Okay, so you’ve decided to take a trip to London. After your flight is booked, your thoughts will naturally shift to lodging. Where will you stay? London is a big city, and there are a ton of options when it comes to lodging. London is full of hostels, self-catering flats, bed and breakfasts and of course hotels. I am going to focus hotels today because this is the most commonly used type of accommodations. Finding a good place to stay in London is all about research. I cannot stress this enough; do your homework when it comes to picking a hotel in London. Here is a quick guide to doing just that:
1. Your Hotel is Base
Ask any travel writer what the most important thing is when traveling is, and they will all say having a trusty base is the most important thing. Your hotel must be safe and clean. Standards are different in different countries, which is really important to keep in mind when looking for your base. Do your homework online first. Go to websites that have lots of pictures and reviews that were submitted by those who have actually stayed at the hotel! I cannot stress this enough.
2. Budget can be Scary
Yes, budget hotels can be scary, but they don’t have to be. I will admit I have high standards when it comes to lodging. When I think of budget hotels, I often have the thought of waking up in a bathtub full of ice missing a kidney. I assure you, this is highly unlikely even in the crappiest hotels. When you are looking at budget hotels, keep in mind that they most likely won’t be up to American standards. What you see is what you get. In general, I would avoid hotels that do not have pictures, reviews. or are in less desirable areas of London. However, there can be the occasional jewel when it comes to budget hotels. I highly recommend the Easy Hotel chain. They are a no-frills chain of hotels across Europe. The rooms are tiny, but they are clean and safe. There aren’t any “extras” here, but this is a great option to stay cheaply in London.
3. Dirty Rooms
One of the most common complaints I see in reviews of hotels is that they are dirty and smelly. Let me say, even in the shabbiest hotel I’ve stayed in, I have not come across a room that is filthy. If you do end up staying a room that is perhaps not up to your standards keep in mind, you can do something about it. You can always ask for another room; however, there is no guarantee you will be re-roomed. Do not be afraid to call the front desk and ask for whatever you need; different towels, sheets, etc. Also, a general rule if you think your room may not be as clean as it could be, avoid taking a bath, just use the shower. Even on the best days in the best hotels, something can be missed when cleaning. If you stay calm and talk to the staff respectfully the issue is usually dealt with.
4. Bed Bugs
London like much of the world has seen a resurgence in bed bugs. Nothing grosses me out more than the thought of these little pests. They are not confined to budget hotels; some of the most prestigious hotels in the world have recently had to deal with these pests. READ REVIEWS!!!! I know I am sounding like a broken record here, but this is so important. If you the reviews for your hotel don’t mention anything about these critters you are probably okay. Bed bugs are just as common here in the US. You should check your room for them. I check for them no matter what country I am in, no matter what type of hotel. To check pull the mattress away from the wall and check in the corners and along the mattress seam under the sheet. If you see little red dots or a bed bug, get the hell out of there! Always check for bedbugs before opening your suitcase, to avoid taking any bed bugs with you. If you do not see any signs of bed bugs, you are probably okay.
5. Choose a good neighborhood
London is a really big city. Keep this in mind when you are choosing a hotel. While you can stay out in a suburb, I highly recommend trying to stay in central London. If you stay too far out, you will negate your savings by spending too much to commute into central London. Do a little research into where your hotel is located. My mother-in-law learned this lesson the hard way. While the neighborhood was okay during the day, she was sure to be in her hotel before dark as the neighborhood changed drastically after dark. When I stay in London, I generally try to stay in the neighborhoods around Hyde Park. Keep in mind; you need a good base that is centrally located and safe. If you have to spend a little more to get those things, it is worth it.
6. Rooms in London are Small
This may sound cliche, but it’s true, especially if you are used to accommodations in the United States. Not all hotels offer tiny rooms, but most budget hotels do. The important thing to keep in mind is that you really will only be sleeping and showering in the room. So ask yourself, how big does it really need to be? Another thing to keep in mind when staying in one of these petite rooms is what you pack. I speak from experience here! The last thing you are going to want is your oversized luggage taking up too much space in your room.
7. A Different Standard of Customer Service
Let me start by saying, I am not picking on London hotel workers. One can experience less than desirable service anywhere in the world. Coming from a country where the customer is always right was a culture shock for me the first time I stayed in London. The big difference between the two countries is that in England, the customer is NOT always right. I’ve stayed in a wide array of hotels in London, and I can honestly say that I do not have any staff horror stories, but I have had rude service. Keep in mind that a lot of hotel workers, especially in budget hotels, are staffed by foreigners who receive less than friendly communication themselves. Just keep in mind when dealing with any issue that may arise be friendly, and calm. Unlike here in the US. it is not okay to raise your voice; it will not get you anywhere!
8. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in Your Hotel Room
If you are traveling to London to see and experience it, then get out of your hotel room! While you do need a comfortable base while in London don’t spend unnecessary time in the hotel. You should be out seeing the sites. Keep this in mind when you are researching your hotel. You really don’t need many amenities such as a pool, spa, etc. You need a clean and safe room to rest in. You came to see London so go see it. This tip comes from my own experiences. On my first trip to London, I spent every night in my hotel room and did not venture out. This was a real missed opportunity. London has a wonderful nightlife for all crowds to enjoy.
9. Have a Backup Plan
I have stayed in London many times. Each time I have stayed somewhere new and experienced a lot of different types of hotels. I can honestly say that I have never had to stay in a hotel that was unacceptable. However, sometimes even the best hotel ends up being not what you bargained for. My mother in law had this happen to her. Luckily she was able to find different accommodations while staying in London. It is a good idea to have a backup plan just in case, but as I said before, I have never had to move hotels.
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