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Staying in London for Less

by Polly Larner

London is one of the world’s most exciting cities – but is it possible to find reasonably priced accommodation there? Once you start delving you soon find that there are all sorts of good-value options, including bed and breakfasts, budget hotels, apartments, hostels and university residences, often with a lot more character than their more expensive hotel counterparts.

What could be more elegant than the house, in fashionable Knightsbridge, where writer Virginia Woolf was born in 1882 and spent her childhood? Situated in a quiet close, once also home to statesman Sir Winston Churchill, a stay costs £75 in a room for two, including a full breakfast served in the sitting room. It is one of dozens of bed and breakfast properties on the books of b&b agency At Home In London, itself one of several such agencies offering an en-suite room for two or more guests in private homes for less than £95 per night with breakfast. Depending on location and type of accommodation, the agencies’ prices start as low as £19 per person.

B&b is a particularly British way of enjoying good, comfortable accommodation with a home-from-home feeling. Many visitors are surprised to discover such a wide range on offer in a bustling city like London: agencies such as Bed & Breakfast GB, London Homestead Services, Host & Guest, Uptown Reservations and Welcome Homes have portfolios of accommodation in small guest-houses or with families, some centrally-located, some in accessible suburbs, all offering a warm welcome to visitors. With B&B GB, under-7s go free.

Self-catering apartments are ideal for those on a budget and West London’s Clarendon House Apartments, about 30 minutes by Underground from Piccadilly Circus, has fully-equipped flats available from around £250 per week. Westminster University Halls of Residence offer self-catering summer stays in central locations such as Victoria, Waterloo and the City (plus charming Highgate – one of London’s ‘villages’ near Hampstead Heath) – at prices from £21.

As in any big city, accommodation is less expensive if you are prepared to travel to reach the centre. Hotels are springing up in Docklands, near Canary Wharf, with its waterside restaurants, concert-hall and shopping, at amazingly good-value prices. Here and in other easy to reach locations such as Greenwich and Kew (some are in central London, too) are hotel chains such as Formule 1, Etap, Ibis - all part of the Accor Hotel group; Travel Inn, Travelodge and Holiday Inn Express –– with en-suite rooms sleeping up to four at between £27.50 and £83 per night. Breakfast may not be served in the traditional way: it could be in the café next door or from the bar, but for the budget-conscious these hotels offer a superb deal.

Younger – and young-in-heart – travellers may find one of London’s newest hotels is ideal for them. The Piccadilly Hotel, beside Piccadilly Circus, is a backpackers’ dream, with dormitory beds available at £12 per night, including breakfast and linen. There are twin and family rooms, too; a lounge with 100-channel TV and an internet suite. Fresh, smart and sunny, this hostel opened in early 2003 and already promises to be as popular as the longer established St. Christopher’s Inns group with its flagship hostel on the South Bank, or The Generator. Bookable online with beds from £10 (£23 for a twin room) and cooking facilities available as well as a café providing hot meals, The Generator is near the British Museum and is definitely a fun place to stay - its bar offering nightly entertainment .

The smaller hotel groups, such as Fullers Hotels (rooms available at weekends for £85) with their excellent pub-restaurants attached, bring a flavour of old London to their guests. They include the Chamberlain near Tower Bridge and the Sanctuary House near Westminster Abbey, with its ale-and-pie house on the ground floor.

London has many small hotels, generally clustering around main rail termini such as Victoria or King’s Cross, or in Bloomsbury and cosmopolitan Earl’s Court. Some are family-run, most fully accredited to the London Tourist Board (do check before booking) and so of good standard. In Hammersmith, just 15 minutes by Underground from Piccadilly Circus, are two excellent establishments. The Brook Hotel has a bar and sitting room for guests opening on to the garden and costs £85 for an en-suite double/twin including full English breakfast. The St. Peter’s Hotel not far from Shepherd’s Bush and just 20 minutes from the centre, is justly popular with aircrew on stop-over because of its delicious English breakfasts and its friendly and high-quality service. An en-suite double/twin costs £75 per night including breakfast.

Last but not least, those seeking value-for-money can live like a lord. One of b&b agency Uptown Reservations’ hosts opens his elegant home to guests at £95 per room - and is indeed a Lord!

Staying in London for less - prices shown are guide prices per night

Accor Hotels (for Etap, Formule 1, Ibis)
From £27.50 per room

At Home in London
70 Black Lion Lane
London W6 9BE
+44 (0) 20 8748 1943
From £52 per double/twin

Bed & Breakfast GB
Oxfordshire RG9 1XS
+44 (0) 1491 578803
toll-free from USA: 1 800 8704
From £19 per person

Clarendon House
48 Ranelagh Road
Ealing W5
+44 (0) 20 8567 0314
From £300 per week

Days Inn

Fullers Hotels
£85 at weekends

Holiday Inn Express
£42.50 for a family room

Host & Guest
103 Dawes Road
London SW6 7NL
+44 (0) 7385 9922
From £16.50 per person plus booking fee

London Bed & Breakfast Agency
71 Fellows Road
London NW3 +44 (0020 7586 2768
From £30
(minimum 2-night stay)

London Homestead Services
Coombe Wood Road
Surrey KT2 7JY +44 (0) 20 8949 4455
From £16 per person

St Christopher’s Inns
South Bank, Greenwich and Camden
+44 (0) 20 7407 1856
From £12 in a dormitory

St Peter’s Hotel
407 Goldhawk Road
London W6 0SA +44 (0) 20 8741 4239
£75 per twin/double

The Brook Hotel
52/54 Stamford Brook Road
London W6 0XL
+44 (0) 20 8743 2000
£85 per twin/double

The Generator
Compton Place
Off Tavistock Square
London WC1 9SE
+44 (0|) 207388 7666
From £10 in a dormitory

The Piccadilly Hotel
12 Sherwood Street
London W1F 7BR
+44 (0) 20 7942 0555
From £12 in a dormitory

Travel Inn
0870 242 8000
From £46.95

0870 850950
£69.95 for a family room

University of Westminster
+44 (0) 7834 1172
From £21

Uptown Reservations
41 Paradise Walk
London SW3 4JL
+44 (0) 20 7351 3445
£95 per double/twin

Welcome Homes
21 Kellerton Road
London SE13 5RB +44 (0) 20 8265 1212
From £15 per person