Once you have set the date and purchased the flights for your move abroad, it’s time to start thinking about where you’re going to stay when you first arrive in London.
It can take several weeks (if not months) to settle in with a job and a stable income, so it’s important to ensure that you have carefully budgeted for the costs of your accommodation before you arrive.
I suggest that you book accommodation for two weeks to start with, that way you will have time to settle in, deal with your jet lag, do some sight seeing and find an apartment to move into. If you need longer, you can extend your stay as you go.
Here is a list of options for accommodation upon your arrival in London. Whether you’re lucky enough to have a friend or family who has offered you a bed, or you’re starting from scratch, there is an option to suit every budget.
Homestay allow you to book a room in a local person’s home on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis and the host is always present during your stay so essentially you have a flat mate from the get go. It’s such a nice way to be introduced into London as you can make the most of your host’s London knowledge and hospitality, feeling more at home as soon as you arrive. Homestay try to match guests and hosts who ideally share similar interests, so it’s also a fantastic way to make new friends and of course, it’s cheaper than renting a hotel room.
There are currently over 670 rooms in London on the Homestay website, you can check them out here
This is a personal favourite website of mine that I use when travelling around Europe, but it’s also a great accommodation option for new arrivals in London. Similar to Homestays, Airbnb is based on people renting out their existing spare space to guests, whether it be a whole flat or just a spare bedroom. Again, it’s more of an authentic experience, a great way to meet new people and more often than not, it’s much cheaper than renting a hotel room!
If you have never used Airbnb before, you can use my referral code and get £16 off your first booking! Enter code: kzawadzka6 on the payment screen.
If you’re genuinely short on cash and are ready for a real adventure, you can consider couch surfing. According to the Couch Surfing mission statement, it’s all about “A world where everyone can explore and create meaningful connections with the people and places they encounter.”
It’s basically an online space where people offer their couch for free to travellers around the world. Whilst this is all well and good on paper, in reality it can get a little risky if you don’t pick the right host! The most important thing to remember when couch surfing is that if you ever feel uncomfortable in a situation, just leave! When you do get it right though, it’s a great way to have a free nights accommodation whilst getting a good insight into the lives of the locals.
Hostels are the cheapest option in the ‘hotel’ category. Most hostels offer good deals if you’re staying longer term and offer a lower price per week. Depending on your budget, you can also book a private room rather than a bed in a shared dorm.
Hostels are also a great place to meet loads of people, both travellers and those in the same situation as you. Many hostels also not only offer a great, central location, they can also provide free breakfasts and a bar of some sort with cheap food and/or drinks.
Some great hostels to consider staying at include:
- The Generator – This party hostel is located in central London and is the first place I stayed in on my first backpacking trip through Europe! It has free wi-fi and a great bar that throws everything from trivia nights to karaoke to fancy dress parties. This is one of the biggest hostels in London and is a great place to make new friends and have a good time, though be warned, there will be many late nights and the shared bathrooms can be questionable at times
- The Dictionary, Shoreditch – Newly opened in the summer of 2012, this hostel features very clean, spacious rooms, stylishly remodelled in an industrial building in one of London’s coolest areas
- Destinations at The Rose and Crown, Borough – Situated above an old fashioned English pub, this hostel has four and six-bed rooms, each with a big-screen TV, Wi-Fi, a computer and a mini fridge along with tea/coffee-making facilities, all in your room. Oh and free breakfast too!
- If you prefer something a little quieter, located in zone 2 of London is Palmers Lodge- Hillspring, voted as ‘one of London’s best’ and you can stay there from £23 p/night. Private rooms with ensuites are also available from £58 twin share. This boutique hostel offers free wi-fi, linen and breakfast. They also have some great common areas including a restaurant, pool table and their own bar
Other popular short-term sublet websites include:
- Gumtree http://www.gumtree.com/holiday-rentals/london
- RoomFT http://www.roomft.com/
- Craigslist http://london.craigslist.co.uk/sub/
- Arrive Homes http://www.arrivehomes.com/ specialises in share houses for overseas teachers and professionals moving to London
Self Service Apartments
If your budget allows you to spend a little more on accommodation, then a self-service apartment is great option. It allows you to feel a little more at home than you would at a hotel, and you will have a kitchen to cook in and a little more space to move around.
Wotif provides a great search engine for serviced apartments in London, so check out their website and key in the dates that you’re after, you’ll be sure to find something in the right location and price range.
Other similar search engines that you should also take a look at include:
Stay with a Friend of Family
If you know or have managed to find someone in London who is willing to lend you the couch or even a room to sleep in, it’s respectful if you offer to pay for your stay. It can be a little awkward trying to work out how much you should offer to pay, so luckily Splitwise have created this nifty Fairness calculator which can make the decision for you. If they really refuse to let you pay, then take them out for dinner or some drinks instead to say thank you.
Short-term rentals should be just that, short term, or they can end up costing an arm and a leg. For more information on finding a permanent home in London, visit the House Hunting page.