x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Ask the Expert: an alternative to hotels in London

Enjoy pleasant stays full of character in the capital that couldn't be more different from the bland rooms of corporate hotels.

I'm heading to London for a short break but the accommodation options are giving me a headache. I don't want to stay in some boring and stuffy corporate hotel or some down-at-heel or twee B&B. Do I have any options or do I have to punish the wallet and go upmarket to get something nice?

London prices aren't as prohibitive as they once were, with one assessment this year putting it 18th on the list of the most expensive cities in the world, behind places such as Tokyo, Moscow and Geneva. (Abu Dhabi was 67th and Dubai 81st).

But less expensive is still expensive and it's true your dirham doesn't go very far in the English capital. But, as with almost every conundrum, there are alternatives if you hunt around for them. Or, even smarter, you ask the experts of The National's travel desk to do it for you.

Because you're definitely not the first to approach London accommodation options with unease, an entire industry has set up to meet the needs of people like you.

One operator is Vive Unique (www.viveunique.com; 00 4420 7993 5599), which not only arranges pleasant and characterful places to stay in the capital but also offers a range of other concierge-like services such as airport pick-ups, babysitting, organising private chefs or even arranging for the fridge to be full when you arrive.

Check out the listings on the website to ease your concerns about staying somewhere boring and corporate. We searched for a - sadly - hypothetical stay for two days a few months hence and the 200 options included a sumptuous converted Victorian warehouse in Shoreditch with every conceivable modcon for £316 (Dh1,798) for two people for two nights. The nightly rate drops for longer stays until it's under £100 (Dh570) a night.

Another option was an elegantly decorated one-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of a mansion block in Queen's Club Gardens in West Kensington for £365 (Dh2,077) for two nights. The deal includes access to the private gardens and tennis court.

There are also cheaper options with less well-appointed homes in other suburbs. For each property, there's also a £45 (Dh256) cleaning fee, so longer stays make more sense.

A search through hotel booking websites show that for a similar amount of money, you can get one of those bland corporate hotels that you are trying to avoid.

If you're thinking of visiting London during the Olympics this summer, Vive Unique is gearing up to arrange people willing to rent out their homes during the event.

One final tip to ensure you enjoy your time in London: avoid the terrible fish and chip shops in Leicester Square.

Do you have travel questions or queries? E-mail them to us at travel@thenational.ae