How far in advance do I book?
At peak season between the months of June and August it is not unusual to find problems booking a hotel or suitable accommodation in London so it’s a great idea to book in advance to avoid disappointment and the stress of having to find somewhere when you arrive. If you pay when you arrive you’re likely to be paying over the odds so it’s always a good idea to book a few months in advance if possible and probably the best place to start looking is on the internet. Online companies like expedia.co.uk offer last minute deals on all kinds of accommodation from luxurious hotels to mid- range hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation at some of the best prices. Here you can book the room of your choice or you can let them help you find something to suit your needs. Any general queries can be answered at the site, and many sites provide maps, price guides and pictures of the accommodation and rooms to give you a decent picture of what your money will get you.
How do I know I’m getting a good deal?
Most countries in Europe tend use the renowned star system as a way of grading the quality and service of a particular hotel, but it’s slightly different in England. The Tourist Board here employs a system of ‘crowns’ based on quality, hospitality and the general standards of a particular establishment. A five crown establishment comes under the category of ‘deluxe’ and will include hotels such as The Ritz and designer hotels such as The Sanderson at the high end of the market. The slightly more affordable mid-range hotels will fall in to the ‘commended’ category of three crown establishments which will often include chain hotels such as Thistle and Holiday Inn. Two crown hotels and guest houses coming under the heading ‘approved’ are at the cheaper end of the market offering a more basic level of quality and service at affordable rates. When booking a hotel always check the details of the facilities available and its crown rating. For instance not all hotels include breakfast and not all have en-suite bathrooms so it’s well worth doing a bit of research before booking to avoid getting stung. It’s also worth investing in a guide book. London’s weekly listings magazine Time Out have a series of guide books that provide a wealth of information on hotels in London, or alternatively have a look at timeout.com
As with many things these days when you’re booking a hotel there are often a number of hidden costs and extra charges that are not mentioned in the publicity material. For example many may include an English or continental breakfast and then slap a 15% service charge on top of it. Here in the U.K. there is also a VAT (value added tax) charge of 20% on top of your bill that has been stipulated by the Government. This rate is however sometimes negotiable particularly at the more expensive end of the market so don’t be shy when you’re making enquiries. It’s worth bearing in mind too that there are often extra charges for car parking.
Most hotels quote their high season rates which can often seem very costly, but if you do a little research and are prepared to visit off-season you could make some great savings.
If you arrive without having booked anything at an major airport or main railway station, travel agencies will help you find accommodation but will charge a small commission.
Remember that it’s always a good idea to do a bit of research before you book. Surf the web and don’t be afraid to phone the hotel and make enquiries in advance. If there’s something you’re not happy with, say something. While it’s true that the English have a reputation for having a stiff upper lip, most will be more than willing to help and to ensure that your stay is a comfortable one.