With a weekend in London on the horizon, Patty and I did some research to find a hotel that was charming, clean, well-located and affordable (well, relatively speaking….we are talking London). We booked at the Amba Hotel Charing Cross. Read on to learn if it lived up to expectations and whether or not you should consider it for a weekend in the city or a special occasion such as a honeymoon.
Brief Intro to the Amba Hotel Charing Cross
As the name implies, the hotel is located in the Charing Cross area of London. With many major attractions nearby, its location is great for tourists.
The hotel exudes a modern but elegant vibe. The lobby hallways and stairs are adorned with beautiful, classy rugs and marble tiles. The rooms are modern with a tablet bedside and chic but small bathrooms.
Standard rooms at the hotel rent out at about $250-$500/night, with the wide price range reflective of season of visit.
Getting to the Amba Hotel Charing Cross
After a 50-minute journey on the Picadilly line of the Underground from Heathrow, we arrived at Leicester Square. That trip cost us about £3, whereas taking the Heathrow Express would have cost over £20 each and still required a transfer to the Underground for the last part of the journey.
Once our Underground ride from Heathrow arrived at Leicester Square, we departed the tube, headed outdoors and made the final part of the trip to the hotel on foot. Five to ten minutes of walking later, we arrived.
Amba Hotel Charing Cross Has A Great Location
Location, location, location – that’s the saying in real estate. Well, the Amba Hotel Charing Cross’ greatest attribute is its location. Walk out the door of the hotel and within literally a few steps you are entering the rail station which also provides access to the Underground. With the great reach of London’s public transportation network this means you have easy access to the whole city.
If you prefer to venture out on foot, you’re in luck also – the Amba is located well for pedestrian exploration too. The hotel is less than a 1/4 mile from the River Thames and even closer in the opposite direction to Trafalgar Square. Covent Garden is a 5-minute walk to the North and Westminster Abbey is about a fifteen minute walk to the south.
Right next to the hotel you’ll also find a convenience store and a small grocery store. Across the street there is a Pizza Express restaurant that is a good option if you’re looking for a casual but tasty dinner.
Checking In Went Smoothly
We arrived at the hotel between 10AM and 11AM so it was not a certainty that our room would be ready. The check-in agent gave us the good news that our room was in fact ready for us. There was no drama – the room assigned to us matched the description of the room we booked. The agent gave us each a glass of fruit-infused water and also a water bottle and explained some of the amenities. She then sent us on our way to our 4th floor room.
The Room – “A Mixed Bag”
Do you prefer video reviews? Then check out this narrated video version of my review of the Amba Hotel Charing Cross:
We stayed in room 410, a standard room just a few steps from the elevator. The small size of the main room and the bathroom registered immediately upon entering. There isn’t a great deal of space to lay suitcases or belongings.
On the bright side, the closet set-up is nice. There are multiple drawers and generous hanging space. The closet had motion activated lights and the nicest hinges I’ve ever seen (yes, so smooth-closing they warrant a mention!).
A mini-fridge was situated under the desk. The contents in the mini-fridge – Coke, Diet Coke, milk, chocolate, chips, water – were all complimentary. That was a nice surprise. I’m used to being gouged for such items at some other hotels.
An espresso machine sat atop the desk. The espresso vials were also complimentary.
A large, flat-screen TV was mounted to the wall above the desk. It pulled in a decent selection of TV programming.
There were many electrical and USB outlets throughout the room, including a couple 110V outlets for travelers with lower-voltage devices.
Next to the bed sat an iPad which was programmed with information on local attractions and more. As we travel with our own electronic devices we didn’t use the iPad meaningfully.
The bathroom was stylish and functional but it was small. It’s a one-person setup. There’s no space in this room for two people to get ready simultaneously. The shower was nice though with both a rainfall head and a shower wand. It worked as expected throughout our stay with one exception: On the last morning of our visit no hot water was available. It wasn’t “prime time” for hot water use so it was surprising.
The towels in the bathroom are excellent. They are soft and large! In a bit of an ironic twist, the large towels hammered home the fact that the bathroom is small as I couldn’t really stretch out the towel fully in the bathroom. The toiletry selection was standard.
The view from our room was of back streets of London. It wasn’t spectacular but it was nice to at least be looking out at a bit of the city.
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The Service Effort Was Sky-High
All of the employees at the Amba Hotel Charing Cross seemed intent on pleasing guests. Our visit started off with a kind and accommodating check-in agent and ended with a kind and accommodating agent at check-out.
Employees passing by in the hallways were always friendly and helpful.
The staff is generous on top of their kindness. I stopped by the front desk one evening to request a bottle of water or two as they had bottles of water avaialble at check-in. The desk agent gave me three bottles of water and had more sent to the room, free of charge!
The Amba Hotel Charing Cross Gym is Respectable
The hotel has a decent gym with dumbbells, a couple weight machines, a couple treadmills and a basic rowing machine. When we visited the gym it was unoccupied. It seemed like enough of a setup to accommodate the size of the hotel.
Staying at Amba Hotel Charing Cross Without Breaking the Budget
London is known as an expensive city. It’s actually sometimes ranked as one of the five most expensive cities on Earth. That of course makes finding a good hotel deal difficult.
The primary way to get around that is to visit during the winter. Though that’s not optimal for a lot of people it of course has the added benefit of reduced tourist crowd size.
There are quite a few chain hotes in London but point redemption rates were sky-high. Many loyalty programs have only one rate for any given hotel year-round. This means that redeeming points for a hotel in low season is sometimes a poor use of points. Relative to The Amba Hotel Charing Cross that point is moot, as the hotel is not part of a major hotel chain loyalty program.
So with no great point redemption options for February we decided to pay for the weekend stay in London.
We did some internet searching and found the lowest price for our weekend visit through Orbitz. With a couple discount codes we were able to book the hotel for 3 nights for roughly $700 total. That’s actually somewhat cheap for downtown London though it might be the most we’ve paid out of pocket for a hotel in years (we usually book hotel stays for free using loyalty points).
Another option in situations like this is to redeem points from a travel program such as Citi’s ThankYou Rewards program. Patty and I both recently used our ThankYou points for redemptions though so that wasn’t in the cards for us for this stay.
The WiFi in the hotel worked well once connected but my Android phone had to be reconnected with a manual “acceptance” step every time I returned to the hotel. This was annoying over the course of a weekend.
We experienced one issue during our stay. Upon returning from a day of sightseeing I realized my plastic contact lens case was nowhere to be found in the bathroom. I phoned housekeeping to let them know that it may have been thrown out inadvertently by the maid (it could have been me that threw it out but that’s never happened in twenty years of wearing contacts so I thought it was unlikely).
I expected them to simply send a replacement up to the room as plastic contact lens cases are only worth a dollar or two. Three phone calls and nearly sixty minutes later a contact lens case still hadn’t been delivered. I was tired of waiting so I went down to the convenience store next door and within three minutes I was back to our room with a contact lens case. I got to the door of our room at the same time as an employee who had arrived with a contact lens case and a small bottle of wine to reflect the hotel management’s apology for the situation. Then at check-out they offered a free upgrade on a future stay to further make up for the hassle.
These were very nice gestures and much appreciated. On the other hand I would have rather they simply brought a new contact case up within, say, a half-hour. They definitely went “above and beyond” after the fact though!
The Summary and THG Rating
The high points of this hotel include the staff’s attitude, the hotel’s location and the in-room amenities. The main downside is that the standard rooms (or at least, ours) are small. If you’re rolling solo it’s probably not much of an issue. If it’ll be two people using the room but only for a few days, then the room size probably isn’t a big issue either. After all, you’re in London, and there’s a thousand reasons to get out of the room and explore!
Compared to other London hotels, this is a relatively good option for honeymooners, especially if you’re traveling light or able to book a larger room than the one we stayed in.
The Honeymoon Guy gives the Amba Hotel Charing Cross a rating of 13 out of 17.
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