As I ponder this question, I have to say 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.
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 wereAnglotopia.net, Tripadvisors.com, Expedia.com, Hotels.com, and RickSteves.com.
Picadilly Circus Photo courtesy of www.london.citysam.de
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 and being able to get some peace I have learned that Picadilly Circus is just that, a circus. It’s noisy and full of many tourists from early in the morning until late in the evening, so 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 do 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.
Look for this symbol across London to locate a tube stop
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 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 a Travelcard or Oystercard. A Travelcard is combined bus and tube pass that you pick the zones you will be traveling in, peak or non peak hours and pay one price for set number of days that will allow you unlimited travel, it also allows for travel on above ground local trains in the city. 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 alot of traveling on public transit. Frequent users should opt for a Travelcard. You can purchase both through the Visit Britain Shop they are the official tourism office for Britain. Purchase Travelcards and Oystercards here. They offer 1 and 7 day options for Travelcards and different monetary amount Oystercards. You can also purchase both of these at tube stations across London, but ordering ahead of arrival will keep you from having to stand in long lines to purchase them 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.
Photos courtesy of VisitBritain.com
So with transportation all figured out, it was time to lock in my hotel. Something just 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. I also have an autoimmune disorder that makes it hard to eat out all the time, so having an option to cook for myself is much safer for me. There are usually a couple of markets within walking distance of serviced apartments so you can pick up a few creature comforts.
Photo courtesty of Emily Webber
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 atleast one person some insight on picking a place in London and how to get around.