowds while carrying heavy bags... (and try not to be that person yourself ;-) trust me, from experience I can tell you it's not fun!)
Where did you sleep the night before? Can you leave your bag there while you go to the museum? Every hotel I've ever used lets me leave my bags after checking out, and come back for them at the end of the day when I head to the train station or airport. Alternatively, where are you sleeping that night? Many hotels have let me check in super early (eg 9am when checkin is 3) just because I asked, and those that didn't let me leave my luggage and come back later to check in.
If you have no hotel in this town, and you're just passing through, then I can see you might need storage local to the attraction. I guess the possibility is that you're coming in at A and leaving at B, and they are hours apart (say, Heathrow and Waterloo) and you want to pause during this multi-hour transit to go into a museum. In that case I guess you will have to accept the high daily rate at a random nearby train station (one you're not using for train-travel purposes) as part of the cost of that diversion. I doubt there are enough people in your situation to make it feasible to run a luggage-leaving business that costs less than the train-located ones. That said, I do know that in Bath the train station didn't have left-luggage but the internet cafe around the corner did, and the train people knew that, so as a hail-mary you could call the train station nearest to your museum and ask them if there is a cheaper left-luggage solution, such as a hostel or internet cafe, near the station. They might know one.
There is a company that does self storage who advertise with luggage storage in London.
I haven't tried it yet but will next time I'm passing through London.