If you’re the adventurous type, you haven’t got anywhere to stay, preferring to play it by ear, or crash on mates’ sofas for a while.
The easiest thing to do is book into a hostel, especially if you’re travelling alone; you’ll meet plenty of like-minded people, and have a place to call home while you find your feet in this big bad city.
And you don’t have to be a new arrival – staying in a hostel is way cheaper than a hotel for a night out. Not sure where to start? Here’s our pick of the best.
Clink78, King’s Cross
What: Set in a 200-year-old magistrates’ court, this popular temporary digs has guests staying in refurbished prison cells with the old courtroom transformed into communal areas.
Surf the internet in the same room where The Clash famously went on trial in 1977; relax in the former workplace of Charles Dickens; or watch films in the old wood-panelled courtroom.
Sup cheap pints in the Clash Bar – a basement, punk-themed space, with a late licence until 3am on Saturdays.
Checking in: From 2.30pm – out by 10am.
Damage: From £9pppn in a mixed dorm, including all-you-can eat breakfast in the large kitchen.
Where: 78 King’s Cross Road, WC1 9QG
Tube: King’s Cross
Generator, Russell Square
What: With plenty of themed parties (Michael Jackson tribute night anyone?)
and regular entertainment, this central London hostel is the place to make friends. Take part in the Monday night quiz, belt out a few tracks on karaoke Thursdays, or check out the live sport on the big screen in the bar, which is open until 3am every day.
The rooms are clean and boast colourful decor – choose from private, mixed or
Checking in: From 2pm – out by 10am.
Damage: From £12.80pppn, including free walking tour and wifi. All-you-can-eat breakfast is £4.50 in the Generator Cafe.
Where: 37 Tavistock Place, WC1H 9SE
Tube: Russell Square
St Christopher’s Inn, London Bridge
What: Dating back hundreds of years, to when travellers in horse-drawn carriages would stop overnight to recharge by
a roaring fire, this homely hostel is above a traditional English pub.
It’s next to St Christopher’s flagship venue, The Village, which boasts an onsite nightclub, cinema, comedy club and a chill-out room.
As well as top DJs at Belushi’s (licensed until 4am on weekends), there are karaoke nights, beach parties and big screens showing live sports.
The location is perfect for wandering through some of London’s best sights – including Borough Market for top grub.
Checking in: 2pm – leave by 10am.
Damage: £11.50pppn including free breakfast and wifi.
Where: 161-165 Borough High St, SE1 1HR
Palmers Lodge – Swiss Cottage
What: If you like your accommodation a bit more upmarket, this award-winning boutique offers nicely furnished rooms, with beds that are already made up – perfect if you’re a late arrival.
Recently refurbished, Palmers Lodges’ Swiss Cottage was the former lodge of Lord Palmer – hence its nod to all things luxurious – and prides itself on offering better service than many three-star hotels.
Get ready to celebrate Australia Day in style at one of its top BBQs, and there are also themed parties throughout the year.
Checking in: After 2pm – out by 11am.
Damage: £23pppn including wifi and breakfast in the onsite restaurant.
Address: 40 College Crescent, NW3 5LB
Tube: Swiss Cottage
What: This recently refurbished hostel is smack-bang in the middle of the hustle of Greenwich, surrounded by street markets and lively music venues.
As well as being in a smart hostel, you’ll be staying in a top location. Check out the sights, including the Observatory, O2 Arena, and the maritime museum, then shoot pool in the downstairs Royal Standard pub.
After, relax in the common room, watching the big TVs.
Checking in: From 2pm – out 11am.
Damage: From £9pppn, including free wifi and continental breakfast.
Address: 86 Tanner’s Hill, SE8 4PN
Unsure of the rules when staying in a hostel? Here, Kash Bhattacharya – Twitter’s @BudgetTraveller – points you in the right direction.
Keep it clean
Remember your mum isn’t there to clean up your dishes or to pick up your dirty clothes. When you’re sharing a 10-bed dorm, make sure you smell good – showering daily is a sound idea. Body spray is not a substitute.
Washing your clothes
Keep a small sachet of washing power or liquid for washing socks, underwear or smaller garments. You can do it while in the shower so kill two birds with one stone.
Many hostels offer free wifi, but don’t abuse this privilege by downloading movies or software updates. Use the free wifi for emails, checking Facebook and any light internet usage, so everyone can stay connected.
Keep it quiet
If you’re coming into your dorm late at night, don’t be rowdy. Use your smartphone iTorch4 flashlight app to help you find your way to your bunk. Do not turn on the light and wake up your fellow room mates.
Sex in the dorm
This is a big no-no. I was told by a hostel owner some hostels have designated ‘sex rooms’, but I have never come across such a thing. budgettraveller.org for more info and the Luxury Hostels Of Europe Guide
Photos: Generator; Clink; St Christopher’s