Europe on $1 a day
May 28, 2012 6:22 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and a friend of hers are taking a trip a Europe on a very tight budget and are wondering if it is possible for two people to stay in a single room dorm in London for example. We know this would be inappropriate for a hotel but were not sure it would be acceptable at a dorm.

Extra information. She'll be traveling to London, Madrid & Paris for a total of 13 days (3-4 days in each city) in early July. Her budget for accommodation is ~$80 a night in each of these places. Any other recommendations for stay is welcome.
posted by Lucubrator to Travel & Transportation around London, England (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Youth hostels would be an obvious answer, though depending upon vacancy it might require staying a bit outside of the city center and "commuting" by rail or bus for the touristy experiences. Here's the map for Southern Britain for the largest organization of hostels, Hostelling International.
posted by XMLicious at 6:32 AM on May 28, 2012

Try Etap or Ibis hotels for Paris and Madrid, they're basic but reasonably priced.
posted by cornflakegirl at 6:35 AM on May 28, 2012

I've stayed in 2-person dorm accomodations at the Generator Hostel in the past, and thought it was great for the price. (the Ritz it ain't, but it was clean, with no six-legged roommates) Smack in the middle of Central London, a 5 minute walk from King's Cross Station.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:39 AM on May 28, 2012

Another option on the inexpensive end of the spectrum is capsule hotels.
posted by XMLicious at 6:40 AM on May 28, 2012

I stayed in a Hotel Formule 1 in Paris (it's Paris South, which is near Porte D'Orlean) which worked out at about £30 a night. We found it cheap and clean (though that's not to say all the chain is - the one in Stockholm, booked because we thought it would be a reliable cheap stay, was a grim flophouse.) I'm going back in October with a friend and we booked a twin room for three nights for 140EUR total. It's easy to get to from the Metro and close enough to the centre that you can walk around, and there's loads of supermarkets near by which is good if you're on a tight budget.
posted by mippy at 6:44 AM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Airbnb might be another good option, which for two travelers renting a single room can work out cheaper than many other options... For London, sort by price, discard the searches that are too far from the city centre, and then discard any with weird/bad reviews...
posted by thewalrus at 7:05 AM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Youth hostels may or may not allow opposite-sex people to share rooms. I've been to several youth hostels in big European cities that would not give a room to a group of 4 (3 guys, 1 girl) for reasons that are beyond me, and were even reluctant to have a brother-sister duo share a room (with bunk beds, no less). I've encountered this in France and Belgium, so you may want to make sure that's no issue first. (In doubt, claim one of you has sleep apnea. Does the trick in Brussels.)
posted by MinusCelsius at 7:16 AM on May 28, 2012

I've stayed in the LSE accommodation you linked to - a single room there has a single bed, so I wouldn't advise it.
posted by maybeandroid at 7:16 AM on May 28, 2012

We stayed at the Hotel de la Loire in the Montparnasse neighborhood the second week of May for about €75 a night (private shower; shared would be cheaper, of course). It's a neighborhood hotel, away from the tourist meccas but only a block or so from the Metro, and it was charming and close to lots of supermarkets and neighborhood shops, boulangeries, a laundromat just up the street, etc. There's at least one Ibis there, too. Rue de Alésia is a great street for window shopping and browsing.

We also stayed a week in an Etap in Garching (near Munich), and it was basic, but nice all the same. The breakfast (€7.50) was fantastic and made a substantial lunch unnecessary, but German hotels seem to offer more protein than the French for breakfast, so YMMV. Then again, so do the Spanish (or at least Catalans seem to). I'd recommend trying the hotel breakfast one time in each place to see whether it's a good deal for the money.

A little unsolicited (and off-topic, sorry) advice, since your girlfriend is on a tight budget, although she may already be aware of this: they can eat and drink wonderfully well from grocery stores and open-air markets for a fraction of what they would pay in many restaurants, and it's also more fun, in my opinion. (Bring a bag.) And in Paris they should visit the Jardin des Plantes in the Latin Quarter (it's astounding and better than the Tuileries and has a wonderful zoo!), and Montparnasse Cemetery on a rainy day (free and generally quiet and uncrowded), and be sure to get Paris Visité passes for the major museums and arrive at opening time. I mention this because Paris in July is crowded, hot, and full of obnoxious foreign tourons (a large fraction of whom, of course, are fellow Americans) and the more they can avoid the crush and spend time in less touristy arrondissements, the more fun they'll have.

Hope they have safe travels and a great time.
posted by tully_monster at 7:51 AM on May 28, 2012

On preview: mippy's suggestion (Hotel Formule 1) is located not far from where we stayed, and I cannot recommend that area enough. From Porte d'Orleans it's about a fifteen-minute Metro ride and a brief transfer to the area where the Louvre and other big museums are. And daily expenses are likely to be lower than they would be in the city center.
posted by tully_monster at 8:03 AM on May 28, 2012

When touring London, my mother and I stayed in a hostel in Soho for 50 pounds total (25 pounds each) per night (78 USD/80 CND by current conversion): we had a private room with two single beds (shared bathroom down the hall), and access to a wonderfully large kitchen where we could cook breakfast and dinners (and thus save a lot of money -- eating out can cost as much as a hostel/hotel room). We stayed at the Oxford Street Hostel, which was recommended as being especially quiet and appropriate for older travelers; St Pancras is also said to be good, and is more convenient to the King's Cross area. Both are YHA hostels, which are all regulated and generally very good (clean, well-run, good facilities). The YHA hostel in Bath is especially nice - and not at all expensive.

European youth hostels do not necessarily have segregated dorm-style rooms: I have stayed in mixed dorms in London and Bratislava. If you are getting a private room (2 or 4 people all traveling together), they certainly do not care what gender they are. (In Bath, we had my husband and me, my mother and our female housemate in one family room).
posted by jb at 8:11 AM on May 28, 2012

Youth hostels may or may not allow opposite-sex people to share rooms.

Every time I've stayed in a dorm-style hostel - off the top of my head I remember in London, a few places in Germany, Austria and Amsterdam there have always been mixed-sex groups. Possibly Paris too but I can't remember where I stayed there. In Munich one time it was 5 of us girls and then they put an old man in with us. In London I remember there was a 4-person room with me and a (girl) friend and they put two guys in with us.

If they decide to stay in a dorm room in a hostel that's just the kind of thing to be expected, but for example in London I think we paid like 12 pounds/night in a convenient location so didn't really care. Then we ran into the guys at a pub later on and hung out with them.

I did some traveling by myself (all in Germany - bigger cities) and stayed in one-person rooms for around 40euro/night. They weren't the Ritz but I didn't want to share a room since I was by myself.

You can definitely find cheap, affordable accommodation for two people, and $80 is probably a pretty good budget. I haven't been to europe since 2007 so I'm not sure how much prices have changed. Hostelworld is a good website.

I *think* a lot of these places may be a little stricter about two people sharing a one person dorm, - IIRC the cheaper places usually charge either per person or per bed. So just make sure she reads all the fine print before they pick a place to stay.
posted by fromageball at 10:01 AM on May 28, 2012

Planning to stay in a hostel would be a much better and cheaper bet than even attempting to stay in a dorm.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 11:24 AM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Every time I've stayed in a dorm-style hostel - off the top of my head I remember in London, a few places in Germany, Austria and Amsterdam there have always been mixed-sex groups.

A good number of the hostels I've stayed in have had mixed-sex groups in dorm-style rooms as well. But besides that, unless I'm missing something we may be talking about two women: the OP is talking about his girlfriend and her friend traveling together and I'm not seeing what would indicate that the friend is male.

I think the "inappropriate" bit is about two people staying in a single-occupancy hotel room. (And actually, when I've stayed in hotels in Britain the rooms have been much smaller than even American hotel rooms in New York City hotels: one was almost like a cabin on a ship with a very small bed, so there might be comfort or personal space issues trying to share a single inexpensive European hotel room too.)
posted by XMLicious at 12:26 PM on May 28, 2012

Lucubrator: I am not sure I understand the question*, but I have worked for Hostelling International since some time in the last millennium. Memail me with more explication and I will be happy to answer any questions you have.

*If only because "single room" and "dorm" are two entirely different things in the biz. To me this is like asking about finding a two-door four-door car.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:51 PM on May 28, 2012

"Dorm" might just refer to the fact that he's linking to a search page that seems to be offering lodging in a university's unoccupied student housing. In the U.S. school-furnished university residences for students are referred to as "dorms", particularly the more spartan ones.
posted by XMLicious at 1:01 PM on May 28, 2012

Yes, in the UK, I'm not sure what you mean by a 'dorm'. I took it to be a room in a hostel? When I stayed in one in Amsterdam, I had the choice of a four-person room (let out by the bed) or a bed in a 16-person dorm. Hostels charge by person per night rather than by room.

'dorm rooms' attached to a university in the UK are called 'halls of residence' and the rooms are very small and designed for single occupants (shared dormrooms are extremely rare here). You could not fit two people in one comfortably - trust me, I lived in one as a student and it is not fun to share a single bed.
posted by mippy at 1:42 PM on May 28, 2012

Some university halls of residence in the UK do have double beds (for conference participants). BUT I seriously doubt that they would allow two people to stay for the same rate as one.

Your friend is best off looking for hostels (like YHA), cheap hotels/b&bs or university rooms that explicitly allow two people to share.
posted by jb at 1:55 PM on May 28, 2012

Hotel prices etc in London will be more expensive this July because of the Summer Olympics.
Ibis, Etap (gradually changing hotel names to Ibis Budget) and Formule 1 has hotels in and around London. They charge for the room; same price for one, two or (for Formule 1) even three guests.
posted by iviken at 2:38 PM on May 28, 2012

Agree with some of the above that it's very likely a twin (US) or single (everywhere else) bed, rather than the full or queen size beds you find in "single" hotel rooms. You will not get good sleep sharing a single bed, especially if you're not physically intimate with the person you're sharing with, since basically the only available sleeping position is to spoon.
posted by anaelith at 6:51 PM on May 28, 2012

as mippy says the halls of residence you linked to have one single bed in a very small room, and it would be noticed if you tried to have 2 staying there. The second problem is it is nearly impossible to get vacancies in London in July. Olympic fever has hit early.

I would stay near one of the airports, Heathrow has a direct tube connection into central London and the Ibis for example has a double room for £69 in July.

Alternatively there are B&Bs a short train ride away for even less.

Have they looked into Couch Surfing?
posted by Wilder at 4:19 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

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