1. City Inn
City Inn goes nuts every time they hear themselves described as a “budget” brand – in fact, last time we called them that, we got a stern email informing us that they’ve done everything they can to not come across as budget. Everything except upping the prices, that is – sorry guys, but rooms from £50 ($82) – currently the opening rate for City Inn Leeds – definitely qualify as budget in our book.
Where they’re totally not budget is in every other quality – with free wifi, iMacs in the rooms and sleek decor (see the picture, above), they’re everything you’d expect from a four star hotel. And although they’re only UK-based, they’re there in pretty much all the cities you’d want to hit up: London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow and Leeds. If you’re going to one of these towns, City Inn should always be your first choice.
One of Accor’s mid-budget brands, Mercure is more expensive than Ibis or its yank sister Motel 6, but paying a little extra gets you miles ahead in terms of rooms – they’re often housed in historic buildings, such as the glorious Eastgate Hotel Oxford which is actually one of the best places to stay in the dreaming spires. You can snap secondary city hotels up for about $75; even London starts at $161, a relative bargain. Plus, they’re not just confined to Europe – you’ll find them as far away as Australia.
3. Travelodge UK
As with City Inn, Travelodge is only UK-based, but unlike City Inn, the properties can be slightly depressing in their monotonousness. Overall, Travelodges get a bad rap. Maybe it's because of all their wacky surveys. However, they’re clean, safe, abundant (they’re pretty much everywhere) and consistently have the best prices, thanks to regular promotions like the one running right now, which has rooms for just £12 a night. That’s $22 for a double room. Incredible.
[Photo: Frankie Roberto]
4. NH Hotels
Luckily for us, NH Hotels, the swanky Spanish chain (though its hotels are over the world), doesn’t mind advertising its cheaper properties by devoting a page of its website to "cheap hotels" where you can get the likes of the NH Tropen in Amsterdam for just EUR69, or $98. This is where you’ll find the formerly Italian-owned Jolly Hotels, which is now under the NH umbrella.
Stelios from easyJet has branched out from his London empire of six EasyHotels to include Lanarca, Budapest, Basel and Zurich. Expect ultra simple but salubrious rooms at bargain prices – but bring sunglasses for the orange styling. (To be fair, the new EasyHotel rooms will have less orange madness.) If you don’t fancy those, they’ve paired up with Octopus Travel to bring you similar cheap sleeps across Europe.
Don’t forget, though – while these are good because you (kind of) know what you’re getting, Europe has an abundance of cheap one and two star hotels – and B&Bs over here are a cheap option – so motelling isn’t such an obvious answer.
Got a budget brand in Europe that you like more than the ones listed above? Let us know in comments below.