If you are willing to forego charm for reliability, it is not hard to find cheap UK rooms that are clean, decent and reasonably well equipped.
Quite a few international and UK budget hotel chains and groups specialize in meeting the traveler's basic requirements at a predictable and acceptable level. Sure, there may be a kind of global sameness about such rooms but, looked at realistically, there are times when this kind of cheap lodging is exactly what you need.
When Price Is More Important Than Style
Say you're touring in England, Scotland or Wales. Chances are you'll want to see historic sights, castles, wonderful scenery and museums. You'll be sampling typical pubs, the best of the arts and music scenes, great ethnic food, cool shopping, buzzing cities and picturesque towns. On a trip like that, does a fancy lobby or the décor of your hotel room really matter all that much? Will you really spend time in the hotel pool when you could be out and about? How much time will you be spending in your room anyway?
A room that's warm and dry, has comfortable beds with clean bed linens, reliable hot and cold running water in a clean bathroom, reliable (and free) WiFi and room to hang some clothes will probably do. Throw in a place to have coffee and a light breakfast before you hit the road and you're all set.
International Hotel Chains That Have It Down to a Science
The big international and UK hotel chains and groups have minimum standards and regular inspections.
Use them and you can probably save enough for one or two nights splurging on a quaint and charming B&B inn or a luxury boutique hotel.
These international and UK hotel chains, can be relied upon to provide good, basic, cheap or moderately-priced accommodation around England, Scotland, and Wales:
- Best Western The world's largest group of independently owned and managed hotels has more than 4,000 hotels in 80 countries and about 250 in the UK. Because this is an association of hotel owners and small hotel groups, individual and independent style isn't sacrificed to cookie-cutter sameness. The hotels are regularly inspected and meet or surpass a decent brand standard. Though not all Best Western's are cheap, the variety of price ranges includes lots of good value rooms in the UK.
- Choice Hotels This is an enormous franchise operation with 6,800 franchised hotels and more than 500,000 rooms in 40 countries. In the UK they operate in 19 cities, under several brands including Comfort Inn (14 locations), Quality Inns (6 locations), Ascend Hotels (new group with just a few hotels) and The Clarion Collection (7 locations). They tend to be clustered around airports, business centers, and medium-sized cities.
- CitizenM is a relatively new international group that has spread from Amsterdam to major cities around the world. They have five UK hotels, two in Glasgow and three in London. They call themselves boutique hotels and they are if your style ethos is minimalism and high tech (room lights, heating, and window blinds are controlled from a bedside tablet). Design of the public areas is funky and fun. They aren't really suitable for families but for couples and singles (of all ages) they are convenient, comfortable and very now.
- Days Inns Similar to Days Inns in the USA, they are franchise hotels in the classic budget basic mold. They operate 78 hotels in 62 UK cities with clusters around airports, sports venues, and business centers. They also have franchises to operate at designated motorway service areas where their rooms are immaculate and surprisingly comfortable.
- Easy Hotels began as basic London hotels owned by Stelios, the charismatic founder of EasyJet. Today they have 13 UK hotels in seven cities (seven in London) with new hotels in Belfast, Sheffield, and Leeds coming in September 2019. Rooms have en suite bathrooms and air conditioning in summer but to give you an idea of how basic this place is, they list "heat" as a hotel feature. Fine if you don't mind the color orange. WiFi and television are on a pay for play basis and can add up - so try to do your online browsing at a Starbucks.
- Ibis Part of the French-owned Accor group, this budget chain is well established in Europe and in 2018 had 159 hotels in England and Scotland. It operates three brands in the UK, Ibis Hotels, Ibis Styles (designer colors, family oriented, breakfast and WiFi included in prices), and Ibis Budget (London airport and suburban rooms).
- Holiday Inn Express Pretty standard décor but room rates include continental breakfast. There are more than 30 of these in and around London but do check out the locations carefully - the cheapest may be in areas with few amenities for visitors.
- Jurys Inn This Irish-owned chain, with minimalist style, has new, purpose-built hotels in destination cities in the UK and Ireland. These hotels are more in the mid-price range than budget but the chain offers frequent deals. The lure here is the reliability and consistent level of comfort and service whichever hotel you choose. But they are definitely not bottom dollar.
- Premier Inns The UK's largest hotel chain with more than 750 locations across the UK and a handful of locations in Germany and the Middle East in 2018. Free WiFi and luxury beds are standard across the chain. Full English or Continental buffet breakfasts are offered as extras but at comparatively reasonable prices. They offer good value in Central London with hotels near Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, and St James's Park.
- Travelodge A very large, very stripped down UK chain with some, special offer family rooms. They have more than 500 hotels across the UK, Ireland and Spain. Of all the budget groups operating in the UK, this one is the riskiest. You might find a nice clean, cozy comfortable room or you might end up in one where you dare not walk on the carpets without shoes and where children or hen party crowds are carrying on all night. Useful in a pinch but I wouldn't base a tour on these.