As I pondered this question, it’s been quite an ordeal to locate the right place to stay while on holiday without going broke just on the hotel. Flights were booked back in May and I have been on the fence ever since then about what part of London I want to stay in and what kind of hotel would be preferable.
Everyone will tell you that London is one of the most expensive places to stay when you travel and I would have to agree. With saying that though, I have have found many decent accommodations, it just takes some time and patience. Did I mention patience? You will need a lot of that. If you’re looking to live in London more permanently, you may be very interested in THIS RESOURCE FROM SPACE STATION that could help you find a loft apartment that is absolutely heavenly, eliminating the need for hotels.
How do you decide on a location?
Not knowing the lay of the land and the neighborhoods has made this task fairly daunting. I didn’t want to be way on the outskirts of the city nor do I want to end up in a dangerous part of town. Then there is the cost, I can not see spending a few months salary just to pay for a room. So my quest began with doing lots of research about London through various travel shows and websites. I lucked out and was able to catch a few episodes of Rick Steve’s Europe on PBS and was able to get a better grip on parts of London that are good areas that he recommends.
Then I was able to locate a few websites where I was able to research hotels in each area and see what people who have stayed in them had to say about their stay, the location and any other tidbits that help to make a smart decision. The sites I used were Tripadvisors.com, Expedia.com, Hotels.com, and RickSteves.com.
Don’t always trust recommendations on areas….
There are many people that will tell you to stay near the Picadilly Circus because it is in the middle of everything, but if you are like me and prefer calm, it is not the best spot. Being able to get some peace at night and sleep, I have learned that Picadilly Circus is noisy and full of many tourists from early in the morning until late in the evening. If that makes a difference to you then avoid getting a hotel this area.
Upon learning this I shifted my desired location over toward Westminster because from all I have read up on the area it appears to be relatively quiet while still close to most things. With the exception of Victoria Station which is one of the main transport stations that connect buses, the tube and the Gatwick Express that travels between Victoria Station and London Gatwick airport. Hotel prices in this area range starting around $200 USD per night and can easily go up to $500 or more USD per night. These rates did not include any meals so that was a consideration for me to make sure that I don’t overpay for a room then have the additional costs of eating out each day.
Is public transportation important?
Another large consideration for me has been public transportation. I wanted to make sure that there will be adequate transportation whether by tube or bus close to my accommodations. There is nothing worse than being in an unfamiliar place and then not having a convenient way to get around and in London hiring/renting a car is not the ideal way to go.
There are fees to have a car in the city and additional costs of parking where ever you travel. That will add up quickly. Let me stop for a moment and talk about public transportation. The best way to travel London is with an Oyster card. An Oystercard is a prepaid transit card that works like a prepaid debit card that you can reload when you need more cash on it. It gives the user a reduced rate from the cash fare rate and is better used by those who don’t do a lot of traveling on public transit. However, if you decide to rent a car, then you might want to have a look at All Car Leasing which has statistics about what your music habits are likely to be whilst driving your daily commute. So, if you want some light entertainment, you may wish to check it out.
You can purchase one through the Visit Britain Shop they are the official tourism office for Britain. You can also purchase one at tube stations across London, but ordering ahead of arrival will keep you from having to stand in long lines to purchase once you arrive. If you are like me, the last thing you want to do when you arrive at Heathrow and get through customs is to stand in another long line.
Transportation, check… onto the hotel
Something kept bugging me and I couldn’t put my finger on it until I some how came across the concept called a serviced apartment. Are you asking yourself what that is? It is building of apartments that are rented out much like timeshares are in other places, except you do not have to buy into the property as you do with a timeshare. I was so happy to find this option. With the options to rent a studio apartment or a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment with an on suite bathroom and a kitchenette that includes dishes and cooking pans is exactly what I prefer.
Most do not have an oven, but they do have a cook top, microwave, small refrigerator, dishwasher, toaster and kettle for hot water. This way I can take my time in the morning and have a cup of tea and make breakfast instead of rushing to get ready just to go out and get breakfast and come back to the room. This is also a good option for anyone with dietary conditions to be able to cook for themselves when traveling. There are usually a couple of markets within walking distance of serviced apartments so you can pick up a few creature comforts.
I was able to locate roughly 100 different serviced apartment properties across London on Expedia.com just by searching under hotels then narrowing my search down to accommodation type: apartment. At the time I booked my studio, rates for all of the properties ranged from $74 USD per night up to $404 USD a night. I did my due diligence and looked at reviews for the ones that I was interested in and I am glad I did. Some have great reviews whilst others look great but have terrible reviews. So I am happy to say that I locked in my apartment for my trip and will be posting a review once my holiday is over next month. Until then, I hope this has given at least one person some insight on picking a place in London and how to get around.