Tips to Finding Cheap Short-term and Long-term Accommodation in London
By Kelly Henderson (follow Kelly on Twitter @kellythekiwi)
If you’re planning on visiting London – for either a short time or a long time – then you will need to sort out some accommodation. It is widely believed that this will be very expensive (and it can be) but it doesn’t have to be… Have a read of this post if you are searching for short-term and long-term cheap accommodation in London and visit our budget accommodation in London category for more tips.
What are the cheapest areas in London to rent?
Spareroom has published its quarterly report on the London Rental Index. We’ve summed it up in this post but one thing you might find especially interesting is their heatmap showing average rental prices in London. It shows that the average price of rent for a double room (bills included) ranges from £500 a month to over £1000 a month. Typically, the further away from the centre you are, the cheaper the rent but this will change when the Crossrail services begin in 2018!
Both the London Economic and the Telegraph have interesting articles to read on the cheapest areas to live in London. Five areas worth checking out are:
- Forest Hill
- Waltham Forest
Finding Short-term Accommodation in London
If you’re only in London for a week then you don’t want to spend your entire budget on accommodation – there are far more exciting things! Thankfully, London has plenty of options!
#1 | Hostels
There is a common belief that hostels are just for the young, party-loving types but this is no longer the case. I have worked in hostels for 8 years and have met people of all ages who are in London for many different reasons.
Hostels are great value and often offer more facilities than hotels – you might even get a free breakfast! Most of the rooms are packed with bunk beds (the more beds in a room, the lower the price) but many hostels offer single, double and twin rooms with private facilities. The newer hostels are clean, safe and secure. I always use the Hostelworld website, for booking cheap hostel accommodation. This gives me the added security that my booking is guaranteed and by reading all the reviews I get a real feeling of what the hostel will be like. Here are 3 of the hostels I recommend when my travelling friends are looking for cheap accommodation in London:
- Safestay: There are two locations in London (Elephant & Castle and Holland Park) and both offer a little bit of hostel luxury – clean rooms and facilities, free Wi-Fi and safe, secure accommodation.
- Wombat’s: Wombat’s City Hostel London is awesomely located next to Tower Bridge. Their guest kitchen really helps when you are travelling on a budget… as does the free Wi-Fi!
- Palmers Lodge: Both locations (Willesden Green and Swiss Cottage) have onsite bars that offer reasonably priced food and drinks; the Wi-Fi is free and the facilities are clean and modern.
Check out our review of Hostelworld here.
#2 | House Sitting
If you have ever seen the movie ‘The Holiday’ then you probably think the same thing that I do – swapping houses with someone in another country sounds like a great idea… Unfortunately, I don’t own a house so house sitting is the perfect alternative.
People get house sitters so that they know their house will be looked after while they are away. Your job is to keep it clean and tidy, protect it from burglars and squatters and, in many cases, care for the homeowners pets.
TrustedHousesitters is the most well-known house sitting website, and has the most properties listed. The registration fee is £7.42 per month, or £89 a year (much cheaper than monthly rent!) and the process is really simple:
- Sign up for an account and create your profile. Make sure you let people know why you would be an ideal sitter and what you can offer.
- Apply for house sits. You can browse the vacancies online or receive daily emails to alert you to new house sitting opportunities. Once you have found something suitable, apply to the owner directly through the website.
- Enjoy your house sit. Look after the property… and the pets!
If you’d like more information about house sitting in London then take a read of this article.
If you wanted a bit more privacy than couch-surfing or hostels can offer, or you are travelling as a couple or group of friends/family, then why not rent out an entire flat?
Check out our review of TrustedHousesitters here.
#3 | Airbnb
I’ve used Airbnb in Paris, Edinburgh and Wellington, and I definitely recommend it to my friends and family when they ask me about cheap accommodation. When my parents and I went to Edinburgh, it was much cheaper to book a whole apartment through Airbnb than pay for two hotel rooms. You can get a free £32 voucher for registering via BrokeinLondon!
There are over 2,000,000 Airbnb listings around the world (over 1,400 of these are castles!), so you can be sure to find something that suits you. The website is really easy to use – just select your dates, browse your options then request to book. You don’t have to book the whole property – there are private and shared rooms listed too.
Here’s what Airbnb has done to ensure you feel safe booking through their site:
- Verified ID: Guests and hosts verify their ID by connecting their Airbnb account to their social media accounts. They are also asked to upload an official ID (like a passport or driver’s license) or confirm some personal details.
- Profile & Reviews: All guests and hosts need to have a personal profile.
- Messaging: If you have any questions before you go, just drop your hosts a message.
Check out our review of Airbnb here.
#4 | Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing is one of the best forms of cheap accommodation in London. It’s FREE, you get to meet local people and you’ll probably get taken to a bunch of cool places that aren’t in the guidebooks.
When I first heard of Couchsurfing I was worried about the safety aspect of staying in a stranger’s house. But Couchsurfing hosts tend to be Couchsurfers themselves so they know exactly what you are going through and want to help.
The people behind Couchsurfing also have your security in mind and offer various levels of verification for potential hosts (payment method, mobile phone number or home address) as well as the ability to leave reviews.
Here are a few other things to consider when you are looking for a Couchsurfing host:
- Profile picture: in my opinion, the whole thing feels a bit more genuine when the host has uploaded a profile picture.
- Completed profile: If a host has taken the time to write a complete and detailed profile then they are much more likely to be interested in getting to know other people.
- Reviews: If the host has plenty of positive feedback from others who have stayed with them then you and your belongings should be fine.
Check out our review of Couchsurfing here.
#5 | Wimdu
By booking a WOW deal with Wimdu you could save you up to 70% on holiday accommodation. This is when a host offers their property for a lower price for specific dates. When searching for accommodation you will see the regular price and the reduced price – the bigger the difference, the bigger the WOW!
There are properties in over 100 countries and you can choose from apartments, holiday homes and private rooms. Wimdu have introduced Wimdu Triple Check to make sure that their apartments meet their high standards:
- On-site Check: Thousands of properties have already been checked and the rest will follow.
- 365 Checks: After the initial check, Wimdu will spot-check the properties throughout the year.
- Guest Reviews: All guests are encouraged to leave reviews after their stay – this gives you an up to date insight into the property.
Check out our review of Wimdu here.
Finding Cheap Long Term Accommodation in London
If you’ve decided that you want to stay in London on a permanent basis then you would want to find accommodation that is much cheaper than the short-term options I’ve already talked about. There are a number of really useful websites that will make it much easier for you to find cheap rooms in London. We list them all on our cheap long-term rent in London page but 3 of the ones that I have found most useful in my searches are:
#1 | Spareroom.co.uk
Probably the most popular of the room search websites, SpareRoom is free, easy to use and has loads of users. You simply place an ad that tells people about yourself and the kind of flatshare you are looking for – make sure to add a profile picture as well as that will help you get noticed. Once you have had a browse through the available flatshares then you can contact your potential flatmates directly. They also have cool Speed Flatmating events in London where you can meet lots of people all at the same time!
In our review you will find out what we think about SpareRoom.
#2 | Easyroommate
Another well-known room search website which lets you create a profile and find your perfect flatshare (hopefully). Easyroommate is free if you want to be a Basic Member but they do encourage you to upgrade as the features are way better. If you haven’t had any luck with other sites this might be a good idea… A premium membership will let you contact all Basic and Premium members and costs just £0.66 a day (if you sign up for 30 days).
Have a read of our review for more information.
#3 | Gumtree
Gumtree is still probably the most-used website when people are looking for long-term accommodation in London – it was great for me and lots of my friends. But… be wary, it is probably the least safe due to the number of fraudulent ads (if you’re worried you may want to have a read of our post on How to Avoid Rental Scams). It is free to use and there are lots of options, especially if you are looking for something cheap, but the search features aren’t as good as some of the other websites.
Check out our review of Gumtree here.
Finding Cheap Student Accommodation in London
If you have arrived in London to study then you will need to find student accommodation, and you should be prepared to be shocked by the prices. There are many advantages to studying in London but it is not cheap. Broke in London have a great section on student accommodation in London. If you have decided that this is the right option for you then have a look at these properties – they are some of the cheapest I can find:
#1 | Chapter London
Chapter London has two locations offering rooms for less than £200 a week. The prices at Chapter Lewisham start from £169 a week for a room in a 3-bed apartment and you can get a 2-bed studio at Chapter Portobello for the same price. This weekly price is inclusive of all bills and great facilities like bike storage, a TV room and study spaces.
#2 | United Students
Unite Students have three locations where the weekly rent is less than £200 a week. These are North Lodge, Station Court and Emily Bowes Court. While all of these locations are about five miles from the city centre, there are some excellent transport links.
And if you’re look for something really affordable…
#3 | International Students House (ISH)
International Students House (ISH) offers a 4-bed shared room for £79.80 a week. Sure you will have to share your space with 3 other people but just think of all the money you will save!
#4 | Beroomers
Another option for students in London is to use the website Beroomers. It is similar to Airbnb but as the apartments are generally available as long-term rentals they are ideal for students. Beroomers offer several different accommodation offers like student halls, shared flats, home stays and private apartments.
For more information, including the pros and cons of using Beroomers, have a look at our review here. If you use the promo code BROKEINLONDON you will get a £20 discount on the booking’s service fee (valid until 31/12/2017).
Hints when looking for cheap (or affordable) student accommodation in London
- Work out your budget: You will probably have an amount that you would like to spend on your accommodation but you should also set yourself a maximum budget too. It would be a good idea to include utilities, food and transport in your budget too.
- Decide whether you are going to work or not: I didn’t go to university in London but I know that I couldn’t have got through my studies without having a part-time job. I’d advise you to get working as soon as you can so you don’t have to rely solely on your student loan or grant.
- Work out the best location for you: Sure, it may be cool to live in popular areas like Camden Town, Shoreditch or Central London but this isn’t really ideal. Firstly, these areas are likely to be more expensive and secondly, you don’t want to spend loads of money travelling to university everyday. See if you can get accommodation close to where you are studying so you can walk or ride a bike.
- Don’t forget about your utilities! If you are planning on staying in student accommodation then it is likely that utilities like water and electricity will be included in the price but this is not the case for private rentals. Do your research before committing to bills you won’t be able to afford.
If you are looking for a free place to stay in London have a look at ourfree accommodation 1-page guide and if you need more suggestions have a read of our post full of Tips for Renting a Room in London.