For reliable accommodations at easy-on-your-wallet prices, check out international favorite Holiday Inn. With more than 70 locations spread throughout London, you can find one near your major points of interest. Prices start as low as $130 depending on the season and location. For an inexpensive hotel with a British flair, check out Premier Inn, offering rooms starting at around $100 a night.
London, like most capital cities, is packed with some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Most of these properties are out of reach for a thrifty tourist, but last-minute London visitors can sometimes snag amazing discounts, finding rooms for around $200 that normally would go for $500 to $600 a night. Try the trendy and posh Apex London Wall Hotel, centrally located Grange St. Paul’s, or Club Quarters at Gracechurch.
With more than 100 neighborhood options and price listings that start as low as $35 a night, Airbnb provides every traveler the opportunity to make London feel like their new home city. With tons of personality, Airbnbs in the city include choices like a refinished pub, a repurposed clock tower, and even a converted church.
If boutique is more your style, stay at Hotel Xenia, located near many of the city’s most famous museums. Settle in on Oxford Street at the Thistle Marble Arch Hotel, perfect for the shoppers in your party. For something a little more upscale, check out The Montague on the Gardens near King’s College, where each of the 100 guest rooms is individually decorated, or consider the Grand at Trafalgar Square, featuring handy iPod docking stations in each room.
Looking for a trendy hostel? Try St. Christopher’s Inn Camden for a place near the neighborhood where the hip, artistic types in London hang out. For a unique hostel setting, check out the Safestay Hostel at Elephant & Castle, where an 18th century Georgian building on the outside gives way to a trendy, modern, and budget-friendly interior. Look for one of the Youth Hostels Association’s (YHA) sites, rated best in class for their location and hotel-type amenities.
While London is served by two major airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, chances are good that you'll land at Heathrow if you're arriving from the U.S. Heathrow hotels are numerous, and you can find rooms to match any budget.
For rock-bottom prices, visit London during January and February, when budget hotel chains slash rates to fill rooms. For an economical visit with more agreeable weather, try visiting from mid-September to November or in March or April. These “shoulder” months offer opportunities for affordable luxury, as many hotels lower prices, hoping to lure visitors to brave the iffy outside elements and make London their destination.
Don't expect any lodging bargains in December, however. Christmastime in London is a peak travel time, and prices go through the roof. If business takes you to the city in December, you'll likely find the best deals at airport hotels rather than at properties downtown.
The Bloomsbury and Holborn neighborhoods are ideal for exploring on foot and are home to London's Museum Mile, situated between Somerset House on the Strand up to Kingsway on Euston Road. It's a stone's throw from hedonistic SoHo, a must-see adventure on your London trip. Consider booking the Radisson Blu Edwardian Kenilworth Hotel for its ideal location, or for something a little more intimate, reserve one of the 25 units at Grange Blooms Townhouse.
London's East End is another area ripe for exploration and easy on the budget. The East End is famous for Dickens and notorious for Jack the Ripper — and home to some of the most cutting-edge galleries in the world. Find unique, reasonably priced rooms in the East End at hotels like the trendy Whitechapel London, a hotel born from a converted textile factory.
The South Bank is an up-and-coming haven for tourists and home to the reconstructed Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and the massive London Eye Ferris wheel. Splurge on a ride on the city's iconic landmark for an unforgettable view. You'll find cheap hotels in London at South Bank properties such as the Novotel London City South, less than a quarter mile from the Globe, or the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, a short walk from the Ferris wheel and Big Ben.
There are lots of options for getting into central London from the airport area. The most convenient option, of course, is a taxi, but prices are outrageous. The National Express bus service is a popular option; the bus takes about an hour from Heathrow to Victoria and costs five pounds (about $7.50 USD). The cheapest, fastest option is to take the underground railway known as the Tube. Trains are located at all the terminals and run about every five minutes from the wee hours of the morning until just before midnight. The train takes about 45 minutes to get to central London and costs a little less than the bus trip. If you do land at Gatwick, you'll have the same transportation options into the city.
While London is truly a pedestrian city and best explored on foot, you'll still want access to public transportation. For a little less than a dollar, you can download the London Tube app with maps and schedules. Locals rave about the Tube Deluxe app, which has live status updates and an integrated journey planner. Pick up a reloadable Oyster fare card and ride the Tube for lower fares than with paper tickets.
If convenience is your biggest concern and money is your smallest worry, hail one of the iconic black cabs of London. While their rates will set you back, the cabs are practically at every street corner waiting to take you to your next location. Prepare to tip the driver by rounding up to the nearest pound and watch for extra fees for certain destinations such as the airport. Not all cabs take credit cards, so ask before sealing the deal.
One-way roads, grinding rush-hour traffic, and uncontrolled chaos are three good reasons for staying off the road in London — not to mention the plethora of bicycle couriers who weave through traffic and appear out of nowhere. If you do decide to try your luck driving in London, your valid U.S. driver's license works, as long as you are 23 or older. Gas prices are shown by the liter, not the gallon, so plan accordingly. The city also charges a daily congestion surcharge of about eight pounds (about $12 USD) if you drive in central London during the week between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. A sophisticated camera system records license plate information and sends it to a government database. Cars that haven't paid their congestion charge by midnight get penalized a whopping 120 pounds. That’s about $185 USD.
Pay extra attention to parking. It's best to park only at a meter, a pay-and-display lot, or a public garage. Other street parking will lead to costly tickets and most likely towing fees. Keep in mind that most hotels in London do not have parking facilities.
The British Museum is an architectural gem chock-full of the world's finest antiquities — and it's also free to the public. The massive Victoria and Albert Museum is also free; it houses collections of all genres of art as well as jewelry, furniture, and textiles. The labyrinth of color-coded galleries of the London's National Gallery in Trafalgar Square contain priceless treasures, including Botticelli's Mars and Venus. If you have any interest in art history, plan to spend at least half a day at this free museum. If modern art is more your thing, don't miss the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern.
If you're in London for some spectator sports such as Wimbledon or an Arsenal or Chelsea game, book a cheap room in the city near a Tube station. Your Oyster card will get you right to the lawn at Wimbledon or to Emirates Stadium for your soccer match. Stumps and wickets, anyone? While in London, find out what in the world the Brits are talking about while taking in a fascinating game of cricket. It’s played with a bat and ball on a field, but baseball it’s not. Visit Lord’s Cricket Ground to see the action.
No trip to London should go by without a palace or two, so be sure to tour Buckingham Palace and the gardens at Kensington Palace and Hyde Park. Pay tribute to Diana at her memorial fountain. Soak up the scents at the Queen Mary's Rose Garden in Regent Park. Bask in the shadow of Buckingham Palace in lovely Saint James Park. Don't forget to visit the Tower of London and sneak a peek at the crown jewels inside. History buffs might want to spend time exploring Kings Cross and Trafalgar Square. Wander through Westminster Abbey, the coronation site of 40 monarchs.
If history’s not your thing, check out the lively culture in Soho and Covent Garden, where some of the hottest nightclubs and live music venues in the city are. There are also lots of mom-and-pop value restaurants for an authentic London snack. Look for rooms at the boutique Covent Garden Hotel or the YHA London St. Paul’s.
No trip to London is complete without a visit to shopping monolith Harrods. It’s a majestic experience even if you don’t buy a thing. Don’t forget to stop by one of the most exciting London landmarks —Piccadilly Circus — with its dazzling illuminated billboard signs, statue of Eros, and bustling underground station.
Once the touring has commenced, the website Visit London.com can be your ultimate resource. As the city’s official travel guide, it provides essential tourist information. The website also has its own app, the London Official Guide, making the information portable.
The Addison Lee app, similar to Uber, lets you book and prepay a private-hire minicab right from your phone at lower rates that London’s black taxis. Of course, if you prefer the ubiquitous black taxis, the GetTaxi app will hook you up with one.
Want to see the nearest Banksy masterpiece? There's an app for that, too: the Street Art London app. If shopping is on your itinerary, the Regent Street app has deals, special events, and other promotions at major retailers in the area. It’s a must-have for shopaholics with limited time.
Keep in mind that air conditioning is far from the norm in lots of London attractions and even London hotels, so be prepared to sweat if you travel during the dog days of August. Traveling on the Tube can be unbearable in the heat, so plan accordingly when packing.
You'll do a lot of walking in London, especially if you save money by booking cheap London hotels away from the central area. To understand the city's unique address system, it's helpful to know what the abbreviated postal code means. The first letter or letters designates location (N is north, NW is northwest, etc.), and the number indicates its distance from central London. The smaller the number, the closer to the city center an address is. It's a convenient way to gauge your distance from your destination.
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© 2018 Hipmunk and Concur Hipmunk™ are trademarks of Hipmunk, Inc. and Concur Technologies, Inc.