Accommodations

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Accommodations

Hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, rural inns, or luxurious country houses—there's a style and price to suit most travelers. Wherever you stay, make reservations well in advance.

Our local writers vet every hotel to recommend the best overnights in each price category, from budget to expensive. Unless otherwise specified, you can expect private bath, phone, and TV in your room.

Lodgings are indicated in the text by. Throughout Britain, lodging prices often include breakfast of some kind, but this is generally not the case in London.

Apartment and House Rentals

If you deal directly with local agents, get a recommendation from someone who’s used the company. Unlike with hotels, there's no accredited system for apartment-rental standards.

Bed-and-Breakfasts

B&Bs can be a good budget option, and will also help you meet the locals. Cottages, unlike B&Bs, usually do not provide breakfast.

Reservation Services

Bed & Breakfast.com (512/322–2710. www.bedandbreakfast.com.)

The Bed and Breakfast Club (01243/370692. www.thebedandbreakfastclub.co.uk.)

Wolsey Lodges (01473/822058. www.wolseylodges.com.)

Cottages

Contacts

Classic Cottages (01326/555555. www.classic.co.uk.)

National Trust (0844/800–2070. www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk.)

Rural Retreats (01386/701177. www.ruralretreats.co.uk.)

VisitBritain (0207/578–1000. www.visitbritain.com.)

Local Dos and Taboos

Customs of the Country

In general, British and American rules of etiquette are much the same. Differences are subtle. British people find Americans' bluntness somewhat startling from time to time, but are charmed by their friendliness.

Many of the English still tend to take politeness extremely seriously, but younger people and urbanites have a more casual approach. Self-deprecating humor, however, always goes down well. The famous British reserve is still in place, but on social occasions it's best to observe what the others do, and go with the flow. If you're visiting a family home, a gift of flowers is welcome, as is a bottle of wine.

Greetings

Older British people will shake hands on greeting old friends or acquaintances; female friends may greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. In Britain, you can never say "please," "thank you," or "sorry" too often; to thank your host, a phone call or thank-you card does nicely. Email and other electronic messages are fine for younger hosts.

Sightseeing

As in the United States, in public places it’s considered polite to give up your seat to an elderly person, to a pregnant woman, or to a parent struggling with children and bags. Jaywalking isn’t illegal in England and everybody does it. However, since driving is on the left in England, the traffic flow may be confusing; use caution.

British people used to take waiting in line (called queuing) incredibly seriously, but, especially in London bus queues, line discipline is breaking down. Nevertheless, many still highly value patience, and will turn on "queue jumpers" who try to cut in line. Complaining while waiting in line is considered wimpy. Enduring the wait with good humor is considered a sign of strong moral character.

The single thing you can do that will most mark you as a tourist—and an impolite one—is fail to observe the written and spoken rule that, on virtually all escalators but especially those in Tube stations, you stand on the right side of the escalator and leave room for people to walk past you on the left.

Out on the Town

Etiquette in restaurants is much the same as in any major U.S. city. In restaurants you hail a waiter by saying, "Excuse me..." as one passes by, or by politely signaling with subtle hand signals (but no snapping fingers). It’s common to have drinks before dinner, and wine with dinner. Friends and co-workers frequently gather in pubs, but you don't have to drink alcohol—some people in the pub drink juice or sodas. Nonetheless, drunkenness can be common in major cities after 10 pm.

"Smart casual" is fine for the theater, and those going to nightclubs will dress just the same here as they would in New York or Chicago—the flashier the better. Pubs are very casual places, however.

Smoking is forbidden in all public places, including bars and restaurants.

Doing Business

Punctuality is of prime importance; if you anticipate a late arrival, call ahead. For business dinners, if you proffered the invitation, it's usually assumed that you’ll pick up the tab. If you're the visitor, however, it's good form for the host to pay the bill. Alternatively, play it safe and offer to split the check.

Farmhouses

Contacts

Farm & Cottage Holidays UK (01237/459–888. www.holidaycottages.co.uk.)

Farm Stay UK (024/7669–6909. www.farmstayuk.co.uk.)

Historic Buildings

Contacts

Celtic Castles (01422/323200. www.celticcastles.com.)

English Heritage (0870/333–1181. www.english-heritage.org.uk.)

Landmark Trust (01628/825925. www.landmarktrust.org.uk.)

National Trust (0844/800–2070. www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk.)

Portmeirion Cottages (01766/770000. www.portmeirion-village.com.)

Rural Retreats (01386/701177. www.ruralretreats.co.uk.)

Stately Holiday Cottages (01638/674756. www.statelyholidaycottages.co.uk.)

Unique Home Stays (01637/881183. ww.uniquehomestays.com.)

Vivat Trust (0845/090–0194. www.vivat-trust.org.)

Home Exchanges

With a direct home exchange you stay in someone else's home while they stay in yours. Some outfits handle vacation homes, so you're staying in someone's vacant weekend place. Home Exchange.com offers a one-year membership for $101; HomeLink International costs $119 for an annual online membership, which includes a directory listing; and Intervac U.S. offers international membership for $100.

Exchange Clubs

Home Exchange.com (800/877–8723. www.homeexchange.com.)

HomeLink International (800/638–3841. www.homelink.org.)

Intervac. (800/756–4663. www.intervac-homeexchange.com.)

Hostels

Although the decor may be basic, some hostels in England and Wales are in extraordinary locations, and others are simply beautiful. You can stay in them no matter what your age.

Members of the Boy Scouts may want to consider London's useful Baden-Powell House, which offers rooms for as little as $32 a night for Scouts and their families, and to non-Scouts for $113. Rooms book up far in advance.

Hotels

Most hotels have rooms with "ensuite" bathrooms—as private bathrooms are called—although some older ones may have only washbasins; in this case, showers and toilets are usually down the hall. Especially in London, rooms and bathrooms may be smaller than those you find in the United States.

Besides familiar international chains, England has some local chains that are worth a look; they provide rooms from the less expensive (Travelodge, basic but bargain, and Premier Inn are the most widespread; Jurys Inns offer good value in city centers) to the trendy (ABode, Hotel du Vin, Malmaison).

Local Chains

ABode (www.abodehotels.co.uk.)

Hotel du Vin (0871/943–0345. www.hotelduvin.com.)

Jurys Inn (0870/410–0800. www.jurysinn.com.)

Malmaison (0871/943–0350. www.malmaison.com.)

Premier Inn (0871/527–9222. www.premierinn.com.)

Travelodge (0800/835–2424 in U.K.; 800/525–4055 in U.S. www.travelodge.com.)

Hotel Grading System

Hotels, guesthouses, inns, and B&Bs in the United Kingdom are all graded from one to five stars by the tourism board, VisitBritain. Basically, the more stars a property has, the more amenities it has, and the facilities will be of a higher standard. It's a fairly good reflection of lodging from small B&Bs up to palatial hotels. The most luxurious hotels will have five stars; a simple, clean, acceptable hostelry will have one star.

Discounts and Deals

Hotel rates in major cities tend to be cheapest on weekends, whereas rural hotels are cheapest on weeknights. The lowest occupancy is between November and April, so hotels lower their prices substantially during these months.

Lastminute.com offers deals on hotel rooms all over the United Kingdom. VisitLondon.com, London's official website, has some good deals.

Local Resources

Lastminute.com (0800/083–4000. www.lastminute.com.)

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