Funky, modern, good value accommodation for students and travellers on a budget.
Having spent 5 weeks staying in dorms and hostels in Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand, I needed to treat myself when I arrived in Hong Kong. I needed some space, some privacy and some comfort. Money was getting tight though, so I also needed somewhere that offered all of this but for as little money as possible. After a lot of review reading and price comparison, I found Y-Loft at Youth Square.
Taking up the floors 12, 13 and 14 of the Youth Square building in the Chai Wan district of Hong Kong Island, Y-Loft calls itself a hostel, but really this is a hotel that happens to have a few large dorms. The rest of the rooms are large, private, twin ensuite rooms that are comfortable, clean and funky! If you’re not a fan of bright green and orange, best stay clear of this one.
Every box ticked as far as I’m concerned. Y-Loft was comfortable, clean and modern. On the negative side, a degree of patience (and maybe a degree) is required in getting to and from the building and navigating the building itself, but this problem is almost negated by the hotel’s many positives. In other words, it was worth the hassle. Price wise, Y-Loft was a complete bargain. Book through dedicated hostel booking websites for the best deals.
I’ve never had to write a ‘Where is the Reception?’ section before, but for Y-Loft, it is completely necessary. Finding it for the first time is a nightmare if you don’t do some research beforehand.
I’m assuming that you’ll be traveling to Y-Loft in the MTR. Take the train to Chai Wan, the last stop on the Island Line. Upon alighting, follow the signs for Exit A. Go through the doors into the New Jade Shopping Centre. Pass through the centre, veering right and pass through a second set of doors leading outside. Walk along the footbridge, then take the first right. Look up. That’s Youth Square. Look down again. You’re approaching a bizarre, user-unfriendly entrance to the building. Head straight on by stairs and slopes (not the escalator) and find the lifts. Call any lift and head for floor 12. Upon alighting the lift, turn right. Reception is just around the corner. Phew!
Really? You’re kidding!
Nope. Listen carefully to the instructions given to you by the person on reception about where your room is. This building makes no sense whatsoever.
Y-Loft at Youth Square
238 Chai Wan Road
A cool, comfortable, clean & convenient base for your explorations in the island state.
Searching for somewhere to stay in Singapore actually took longer than I expected. What I was looking for was somewhere that offered me a lot for my restricted budget. My accommodation searches revealed that on the whole, you get what you pay for in Singapore. It seemed the cheaper the place, the less comfort and amenities you got. I quickly learnt that what I needed to find was somewhere that offered value.
Hangout @ Mount Emily had precisely that. A hostel/hotel geared towards young travellers and backpackers who need just a little extra comfort for their money.
If you’re on a tight budget but require a few more home comforts for your money, this is the place for you. Ignore any concerns about the location. It’s really not that far a walk and you’ll be glad of the peace once you get back after being on the go all day. For the money, you could only really expect the hotel to be clean and comfortable. It is, yet you also get free wifi, free breakfast, a funky common room and rooftop terrace to hangout in, helpful staff on call 24 hours a day, big, airy rooms with air-con, laundry facilities and even bikes to hire. What’s not to like? Book far enough ahead, and you could bag yourself one of the biggest bargains Singapore has to offer.
Staying in Scandinavia doesn’t have to cost the earth. If you know where to look, you can get some very good deals. One such hotel is Scandic Front in Copenhagen, where I stayed for four nights. Does a hotel that promises “comfort, warmth and quality” deliver? Here’s my review.
Update: This review was modified on 21st May 2009 to reflect the hotel’s name change. This hotel was previously known simply as Hotel Front until Scandic acquired it.
Rooms come in sizes small to extra large and are priced according to these sizes. I stayed in a single room for £57 a night plus taxes via Hotels.com. Even for their smallest category room, my room was quite spacious. As well as an amazingly comfortable bed, there was a not so comfortable lounge chair with coffee table, a desk and office chair, a mini bar, a flat screen TV and a copious amount of storage space. The decor was modern and minimalist with white walls and black furniture. The carpet was a thick shag pile. A set of double French doors opened into the room, letting in plenty of light and air. Artificial lighting consisted of spot lamps, which had to be pointed to the ceiling in order to get the best light. Overall, lighting was poor, including in the bathroom. The en-suite bathroom housed an excellent rain shower, a terribly small and inconvenient sink and of course, a toilet. The flooring was heated and made up of pebbles set into concrete.
The location of the hotel is surely one of it’s best qualities. Literally right by the water’s edge, opposite the new Opera House. The iconic, lively and colourful Nyhavn with it’s many bars and restaurants is 2 minutes walk away while Kongens Nytorv Metro station, connecting you to other areas of Copenhagen and the city airport is 8 minutes away. Amalienborg Plads, the royal residence, is just around the corner and the statue of the Little Mermaid is about a 25 minutes stroll in the same direction. The world famous Strøget shopping street is 10 minutes away. All of the cities sights are within walking distance. If you’re arriving via the main train station though, it’s quite a walk. Either catch an expensive taxi, or take the S-Train to Nørreport and change to the metro to Kongens Nytorv.
Each room has a free mini bar which is topped up daily. It contains four bottles of water, a bottle of Coke Light, a regular Coke and two bottles of Carlsberg. The hotel provides free wifi in-room and in public areas (ask at reception for the password when you arrive). On the flat screen TV, there was a meagre selection of channels in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. The only channels in English were Bloomberg, CNN and BBC World News. Luckily, Scandinavian TV stations import a lot of television programmes from Britain and the US which are subtitled rather than dubbed, so English speakers shouldn’t go without something to watch. Besides the regular channels, there are 4 Pay TV channels provided by the hotel. The toiletries provided in the bathroom are of a high quality. Each room contains a good-sized safe and a hair dryer. Strangely lacking is tea and coffee making facilities. Bicycles can be hired at reception for DKK150 per day, as can DVD players (price unknown). The hotel’s restaurant, Front Diner, sold pricey American diner-style food (burgers, steaks etc.). While expensive, the food was good and filling and the ambiance was relaxed and friendly.
The best thing going for Scandic Front is its staff. Whether from housekeeping, at reception or in the restaurant, every single member of staff I encountered was friendly, relaxed and noticeably tried to be as helpful as possible.
For what I paid, I can’t really complain. The location was perfect, the room spacious and comfortable and the extras most welcome. The free wifi in particular was most appreciated. However, I can’t help but feel they need to get the basics right first before worrying about things like luxury toiletries and allergy-free bed linen. Sound-proofing is a priority for me. I don’t want to hear other people flushing their toilets or people yelling in the street while I’m trying to sleep. Installing thicker doors and making sure the windows shut properly will solve this problem. This is especially the case when you consider prices for the room I stayed in can more than double in peak times. Offering a “home from home” is all well and good, but it’s no good if you have difficulty getting to sleep. Whether I’d recommend Scandic Front hinges on whether you can find a good deal. If you find the asking price is over £100, I’d suggest you look elsewhere. If, like me, you’re lucky and you find a price nearer £50, then go for it. You can do a great deal worse.
Scandic Front Sankt Annai Plads 21, Copenhagen 1021, Denmark
A stylish and ultra-modern hotel set inside Switzerland’s tallest habitable building.
With it’s modern, minimalist rooms, amazing bathrooms, great location and affordable prices, the Ramada Plaza in Basel has a lot going for it. Did it meet my high expectations?
Ultra-modern, minimalist, yet comfortable. That’s how I’d sum up the room in simple terms. The room has floor to ceiling windows with electronically controlled blinds, mock wood grain covering one wall with bare cream-coloured walls elsewhere, a low lying, firm and comfortable bed, a surprisingly hard corrugated carpet, a television and a wooden desk with chair. To some, the room may seem designed for practicality only, to serve a purpose. I’m someone who appreciates minimalism though and loved the way the room was designed. It’s bare walls, perhaps surprisingly, didn’t feel cold at all. The lighting in the room is excellent, certainly helped by those huge windows. If the design of the main room doesn’t meet your approval, the bathroom surely will. The deep green walls, wood panelling and sumptuous underfloor and panelled lighting will make you linger in the bathroom much longer than you intended. It positively oozed style. The bathroom has everything you might expect; sink, shower, toilet. Noise-wise, there’s nothing to worry about. I was on the tenth floor and didn’t hear anything other than my own mutterings and the tv, so sound insulation is excellent. Room cleanliness was also excellent.
The hotel, Switzerland’s tallest habitable building, is just outside the center of the city next to an exhibition center. It is very easily accessible by tram from the main shopping area and Basel SBB, the city’s train station. If you have time to wander Basel’s streets (and you should), the hotel is so tall, you should still be able to see it from where you are, so you’ll never get lost. The immediate vicinity is very safe (as is Switzerland as a whole) and very quiet. Basel is a surprisingly quiet city with very little traffic. A short walk or a ride on the tram brings you to shops including Migros, a large supermarket. There’s also a Starbucks and a McDonalds if required.
In the main room, you’ll find a safe, a mini-bar, a desk and chair, a television with around 50 channels (including CNN, BBC World, BBC Prime, Cartoon Network and channels from almost every Western European country) and air conditioning. A up-to-date TV Guide magazine is supplied. The bathroom is fitted with a hairdryer.
The staff on reception were very welcoming and efficient. Upon arrival, I was welcomed and personally shown how to use the lifts (your key card is required). They all spoke excellent english.
The Ramada Plaza Basel is a modern and well-run hotel perfect for any kind of visitor, but perhaps most ideally suited to business travellers. It’s no nonsense design may not suit everyone’s tastes (although I can’t imagine anyone can dislike the style of the bathroom) but for the price, even someone who hates minimalism and craves local character will be able to put up with it. While missing tea and coffee making facilities, the amenities that are provided are good. If you don’t mind taking the tram to and from the hotel, I would very much recommend the Ramada Plaza.
Ramada Plaza Basel Messeplatz 12,
Basel, CH 4058,
No Parisien charm, but plenty of comfort and space in a hotel that’s ideally located in the heart of the city.
If you’re looking for a good value, modern and conveniently located hotel in the centre of Paris (and why wouldn’t you), look no further than the Novotel Paris Gare Montparnasse.
The building itself was finished in 2006, so it still smells and looks brand new. From the moment you walk in through the revolving doors, you’re greeted by a smart looking bar and reception which are both very stylish and modern. The style even extends to the corridors with atmospheric lighting and curved ceilings. The rooms are clean, bright and large. Plus, because the hotel is purpose built, the rooms are very well sound-proofed. Once in your room, you won’t hear anything other than your air-conditioning.
The hotel is a 5-10min walk from the bustling Gare Montparnasse with shops, restaurants, cafes and cinemas. The nearest metro station is Pasteur on line 6 (walk straight out of the hotel and cross the road at the crossing, turn right and then take the second left. The station entrance can be found in the centre of the road carriageways). From Pasteur you can catch a train directly to the Eiffel Tower. The road the hotel is on is very quiet with very little traffic. The area is safe to walk around in at night.
The room is large, clean, bright and well lit. In the batheroom, there is a sink, shower cubicle and bathtub (with another shower nossel for washing hair while in the tub).The toilet is seperate from the bathroom. A hair dryer, towels and toiletries are provided. There’s a safe which can store a laptop, a mini fridge (with a free bottle of Vittel water put in it each day) and tea and coffee making facilities. The flat-screen LCD TV provides pay-per-view movies and sport (in a variety of languages) plus a selection of TV Channels (TF1, France2, Canal+, Sport+, BBC World, Al Jazeera, Disney Channel, and channels in Chinese and Polish to name but a few). There’s around 15 channels in all. The bed is massive (king or queen), firm and comfortable. Also in the room is a desk and sofa bed. The room is cleaned daily and they do a very good job too.
The hotel staff are very helpful and friendly. They answered all my questions and served me to a high standard. They all spoke excellent english. Security seemed high while I was there with a permanant guard on the main entrance and your room key card necessary for using the lifts to the rooms.
This hotel won’t win any prizes for offering a truly Parisian experience. The rooms are generic in style and the location, a business zone, could be anywhere in the world. That said, the Novotel Gare Montparnasse does offer clean, quiet, large and comfortable rooms with plenty of amenities and all, if you hunt around, for an excellent price. Getting to all of Paris’ tourist hotspots is a breeze with metro and train stations within ten minutes walk. The nearby centre of Montparnasse offers an abundance of shops and places to eat and drink. If all you’re looking for is a safe, quiet and comfortable place to sleep while you explore this great city, the Novotel Gare Montparnasse is the hotel for you.
Novotel Paris Gare Montparnasse 17 rue du Cotentin, 75015 Paris, France