I came to London on the 11th of December 2008 with the BA48 flight from Seattle. The flight landed at around noon, and within another 30 min I was out of the airport with the baggage and the immigration cleared. It was such a breeze. I was carrying a big backpack and small carry-on, all laden with souvenir, chocolates and perfumes, I was taking to my folks in India. I booked a bed at Astor Hyde Park hostel at the heart of the city. It was near Hyde Park with famous A-list addresses, and next to Natural History museum, a string of embassies and Imperial college of London, and just 400m from Gloucester road underground station that connects with Heathrow and other parts of the city.
Unlike a hotel, here you share the room with 5 other people - both boys and girls. The first three days I had roomies as a Singapore couple, an European girl and guys from US and Hong Kong. The last day, my roomies were guys from Italy, Mexico and Germany. If you think 6 is too much for a room with a bathroom, wait till I tell you about my Netherlands experience, rooming with 18 other people and a bathroom shared between 2 such rooms! The hostels are mainly made for backpackers under 35, but more preferably students in their undergrad, and typically bursts with life (and of course there are a lot of hot chicks out there).
Among the hostels I researched, this hostel received the highest ratings and deservingly so. The room and bathrooms were relatively clean, the food was good, it was well accessible to public transportation and the place secure, and that is what you pretty much need.
For those of you who have not stayed in such youth hostels, here is some info:
Similarities to a hotel:
- You get Wi-Fi Internet access, a sumptuous breakfast (with a lot more variety), a reception like central place to control access inside (unlike a motel), a laundry service, a public refrigerator and access to iron box.
+ Hostels come with a kitchen and you can cook food, and save money on eating out. Though this time I didnt make use of this, the previous time when I visited Netherlands in 2005, I cooked during most of my stay for 8 days. I carried rice, yogurt, pickles, rotis, etc and that was more than enough to cook decent food to supplement the morning breakfast there.
+ It is very cheap. A good hotel in central London costs minimum of 60-80 pounds and near the Hyde park it is typically more than 150/day. I paid 65 pounds for the entire trip (4 days)
+ It has incredible diversity. Almost everybody who comes to such hostlers are either moving on to other places or coming after touring other places, so you get to meet people who travel a lot. This allows you to see a wider portion of the world through them.
+ Youth hostels are readily accessible to public transportation, since it is for people who won't afford cars.
- You get to share the room, and in many cases members of opposite sex. It is not for all people. You won't have too much privacy, sleep might get disturbed as people keep coming in and out of the room and have to put up with a limited space and need to be careful of your belongings.