Please, get a room

How to find af­ford­able ac­com­mo­da­tion in Eng­land’s cap­i­tal

Central and North Burnett Times - - SPORT - BY Paul Wicks The writer trav­elled at his own ex­pense.

IF YOU’RE look­ing for some homely ac­com­mo­da­tion next time you’re away in the big smoke of London, then se­ri­ously con­sider pop­u­lar on­line providers such as HomeAway and Airbnb, but be aware that it is not al­ways plain sail­ing.

My wife and I used both ser­vices in a re­cent holiday to the Bri­tish cap­i­tal, but tried out a cou­ple of ho­tels as a means of com­par­i­son.

From our ex­pe­ri­ence, it gen­er­ally made more sense to book a flat (or en­tire house) if you’re there for more than a few nights, whereas ho­tels can be the way to go if it’s just a one-night stand you’re af­ter – par­tic­u­larly if you’re ar­riv­ing at or leav­ing from one of the city’s ma­jor air­ports.

Con­sider also the con­ve­nience of a ho­tel’s 24-hour check-in and out. Some home/Airbnb prop­erty own­ers want to meet you on site to hand over the keys, at a time that’s not al­ways con­ve­nient. They won’t take too kindly to an early meet­ing if your plane ar­rives at 5am.

But if you’re like me and want some more room than just a ho­tel one, then from ex­pe­ri­ence those rental sites of­fer­ing flats or whole-of-house are the way to go. And they don’t have to cost a for­tune. We found a lovely lit­tle one-bed­room on HomeAway near the Premier Inn at Put­ney, for about $240 a night, on a weekly ba­sis.

Book­ing it was no drama. We used the web­site and the out-of-town owner promptly replied, giv­ing us the okay. We were given a code to open the se­cu­rity box con­tain­ing the key.

The main bed­room was big, the liv­ing room less so but ad­e­quate and light-filled, and there was even a ter­race. It was a pity that it was mostly cold and rainy, and that air­craft noise on ap­proach to Heathrow was con­stant.

But it had all the mod-kitchen-cons (mi­nus a mi­crowave, though) for a pleas­ant stay and was a con­ve­nient base to see the sights of London. It was a short walk to the tube or bus, a not-too-big hike to the shops of down­town Ful­ham and if you’re up for it, a much longer walk into town to the mu­seum district, Hyde Park and ad­join­ing Kens­ing­ton Gar­dens. We sam­pled the Na­tional His­tory Mu­seum (bit of a dis­ap­point­ment be­cause of sec­tions be­ing shut and noisy schoolkids) but the nearby V and A was a com­par­a­tively airy de­light.

For our other ex­tended stay in the cap­i­tal we tried Airbnb and found a two-bed­room flat in nearby Wim­ble­don, ad­join­ing Put­ney but on the other side of the Thames to Ful­ham. No dra­mas with this book­ing al­though out of cu­rios­ity we later tried this site for an­other book­ing and were put off by a de­mand for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, such as our pass­ports, to be sub­mit­ted on­line.

An­other Airbnb mi­nus for us, in the book­ing process, was find­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion that was listed as avail­able only to be told, some­times much later, by the owner that it was not.

Any­way, the Wim­ble­don flat was sim­i­larly good value, and con­ve­nient with a bus at the door and South­fields tube sta­tion down the hill … bit of a climb on the re­turn jour­ney. I can’t speak too highly of the tube in th­ese ar­eas of London. The trains are quick, clean and con­ve­nient, but try to avoid peak hours or foot­ball days when the num­bers can be over­whelm­ing.

The only drama with this book­ing was a long list of in­struc­tions which looked daunt­ing, but the ab­sent owner emailed them well be­fore­hand so we knew what we were let­ting our­selves in for – “take care with counter tops, the wireless router may need re­boot­ing, don’t use the bed part of the sofa as it is bro­ken(!)”. It also noted that there had been plumb­ing prob­lems. Luck­ily our only prob­lem was with the heat­ing. An email re­sulted in a trades­man ar­riv­ing fairly quickly.

Those notes weren’t all rules, with an­other two pages full of helpful hints about trans­port, shop­ping and nearby at­trac­tions.

We used this base to ex­plore the area a lit­tle fur­ther out from Put­ney/Ful­ham. We hiked over Put­ney and Wim­ble­don com­mons, a much longer walk to Rich­mond Park, a visit to a pub in the quaint Wim­ble­don Vil­lage and, of course, a peek at the home of lawn ten­nis.

Rel­a­tively short train trips away were two must-sees. There was the stun­ning 16th century Hamp­ton Court Palace – the en­tire place is amaz­ing, none more so than the Chapel Royal – and Kew Gar­dens which, even in the cooler months, was worth a longish wan­der through.

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

◗ The must-see Kew Gar­dens in London.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.