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Last-minute London hotels: where to find budget beds

cheap London hotel“Shared bathroom” is not normally a concept which strikes fear into my heart. Until you place it in the same context as “hotel room”.

I needed an overnight stay in London at very short notice last week. It was too late to phone a friend and all the Travelodges and EasyHotels were full or in the wrong area. I panicked and, in my haste, failed to read the small print for (what seemed to be) the last place left. It was only at reception that I found out my room, reserved just three hours earlier, had no exclusive loo or shower.

I’ve not had to share a bathroom with other paying guests since, ooh, about 1992 when I was backpacking around Spain. Then it was bearable as I was paying about £6 a night in a youth hostel. Paying £102 in a hotel in Victoria is a different matter.

I do hope the guests to the Royal Wedding on Saturday are sorted for sleep and won’t have to put up with a similar hotel horror. I will spare this particular establishment’s blushes by describing it as being located close to writer Ian Fleming’s old house. Despite such an accolade, it was an unashamed fleapit. I’m sure you can imagine the lumpy mattress, the filthy net curtains and how the door handle came off in my hand as I rushed out to my event.

Isn’t £100 for a room in London enough? I seemed to have too high expectations. About £150 would’ve secured me something decent but I didn’t want to pay that much. Nor did I want to pay too little. It was £10 or even less to stay in a hostel, although the “SafeStay” brand and dorm accommodation put me off. And obviously the further out of town you go, the cheaper it is, which however defeats the whole point of overnighting in central London. So here are my top tips for when there's no room at the inn.

1. Scour hotel-booking websites
Check out websites such as www.hotels.com and www.booking.com for deals. If you’re registered, sometimes you will be offered ‘secret prices’ or other exclusive deals.

2. Check last-minute websites
There’s always lastminute.com but I’ve yet to find any really good deals on there. One solution is an app (mobile only) called Hotel Tonight (thanks to Andy at www.becleverwithyourcash.com for the tip). This shows you the best deals that day in your destination. It’s pitched at the mid to higher end of the price range but there may be some juicy discounts.

3. Stay in a pub
In my frantic search I came across lots of pubs which offered rooms for about £80 a night. I was concerned about noise but if you’re out late, it’s not a problem. You might even be able to get a nightcap before bed.

4. Airbnb
This is what I should have done: stayed in someone’s spare room for £45 in Old Street or with the lovely-looking Bertalan in Waterloo for £59. Central and so much cheaper than a hotel: you can see why it’s so popular. You’re possibly using the same facilities as the host but at least they’ll be expecting to see you in your jim-jams in the corridor.

5. Cab it
A car home to Little Cashington would’ve have cost less than £100 and, with a reputable firm, would’ve been an option. I’d have had my own bathroom too…

I'd love to hear your tips for decent London accommodation! Add them to the comments box below or drop into our forum here.

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Sunday, 21 April 2019