1. Book in advance – Whichever way you decide to go, if possible, book something before you arrive. Not only will your mind be at ease when you get here, but rolling up to a hotel in the rain, laden with luggage, looking jetlagged and pleading for anything resembling a bed, brings out the inner sadist in even the most empathetic hotel desk clerks and you will pay for your indiscretion.
2. Websites – Try searching for discount accommodation rates for thousands of properties on websites all over the internet. Many of them have great deals.
3. Bed & Breakfast – B&b is a very British way of enjoying home-away-from-home accommodation. Agencies such as Bed & Breakfast GB, London Homestead Services, Host & Guest, Uptown Reservations and Welcome Homes offer small guest-houses or rooms in houses with families Some are centrally-located and others in the ‘burbs, but all provide a warm welcome to those who stay. Bed & Breakfast GB also offer the benefit of allowing children under 7 to stay for free in any of their properties. Alternatively, if you want to stay somewhere dirt cheap where someone else does the cooking, just turn up on the doorstep of those friends you haven’t spoken with since they arrived unannounced at your place five years ago.
4. Apartments – If you are staying in London for longer than a week, it’s worth looking into renting an apartment. They are generally not as well located as hotels, however, prices can start from around £250 for week with the added bonus of a small kitchen where you can cook your own meals.
5. Stay outside city center – Accommodation is less expensive if you are prepared to stay outside the city centre. One of London’s most active pieces of real estate, the Docklands, near Canary Wharf, offer a growing number of hotels at amazingly good value to go with the waterside restaurants, concert-hall and shopping outlets. Here and in other easy to reach locations such as Greenwich, Kew and some central locations as well, you can find hotel chains such as Formula 1, Etap, Ibis – all part of the Accor Hotel group; Travel Inn, Travelodge and Holiday Inn Express. Many of these en-suite rooms sleep up to four from £27.50 to £83 a night. You might find that you can’t have breakfast slid under the door (not really recommended unless you are having pancakes anyway), but there is usually something available in the café next door, or from the hotel bar. Either way, they make for a rather attractive option for the budget conscious slumberer.
6. Top End – It may be that splendor, opulence and hedonism are at the top of your accommodation agenda. In which case, London’s duchesses of luxury such as The Ritz, The Connaught, Claridge’s, and The Dorchester will serve your needs handsomely. These hotels epitomize the elegance, grandeur, and snobbery that you would demand from a place where the front desk clerk looks down his nose upon anyone that dares to ask what the cost of the suite might be, wondering how on earth such a vile creature made it past the doorman. Although eye-poppingly expensive to the frugal tourist, even these properties bow to the age of technology on occasion, so check the latest deals available through online vendors before you book – you could save hundreds of pounds without having to face the wrath of that snooty concierge.
7. Backpackers – If you enjoy sleeping with groups of people, London has a swath of backpacker options – some great, some not so flash. The Piccadilly Hotel, near Piccadilly Circus, is a backpackers’ dream, with dormitory beds available at £12 per night, including breakfast and linen. There are also twin and family rooms, too; a lounge with 100-channel TV, an internet suite, and the chance to mingle with a stream of fascinating people who have seen more countries than hot showers – often quite literally. Others include the St. Christopher’s Inns group with its flagship hostel on the South Bank, The Generator near the British Museum and is definitely a fun place to stay – its bar offering nightly entertainment.
8. Check the room size – Someone once said (not sure who, but more than likely they were small and male), it’s the quality not quantity that counts. Maybe so, but at some point lack of endowment begins to get laughable, especially when the quality is nothing to write home about. This can be the case with some cheaper London hotels. Whereas a 3 star hotel room in many countries will usually be large enough for two double beds, some of London’s older basic hotel rooms look like they were prototypes for jail cells with little light, a small monitor into the upper corner of the room pretending to be a TV, and barely enough room to click a mouse let alone swing a cat.
9. Bathroom situation – Most rooms will feature an en-suite bathroom or shower with WC (which stands for “water closet”, an English term created to avoid the embarrassment of having to say “toilet”). However, check before you book as some smaller B&B’s only have shared bathrooms, which means you have to run down the hallway – of course you might find that an exciting option.