As London residents, we often forget that visiting London is a luxury to many. Accommodation prices are extortionate, the pound is strong (relative to other currencies), and each and every thing you do as a tourist comes with a price. We sometimes joke that the area of affordable living is getting pushed out of London more and more over time, and the same can be said for affordable tourist accommodation. Even budget accommodation in London matches the prices of luxury accommodation in other cities of the world, and only as we start to broaden our search to accommodation near London do we start to find acceptable prices.
Although we do not always focus on budget travel personally, we want anyone and everyone to be able to visit London. Therefore, we’d like to provide some budget friendly recommendations for our city. This starts with accommodation – you cannot visit a city if you do not have a place to stay! While we have heard positive things about Couchsurfing, it’s not a concept that we completely trust. And while we absolutely love AirBnb, it’s not for everyone and it’s not always that much cheaper. So, instead, we bring you an option that will fit everyone.
Visit London, but don’t stay there!
It may seem like a totally crazy idea, but hear us out on this one. There are plenty of reasons why staying outside of London is a good idea, and plenty of options for where to stay. For this post, we’d like to make a case for Reading, England – a large town in Berkshire located about 40 miles down the Thames from London.
Reading, England: Accommodation Near London
Our wedding celebration this year is taking place outside of London, so most of the accommodation options are in Reading, the closest town. Many people are probably thinking, ‘What is there to do in Reading?’, and the answer is probably one you do not want to hear. However, one thing that there is to do in Reading is sleep.
Reading is a great option when looking for accommodation near London, and finding accommodation near London is a great option when looking to save money on a trip to London. Located about 40 miles away, Reading is far enough that the prices start to go down, but not so far that you can’t even visit London. There are also plenty of options for getting to Reading from the London Airports – in fact, it’s about as close to Heathrow as London is (minus the London traffic!). However, that’s not where the perks of staying in Reading stop.
Ease of Access to London City Centre
There are frequent direct trains between Reading Station and London Paddington. From London Paddington, you have access to the tube network, which will take you anywhere and everywhere within the city. An off-peak travel card costs £23.30 and includes your return journey plus unlimited travel on the London Underground & buses for the day. A one-day travel card for the Underground & buses costs over £12, so it’s only an additional £11 to travel into London and back. Considering you’ll save loads more than that per night by choosing accommodation near London instead of in London, it’s more than worth it!
Incredible (& Direct) Day Trip Opportunities
In reality, you are not going to spend every day of your trip to London in London. There is way too much to do and see in the neighboring areas, so you’re bound to get out of London at least once! It’s very easy to get from Reading to most of the popular day trip destinations, and often cheaper than going from London. This is especially great if you have a UK bucket list, like our UK travel challenge! These destinations include (but are not limited to):
- Salisbury/Stonehenge: Salisbury is home to Salisbury Cathedral, where you can find the tallest church spire in the UK & the best surviving original copy of the Magna Carta. UNESCO World Heritage Site Stonehenge is also nearby.
- Winchester: Such a lovely town to walk around! Winchester also has an incredible cathedral, plus lots of cute pubs.
- Bath: Bath is one of the most popular day trips from London. Our friends at Champagne Cozy have a great guide on what to do while there!
- Bristol: Visit this up and coming city before everyone else does! Bristol is great for street art, and for experiencing a different type of UK city.
- Cardiff: There are tons of adventure opportunities in this Welsh city, including canyoning. Head to this coastal city to tick Wales off your bucket list!
- Oxford: Wander and discover the romance of one of the UK’s most charming university towns.
A Real Local Experience
We live in London. In fact, a lot of people live in London. But most of the places that visitors to London go are flooded with other tourists. When you stay outside of London, you get a different experience. When you are wandering around the center of London, you could be in literally any city in the world – New York, Paris, etc. Except for the presence of a pub on every corner instead of a diner or brasserie, there aren’t many things that separate cities in the grand scheme of things.
From Reading, you have the opportunity to leave the centre and experience a different side of England – the side that people who live here actually see. There are some good parts of Reading’s surrounding area, and some bad parts (like any place, really), but look for something that you would want to do. Maybe you drive to a country pub, or do a local walk. On a sunny day, you could technically walk all the way to Henley, home of the Henley Royal Regatta (it’s 8 miles so we don’t actually recommend walking, but it is an option. There are also buses and trains.). The riverside town is loaded with pubs and restaurants and it’s a lovely place to walk around.
Whatever it is, you have the opportunity to experience something different from the millions of other London tourists.
Novotel Reading Centre: 4* Accommodation Near London (that won’t break the bank!)
Located just a 4 minute walk from Reading Train Station, the Novotel Reading Centre is a great hotel with great prices. This four-star hotel boasts clean, spacious rooms; a restaurant and bar; a fitness centre and pool; and a prime location. Rates start at £65/night, but we recommend you add on breakfast. The breakfast buffet is huge, all you can eat, and includes all the hot food required to make yourself a Full English (very important!).
The bedrooms at the Novotel Reading Centre are extremely spacious and modern and contain anything you could need. We recently stayed in an Executive Room where we had more than enough space for the two of us. A queen bed, sofa bed, desk area, and Nespresso machine can all be found in their Executive Rooms, with the Superior Rooms offering everything except the Nespresso machine. There was ample storage in the room – multiple closets, space to put items in the bathroom, and tons of desk/drawer space, so this would be a perfect place to make yourself at home whether it is for business or leisure. Our Executive Room also had an iPhone docking station sound system, but it was made for iPhone 4 plugs and did not have an adapter (only downside of our stay!).
Our room was located on the 8th floor, far from the elevators. We did not experience any hotel noise, and street noise was limited to what you would expect. It was noticeable, but definitely did not keep us up at night!
Not only is the Novotel Reading Centre close to the train station, but the main shopping centre is also nearby. When you step out of the hotel, you can see restaurants, bars, pubs, and nightlife options without taking another step. When you do take a few more steps (10 minute walk maximum), the options are pretty much endless.
So what’s nearby?
For fine dining, consider Chez Mal (in the Malmaison Hotel) or London St Brasserie. If you’re looking for something more casual, there are plenty of chain restaurants located around the Oracle shopping center. These include YO! Sushi, Nando’s, Jamie’s Italian, and more. If you’re a beer fan, check out The Alehouse on Broad Street.
If you love shopping (or forgot an essential), the Oracle has a wide range of shops including large departments stores. The Body Shop, Apple, Dune, Lush, New Look, Victoria’s Secret, and Zara are among the options at the Oracle (it’s a mall, after all!). John Lewis is also nearby if you require a one stop shop.
Isn’t staying in London part of the experience of visiting London?
Honestly, that’s completely personal. It is definitely a point that can be argued, and if you have the money, London is an incredible place to stay. If you don’t, it might be smart to find accommodation near London, in a place like Reading. We love experiences, and would be willing to sacrifice accommodation location if it enabled us to experience more. Considering there are so many incredible things to do outside of London, staying outside of London makes sense. It especially makes sense when the accommodation options are a fraction of the price.
We hope that everyone reading this has the chance to visit London during their travels. Summer in London & Christmastime in London are both extremely magical times, but it’s an incredible city year round. Let us know if we can provide any other budgeting tips to help you make a trip to London!
All opinions and words above are 100% our own.
Pin this post for later!