It’s been a big year for London. The high-energy world capital took a metaphorical punch to the gut in the wake of that shock Brexit vote, a turn of events that leaves the outward-facing city wondering where it fits in to the new, more inward-looking Britain. No question, it’s a difficult moment for the millions of Londoners whose worlds transcend the UK’s until recently relatively open border, but it’s also a terrific time to be a visitor in the always-compelling capital, which seems to stop for no-one—not politics, not terrorism, and certainly not a diminished pound, which is making it easier than ever for Americans to afford what had become one of the world’s most expensive cities.
No matter when and where the exchange rate settles, it’s actually surprisingly easy to book a cheap London hotel room—in some cases, for less than $99 a night, and not just during low season, either.
There’s a catch, though. (Of course.) In most cases, paying this little means you’ll be a hike from the heart of it all. However, that also means you’re potentially liberated from the crowded, breakdown-prone Tube—instead, you’ll use typically less pokey, air-conditioned regional trains. By planting yourself out in the “real” London, you’ll have easier access to lower-cost restaurants and tourist-free pubs, perfect for quiet nights when you’ve just had enough. Hotel rooms in these areas are typically larger than you’d find in Central London, too—and nearly always offered at a much lower price.
Ready to save big? I’ve pulled five solid bets from a long list of worthy contenders. As always—here comes the fine print!—rates can fluctuate wildly, depending on dates and time of year. In the United Kingdom, the best rates are typically found well ahead of your travel dates and require an advance—and usually 100% non-refundable—payment. In other words: don’t cancel your trip.
$68 Jurys Inn London Croydon
Steps from the East Croydon rail hub and barely twenty minutes from the south bank of the Thames by train, don’t let the reputation of this charm-free suburb (the hometown of David Bowie) put you off. Locals might find your choice bewildering, but for visitors, Croydon is, quite simply, one of the best values going in Greater London right now. Millions of pounds are being spent regenerating the area around the station, transforming the neighborhood into a thoroughly modern (and dare we say appealing) commercial and residential hub. Hungry? BOXPARK, a massive modular food hall and beer garden (so many options!), hums with energy well into the evening, while the truly value-minded can content themselves with sandwiches from convenient branches of Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. A few perfectly fine hotels cluster right near the train here—of the lot, however, this modest but comfortable chain property wins on price, very nearly every time.
Transport Trains from East Croydon serve Victoria, London Bridge and other hubs quickly and frequently until the early hours of the morning, fares are fixed around $7.25. It’s much better value to purchase a daily Travelcard (from around $15.50—the same amount you’d spend if you were purchasing the card merely for travel around London’s most central zones), which allows you to use the trains between here and the city center at will, as well as any of the Transport for London services (e.g. the Tube, where a single fare has now gone up to about $8.40). For long stays, get a 7-day card from about $41.
Tucked away in the industrial part of the Docklands, way out near the Thames Barrier, this isn’t the sort of hotel you’d normally choose for a vacation. But London isn’t your average city then, is it. Almost dorm-like in simplicity, rooms at this clean and friendly-enough cheapo are to the standard of this aptly-named (and priced) Accor (Ibis, Mercure, Fairmont) brand. With showers and sinks practically in your bed and almost comically minimal decor, a stay here is a bridge too far for some—that’s fine with the rather loyal group of repeat guests, who’d just as soon not see the rates start climbing. Believe it or not, this far-flung neighborhood is not without its charms—take some time to explore the attractive Thames Barrier Park, then cross the river on foot, via the nearby Woolwich Foot Tunnel, a superbly creepy relic (fitted with CCTV, of course) that most tourists will never experience. Learn more about ibis Budget, discussed in an earlier post.
Transport The Pontoon Dock station on the Docklands Light Railway is just five minutes away on foot—the DLR is part of the Travelcard scheme.
$85 Kip Hotel
If you’re more concerned with location and image than, say, having windows, not to mention a shower of your own, this smack-in-hip-Hackney spot is here to your rescue. A great pick for the young and single, this design-conscious (and, to be honest, quite nice for the price) address should be on every budget traveler’s London checklist. (Bigger rooms, rooms with windows, even, are available, if you feel like upgrading.)
Transport The hotel is located next to the London Overground—once again, part of the Travelcard scheme. A handful of convenient transfers to the Tube are available.
The less-than-lovely center of Lewisham is a far cry from the London most are here to see, but a spate of recent developments (a summer night market, masses of sparkling new housing, an under-construction park) are bringing significant change to the area—this hotel is one of those changes. Steps from everything you need, from a coffee, to a cheeky Nando’s for dinner, to trains into Charing Cross and elsewhere, those unfamiliar with the Premier Inn brand will be delighted to discover what is perhaps the UK’s best hotel values going. Very good beds, fierce showers, proper workspaces, a tea kettle, free internet and an attractively priced AYCE hot breakfast ($10, no need to book ahead) are all a part of the package. Truly a cheapskate’s dream come true. Learn more about Premier Inn and other European budget brands, discussed in this earlier post.
Transport Overground services and an extension of the Tube are planned—for now, Southeastern trains connect Lewisham to Charing Cross and Cannon Street stations all day long; there’s also a Docklands Light Rail service to Tower Hill and elsewhere in East London. A Travelcard allows you to use whatever’s most convenient and offers by far the best value.
This booming edge city along the Central Line had its moment (and then some) hosting the 2012 Olympics—Stratford remains a swirl of residential and commercial activity, all atop a major transport hub, connected to a shopping center crammed full of serviceable restaurants. With a location more convenient to major sights than some more traditional tourist zones, rates can be quite high in these parts—happily, this bright, modern Travelodge is pretty reliably found at or below $99 per night. Learn more about the differences between North American Travelodges and the ones you’ll find in the UK by reading this earlier post.
Transport You’ll have your pick of the Tube (Central and Jubilee lines), the London Overground and Docklands Light Rail services.
Listed rates based on average nightly charge including tax for a sampling of seven consecutive nights on multiple date sets during the summer of 2017, always at least a month ahead. They are subject to change due to exchange rate fluctuations and demand.
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London not your next destination? For a curated, ever-changing list of great hotels under $99 in other top destinations, click here.