I wonder if anyone has personally stayed in one of the dorm rooms that Kings College (and other universities) make available to tourists during the summer season? The rooms are for the budget traveler and look very adequate. They also have access to a community kitchen; however, there are no dishes, pots, etc. Since I am on a very limited budget, this lodging option appeals to me. I thought I could probably buy a coffee/soup mug at a grocery store for the microwave and eat fruit and sandwiches. I've never been in London and, at the age of 75 am not spry enough to keep up with a tour (also, I think I can do it more cheaply on my own if I find low-cost lodging.) If anyone has stayed at one of these dorms and has some thoughts or advice for me, I'd really appreciate it!
The German YMCA in London has a hotel called Lancaster Hall, which is relatively inexpensive, but it also has what they call the "Youth Wing". This wing, I gather, is like a hostel but the good news for you is that you don't have to be a "youth" to stay there. It may be worth looking into.
When we travel, I take a small coffee pot and some coffee inside it in a plastic bag. I also put a fork and spoon inside it. With this, you have the option of boiling water to make tea, instant soups, and of course coffee. You can buy a cup at a second hand store for 20 pence or just go to any general store and buy one for a pound or so. Also, the Boy Scouts: scoutstuff.org has a mess kit- Aluminum 1 person mess kit comes with 1-7" Frying pan with steel folding handle, 1-3/4 quart pot with lid, 1-7" plate, 1-8 oz plastic mug. Comes with a mesh carrying bag for 10.00. Might be able to find one on ebay cheaper. All of this should fit in a backpack or you could hang it on the outside by a clip, if you are traveling light. With this, all you need is a stove and you are set. The plastic cup in the kit allows you to use a microwave also. Sandwiches all the time gets old really quick. Ben there . . .. A hot meal and a hot pot of tea, after a long day out and about is wonderful.
Also, the frozen dinners in the UK are a lot better than the ones in US. They also sell cold take-away meals. You can get them for two. If you are hungry, they will fill you up and you will not have to much left over. You might want to pack a travel salt and pepper shaker, put in a plastic bag, just in case.
We have taken all the above and wife and I travel in Europe for 5 to 7 weeks at a time. When we leave home, if it does not fit in a backpack, in my computer carrier, or her backpack and purse, it does not go. We even take a bit of clothes washing powder to use with a washer just in case no powders are available. We also take 20-25 feet of parachute cord and about 8-10 clothes pins. In a pinch, we can wash undies and hang to dry in our room as we are out and about. My wife and my selfs' backpacks have lots of pouches all over the outside. That is where we store the extra stuff.
Thanks for the good wishes, Eli! Yes, I'm going alone. Hope to go to Paris from there. I was in Paris almost three years ago and must go back, I love it! In London, I plan to do all the regulation stuff and especially hit the bookstores.
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On eating. Pubs have the cheapest hot meals, unless you just want a bowl of rice, or noodles. All pubs should have their fare posted on a sign you can read on the door or a window or on a board. Some- like J.D. Wetherspoon- have twofer lunches and other meal deals. See: http://www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk/home/food. Other pubs have wonderful lunches, served cafeteria style or as as Roast. Either will be filling and fairly cheap. You need at least one hot meal a day, and this could be it. Tesco and others have restaurants inside their store. Good cheap lunch meal and you could buy food for dinner at the same time. Find a pound store -similar to Dollar General, Dollar Tree, etc. and buy a small insulated carrier. Or, you could buy one in US and take it. We have a collapsible, large lunch box size that we take. That way, you can buy frozen stuff and carry it about and it still will be safe to eat when you get home.
On clothes, take minimum you think you will need. Underwear is what I would take more of. If need more outer clotes, go to any second hand store and buy what you need for a pound or two. I needed a rain coat last trip and bought one at a Heart Store (for heart attack victims) for 2 pounds. I still have it. If you stay in a college area, there should be several second hand stores in the area.
Enjoy your trip. I hope I am as adventurous at your age as you are.
I stayed at multiple locations of LSE dorms last summer, some more upscale than others. I actually would recommend any of them, including down to the cheaper ones which ran around 30 pounds a night. For that price, breakfast was included, and there were facilities for your own cooking if you so chose. We spent most of our time at Carr-Saunders, and appreciated the breakfast. Location was good too - close to Tube, or easy to walk to most things (but we're big walkers).
I had no problem with dorms, and will do the same when I return.
I second JumpinBugs vote for LSE dorms. I loved Northumberland...1 block from Trafalgar Square. Breakfast was not included there, but they do have kitchens. There are so many places nearby where you can eat for cheap or pick up groceries or prepared meals (love Marks & Spencer) that won't bust a budget.
LSE's Northumberland had coin op laundry, free Internet access (no need to bring laptop), and a terrific location to walk to many sights or the theater. Also easy access to the Tube and many buses to explore further out. All rooms at Northumberland are ensuite. Bathrooms on small side, but I found my single room to be very spacious and the room rate includes linens, towels and daily maid service. It is one of the more expensive properties LSE offers, but it was better than many budget hotels I've stayed at and the location made it so easy because I could walk a lot and almost never needed to take public transit or a taxi which can cost quite a bit in London.
University housing is available in Paris, but you may want to also consider the Ibis hotel chain. They have great rates online. And most Ibis hotels offer air conditioning (rare in most university housing or hostels) which can be nice to have if you go in the summer.
Anna, I think it's wonderful you're making this trip and I wish you happy travels! A friend of mine stayed at one of the dorms with her mum last year and said it was perfectly fine. I often pack a travel kettle, fork & spoon, coffee & tea in my bag. It's easy to find packaged meals in the supermarkets (eg. Sainsbury's, Tesco, Marks & Spencer), and you can get cheap takeaway sandwiches at the many "Pret A Manger" chains. Time Out online has a section on cheap eats in London:
Thank you, everyone, for the encouraging replies and advice! Makes London sound really possible for me, since I will have to stay longer than most people just to see the most interesting sights; my days will be much shorter but it will be pretty fabulous to experience what I have only read about.
In June 2007 we had a great time staying a few days in London (East side near Regent's Canal and tube station) at Queen Mary-University of London, 327 Mile End Road (on Westfield Way East), London, E1 4PD, UK * firstname.lastname@example.org * Bookings@TravelStayNetwork.com * http://www.travelstay.com/pages/QueenMaryUniversityAccommodation.htm Cheers!