It’s a challenge to find a place to stay in London when you’re on a budget—particularly when you also have a jam-packed itinerary and can’t risk leaving your precious few hours of sleep in the hands of unknown hostel bunkmates. I look forward to the day when money’s not an obstacle and I can just crash in Mayfair or whatever with the posh people, but right now, I’m 23 and work at a nonprofit. So I spent many, many, many hours scouring Expedia for accommodations on those nights when I wasn’t going to sleep on a bus.
Ultimately, after weighing several dozen options and getting dangerously close to my departure date, I settled on the Epsilon Hotel in Stratford. At $70 per night with free wifi and breakfast included, the price was right, and though it’s not especially centrally located, the tube stop ten minutes away meant it wasn’t too much of a sacrifice location-wise.
Honestly, I liked my hotel in Stratford precisely because it was a bit out of the way.
The walk to the Epsilon took me through a little shopping mall and then a churchyard and onward up a normal street occupied by normal Londoners. Each time I’ve returned to England since my time in Brighton, I’ve tried to delude myself into thinking I still belong there. Being tucked away in a hotel a bit distant from the usual tourist districts helped with the illusion.
But then, I was there to be a tourist, and Stratford is a fine base for sightseeing. The Olympic Park is just a twenty minute walk from the Epsilon, and the route takes you through the massive Westfield Stratford City shopping center—one of the biggest shopping centers in the EU. Not a bad location if you’re looking to part with a few pounds, be it at a 136,000 square foot M&S or a 24-hour casino.
Straying further from the neighborhood is simple, too, as you can hop on the Central or Jubilee lines at Stratford station. The trip can take some time (an unusually long time on my first evening—I got stuck on the tube on my way back to the hotel when the mildly horrifying Leytonstone attack tied up the Central line), but I just took the commute as an opportunity to listen to the Hamilton cast recording incessantly (highly recommend).
And the Epsilon itself? It’s no luxury hotel, of course. It cost $70 a night. In one of the most expensive cities in the world. But I would stay there again, and in some ways it did slightly exceed my expectations given the low price point.
My room was little more than a shoebox with a twin bed, an electric kettle, a tiny desk, and a flat-screen TV that intermittently received the BBC. The soap dispenser in the shower was empty, the sink didn’t drain correctly, and the toilet tank never seemed to cease filling (and presumably emptying somehow, as there was no flooding).
But the front desk staff was wonderfully helpful, the free continental breakfast was plenty adequate, and my bed was comfortable and cozy. I can only speak for the single-occupancy accommodations, but if you’re traveling solo and just looking for a place to wash up and get some rest, it’ll do the job well. At least until you have that sweet Claridges-sized paycheck.