Where To Stay In London This Summer (And Not Drop A Bomb)
This story by Isabel Choat was originally published on the Guardian travel website.
If you’re thinking of booking a budget hotel for the Olympics, assuming (as you would) that you’ll get a reasonable rate, you’re in for a shock. Some of London’s budget hotel chains are hiking up their prices to budget-busting levels during the Olympics. According to a Which? Travel report, visitors could end up paying £274.50 (about Rs22,900) more a night at popular chain hotels. It found a room at the Holiday Inn Express at Swiss Cottage, 10 miles from the main Olympic site (available to book in January when it conducted the research), would cost £359.50 on July 27, compared with £85 on August 18 after the Games.
Travelodge’s new Stratford hotel will cost £206.98 on July 26, a pretty steep hike from the July 21 price of £52.95.
Not prepared to pay inflated prices for a chain hotel? We’ve found 10 alternative accommodation options available during the Olympics, from a £10 a night camspite to stylish apartments in chichi parts of town.
CAMPING AND GLAMPING
Don’t rule out camping, just because you’re in a large city—pop-up campsites are going to mushroom across the capital. The Camping and Caravanning Club will be running a serviced, temporary site in Lee Valley, a 10-minute walk from the Olympic park, and five others just outside London, in Romford, Gravesham and Windsor Great Park in July and August (To book, call 0845 130 7633). Prices range from £30 to £45 a night for the Lee Valley site. Facilities will include onsite catering, organised activities and entertainment, big screens—you can even order your daily newspaper.
Through Camping at the Games, you will be able to pitch a tent in the grounds of a London sports club from £10 per person (£5 per child). To date, eight community sports grounds, all within easy reach of Olympic and Paralymic venues, have joined the scheme, each offering essential facilities (showers, loos, etc), plus fun activities. The idea behind the scheme, created by Camping Ninja, is for the club to use profits to improve their facilities so that the local community benefits directly from the Olympics. Another camping option is the campinmygarden scheme which puts campers in touch with homeowners who will allow you to pitch a tent in their garden.
This is the age of the glampsite, so of course there is a posh camping option too for those who don’t fancy sleeping on a thin roll mat for a week. At Camp In London in Walthamstow, the 100 luxury Hotel Bell Tents will feature inflatable mattresses, Egyptian cotton bedding and towels, low tables and rug floor coverings. There will be a 24-hour reception area, private lounge and toilets and showers, and a supervised kids camp where children can be dropped off for a day of sports, drama, dance or art activities (ages 3–12).
Camp In London guests will also have access to festival activities including the Eat Festival and the See Hear Do Festival. Buses will run directly to the Olympic Park from 7.30am to 1.30am daily (it’s a five-minute shuttle to the Olympic park), and an entertainment zone will show the Games on large outdoor screens. Hotel Bell Tent prices per night are £5 for children under 6 years old, £30 for 6-12 year-olds and £100 for adults, with a minimum stay of two nights per tent. Open from July 26-August 13.
APARTMENTS AND PRIVATE HOMES
Airbnb—the site that helps travellers rent spare rooms, apartments or properties on a short-term basis and features more than 100,000 rooms in 16,000 cities worldwide—has recently opened a London office. It currently lists 3,312 properties in the capital—and counting—and has accommodation for all budgets available over the Olympic period. For example, a large double room with en-suite in Victoria, central London, costs £60 a night.
Vive Unique specialises in private home rentals in London, with over 200 pads in the capital. Examples with availability include a one-bedroom apartment in Oakley Road in Islington, from £41.75 per person per night, based on four people sharing. Wilmer Apartment, Stoke Newington is a loft-style apartment, being offered from £43 per person per night based on four people. Or get a taste of London highlife with a Notting Hill apartment with a garden, from £67 per person based on six people. All prices are based on a month’s stay during August.
Another provider of fab London homes is Onefinestay (+44 20 7097 8948/0800 612 4377) which has more than a 100 characterful and stylish properties still available during the Games. They are not particularly cheap but when you consider that a room in a budget chain hotel could set you back more than £300 a night, they are good value for money. An apartment with a main bedroom and kids’ room on the seventh floor (there’s a lift) of an art deco mansion block in Bloomsbury costs £199 per bedroom per night, while over in the east end another contemporary property for four in Shoreditch costs £218 per bedroom per night. OnefineStay says homes are still being added, so there is likely to be last-minute availability.
Holiday Lettings, the TripAdvisor-owned portal, which puts holiday-makers in direct contact with owners, has more than 600 properties in London, half of which are in zone one, the heart of the city. Examples of apartments that are available over the Games include the one-bedroom Foley Street Apartment, in Fitzrovia, a short walk from Oxford Street and Soho. It costs £1,200 per week during summer 2012. Flat One on Bermondsey Street is slap bang among some brilliant pubs and bars (try Jose for tapas or Zucca for modern Italian), and is a five-minute walk from Tower Bridge. With a decked garden terrace with barbecue, gas heater and daybed, it sleeps up to five in two bedrooms and costs £1,596 per week or £218 per night, the flat fee for 2012. Or base yourselves in the heart of literary London at the Bloomsbury Heritage Apartment in the cloisters of a neo-gothic church. Newly renovated, the flat features original fireplaces, sash windows and cornicing. The kitchen opens on to a balcony above the church garden, on which you can enjoy meals or a read in the sun. Sleeping up to four in two bedrooms, it costs £1,250 per week during summer 2012.
Best Escapes offers smart holiday cottages around the country—including Suffolk, Norfolk, Kent and Cornwall—but has one London home, in Maida Vale. It’s not the most convenient location for the main Olympic site but if you are happy to travel across town, this stylish one-bedroom townhouse apartment in a leafy upmarket corner of west London will make a very smart base for a week’s break in the capital. It’s owned by photographers who have clearly used their artistic flair to decorate the flat. More importantly, it’s not putting up its prices for the Olympics, so a week costs £1,050 whatever the time of year—and a three-night break £450. Not super cheap but you are getting a luxurious apartment to yourselves—and of course, you can save money by self-catering.
MondaytoFriday.com mainly caters to the business market, providing spare rooms in private homes during the week for those who don’t want, or need, a permanent base in the capital. But for the duration of the Games, their Olympic Rooms service offers visitors the chance to book on a nightly basis. Rates vary–a double room in a townhouse in Islington is listed from £35 per night while a two-bedroom apartment (sleeps four) in Leatherhead (on the cycle route) costs £270 a night. With the exception of the Leatherhead apartment, you will be lodging with the owner, rather than having the entire property to yourself.
Launched in January 2010, Housetrip claims to be Europe’s largest online provider of private holiday properties with 66,000 options available around the world. Properties available during the Olympics include a two-bedroom property in Lee Valley, a short hop from the main Olympic venues, for £224 per night for longer stay guests, and a one-bedroom apartment in leafy Queen’s Park, north west London costs £135 per night—good for the central London Olympic venues such as Hyde and Regent’s Park and Lords cricket ground. Neither place is going to win any style awards but they offer reasonably affordable boltholes during the games.
Thomas Cook, the official short break provider for the Games, has sold 70 per cent of its packages, which range in price from £99 to a whopping £6,499 for a three-night stay at the Waldorf Hilton from August 10-13—including tickets to three Olympic events and the closing ceremony. The cheapest packages currently available include £119 per person per night at the Travelodge Park Royal in Acton on August 1, which includes tickets to the basketball women’s preliminaries; or £149 per person at the Travelodge Marylebone on August 3, including tickets to the handball at Olympic Park.