The fifty-pound difference – are you worth it?

22nd July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Counting the pennies does not always pay off when it comes to hotel accommodation.

I go to London about four times a year, both to enjoy a bit of English culture (and shopping) and to get away from all the things expats complain about with respect to living three metres below sea level with the Dutch.

Intercontinental in Mayfair

I normally stay at the Intercontinental in Mayfair. Posh? Perhaps, but the reason I stay there is its excellent location in a quiet neighbourhood, close to just about everything. And, as far as things go in London, it's not that expensive: book well in advance, or last minute, on the Internet and a room can be had for GBP 119 (EUR 165) per night; sometimes you can get the Churchill Intercontinental for GBP 109 (EUR 151), though it isn't as well located.

If you join their Six Continents Club for $50 (EUR 40) per year, you get a free weekend night plus the occasional room upgrade.

There is only one caveat about the Mayfair and that is it sits across from a rather obnoxious nightclub. Make sure you ask for a room on the quiet side if you stay on a weekend, or you’ll be awakened at 2am by shouting and car horns.

But on my most recent trip, feeling a bit cash-poor after shelling out for a couple of big-ticket items over the winter, I decided to shop around for something a bit more modest. I was also trying to show my Dutch partner (motto: I can stay in a trailer with my cheese sandwich and be happy) that I was capable of roughing it.

Best Western
Shaftesbury Avenue

I chose the Best Western on Shaftsbury Avenue. At GBP 75 (EUR 104) it was nicely priced as well as being close to theatres, Soho, shopping and the rest of it.

To put it mildly (hyperbole seems in order), the difference between a GBP 75 hotel and a GBP 119 hotel is like the difference between a Fiat Seicento and a classic Jaguar.

The Best Western was under renovation. This little gem of information was not on their website, but it was apparent from the construction noise at 7am (9am on weekends), the construction debris, and the out-of-service lift. Carrying your bags up three flights of un-airconditioned stairs in 30-degree heat is not much of a welcome.

The room – a generous term in this case – was literally no wider than the single bed, and about six square metres in total, though for some reason there were two phones, one by the bed and one on a "desk". The television received exactly four channels, only one of them clearly and with an annoying habit of adjusting the sound levels by itself. And then the invisible Church bells – ah the bells – chiming away at all hours. Impossible to see their location through the wall outside the window.

Add to this luxury an exclusively Eastern European staff, trained in the 1970s at the East German Academy of Customer Service, and you'll understand why the Best Western was not the highlight of this particular trip. Did I mention that my room rate changed between making the reservation the day before and my arrival? At least the room air conditioning worked.

As it always does at the Intercontinental, and if it didn't I’m sure the friendly if sometimes-officious staff would see that it was promptly fixed.

The upshot of all this is that a fifty-pound difference in room rates is a world of difference in what you get. This was confirmed by Helga Uberfrau, the desk clerk at the Best Western who bluntly told me, as I'm sure she has told many a businessman over the years, "what do you expect for 75 pounds?"

I am saying goodbye to the Best Western, and probably to my broodje-kaas partner as well. London is expensive no matter how you do it, but as far as I’m concerned, to quote L'Oreal: I'm worth it.

More information

Mayfair Intercontinental:
Churchill Intercontinental:
Best Western Shaftesbury Hotel, Piccadilly:

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