Accomodation is sometimes the case of just being somewhere to rest your head at night, or else it can be altogether something more. But what’s best? A traditional hotel? The cheaper option pertaining to hostels? Or the modern equivalent: AirBnb?
My first ever AirBnb experience was in The Netherlands, with four of us girls on our first European escapade of the year together, suitcases stuffed and a little apprehensive to meet our AirBnb host and see the apartment we’d be staying at. We’d heard the horror stories, of course, but bolstered by the fact we were all together, we geared up for what was actually a handy little experience, especially as we realised a lot of AirBnb properties are actually managed by a real estate firm rather than private owners!
Granted, we’d booked everything three days before we actually landed in Amsterdam, and so our choices had been a little limited, and yes, we did end up in a neighbourhood close to the famous Iamsterdam sign buuuuuut far from everything else. There were also brothels on our road, which we hadn’t quite prepared for. Our first AirBnB experience wasn’t exactly a flop, but it did teach us a thing or two about how the whole thing worked, and what we should and shouldn’t be looking for.
Hands down and without a doubt, staying in an AirBnb on Freston Road near Latimer Road tube station was the best decision I made in the entirety of my time on exchange. Despite not ending up arriving at the flat until close to 10pm because of traffic all the way from Lancaster, my hosts met me and showed me around the flat graciously. It was massive, with a balcony, kitchen, large bathroom complete with bathtub, and a double bed, couch and TV. Sounds like the basics, but really finding everything in one property in London is not an easy feat.
I found that, considering I was staying five nights, AirBnb worked out to be a lot cheaper than a hotel alternative, with discounts often applicable if you’re staying extended periods of time. Maybe it’s the memories I’ll forever associate with that week, like my boyfriend surprising me with my best friend, or else the night we stayed up watching Brexit until 7am, and especially the chill night I spent with him with face masks and a homemade meal. These are things you can’t necessarily do in a hotel – eat breakfast on your balcony from the grocery haul you’d bought the night before, host people over for dinner and eat on a real table, or have unexpected guests drop by and stay over without getting in trouble for violating fire safety guidelines because, hey, this is your home. That’s the thing I love about AirBnb’s – booking an entire apartment or home just instantly makes you feel like a local, and it’s something special when the city is so a part of your heart as London is to me.
By July last year, I certainly felt like a pro using AirBnb, and had insisted that P and I indulge in one AirBnb experience in our travels across Italy, and so our Venice adventure was planned. We realised another absolute advantage AirBnb’s during our stay, and that’s the absolute influx of information a host can give you, the flexibility and freedom you have, and the fact that you can hang just-washed laundry out around the flat while you’re off galavanting around the city. As soon as we arrived at our AirBnb, our magnanimous host spread out tens of papers, maps, business cards and recommendations across the table for us to use at our disposal throughout the stay, as well as verbal feedback on the best spots (leading to us waking up at 6am to get to Saint Mark’s square at sunrise!) There are just some things a hotel concierge can’t (or won’t) tell you!
I feel like in general hotels are fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll discuss some of the hotel chains I’ve had the opportunity to stay at throughout Europe and England in particular, so you can get a feel for how they stack up against AirBnb and Hostels.
These are EVERYWHERE across the UK, and I’ve stayed in these hotels all the way from Plymouth through Swindon to Edinburgh and beyond! They’re cheap, but when you’re literally just looking for somewhere reliable, clean and (usually) with a carpark, then Premier Inn is the way to go. We’ve never had a bad experience with the hotel chain, but they are extremely plain and there’s no fancy extras. I will swear to the fact that the Swindon Premier Inn had the best porridge I’ve ever eaten in my life!
Accor Group - Novotel, Ibis
A significant step up (generally) from the Premier Inn’s, there are a lot of perks to staying at an Accor Group hotel, especially if you’re an Accor member (think: discounts, free breakfasts, early check-in/late check-outs). There are a lot of Accor group hotels across London in particular, and I’ve had the pleasure of staying at the Novotel in both Waterloo and Tower Bridge, as well as staying at an Ibis Styles in Hammersmith.
Hilton Trafalgar Square, London
Just for fun, let’s pop in this higher end hotel chain to round off my experience of accomodation in London. The Hilton in Trafalgar Square (dubbed The Trafalgar) is in the most perfect position, right near Trafalgar Square (duh), with a rooftop bar that unfortunately isn’t open in Winter and so we weren’t able to visit (but I hear the views are AMAZING). The room was massive and lush, with fruit platters, complimentary magazines, drinks and chocolates to get you through your stay.
I’ve only ever stayed in a hostel twice, and the first was at The Hat in Madrid, which is a five star hostel. I can’t say that I’ve ever felt inclined to stay in a hostel, because partying with random other young people isn’t exactly what I come on holidays to do BUT The Hat completely changed my perception of hostels – yes, we stayed in a room of 10 in bunk beds that looked like something out of Orange is the New Black. And yes, there were people coming in and out of the bedroom at all hours, which wasn’t exactly conducive to good sleep. But on the whole, unless you made the effort to mingle, everyone kept very much to themselves. I’d definitely recommend a hostel if you’re travelling solo, as there were many people on their own who seemed to have made friends during their stay. The reception was 24 hours and safety was a high priority, as well as ammenities such as complimentary breakfast spreads every morning. Most hostels are situated quite close to the centre of everything you need to see in the city, so they’re a good cheap alternative to hotels and AirBnb!
My second (and third) stay at a hostel was in Rome, smack bam near the main train station and so again, similar to in Madrid, the best location for our stay. We ended up at this hostel twice – first on our first night in Italy before we left for Venice, and then again for a couple nights at the end of our stay. The first was much more enjoyable, with our own room and bathroom, while the second time we stayed we were at the same location and with the same company, but in a different building (the hostel situated around 3 buildings around a central courtyard). This time, we were in a shared flat sort of situation, and although we actually never ended up bumping in to our flatmates, we could definitely hear them. The wonderful thing about hostels is how friendly the hosts tend to be, and how laid back – a 4 hour delay in Santorini meant we didn’t get to Rome until past midnight, but our hosts were more than welcoming – nothing was too much trouble for them!
I hope that’s shed some light on the different options you have while travelling! What’s your favourite accomodation while travelling? Have I missed out any? xx