Olympic Update: The Gouge Begins, But it's Not Too Late

If you want to attend the London Olympics, July 26 through August 13, be prepared to pay a lot of money. A whole lot of money:

  • CoSport, the official ticket outlet for the U.S. and Canada (along with a few other countries) is currently selling two-day ticket packages, with one or two admissions each day, that range from just under $2,000 per person for relatively unpopular events to well over $5,000. That's just the tickets (plus use of CoSport's hospitality center for each day).
  • Tour operators are charging unbelievable prices for hotel packages. Roadtrips, one of the country's largest event-tour operators, lists upscale four-night hotel packages starting at $4,695 per person at the Corus Hyde Park. That's a whopping $2,348 per night— for a room that usually goes for a bit over $300 a night, and not including any tickets. Yes, Roadtrips also provides a lot of hand-holding and local transportation, but that's still a stiff price.
  • Ludus offers some less rarefied prices, but they're still stiff, starting at $1,099 per room per night in a two-star hotel, also with lots of hand-holding but not including tickets.

Hotel-only rates are up, also. For a typical night during the Olympics, the least expensive rate Hotels.com lists for a double room somewhere in the city is $190 per night with a shared bathroom, and that's at hotels in remote corners of London. The least expensive rate in the central area is $219 per night in a tatty hotel close to Paddington (TripAdvisor rating of two out of five circles). For anything less, you have to head for venues as remote as Heathrow Airport and Croydon.

Overall, I've seen Olympics premiums at hotels as high as 400 percent over the usual rates. As an alternative to high hotel rates, you have some options in private residences:

  • For an upscale experience, onefinestay is posting rooms in what appear to be elegant private residences at about half what you'd pay in comparable four- and five-star hotels. At $200 or more per night, rooms aren't cheap, but they look like good deals.
  • For budget choices, outfits such as Home From Home are offering rooms in private houses starting at around $30 a night. Hostels, too, are still reasonably inexpensive; check here for options. And in the middle, even with some inflation, London's many B&Bs will still provide good value.
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    Of course, as many writers have suggested, the farther from the city center you stay, the less you pay. But the trade-off is spending several hours each day riding suburban trains, the underground, and buses.

    Even West End theaters are affected. I already see tickets to London's top shows listed on Ebay at more than $200 per seat.

    Will the gouge hold? That's a big question I can't answer right now. In some past Olympics, far fewer visitors showed up than the host city expected, and last-minute rates and ticket prices suddenly dropped. In others, however, high prices held throughout. Right now, it's anyone's guess what will happen in London.

    The upshot: If you're determined to go, bite the bullet, buy tickets as soon as you can, and arrange whatever accommodations you can afford. But if you're willing to stay home if you can't get better prices, keep checking for late-breaking deals.

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