B&B accommodation is more informal than a hotel and provides an opportunity to meet the British in their own homes. Many ordinary homes providing B&B accommodation indicate this with a Bed & Breakfast sign outside or in the window. Guest house accommodation is similar in price and standard to B&B, but is usually available only in towns.
Although it’s advisable to book in advance for public holiday weekends or at any time in London, it’s usually unnecessary, particularly if you’re touring and need a room for one or two nights only. If you’re a smoker, you should check in advance whether smoking is permitted. If you don’t book in advance, you have more freedom to go where you please, but you should bear in mind that some B&Bs have a minimum stay of two or three nights. When booking in advance, confirm your arrival time to ensure that your hosts are at home. If you’re staying for more than one night, you may be expected to vacate your room for most of the day and to leave by noon (or earlier) on your last day.
Like hotel accommodation, B&B standards vary greatly from a basic single room sharing a bathroom to a luxury double room with en suite bathroom (possibly in a country house). Many B&Bs are graded by regional tourist boards using Visit Britain’s diamond classification system (see above) and room rates range from around £25 to £50 per person, per night outside London (excluding country houses), and to £30 to £50 in London. Rates in country houses tend to mirror those of hotels. B&B accommodation is the cheapest form of accommodation for tourists or travellers who don’t want to stay in one place for more than a few days. If you require temporary accommodation for a week or longer there may be a reduced rate. The cheapest rooms don’t contain a television and sometimes may not include towels, in which case they’re usually available for a small fee. Many B&B hotels provide tea and coffee-making facilities in all rooms. Note that B&B establishments and cheap hotels aren’t usually very warm in winter. As the name suggests, bed and breakfast always includes breakfast (usually a full cooked English breakfast, see above). Many B&Bs also offer an optional evening meal (dinner) at a reasonable price, which must usually be ordered in advance. Some B&Bs won’t accept children and many don’t cater for the disabled.
Farmhouse B&Bs are an interesting alternative for those who want a change from towns. Visit Britain publishes on its website a list of agencies representing individuals offering home-stay accommodation in which you’re treated more like a guest of the family than a customer and may be invited to take part in family activities. Guest houses, found mainly in seaside towns and other tourist centres, are similar to B&Bs, but cater more for visitors wishing to stay for a week or two rather than a few nights. Rates range from around £30 to £60 per person per night, outside London and usually include half-board.
Tourist Information Centres provide a wide range of brochures and guides containing information about bed and breakfast accommodation throughout the UK, including a series of B&B touring maps. The most comprehensive guide to B&Bs is The Good Bed & Breakfast Guide by Elsie Dillard & Susan Causin (Which? Books), listing over 1,000 B&Bs. Other B&B guides, including Bed and Breakfast Guest Accommodation in England (English Tourism Council), The Best Bed and Breakfast – England, Scotland and Wales (UKHM Publishing), the AA Bed & Breakfast Guide, Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay in Britain. B&B accommodation can be booked through a number of agencies, including Bed & Breakfast (GB), PO Box 47085, London, SW18 9AB (0871-781 0834, ), Wolsey Lodges Ltd, 9 Market Place, Hadley, Ipswich, Suffolk IP7 5DL (01473-822 058) and London Homestead Services, Maida Vale, London (020-7286 5115). The Visit Britain website (www.visitbritain.com) includes a searchable database of bed and breakfast accommodation, and a list of agencies representing a number of hosts.
Self-catering: Cottages, bungalows and other options
Self-catering cottages, bungalows, apartments (flats), houseboats, houses, chalets and mobile holiday homes are available for rent in holiday areas and popular cities.
An apartment is often a good choice for a family, as it’s much cheaper than a hotel room (particularly in London), provides more privacy and freedom, and allows you to prepare your own meals as and when you please. Standards, while generally high are variable, and paying a high price doesn’t always guarantee a well furnished or well appointed apartment (although most look wonderful in brochures). Many self-catering establishments are classified by regional tourist boards using the Visit Britain system.
Studios (bedsits) are available in London from around £200 per week or £50 per night, per person. The cost of an apartment in London for four people ranges from around £500 to £2,000 per week. There’s no low season and rates are usually the same throughout the year (elsewhere rates vary depending on the season). In London and other cities, student hostels are available from around £18 a night in shared dormitories with cooking facilities. Rooms are also available in private homes with cooking facilities, which are provided in the room or in a shared kitchen.
The weekly rent of a country cottage varies considerably from around £250 to £1,000 per week for four people, depending on its location, size, amenities available and the season. If you want to try something different you can hire a canal boat (or choose a hotel boat), where all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the passing scenery along some of the UK’s 3,220km (2,000mi) of canals (and the canal-side pubs). No previous boating experience is necessary. Hire costs vary from around £280 to £750 per week for four people, depending on the size and class of boat and the season. For information about holiday hire boats, contact British Waterways, Willow Grange, Church Road, Watford, WD17 4QA (01923-201 120, www.britishwaterways.co.uk and for more holiday oriented material www.waterscape.com).
Before booking any self-catering accommodation you should check the holiday changeover dates and times; what’s included in the rent (e.g. cleaning, linen); whether cots or high chairs are provided or pets are allowed; if a garden or parking place is provided; and what sort of access there is to public transport. Self-catering accommodation is usually let on a weekly basis from Saturday to Saturday, often for a minimum of one or two weeks.
Many useful fact sheets and booklets are available from Tourist Information Centres with titles such as Apartments in London, usually providing information pertaining to a local area, while the official guide to Self-Catering Holiday Homes in England (English Tourism Council) contains hundreds of graded cottages, bungalows, apartments, houses and chalets throughout the country. Other books for self-caterers include the The Good Holiday Cottage Guide (Swallow Press) and Self-Catering Holidays in Britain (FHG Publications). The National Trust also provides a list of holiday homes and cottages for rent, while self-catering accommodation, including cottages, is advertised in magazines and national newspapers such as The Sunday Times, The Observer and Dalton’s Weekly.
This article is an extract from Living and working in Britain. Click here to get a copy now.