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Some London hotel prices falling down

Budget-minded visitors looking for relief from soaring hotel costs can find new, affordable lodgings there, but they'll need to match their needs to a mixed bag of amenities.

By GARY LEE, Washington Post
Published January 7, 2007


A new wave of London hotels designed with budget travelers in mind has brought some affordable options to the city's notoriously pricey lodging scene.

If you've been there recently, you know that the expensive tariffs aren't limited to swanky digs. With the dollar taking a thrashing against the pound, the city's average room price - including the 17.5 percent value-added tax (VAT) levied on hotels - rose this fall to $253, according to TRI Hospitality Consulting in London.

In October, we stayed in two of the newcomers and toured a third. Each is geared to a different kind of traveler. The prices quoted below for each property include taxes.

The Earl's Court tube station is two blocks away; the Gloucester Road station is four blocks. Either one gets you to the theater district and other major London sites in 20 minutes.

HOW MUCH? Doubles start at about $195 per night, singles from about $157.

BEST FOR: Independent-minded travelers who like a comfortable landing pad but don't need their hand held.

THE DETAILS: This smartly renovated stucco building on a trendy street offered just what we needed after a tiring trans-Atlantic flight and rush-hour ride from Heathrow Airport. A plush bed. Soft cotton sheets. A power shower. A stack of plush towels. A flat-screen television. Free Internet access.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Behind a closet door in each guest room is a kitchenette with a small stove, fridge, coffeepot and microwave. A handy reference list points out the best of everything in the neighborhood, including boutiques, bars and restaurants with delivery service. The desk staff, on duty 24 hours a day, is helpful.

The 67 guest rooms are outfitted with bunks, standard and king-size beds. Some also have futons that fold out to single or double beds, allowing possibilities for families or other groups. The sleek decor is highlighted by chrome kitchenware, framed black-and-white photos and thick brown carpets.

Though the room rates aren't rock-bottom cheap, they're still an excellent value.

Plus: The kitchenettes help bring down the high costs of London restaurants.

MINUS: Skip the breakfast - mainly a box of cereal, juice and a pastry - that guests can opt to have delivered to the room for $9.40; there are plenty of good breakfast spots nearby.

MORE INFORMATION: toll-free 1-800-511-9821, www.base2stay.com.

Set on a calm street just off Cromwell Road, it's three blocks from the Gloucester Road tube stop and a lively few blocks of cafes and restaurants. Kensington High Street, with its boutiques, is a 15-minute walk away, and Hyde Park is a half-mile down the road.

HOW MUCH? Single or double rooms start at $57 a night. But you have to book months in advance to get that rate.

BEST FOR: Backpackers who want to upgrade from a hostel for a night.

THE DETAILS: One step inside this 34-room retrofitted Georgian townhouse, and I felt like crouching.

The lobby is a cubbyhole. The narrow stairway is a struggle to navigate with two bags. And our single room - all 50 square feet of it - probably had been a decent-size clothes closet in another life.

EasyHotel spares even many of the basics supplied in other budget hotels. The guest room furnishings consist of a functional bed covered with basic linens and a television hanging on the wall. Our room had no closet, table, dresser, clock, phone or window (only a couple of the rooms do). Two hooks and a tiny bit of floor space were the only provision for clothing, guidebooks, maps and papers. There is no restaurant, no storage space for luggage, no telephone operator to take reservations or answer questions.

This is what $57 - about as inexpensive as London hotels come - gets you. But after a full day's activities, the down sides of the place will seem unimportant.

EasyHotel - brought to you by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the same budget travel czar who created low-cost airline easyJet and discount cruise line easyCruise - has the compactness and mood of a youth hostel.

The room rate, which must be prepaid, starts at $57 for early bookers and ratchets up to around $85, depending on how near to your arrival day you reserve. Optional maid service is $20 extra a day; the in-room TV is $9.50 per 24-hour period.

PLUS: The guests, often adventurous, who congregate on the front stoop.

MINUS: The front desk, which seemed reluctant to offer even basic travel tips.

More information: www.easyhotel.com.

The nearest tube stop, Old Street Station on the Northern Line, is a couple of blocks from the hotel and a good half-hour's ride from London's major theaters, museums and other sites.

HOW MUCH? Double rooms start at $141, but the average rate is about $195 per night.

BEST FOR: Fans of the East End club and party scene.

THE DETAILS: Discouraged at first by the Hoxton's neighborhood - in transition from run-down to bohemian vibrant - we were drawn to the lobby. With its exposed brick walls, two fireplaces, bar and amusing faux taxidermy, it has a certain buzz.

The 205 guest rooms, though small, are bright and inviting, furnished with flat-screen TVs and comfy beds with Frette linen sheets. The bathrooms are large and have showers, tubs, nice towels and toiletries.

Owner Sinclair Beecham, co-founder of the popular Pret A Manger sandwich shop chain, seems concerned about keeping guests' costs manageable. Breakfast - a bag with a banana, yogurt and orange juice, hung on guests' doors in the morning - is included in the rate. Telephone calls, about 10 cents a minute to the United States, are a fraction of what other London hotels charge. The room fridges are stocked with complimentary milk and mineral water. Meals at the hotel restaurant run about $80 for two.

Opened in September, the Hoxton already seems to have a following. When we dropped in, the lobby was packed with travelers in their 20s to 40s from all corners of Europe and North America.

PLUS: The easy proximity to hot bars, pubs and dance clubs.

MINUS: Noise from the corridor and other guest rooms.

More information: 011-44-20-7550-1000, www.hoxtonhotels.com.