Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Where To Stay When Coming To London

Since I moved to London in June 2010, I've gotten a number of requests for accommodation recommendations from friends looking for places to stay here in town.  Some times the queries are just for options for brief holidays; other times the questions are about where to stay for a few weeks or even months.  I thought it might be helpful to do a primer on where to stay in London with a few different scenarios - hopefully one will help you!

First, though, three (possibly universal, at least according to me) truths about short-term stays:

- If you're coming to London for work/study, find out if your job/university can provide you with accommodation.  (Same goes if you're visiting friends!)  Even if you want to strike out and do your own thing in terms of housing, it's a good idea to go through official channels first.  Your contacts can suggest sponsored options, like halls of residence, or endorsed alternative options, like private dormitories, or even sanctioned forums where you can find flats and flatmates, like the University of London's Housing Services website.

- If you do decide to go off-piste straight from Heathrow, park yourself (at least for starters) in whichever neighborhood will provide you with the most support.  If you're here to hang out with friends, find a place in their area.  If you're here to study, stay near your university.  If you're here on business, try to be close to the office.  That way, if anything goes wrong, you have a network of people who know you nearby who can help.

- Trust your instincts.  If you arrive at a place that you've arranged to rent but it doesn't feel right, go with your gut.  It might be in a dodgy area or the air inside might smell of gas or the landlord/agent might make you uncomfortable - please, trust your instincts.  Even if you've already put down a deposit, nothing is more important than your safety.  If you're in a situation that feels sour, call for help and/or get the heck out of dodge.  (Being in an unfamiliar place makes this even more crucial!)

And now... the scenarios!

1. You're coming to London for a holiday and will be here for a week or less: check out some of the higher-end and newer hostels, like the YHA opposite the British Library, which was totally overhauled a  few years ago and offers beds in shared single-sex rooms for £25.15/night, or Palmers Lodge in Swiss Cottage, which is housed in a Victorian mansion in a lovely residential area and offers a double-bed private room with ensuite from £32/night.  As you probably know, hostels are a great way to meet new people and be introduced to new experiences - plus they're cheap!

2.  You're visiting London for business or study for a few weeks and can't afford a place to yourself but don't want to be sharing a flat with wild and crazy kids: did you know that airbnb does sublets?  I've never actually used the site myself but I've heard rave reviews from friends and I researched it pretty thoroughly before going to Berlin; it's supposed to be fantastic.  It looks like they have very welcoming rooms in well-maintained flats and houses for under $2000/month - which is really not bad in London considering all bills are included in the price!

3. You're moving to London but want to check out the town and get a feel for things before committing to a flat and/or a neighborhood: search though Gumtree, which is Britain's answer to Craigslist but slightly less skeevy.  Rental agencies do often offer short-term lets for up to six months, but they usually charge more for leasing a property for less than six months than they would for a longer rental period, so it's worth going through private landlords, many of whom advertise on Gumtree.  Of course, you have to watch out for scams, but I found my current studio on the site and it's been fab.

I do hope this helps those of you who are considering a trip or a move to London!  If you have any other suggestions - dear readers, this is participatory, you know - or further questions, please leave comments and we'll see what comes out of it all.

Happy traveling!

1 comment:

  1. I totally love this place and have to visit again this coming December for holiday season with my family.

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