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Newbie International Traveler Looking for London Hotel/Day Tours Advice

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My best friend and I are planning a week-long trip to the UK next year. Our plan is to base ourselves in London, and take a few day tours to nearby areas to visit some of the historic castles and other locales. I've started looking here, at trip advisor, lonely planet, and a variety of other sites and am really starting to get overwhelmed.

We're planning to go in late March/early April, mainly because that's when our vacation schedules coincide. We thought our first task should be to settle on a hotel - this being our first trip to London, we want to be fairly centrally located with easy access to public transportation. We also don't want to spend $$$$$ a night on a hotel. I've seen some pretty good reviews for The Lime Tree; does anyone have any experience staying there? Can anyone recommend a moderately priced, clean, safe hotel that's centrally located?

Regarding day tours, I've noticed that even Harrod's is in to the day tour business. Are their certain tour operators to avoid? I'd really appreciate any recommendations. I've defaulted to my usual practice of making spreadsheets to sort the data, but without reliable recommendations, I'm really flying blind.

Thanks so much for any help!
Leia

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