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Slash hotel bills by living like a student

Many universities offer accommodation at reasonable rates, especially outside term time. Maria McCarthy is happy to go back to student life.

Bridge of Sighs Cambridge University

When I travel, I like to be out and about rather than lounging in my hotel room, so I always prefer budget accommodation as long as it's clean and comfortable.

But these days even a very basic hotel room in London can cost over £100 a night so it's worth checking out other options.

Online options

I've heard about AirBnB, an international website which allows you to rent rooms, flats, villas or even castles directly from the owners.

And although I've got friends who rave about it I haven't tried it personally yet.

But a few years ago I was told about UniversityRooms by a colleague.

It's a website which allows you to book student accommodation during the vacations and operates in 39 cities around the UK including London, Carlisle, Salisbury and Belfast.

Global service

UniversityRooms also covers 15 other countries, including Italy and Australia.

So far I've stayed in student halls in London and Cardiff and have been so impressed that they're now always my first choice when travelling.

The rooms are always clean and while some of the venues are more frayed around the edges than others, the price has always made up for it.

For example, I needed to stay in Cardiff for work one weekend and booked into Plas Gwyn Halls in the attractive suburb of Llandaff.

The room itself was pretty basic and reminded me that some things haven't changed much since my own student days.

Rooms from just £30 a night

A single bed, desk and chair, skimpy curtains and Blu-Tack marks where the student occupant had removed whatever posters (Game of Thrones? Rhianna?) had adorned their walls that year.

But there was a communal kitchen so I could make breakfast in the morning – and at £30, it was considerably cheaper than the £80-a-night hotel I usually frequent.

Then there's Goldsmid Hall in London. Five minutes’ walk from Victoria station, it couldn't be more convenient.

And here the en suite rooms are very well-presented and don't feel particularly studenty.

Chance to meet new faces

The kitchens are pleasant too, and the people I've met during my stays tend to be over 40, often academics or Americans touring the UK.

I've already booked in for a couple of nights in July, and it's costing me £51 a night, whereas a central Travelodge would be about £110.

And if you're OK with sharing a loo and bathroom, then the prices can get even cheaper - £37 a night for self-catering at International House, Waterloo, or £34.50 at Ifor Evans Hall in Camden.

Linen and towels are usually provided, as is free Wi-Fi, though it's important to check details beforehand.

Not just basic accommodation

Most don't seem to offer a TV in the room which is fine by me, but it's something to be aware of if you'd miss your regular fix.

As for the other visitors – I've found a huge range.

Some venues seem to attract older people while others have a higher percentage of people who are around student or postgrad age.

But so far they're all been of a reasonably sedate disposition and I haven't had to face being woken by rowdy behaviour and loud music at 3am.

And if you're looking for a more upmarket experience than a student room, then UniversityRooms can still be useful, as some of the rooms it offers are in conference centres or other accommodation linked to universities.

More than good enough

I recently stayed at the Goodenough Club in Bloomsbury, London.

It's linked to an educational charity and provides four-star accommodation.

Breakfast was included and the reception staff couldn't have been more helpful – all for £108 a night.

The last time I stayed at a hotel room of this standard, it cost me over £200.

This type of accommodation tends to be available during term time too – so I'll certainly be back.

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Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

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