Budget travelers planning to visit London this summer can get single rooms and bed and breakfast accommodations a few hundred yards from Westminster Abbey for about $20 U.S. a night.
The new Victoria Youth Hostel is on Amrosden Road, a short walk from Victoria Station. You won't find it listed in your guidebook because it was added to a network of 260 official youth hostels in England and Wales only last spring. But the tourist information office at Victoria Station can point you in the right direction.
Don't expect a new building; it was a regular hostel and has been temporarily turned into a facility for young visitors until November. Accommodations in the 96 single rooms, including breakfast, cost 12 (about $20 U.S.) a night.
One of the drawbacks to inexpensive youth hostel accommodations is that you usually have to share dormitory or small family (four-bunk) rooms with other travelers of the same sex. This summer there are two other temporary hostels in London in student residences that offer more privacy.
Wood Green Youth Hostel is at the Wood Green Halls of Residence, Brabant Road, London N22. Until Sept. 16, 157 single rooms will be available for 7 a night. It's about 100 yards from the Wood Green Underground station.
The White Hart Lane Youth Hostel at All Saints Hall of Residence, White Hart Lane, London N17, has 140 single rooms and 30 double rooms available for 7 per person a night until Sept. 9. It's near the White Hart Lane Underground station.
Two of the London youth hostels usually listed in budget guidebooks will be closing during the next year. The Carter Lane Youth Hostel at 36 Carter Lane, in a Victorian building that was once the home and school for the choirboys of St. Paul's Cathedral, will shut down for one year in late September for renovations.
The popular Earl's Court Youth Hostel at 38 Bolton Gardens will close for several months for renovations later in the winter.
To use the official youth hostels in Britain you must be a member of the International Youth Hostel Federation, or buy a special guest pass.
IYHF membership is automatic if you have joined your own national youth hostel association. Guest memberships in Britain cost 2.50 for two nights, in addition to regular accommodation and meal charges.
Most youth hostels in Britain impose a midnight curfew and many close during the day--that's why it's wise to phone before carrying your luggage over. Many hostels also require you to use a sheet-sleeping bag. If you don't have one, they can be rented for 70 pence a night.
If you arrive via Gatwick Airport you can reach central London by catching an express train that arrives at Victoria Station in 35 minutes. The fare is 5.50 for second-class.
If you arrive via Heathrow Airport you can take the tube from the airport to Piccadilly station in the center of the city. It takes about 50 minutes. The fare is 1.70.
An inexpensive way to get around the city is by using a one-day Travelcard. It's sold at tube stations for 2.30, and can be used on both tube and bus services (including the famous red double-deckers). On weekdays you'll have to wait until after the morning rush hour (10 a.m.) to use the ticket.
An inexpensive way to learn some of the colorful history of the city is to join one of the walking tours. They usually leave from the entrance of a subway station and last about 90 minutes. The average rate is under 3.
Numerous companies compete, with a wide variety of themes from visits to historic pubs, haunted houses or the British Museum to following the footsteps of Jack the Ripper. Several other special discounts are offered to travelers who hold youth hostel membership cards or International Student Identity Cards. Ask for them.