Accommodation Bookings, Reviews and Recommendations

A quick guide to the hotels we stayed in during our trip around Britain and Europe in March/April 2004. We were looking for well priced two and three star hotels that were convenient to public transport and the main sites.

  1. Best Western Linton Lodge, Oxford
  2. Ramada Encore, York
  3. James Court Apartments, Edinburgh
  4. Knockavon House, Kilkenny
  5. Abbeyleigh House, Dublin
  6. Best Western Abbey Hotel, Bath
  7. Warwick Hotel, Paddington, London
  8. Trafalgar Hotel, Madrid
  9. Auto Hogar Hotel, Barcelona
  10. Hotel Majestic, Nîmes
  11. Grande Hotel de l'Avenue, Paris
  12. Soperga Hotel, Milan
  13. Hotel Vivit, Mestre, Venice
  14. Hotel Delle Nazioni, Florence
  15. Hotel Farini, Rome
Back to the Europe 2004 index.

Making the bookings

Travel agents must make an awful lot of money from booking accommodation, because their prices are amazingly uncompetitive compared with booking online. For example, our hotel in Oxford was 33% more expensive through our travel agent than it was online. So here's a quick rundown of the sites I used to find our accommodation:

  • HotelClub is probably the biggest and best accommodation website. Their prices are competitive, and they generally offer a wide range of options, especially for the major cities. Bookings are non-refundable, paid in advance. You get a receipt that you print out and give to the hotel when you check in. I didn't have any problems with any of my bookings.
  • Octopus Travel is pretty good too. Their website is less friendly than HotelClub, but most of the functionality is there. Prices vary a bit, but in many cases they were very competitive with HotelClub. Like HotelClub, bookings are non-refundable and paid in advance. No problems experienced.
  • Expedia is an American travel site that is generally more expensive than the others. We made one booking with them which we didn't have to pay in advance. It's a bit concerning when their website tells you that the rate may or may not include all taxes and charges, but in our case we didn't have to pay any extra.
  • Gulliver Ireland seems the be the biggest provider of accommodation in Ireland, and they offer a wide range of accommodation options. We had major trouble trying to book through their website, so we ended up booking directly with one of the B&Bs, and phoning Gulliver to make the other booking. Booking through Gulliver involves paying a non-refundable deposit, with the balance to be paid later.
  • Zuji is an Australian online travel agent that is generally more expensive than the others. We booked a hotel in Paris which we later cancelled without any problems.
  • Contact Hôtel is a chain of hotels throughout France. The booking procedure is not very automated, and seemed to be to be quite insecure. A credit card number needs to be provided for verification, but you're not charged until you arrive at the hotel.
  • RomaClick.com is a reservation service for hotels in Rome. They offer a wider range of accommodation options than the major sites, especially at the cheaper end of the scale. The booking procedure is reasonable, and you have to provide a credit card number, but you're not charged until you arrive at the hotel.

Best Western Linton Lodge, Oxford

Cost: £75 per night, including breakfast, booked through HotelClub
Location: Walking distance to the city centre (about 20 minutes). A bit of a struggle with luggage though. A taxi to the central bus station costs around £4.
Breakfast: A good hot buffet breakfast was included.
Room: A good sized but unremarkable room, with tea and coffee and biscuits provided.
Staff: They let us check in extremely early, and were otherwise helpful throughout our brief stay.
Overall: Recommended, though a little pricey. Consider looking elsewhere for better value for money.

Ramada Encore, York

Cost: £61 per night, including breakfast, booked through Octopus Travel.
Location: Excellent. Centrally located, and a very short walk from the train and bus station.
Breakfast: A great continental buffet was included.
Room: Very new and modern. Had a couch and desk, with tea, coffee, and hot chocolate. Lots of TV channels.
Staff: Helpful and professional throughout our stay.
Overall: Highly recommended. This was the highest quality hotel of the whole trip, and therefore excellent value for money.

James Court Apartments, Edinburgh

Cost: £58 per night, booked through Octopus Travel.
Location: Brilliant. Situated in an old building on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh's most famous street. Five to ten minutes walk from the railway station.
Breakfast: Bread and a toaster are provided in the apartment, with several spreads, and naturally there are tea and coffee facilities.
Room: Very spacious. A bedroom with king sized bed and wardrobes, lounge area with couches (two of which fold out into double beds), widescreen TV and DVD player (DVDs can be borrowed from reception free of charge). There's a small kitchen with a stove, washing machine and dishwasher (though ours was broken).
Other facilities: There's a PC in the reception area with high-speed internet that can be used free of charge.
Staff: Excellent. Carried our cases up the spiral staircases, and were very friendly and helpful throughout our stay.
Overall: Very highly recommended. For a comfortable apartment that can sleep up to six, this place is excellent value.

Knockavon House B&B, Kilkenny

Cost: €60 per night, booked directly by telephone.
Location: Very convenient to both the train/bus station and the city centre.
Breakfast: A very greasy but tasty full Irish breakfast was included. The Irish guests had black pudding with their breakfasts, but it wasn't included in ours. Asking for a lighter breakfast is not well received.
Room: A small but adequate room with double bed, ensuite, and TV.
Other facilities: A shared tea and coffee facility is provided in a small kitchen.
Staff: A friendly local lady, but a little unusual.
Overall: Don't go out of your way to stay here, but if you find it reasonably located and well priced then it's worth a go.

Abbeyleigh House B&B, Dublin

Cost: An expensive €105 per night, booked through Gulliver Ireland by telephone (their website seemed unreliable).
Location: In a classy residential area south of central Dublin, easy walking distance to the city centre (but not with luggage). The Airlink bus goes to and from the airport from just down the road.
Breakfast: Another full greasy breakfast.
Room: Again, a small but adequate room with double bed, ensuite, and TV. Tea and coffee facilities are provided.
Staff: Reasonable. Since we were leaving early they said they would leave some breakfast out for us, but they didn't.
Overall: Reasonable, but poor value for money compared with our other accommodation. If going to Dublin try to book your accommodation early to get a better price - we saw the Hilton for €110 per night but left it a little too late to book.

Best Western Abbey Hotel, Bath

Cost: £67.50 per night, booked through Octopus Travel.
Location: Excellent central location, an easy walk from the railway station, bus station, and Bath's main attractions.
Breakfast: A tasty cooked breakfast was included, with table service.
Room: A decent unremarkable room.
Staff: Excellent. I lost the reservation voucher, but it wasn't a problem at all.
Overall: A good hotel offering reasonable value for money. No complaints.

Warwick Hotel, Paddington, London

Cost: £56.50 per night, booked through Octopus Travel.
Location: Very good. An easy walk to Paddington station, which serves the London Underground, Heathrow Express, and long-distance trains.
Breakfast: Very poor. A glass of orange juice, and all-you-can-eat toast.
Room: Our room was on the fourth floor, and there are no lifts so be prepared to carry your luggage up the narrow staircase. The room was ok, but extremely small. The shower was so small it was difficult to get in and shut the door.
Staff: Not particularly inspiring, but no specific complaints.
Overall: Not recommended. There are plenty of accommodation possibilities in the area, but this isn't a good one.

Trafalgar Hotel, Madrid

Cost: €93 per night, booked through HotelClub.
Location: Not very central, but close to two metro stations. The surrounding area isn't very touristy or interesting.
Breakfast: A hot buffet breakfast was included.
Room: An average room, with a bonus balcony. No tea and coffee facilities are provided, but we were given a basket of goodies including toothbrush, toothpaste, tissues, soap, shampoo, and shoe buffer.
Staff: Friendly, but surprisingly little English was spoken.
Overall: It wouldn't be my first choice, but not such a bad place to spent a couple of nights.

Auto Hogar Hotel, Barcelona

Cost: €91 per night, booked through HotelClub.
Location: Situated in a reasonably central area, close to the metro.
Breakfast: A very nice hot buffet breakfast was included.
Room: A good sized room, but we had to walk through the underground carpark to get to it. The lift was very scary and after a bad experience we started taking the stairs.
Staff: Helpful, English-speaking staff.
Overall: Recommended (despite the weird name). This hotel lived up to our expectations.

Hotel Majestic, Nîmes

Cost: An inexpensive €47 per night, booked through contact-hotel.com. Not the best reservation procedure.
Location: Close to the railway station and the town's other attractions, but not on a main street.
Breakfast: Not included, but could be purchased for an extra €5 per night. A continental breakfast with a glass of orange juice and tea or coffee.
Room: Unremarkable, with a small balcony with no view. There was no lift, but being on the first floor this wasn't a problem.
Staff: Friendly and helpful, but with variable English skills.
Overall: Excellent value for money, and recommended at this price.

Grande Hotel de l'Avenue, Paris

Cost: A very reasonable €57 per night, booked through HotelClub.
Location: A couple of minutes walk from République metro station, and therefore convenient to everywhere in Paris. The area has a few hotels and restaurants.
Breakfast: Not included, but could be purchased for an extra €5 per night. It was the standard continental breakfast with bread and croissant.
Room: Unremarkable.
Staff: Friendly and helpful, with English spoken.
Overall: Very good hotel for the price. I would expect to pay more than this for a reasonable hotel in Paris, therefore it's recommended!

Soperga Hotel, Milan

Cost: Fairly expensive at €94 per night, but there wasn't much cheaper in Milan. Booked through HotelClub.
Location: Very convenient to the train station, but situated away from other hotels in the area down a side street. A reasonable walk into the city centre. Not many food options nearby.
Breakfast: A reasonable continental breakfast was included in the price.
Room: Meets expectations.
Staff: No complaints, English spoken.
Overall: A reasonable hotel, but the location isn't inspiring. Consider staying here if it's cheaper than other options.

Hotel Vivit, Mestre, Venice

Cost: At €74.60 per night, competitively priced for Mestre, booked through Expedia.
Location: Mestre is near Venice with convenient bus and train transport. The hotel is in an inconvenient location a long walk from the station, with few restaurants in the area. Buses are available nearby.
Breakfast: A reasonable continental breakfast was included in the price, but we had to clear our own table first.
Room: Reasonable. The hotel has no lift, so be prepared to carry your luggage up the stairs. The bathroom was poor.
Staff: Mostly helpful. No free maps are available, but they will offer to sell you one. When we left they offered to call us a "taxi", which turned out to be an overpriced private car service. We weren't impressed.
Overall: It claims to be a three star hotel, but the third star is unjustified. In some places in the hotel it's shown as two stars! With the poor location, there seems to be no reason to stay in this fairly average hotel.

Hotel Delle Nazioni, Florence

Cost: We paid €90 per night through HotelClub.
Location: Very convenient, a short walk to the train station and walking distance from the main attractions in the city.
Breakfast: A well presented buffet with disappointing food. Hot drinks and juice were available from a machine.
Room: A well sized room with a below average bathroom. The sink didn't drain properly.
Other facilities: Internet access is available for €7 per hour.
Staff: Helpful and friendly, with good English. No complaints there!
Overall: A reasonable hotel offering average value for your money. The location is great if you're arriving by train. Not too bad for a couple of nights.

Hotel Farini, Rome

Cost: Rome is expensive, and the €90 per night that we paid would be considered good value by most. Booked through romaclick.com.
Location: Unusual. It's a few streets away from Termini station in a residential building. There's no sign out the front, so you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the wrong place. The hotel is on the second floor, serviced by a small lift.
Breakfast: Bread and croissant (both wrapped in plastic) served in your room with orange juice and a hot drink. It was actually not too bad!
Room: Fairly small. The bed was two single beds joined together; it was uncomfortable with poor pillows. The bathroom had no shower curtain.
Staff: Very friendly, with good English. A free map of Rome was available on request.
Overall: When we booked, this was one of the cheapest hotels available in central Rome, and it shows. But if money is important to you, then this isn't a bad little place to stay. The friendliness of the staff makes up for a lot.

Back to the Europe 2004 index.