London at a Price That's Right
The exchange rate means that if you want to stay someplace with style, you're going to spend at least $200 a night. Here's how to do it without hating yourself in the morning.
London is a notoriously expensive city, and many of its hotels are expensive, too. The following tips will boost your chances of landing an affordable stay.
Check hotel photos online before you book. High prices don't necessarily mean quality digs. In all price ranges, London has anonymous, depressing hotels mixed in with lovely ones. Before you book, make sure that a hotel will meet your standards by looking at many photos online.
Stay close to a subway stop. You don't need to be located next to Buckingham Palace to be sufficiently well placed to tour the major sights. You just need to be near a subway (a.k.a. Tube) station. Some neighborhoods with key stations also happen to be pleasant and known for their value-priced lodgings, such as King's Cross and Earl's Court. You'll also find inexpensive hotels and inns around Victoria and Paddington stations. Skip better-known—and generally higher-priced-districts—such as Belgravia, Bloomsbury, Knightsbridge, and Marylebone.
Don't expect to nab winter discounts. London is a destination for all seasons. During the winter (which is the city's low season), a steady stream of conventions and festivals allows hotels to charge rates higher than you find in many other cities at the same time of year. For example, the average hotel rate in London in the last few months of 2008 was $171 (£111), according to Hotels.co.uk's London Hotel Price Index. So even when daylight was scarce and a recession was underway, London hotel prices remained high. During sunnier months this year, expect average rates to be about $200 to $225.
Try Britain's discount lodging chains. If price matters more than style, consider two domestic hotel chain giants, Travelodge and Premier Inn. Recently these chains (which feature generic-looking rooms) were offering deep discounts for advance bookings, with rates as low as $101 (£65) for double rooms in central London during July and August. For similar reasons, you may also want to consider the Ibis Hotel chain, which has well-located properties with reliable (if boring) rooms.
—Alex Robertson Textor. Reviews by Budget Travel correspondents.
20 NEVERN SQUARE
'Hood: Earls Court, an area full of inexpensive hotels and ethnic restaurants--and yet not far from the posh shops of Kensington High Street.
First impression: A Victorian town house with a distinctly Asian flavor--from the lounge's porcelain vases and ornate birdcages (home to chirping lovebirds) to the heavy silk curtains that dress the windows.
The rooms: Each of the 23 rooms is a variation on the Eastern theme. All have king-size beds; several also feature private terraces. The marble bathrooms are nicely accessorized with handcrafted wooden boxes containing Gilchrist & Soames toiletries.
Plus: The dining room has an unusual stained-glass ceiling, making the space seem bright and airy even on the dreariest of days. There's also a full bar, perfect for cocktails.
Minus: Small rooms are made to feel even smaller by the heavy furniture, most of which was bought in Indonesia by the owner.
Details: 20 Nevern Sq., 011-44/20-7565-9555, twentynevernsquare.co.uk, from £105 ($154), includes breakfast.
'Hood: Belgravia, one of the grandest postal codes in London. The hotel's neighbors include the homes of Margaret Thatcher and Joan Collins.
First impression: In the entryway, classic Georgian Details such as the black-and-white tile floor are offset with a contemporary black-lacquer table and a funky orange swan chandelier. The sitting and breakfast rooms are linked by a glass bridge.
The rooms: The 17 rooms have white quilted duvets, soft gray carpet, and celadon tiled bathrooms (half have tubs and showers, the other half just showers). Rooms 1, 3, and 4 face the hotel's small garden, planted with fragrant passion-flower vines. It's a lovely place to enjoy a glass of wine on warm nights.
Plus: In the sitting room, guests chat about the day's sightseeing on low-slung leather sofas next to the fireplace.
Minus: Like most small London hotels, the five-story B+B Belgravia doesn't have an elevator. (There is one handicapped-accessible room on the ground floor.)