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Cheap Hotels

Bag 5* deals, hostels and mystery mega-bargains
Beachball

Never assume hotel or hostel prices are fixed. Book right and massive savings are possible on UK and worldwide rooms.

This step-by-step guide shows you how to save £100s with top hotel comparison sites, mystery mega-bargains, cheap-yet-clean hostels and much more.

Pay less for the same hotel room

Never assume one price fits all for a hotel or room. Just like Beyoncé CDs are sold at different prices in different shops, the same hotel or B&B room is sold by different places at different prices. The impact can be huge. As an example, the same five-star Paris hotel for three nights was on sale between £726 and £2,330 on different sites.

Step 1. Find a good hotel

The first aim's to find a top establishment, within your budget, then to try to get it as cheaply as possible. If you already know where you want to stay, jump to Step 2. If not, read on.

Don't trust the star system

Use a comparison site

Check TripAdvisor

Step 2. Check the hotel's own price

Once you know where you want to stay, always check what the hotel itself offers and whether it has any special deals. It may offer early booking promotions or 3-for-2-night deals that comparison sites miss.

Step 3. Use a cheap hotel comparison site

Four main sites compare prices on different cheap hotel websites:

Best for ease and speed

Trivago

Trivago

Hotel comparison site Trivago* takes just a few seconds to sift through thousands of hotels' prices, scraping 206 brokers and hotel chains. It's simple, fun to use and you can drill down your search by star, user rating or facilities.

If you know which hotel you want, just plug its name into the box on the left and it quickly locates the cheapest price for that establishment.

The site displays potential 'savings' in red, although bear in mind discounts are against the most expensive broker's price, which could be abnormally high.

Broad search

TravelSupermarket

Travel supermarket

Also with an impressive reach, TravelSupermarket* searches more than 35 hotel brokers and chains.

It also lets you search for specific hotels and read reviews supplied by guests.

Compare and read reviews

TripAdvisor

Tripadvisor

If you're using TripAdvisor*, you can also do quick comparisons while viewing hotels. Just search for your dates and TripAdvisor lists prices alongside listings, usually from about 5-10 brokers.

This makes it a cinch to find a quality hotel within your budget - just search for a place, sort in order of ranking, and scroll down until you see a cheap price.

Limited range, but worth checking

Hotels Comparison

Hotelscomparison

To be sure you've got the best deal, it's worth checking Hotels Comparison too. While it's not going to win any design awards, it does the job, searching about 20 brokers and accommodation chains.

If you know where you want to stay, it also lets you search by hotel name. Results can take a while to appear.

Look out for taxes

There's one thing to check when you're searching for a hotel, which can mean some sites unfairly come up cheapest.

Many countries charge a £10-£30 per day room tax. Not all sites include this, so always check.

Some hotel websites hide the true cost of a stay until the final booking page. In some cases, the first time you'll find out the true figure is at the hotel. This is because websites sometimes say taxes at the relevant percentage rate for that destination apply, on top of the price displayed.

Even comparison sites sometimes show the price minus taxes, so always click through to check the final price before choosing. See the Revealed: Hidden hotel charges MSE News story.

Also watch for sites which have rooms 'on request'. This only means it's being requested from the hotel, not that there's actually a room available. Be careful not to go for one of these and lose a firm cheap deal elsewhere.

Unnamed hotel mega-bargains

If you want to stay in first-rate hotels but pay a lot less, go for an unnamed hotel at a super-hot discount price. All you do is specify the star level and your particulars to see what comes up.

Hotels do this to get rid of unused rooms without cannibalising their usual customer base, who'd either get annoyed or book the super-cheap deals themselves.

Lastminute.com - Secret rooms in the UK and overseas Lastminute

The secret hotel section at Lastminute.com* has bargains on up to five-star hotels worldwide (including London), because you only know the description and star rating before you pay. This means rock-bottom prices for classy establishments.

How to uncover them

There's a SNEAKY way to work out what the hotel really is and whether it's worth it. Simply copy and paste all or part of the Lastminute.com* hotel description into Google. Often, it just uses the hotel's standard description text that also appears on its website.

Lastminute.com also includes secret hotels' TripAdvisor* review scores, including how many reviews they have. Just go to TripAdvisor, search for an area, eg, Venice, and sort by ranking. Then match up your secret hotel with those that have the same score and number of reviews, eg, 456. This doesn't work every time, but is worth a shot.

If you've no luck, ask in the Top Secret Hotels Revealed discussion or, for the UK capital, the London Hotels Revealed thread. Secret-hotel pros on our forum can usually track them down in seconds. If you book, please post the hotel name and description after you get the Lastminute.com email revealing the hotel.

Searching for hotel rooms online

It's also worth pasting the details into the specialist website Secret Hotels Revealed. This site isn't perfect; only use it to corroborate what you've already found.



Make sure it's a bargain

Once you've found the hotel's identity, use comparison sites such as Trivago* and TravelSupermarket* to make sure it's a bargain.

Done right, this is a superb way to get a classy hotel within your budget. Yet you can never be 100% sure which hotel it is, so it's not for those desperate to stay at a particular place.

How much can you save?

Here's a little inspiration...

I booked the 5* Grange St. Paul's Hotel in London for £109 (rack rate £215). OH YEAH BABY.

- lukey2

I booked the Hilton London Paddington for £69 for a double room. I had a look on the Hilton website and the equivalent cost would be £205 - bargain!

- carolinehulse84

Watch the video guide

Shown in June 2009

Priceline - up to 70% off

Hotels in the US

Giant US site Priceline flogs posh hotel rooms at colossal discounts, and it's especially strong for US hotels.

On Martin's own New York trip, he got a nice hotel for 63% of the comparison sites' cheapest price, though not as good as one MoneySaver, who got the Times Square Sheraton for £55 a night rather than the listed £200.

It's all about Priceline's 'name your own' price function, where you pick a city area and star level, name your price and see if any hotels accept it. Of course the aim's to find the minimum acceptable price, so start low, then keep raising your bid till it's accepted, but you can ONLY bid once a day.

There are techniques to get more bids per day, either by bidding with a partner, or adding more areas of a city.

Hotwire - Worldwide secret hotel rooms

Hotwire

Secret hotel booking website Hotwire* has helped MoneySavers bag Vegas's five-star Venetian for £66 (rack rate £146), the Westin New Jersey for £50 (£153), Hilton Doubletree NYC for £79 (£172) and many more.

It also flogs mystery rooms in UK cities such as London, Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester, as well as across Europe and worldwide. The hotels aren't as top-secret as they first appear. You can cheat by matching Hotwire's secret hotels to its non-secret rooms.

Read the step-by-step Hotwire system

MSE's Hotwire hotel test

To test this system, we searched for a night away in Brussels and found a £53 four-star Hot Rate room in the Avenue Louise area. A search for standard hotels revealed Hotwire had just one four-star hotel in that area, the Sheraton Four Points, and the amenities matched the secret hotel's.

We booked the Hot Rate room and the next screen revealed... it was indeed the Sheraton Four Points. Comparison sites' next cheapest rate for the same room was £66.

Tell us your successes

Please share your tips and successes with others in the Hotwire hotels forum thread.

Travelocity - Secret USA rooms

If you're planning a trip Stateside, broker Travelocity offers its own Top Secret Hotel deals, covering the US, as well as Canada and parts of the Caribbean. It gives you the hotel's star rating, user review rating and very rough location, but not its name.

Travelocity and finding hotels in the USA

Again, with a little sleuthing, it's possible to narrow it down to a few hotels and thus eliminate some of the risk. Once you've searched for ‘secret hotels', open another window and search on normal hotels for the same date.

Sort the results by star rating and match up normal hotels which have the both the same star and user rating as the mystery hotel. It should be pretty straightforward to narrow it to two or three possibilities. Check out TripAdvisor to see if you'd be happy to stay at all the shortlisted boltholes.

We found a three-star New York mystery hotel for £79, with a four out of five user review score. We then searched again for 'normal' Travelocity hotels. The mystery hotel's scores matched four others ranging from £110 to £182. Even if the mystery hotel was the £110 place, it would still mean a £30 saving.

Tips to cut costs worldwide

If you're just looking for a nice place to stay without breaking the bank, there are heaps of ways to get super-cheap accommodation. While it may lack facilities, you can get clean, functional rooms at a fraction of normal hotels' cost.

Here are our top tips:

Rent cheap holiday villas and apartments

Want a week or two in a traditional resort?

Hostels: Cheap, but not dirty

Cheap hotels with flights

Special opening rates

Stay on a Sunday

Join the club

How to protect your holiday


Rent a spare room or apartment for your holiday

Spare room and apartment rental sites, such as Airbnb and Wimdu, offer cheap short-term stays in private homes worldwide.

The idea is hosts put you up in their spare room or rent out their whole apartment to earn cash on the side. You can stay everywhere from swanky LA lofts to houseboats in Paris, and it's a great way to meet locals.

Crashing in spare rooms often beats hotel prices. For example, we found a double room in Barcelona flat for £26 a night, while a similar quality hotel cost £61 a night.

On the downside, rooming with strangers can be a lottery. This isn't for types who like to bounce coins on mattresses or run fingers along doorframes for dust. Sometimes check-in times are restricted or email replies slow.

How to stay safe

Before booking, find out as much info as possible about the host, neighbourhood and property. Scour reviews from visitors and inspect photos closely.

For safety, you pay through the spare room sites payment systems, and they hold your money until 24 hours after you've successfully checked in.

The top spare room/apartment rental sites

These sites act as middlemen between hosts and guests. It's worth trying a few, as sometimes prices differ for the same room between sites.

When comparing, always click through to the payment page, as they can add extra fees at the final stage.

Airbnb. Best for breadth

Wimdu. Smaller selection, but can have cheaper prices

9flats.com. For belt 'n' braces

Couchsurfing. Stay for free.

More ways to cut accommodation costs

If you're feeling brave, there are a few other routes to cutting the cost of accommodation. Of course, always check them out thoroughly and consider safety.

Try camping

Exchange homes

Work for food and board

And just for fun, or if you're feeling really desperate, you could always sleep in the airport!

Top tips for cheap UK hotels

Your first port of call for cheap hotels in the UK will be the same set of cheap hotel finding websites you'd use for travelling anywhere else in the world. Yet once you've done that, there are some extra ways of keeping down the cost on home soil.

  • Hostels: Cheap, but not dirty

    holiday tricksHostels can offer massive savings on hotel prices and many are clean and welcoming, not dirty dorms. You can choose private single rooms and doubles, and many have free internet access and breakfast included.

    • To book in the UK: Youth Hostel Association (YHA) and Hostelling Scotland properties include fabulous shooting lodges and Victorian mansions, including Ilam Hall in Derbyshire (right).

    • If you'd prefer to book overseas: at Hostelling International hostels, you can get up to £3 off per night with a £20 YHA membership (£15 by direct debit). Under-26s can bag membership for £10 (£5 by direct debit), or for £1 if you have a 16-25 Railcard.

    • To check out prices and availability worldwide: use Hostelbookers.com* and Hostelworld*, both of which give hostels a percentage rating, based on users' experiences. Even if they say a hostel's full, always try emailing direct, in case there's a spare room that doesn't show up. To read more reviews from past hostel guests and compare prices, try hostelz.com.

    • MoneySavers' top hostels. Many rave about great hostels, you can read their feedback or add your own in the Great 'Hidden UK Hostel Gems' Hunt,.

    Some of their top picks include:

    • Downhill Beach House in Northern Ireland. It's mega-cheap and set in scenery which was used to film episodes of the smash TV fantasy series Game of Thrones. Private doubles start at £23/per person, while seven-bed rooms are £16/per person. Forumite gawa75 said it's one of the best hostels they've ever experienced while belfastgirl1 said: "On NI's stunning Causeway Coast, as already mentioned, it's beautiful inside and out."

    • Blacksail hostel in the Lake District with private doubles from £49.50/night is picked out by Knitaholic2: "Not just a bargain but also unique and beautiful buildings, often lovely grounds and space to relax - so much better than B&Bs and boring chain hotels."

    • In Gloucestershire, St Briavels hostel is located in a moated Norman castle. Private rooms are £75/night while dorm beds are £23/night and JellyS said: "I had an amazing time, they had a special 'castle night' on with authentic food and ghost stories, was really good fun."

    • Littlewolfmonkey stayed in the Smart City hostel in Edinburgh. With five friends for two nights it was £230. "We had our own six-person dorm with a lockable door, it was clean and right in the centre of town and not far from transport links. There was also a cheap bar, with breakfast served first thing and food throughout the day. I'd definitely use it again."

  • University stays outside term time

    During the summer holidays university students head back home leaving their rooms empty between June and September. The fab site University Rooms rents halls of residence rooms left empty during the holidays in a host of major UK cities, including London, Cardiff, York, Oxford, Cambridge and Exeter plus a few worldwide.

    It's a great way to get cheap accomodation when staying in a city with singles starting at £30 and doubles from £70 and many also include breakfast.

    While it's not the Ritz, many MoneySavers have been pleasantly surprised when staying in halls of residence, which are often located in city centres. The website Travelstay also lists cheap university rooms across the UK.

    Here are five of our top picks:

    • University of Westminster halls, in Marylebone, £90/night double room, typical price hotel room for £189/night.

    • Edinburgh University halls, in the city centre, £70/night double room, typical price hotel room for £155/night.

    • York University halls, on the university campus, £95/night double room, typical price hotel room for £134/night.

    • Liverpool University halls, in the city centre, £48/night double room, typical price hotel room for £175/night.

    • Cambridge University, Westminister College, £100/night double room, typical price hotel room for £150/night.

  • Hotels at a third(ish) of the price if you've got Tesco points

    Regular Tesco shoppers who have collected up Tesco Clubcard points can trade them in for Rewards Vouchers, which can then be spent at hotel chains such as Marriott, Mercure and Best Western.

    The big advantage is that Clubcard points are worth 1p in-store, but their value's up to three or four times as much when converted to Rewards, so you could get a hotel for a third or quarter of the price.

    The snag is hotels usually only let you use vouchers against their rack rates, which are often much higher than their cheapest internet ones. Before exchanging your Clubcard vouchers, carefully compare prices on Trivago* first, as you may get better value for your vouchers elsewhere.

    For more on maxing Tesco vouchers' value, read the Boost Tesco Points guide.

  • Find cheaper UK hotel rooms

    Travelodge £25 or less sales

    Hotel chain Travelodge* regularly offers £25 and under sale rooms. The ultra-cheap rooms are released in tranches. To bag serious bargains you need to know when a new batch's been released. Therefore if you try to get a room at the start of a genuine sale, there's widespread availability.

    The regularly-updated Travelodge Sales deals note lets you know when the latest sale starts, and Travelodge sales updates are always included in the free weekly MoneySaving e-mail.

  • Get youth hostels at a discount

    For British breaks, the Youth Hostel Association is a decent bet. If you're planning to stay more than five nights a year, consider YHA membership, which saves you paying the non-member supplement of £3 per person per night.

    If you've Tesco Clubcard vouchers, you can use these towards annual memberships and overnight stays.

  • No-frills hotels in London and Edinburgh from £25

    As long as you've not got an aversion to orange, Easyhotel is another option. It has pads in London, Luton, Glasgow and Edinburgh and more, with simple rooms from about £25 a night (£15 in Glasgow). Again, the earlier you book, the better the chance of a lower price.

    The no-frills Tune Hotels chain has London rooms from £30 or sometimes less with promos. It’s run on the budget airline model: while it’s clean and does the job, guests pay a few quid extra for towels, TV use and housekeeping.

  • Hoxton Hotel for £1

    This chic hotel in London occasionally runs £1 room promotions. Rooms sell out incredibly quickly, but are always in our weekly e-mail so you'll know in advance when to go for it.

  • Don't spend Avios points on hotels

    Formerly called Air Miles, Avios is a points scheme like Nectar and Tesco Clubcard, earnable in Shell, Tesco and by spending on credit cards.

    Think twice before spending Avios points on hotels. In our research we found these gave poor value for points - you're usually better off redeeming on other rewards such as Eurostar or flights. For 30 ways to push the value of your Avios points to the max, see our Avios Points Boosting guide.