February 21, 2009

How to have an economical stay in the UK (mainly London)?

United Kingdom (UK) is an expensive economy with high cost of living. For business visitors, it is important to have an economical and comfortable stay. Based on my experience, I am putting together some tips for fellow business travelers.

Hotel / Stay:

Accommodation in UK can vary between GBP 10 per night (for bunker beds) to GBP 300 (for five star hotels).

I have stayed in four star hotels (Thistle / Holiday Inn) as well as B&B in various locations like Kings Cross, Earls Court, Edgware Road and Kensington Gardens. I found the services in hotels to be very cold and indifferent.  I found Bed & Breakfast to be much more friendly, accommodating and economical. They charge between GBP 35 to GBP 60 per night and tops it up with a good homely English breakfast in the morning.

A good place to search for Bed & Breakfast in the UK is http://www.travelstay.com/

Internet:

Try to check if your Bed & Breakfast offers you free wireless Internet connectivity or not. Most of them do now a days. As a back up plan and to stay connected when you are traveling or in meetings, you can opt for 3G wireless broadband. I opted for 3-mobile and it works quite well. The dongle cost me GBP 60 initially and then I just need to top it up whenever I am visiting UK. Effectively I and up paying GBP 10 per month for connectivity.

Mobile:

You can get cheap Pay-As-You-Go sim cards at the airport. I have used Talkmobile which comes with long distance facility at very reasonable cost (the only funny part was that calling India was cheaper than calling a local number). They also have GPRS, so that you can access Internet through your mobile phone and check your emails on the move. I use it all the time and it works quite well. They have also started doing online-recharge after I ranted about it after my last trip on my blog 😉

Food:

Since, I prefer Indian vegeterian food, I find Masala Zone to be the best one. They provide a complete meal (the closest I have found to home cooked food in London) for under GBP 10. There are numerous eateries and restaurants. I do not think you can spend more than GBP 15-20 on your food unless you are in a mood to reward yourself for something!

Getting around:

The best way to get around London is its public transport system. Grab an Oyster card (even if you will stay inb London for a short duration), top it up with some money and use it everywhere. I find it most convenient and economical. If you plan to travel extensively on a given day, consider buying a day pass for less than GBP 6 and you will have unlimited travel on tube and bus (within couple of zones) for the day.

So, If you are smart, you can have a comfortable and enjoyable working stay in London quite economically. Try these tips next time you are around.

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