London calling: Top 10 cheap Olympic sleeps

Rob Savage
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
London calling: Top 10 cheap Olympic sleeps
Rule Britannia! Image: VisitBritain/Jack Barnes
"You'd be surprised how many Londoners are planning to leave town when the Olympic circus rocks up. You might also be surprised at just how far they're willing to travel."
Rob Savage

Accommodation in London is pricey at the best of times, and with the 2012 Olympics next month, room rates are going up faster than a Kardashian signing a spin-off TV show. There are, however, a few cheap sleeps left. Here's how to do it.

1. Take it easy

Most city centre hotels owned by the budget airline easyJet have doubled in price for July and August but there is one option left for travellers in town for the Olympic water sports. The easyHotel at Heathrow is still £50 ($78) a night, and from this base, it's a quick bus ride west to Eton Dorney Lake — the home of the Olympic and Paralympic rowing, and the canoe sprint at this year's games.

2. Commute to save cash

With all eyes on London for the summer of sport, seaside cities like Brighton and Hove are set to suffer, and prices are coming down because of this. With hostel beds for just £9.99 ($15) a night at Smart Sea View Brighton, and a 45-minute express-train ride to London, you can save a tonne of cash with a simple commute. Other affordable cities within easy reach of the fun and games include Bournemouth, Eastborne, Southend-on-Sea and even the yawn-tastic, Milton Keynes.

3. Get back to backpacking

Despite the opportunity to cash in on the Olympics, London's backpacker hostels are still fiercely competitive. Prices are being hiked, however hostels like St Christopher's Inns are capping the cost for loyal customers — offering a decent dorm, a hearty breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, free sheets and money off at the bar.

4. Couch-surfing lives on

If you can get past the prospect of staying with a stranger, then this is a nifty way of living in the city for free. This option isn't that far removed from sharing a backpacker hostel dormitory with unfamiliar folk, and the only fee involved is returning the favour with your own sofa, one day. For more info, visit

5. House swap

You'd be surprised how many Londoners are planning to leave town when the Olympic circus rocks up. You might also be surprised at just how far they're willing to travel — up to 10,000 miles and all the way to Australia. Think of a house swap as a step up from couch-surfing, with no host involved and your own home as collateral. You normally have to commit to at least a month and it's a hefty vetting process, but well worth it if you plan to be in the city for the duration of the games. Try the Guardian Home Exchange.

6. Get paid to lie in London

House-sitting for wealthy, inner-city Brits might seem like a dream solution to all of your Olympic accommodation issues, but wait, there's more. In addition to the free accommodation and the cuddly house pets that come with the homes on sites like, many absent homeowners offer financial incentives to keep everything ship shape, and Fluffy well fed. There's a stringent referee system in place and a waiting list as long as a mutant tape worm, but it's nice work if you can get it. For more info, visit

7. A word with the man upstairs

The Church of England owns rather a lot of property in London and we're not just talking ramshackle vicarages attached to churches with never-ending, fix the leaky roof campaigns. You can find prime ecclesiastical real estate in some of the city's fanciest neighbourhoods, but sadly most homes lie empty.

To manage the issue and keep squatters out, the church invites reliable characters to live in the abodes for free. It's unfortunately a case of who you know to get your foot in one of these doors, but if you've got a great Aunt Gladys, twice removed who hasn't missed a Sunday Service since the sixties, it's worth giving her a call. Renewing long abandoned, extended family ties may well lead to a super posh Kensington flat, a stone's throw from all of the Olympic fun.

8. Warehouse sleepovers

This option isn't for everyone but if you're of the artisan persuasion, you might find this appealing. If you head into Hackney and the neighbourhoods of North East London, you'll find a fair few warehouses, not to mention the raves and Rebel Bingo pop-up parties, that go with them.

If you do get involved you'll soon discover there are living quarters in most, where in exchange for artistic contributions, you can reside for free. Creative talent is a general prerequisite, but then who can't put together a Tracey Emin bed at a push?

9. Mate's rates and short life leases

If all else fails, there's always the amigo factor, but you have to make sure you pick a London buddy with a fair share of patience. Nineteen days is a long time to impose on someone even if it is your best mate, so if you can — rotate your slumbers between a selection of friendly floors. Most friendships won't withstand three-weeks of extra plughole hair, the alienation of existing housemates and sky-high utility bills. Alternatively check out TNT Magazine and for short-term leases, from Aussies heading home sooner than expected. For the sake of not defaulting on the contact and filling the room, you'll find some great deals for the duration of the games.

10. Make like a Brit

If the locals are running for the hills, the accommodation options are exhausted and non-Olympic locations are dropping the costs to compete during tourism season, it might not be a bad idea to use the summer of 2012 to save some cash, and see the sites of the UK. The odds are that Stonehenge, Edinburgh, Snowdon and Cornwall will be easier to afford than the tourist-flooded Olympic locations, between July 27 and August 12, 2012.

Will you be in London for the Olympics? Tell us how you're saving a pound or two on your stay.

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