It’s not often that I write about accommodation, while I did share tips in Ecuador, Colombia and a great resort in Chile, it seems to be an uninspiring necessity to share on the site but I am starting to learn that people really do want to know where I have stayed.
It is the reason why I started the Resource section of the web site after I went to Maui because after staying in over ten hotels I really can recommend the best hotel for a number of budgets. I have now been in London for 18 days, which is a long time by holiday standards, and I have stayed in a variety of places with some strong thoughts on where to stay in London.
I was fortunate enough to stay the first five days with Liz and Adrian, good friends who also allowed me to stay on their couch just a year prior. They showed me how great Brixton was and I finally found decent Mexican food outside Mexico. They really made me feel welcome, but I knew I could not abuse their hospitality for the entire 18 days.
Palmer’s Lodge Hostel
I stayed here on two separate occasions and realized in the last year I have only stayed at hostels twice, once before I left Spain from being burnt out on the nomadic lifestyle, and the second time the unfortunate place in Maui.
I must say Palmer’s Lodge is really nice, with great wifi, breakfast and decent food. I wasn’t really prepared for a hostel. I didn’t have flip flops for the shower or even a towel. I mistakenly chose the dorm so the first night someone got up at 5:30am and turned on the light and woke me up with their stupid plastic bags, the second time I stayed in a female dorm to avoid snoring and people hooking up but discovered women snore just as badly and a female couple was hooking up in the bed next to me.
I told Kash from Budget Traveller, who raves about hostels said my mistake was choosing the dorm. He always takes a private room so he can enjoy the camraderie of travelers while still enjoying privacy.
Apartment Rental with 9 Flats
There are many companies you can use when looking for apartments in London and 9Flats offered to let me try their service for a week for free. I left the search to the last minute during a busy week in London so there wasn’t a lot available but eventually I found a dorm-like apartment in a nice area of the city that was only a ten minute walk from the tube.
The check-in process was a disaster. I arrived at the office on a Sunday at 3pm to pick up the keys, which were taped to a door. Opening the envelope I found one key to a different location than I had booked. There was a mix-up as the apartment manager, Daniel, wanted to send me to a nicer place, but I thought it was a typo so I went to the place I booked. Someone was living in that apartment so I tried calling but kept getting Daniel’s voice mail. I also tried the 9Flats emergency number but no one answered. I sat waiting for an hour.
It turned out Daniel was at a wedding and only checking his voice mail on the hour and his handyman did not have any information about the flat or know that I was at the wrong place. I waited at a pub until 7pm (four hours later) and finally went to a hostel down the street. The next day Daniel phoned and I realized there had been a misunderstanding about the location. It was a mild inconvenience for me as I travel all the time but I cannot imagine how frustrating that would be for someone arriving from a flight.
To give them credit, 9Flats also profusely apologized but in the end they are only as good as their apartment managers. Going back to look at the reviews I realized people had written they didn’t really see or meet Daniel. If I could do it again I would have chosen a flat where the reviews were positive about the check-in process. Lesson learned.
Malmaison offered a night in their London location and despite it literally meaning Bad House I was really looking forward to it. Located in the financial district of London it is a really nice hotel. This year my travels have been much shorter with 7-10 days in a city and I really appreciate having somewhere nice to come back to after a long day walking around a city.
From the outside it looks like a typical English building but it is quite modern on the inside with a champagne lobby, aubergine-coloured walls and provocative artwork. The dining room has enough options that you don’t have to spend a fortune on food or a bottle of wine for dinner.
I realize why this is called the Bad House, it is perfect if you are traveling as a couple and want a romantic getaway. This is not your ordinary hotel and one you will be telling others about.
Apartment Rental with Wimdu
I stayed in Camden for a week at this apartment in London and I loved it. I needed some space to sit and work and I loved being in an apartment. The first day I went to Sainsbury’s to buy groceries so I could make most of my meals, because let’s face it the food in London is expensive and not all that great (sorry London you still haven’t convinced me otherwise).
I still gush about this place and have told so many people about it. It was walking distance from both the Overground and Underground and with enough distance from Camden Market there was a nice neighbourhood feeling. I did have a few issues with the wifi situation which was frustrating because I was there to work but each time I called someone came over within 10-30 minutes to fix it. This is a very economical option if you are traveling with several friends or a family and it really set the standard for me. I would love to stay here again.
Disclosure: I paid for my stay at Palmer’s Lodge but 9Flats, Malmaison and Wimdu sponsored my stay so that I could review them. As you can see I tried to be both honest and fair.