London’s most popular clichés include overpriced rooms with tiny bathrooms and a burnt toast for breakfast. If you are not looking forward to making them your reality, have a read through these tips.
LAST MINUTE OR WELL-PLANNED?
A last minute offer can be the deal of your life, once in a blue moon; but unless you are willing to risk your whole vacation, this is not an option I would recommend. London hosts thousands of events and, while big gigs and festivals might be advertised, you never know when the next World Opticians Conference is going to happen. Then, you will see how an entire city can go sold out in a heartbeat.
Make sure you book in advance, many accommodations have reasonable cancellation policies. Check the almighty Internet for discounts: it sounds obvious, but the most popular websites - such as hotels.com - do have good deals. You can even book a room with free cancellation in advance and, if you do find a better last minute offer, get rid of the former.
WHERE TO START (and where to stop)
Remember rule number one when visiting London: never judge a hotel by the door.
I always think that big chains are a good choice if you want to play safe - for both hotels and hostels. Victorian houses are often pretty from the outside, and yet quite old inside. Although you will probably be spending a little time in your room, it is important that said room is mice-free and with a decent bathroom.
Victoria (close to Victoria Station) is a very popular area, because many airport links will drop you off here. You will find average/cheap solutions, but beware of those offers that look too good to be true - because they probably aren’t. Earl’s Court is another good choice, a fancy area just far enough from the centre to let the price drop a little bit. Avoid the area around King’s Cross (especially Argyle Square), unless you have a high budget: cheap hotels are definitely overpriced. East London has the nasty habit of jumping from ‘full of life’ to ‘plain dodgy’ in a few steps, so make sure you know what you are doing when you book in an area further than Stratford Station. Don’t forget to check Elephant & Castle, at walking distance from the city centre, but technically in travelcard Zone 2, therefore less expensive.
LET'S GET FACTUAL
Here are some accommodation I highly recommend. Everyone has different needs, so make sure you pick the one that suits your holiday.
Who said South London is not cool? Keep an eye on this one and make sure to book for the lowest price. The usual Premier Inn standard, yet located a bit further from traditional touristic areas: this brand new hotel faces Lewisham Station - not more than 15 minutes away from anywhere in central London by train.
Yes: if you are a savvy traveller looking for a certain standard and smart solutions.
No: if you plan to travel by bus only, it will take up too much time to travel from here.
East London vibes, great position, plus the reassuring IBIS standard. You will have direct access to some of the hottest areas in town - like Shoreditch, Brick Lane, Spitalfields Market, etc. No matter what time you are living, there will always be a bus to fetch you back to your room and a 24h fried chicken wrap next door.
Yes: if you like big cities, 24/7 transports and a colorful, loud environment.
No: if you don’t feel immediately comfortable in a place you don’t know and you rather be in a more touristic atmosphere.
A five-star location for this very popular hostel. If it is your first visit, you will hardly need to use public transports, as everything you need to see will be at walking distance.
Yes: if you plan to explore the hell out this city and need a strategic yet very cheap base.
No: if you are looking for a bit more privacy and some relax.
'London Thames Walk'
For those still longing for a more typical accommodation, this B&B will be a dream come true. A few rooms, a wonderful in-house hostess who is always happy to have a cup of tea with her guests. It’s a ten-minute walk (or a few stops by bus) from Hammersmith Station, in a residential area, which looks more like a postcard then an actual street.
Yes: if you are the kind of traveller who loves learning about different cultures first-hand, and enjoy long, peaceful walks along the river.
No: if you prefer a more standardised service and closer transports.