Accommodation Guide – India

Agara

Hotel Asian Residency
Tourist Complex Area
Hotel Lane
8 Bansal Nagar
Fatehabad Road
Agra-1
Uttar Pradesh
Phone: +91 562 2331412
Email: asianresidency@yahoo.co.in
Stayed there: December 24th and 25th 2006
Rates: We paid 3000Rp (plus tax) per night between us for a twin with en-suite bathroom

This is the one hotel in India we didn’t decide on when we arrived. Instead we pre-booked with the travel agent when we sorted our car out as it’s near the Taj Mahal and the dates we picked were quite popular for some reason.
Mistake. Well, assuming rooms were available further away in cheaper accomodation, it was.
The “multi-channel colour television” in the room didn’t work, even if you shoved the two bare wires attached to it into the wall socket. The on/off switch was shafted.
The bathroom was dingy, to say the least, but at least it had a hot water tank which worked 24/7.
Our window view was onto the main street outside, so was noisy but that was a problem in a lot of places to be fair.
The main gripe isn’t so much that the room’s small and rubbishy – we stayed in worse on this trip – it’s that it was so damn expensive in comparison to much better accomodation elsewhere. I guess we were paying a surcharge for the location and the dates, but it left a sour taste in our mouths given the sum involved.

Bikaner

Hotel Harasar Haveli
Near Karni Singh Stadium
Bikaner-334001
Rajasthan
Phone: 0151 2209891 or 0151 2527318
Email: harasar_haveli@yahoo.com
WWW: harasar.com
Stayed there: December 16th 2006
Rates: We paid 300Rp (plus tax) between us for a twin with en-suite bathroom

We were taken here for lunch by our driver, but Lonely Planet listed it as incredibly guilty of running on commission, so we decided to check out some other places first. Suffice to say, we returned here as it was by far the best of the three we scouted. Plus, lunch had been very good!
There was no TV in the room (not a big loss) and one of the two plug sockets was fried (again, no problem as we only had one plug adaptor between us). Other than this, two comfy beds with the thickest mattresses so far in India and a gleaming white tiled bathroom. Ceiling fan (not the time of year to spend money on aircon) and light also included.
Locationwise, it’s handy for an internet shop with wireless (out the front, turn left, end of road) and the main bazaar for those who want to do some shopping or have their purse stolen.
The only major quibble was the diesel generator that started up around 7am. Fortunately I sleep with earplugs in. Hans, on the other hand…

Calcutta / Kolkata

Gulistan Guest House
30F Mirza Ghalib Street/Free School Street
(Opposite fire station)
Calcutta 700 016
West Bengal
Phone: 22260963
Email: gulistanguest_cal2000@yahoo.com.in
Stayed there: January 18th 2007
Rates: We paid 45R0Rp for a double with a squat loo, but it did have aircon, a fan and a knackered telly

Dive. We rang from Mumbai to book and when we got here (eventually, courtesy of yet another taxi driver who could benefit from more local knowledge and still got arsey about us refusing him a tip) the staff were all in bed.
The room with two beds we were after ended up being a room with a double. My old bedroom at home was larger, even allowing for the squat loo in the corner. The TV didn’t work – there was sound but the picture was, at best, smudgy moving rainbows. They hadn’t even made an effort to make it look as if they’d changed the bedsheets.
Oh, and there were roaches. Not many, but more than we’ve had anywhere else. And the bed was probably the hardest we’ve slept on, and we’ve slept on plenty of hard beds over the last month or so.
Then there were the random people walking into our room at whatever time in the morning. It was hard to tell without the light on as we had no windows. And the noise from reception kicked off at about 6am which didn’t help with sleep.
The aircon worked. And the flush on the toilet was pretty impressive. You could probably have got a brick to go down the U-tube.
As far as location goes, it’s near Sudar Street, which is the main drag, but mainly the best thing is that it’s near other accommodation so it’s easier to go and find somewhere else to stay.

Hotel Royal Palace
30F Mirza Ghalib Street/Free School Street
(Opposite fire station)
Calcutta 700 016
West Bengal
Phone: 2252-5280 / 2252-4178 / 2832-1613
Stayed there: January 19th 2007
Rates: We paid 500Rp for a double bed with working TV, large bathroom and fridge. The room had aircon but we didn’t use it – aircon rooms are 650Rp

Yes, the address is the exact same as the Gulistan above. You go up the same staircase, just turn right at the top instead of left. Given the difference in price is 50Rp, the difference in quality is astounding.
The room we got was right by reception and at least twice the size of the previous night’s with a decent bathroom and shower. The TV worked and had around 60 channels, a good number in English.
The bed linen was white and passably clean, fridge worked, storage space available and even room for two chairs.
Noise was a potential issue with the front windows opening onto the main street with all the taxis beeping their horns, but that’s what earplugs are for.
Essentially, there’s no choice between this place and the one from the previous night. Pick this one. No argument.

Delhi

Hotel Shelton
5043 Main Bazaar
Paharganj
Delhi
Phone: 23580575
Email: sheltonH@rediffmail.com
Stayed there: December 12th – 14th, 2006
Rates: We paid 750 Rupees for a twin with a TV and fridge. Prices vary massively depending on the room and time of year – 350Rp to 1000Rp – and all are subject to 12.5% tax

In a hectic market area, you won’t want for shopping or restaurants round here. The staff at reception seemed friendly enough and we spotted quite a few westerners staying here.
Our room was large with two singles jammed together to make a double. We were given extra bedsheets so we could separate the two. Both beds were pretty hard – Hans’ because the mattress was quite tough and mine because it wasn’t so I was squishing it down to the wooden bedframe.
The room also came with a dinky table, armchair, two wooden chairs and a telly. The loo flush didn’t work, though turning the cistern tap on and off had the same effect and probably saved water.
When we moved in there were three beers in the fridge, and I think one of the staff was trying to sell them to us, but we weren’t interested and he took them away to drink with his friends on the stairwell.
At time of writing, I’ve not tried the shower yet and there’s also no obvious communal area, but it is a hotel and not a hostel. And forget wireless – I doubt anywhere in this area has it!
Breakfast at the rooftop restaurant is not included, but the grub I had was cheap and pleasant enough regardless.

Jaipur

Atithi Guest House
1 Park House Scheme Road
Opposite All India Radio
Jaipur 302001
Rajasthan
Phone: 0091-141-2378679 or 0091-141-2379496
Email: atithijaipur@hotmail.com
Stayed there: December 22nd/23rd 2006
Rates: We paid 600Rp per day between us for a twin with en-suite bathroom

Recommended by some girls we met in Delhi and also by Lonely Planet, we could tell why as soon as we walked in. Compared to the first two places we’d checked in Jaipur, this hostelry was cleaner, brighter, better furnished and the welcome was much warmer.
The room we got was slightly more than we’d have liked, but it was spacious and the location of the building itself was pretty good. Very handy for banks, ATMs, travel agents (we used Frequent Forex who were very helpful), a cinema, food, shops… All you need, really.
The usual services were offered: laundry at a cost per item; internet at 30Rp per hour (and they even let me hook my laptop up, though the connection is not that fast); food/drink.
Reception were very helpful indeed and gave us a huge map before we went walking, with directions and places of interest marked on it.
Hot water is available in all rooms, but only during set hours (07:30-11:30 and 19:30-23:30). This should do most people and the water was indeed piping, though we had to run it for some time to get it to come through steamy enough.
Food is good and reasonably priced, and the menu as varied as anywhere else has been.

Jodhpur

Durag Niwas Guest House
1st Old Public Park
Near K.N. Hall Girls College
Rai ka Bagh
Jodhpur 342001
Rajasthan
Phone: 0091-0-291-2512385
WWW: durag-niwas.com
Stayed there: December 17th/18th 2006
Rates: We paid 300Rp (plus tax) per day between us for a twin with en-suite bathroom

This place struck a nice chord as soon as we walked in. We’d originally been taken to the hotel next door – which was also nice – but as ever wanted to check out the options. I think both businesses are operated by the same people.
The walls on the right as you enter have various bits of graffiti on from previous tenants, and there are some sheets of information about the area and turbans. There’s a comfy cushion area for chilling in and an open courtyard area where food is served. Scarves and wall hangings are draped around, giving it a possibly stereotypical feel, but it makes it look like someone’s made an effort.
The room we got was big enough for two and had a ceiling fan. Again, we were travelling in winter so a/c wasn’t worth bothering with. The furniture was lovely – and I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned this regarding any of the accomodation I’ve stayed at. The bed was a little hard, but I’m getting used to this in India. It seems commonplace for hard or thin mattresses to be used in most of the accomodation.
As with everywhere else we’d looked, the bathroom was small and functional. It was also cleaned for us as soon as we said we’d take the room.
The only downpoints regarding the room were moderately minor. The aforementioned thin mattresses and also the thin pillows. No lock on the door – as seems usual over here, the locks are often bolts with padlocks. Ours had the bolt but no padlock was supplied. Both electric sockets were a little dodgy as well, though this was in part due to the large adaptor I have not fitting the sockets exactly, meaning I had to either wedge the plug in somehow or have it “sizzle” and keep cutting out. In fairness, I’m sure all of these (except the plug) could have been sorted easily had I bothered to ask.
Food was cheap, good and served at all reasonable hours. It was all made from fresh ingredients and took a while to prepare as a result. Always worth the wait, however.
The staff were friendly, polite and a couple spoke not just good but excellent English. When we first arrived we were invited to watch polo with the Maharaja at the palace nearby as the owner had an open invitation. Not a bad welcome!
Oh, and as a bonus they also have a cute dog that rolls over and wants its belly rubbed as soon as it sees you. And a really adorable little kid that I assume belongs to one of the staff.
The flyer also says that they offer babysitting, free cookery classes, massage, traditional dancing, tours and a load of other things that we didn’t get a chance to make use of.

Mumbai

Hotel Pearl
D K Sandu Marg
Chembur
Mumbai 400 071
Phone: 91 (22) 2528 4025 / 91 (22) 2528 4026
Stayed there: December 26th/27th 2006
Rates: We paid 900Rp per day between us for a non a/c twin with en-suite bathroom

I found this one on HostelBookers and reserved it through there with a 10% deposit. Our initial stay was for three nights, but we needed to change it to two when we couldn’t get the Sri Lanka flight we were after. I emailed the hotel only to get an automated “we are on holiday” reply. Uh-oh.
However, it turned out to be just “one of those things” and once I showed the managed that we had tried to change the booking more then 48 hours before we arrived, he knocked the night and charge off the bill. In fact, we found the staff to be really helpful including the security guard – unbidden – haggle a taxi down from 450Rp to 200Rp for us.
A major improvement on the last place we’d stayed (in Agra), this room was both spacious and clean. A free newspaper was delivered to our door each morning and the TV worked – and had cable. We spent ages in the evenings and morning watching football, news and Animal Planet. Great stuff.
The only real issue we had was the location. As it’s away from the main tourist district, it’s quieter in the evening which is a good thing. It also keeps the price down – an equivalent place in Colaba would easily cost twice as much. Of course, the downside to this is a long and pricey taxi journey to any of the major malls or attractions. Still, when split with another person and haggled properly, these costs can still work out less than that Colaba room.
For reference, expect to pay around 250Rp to 350Rp for a taxi down to Colaba depending on the time of day – late night will be more expensive. It’s also around 45 minutes to an hour each way depending on traffic. In all honesty, we’ve still not figured out where Chembur is as it’s not on any map we’ve seen of Mumbai! We’re thinking it’s about 15km north of the airport.
For those with an airport stopover or who prefer somewhere quieter – you can walk down the streets here for 30 minutes and not be harassed by anyone – it’s fine.

Mandawa

Hotel Shekhawati
Near Mukungarh Road
Mandawa
Rajasthan
Phone: 015 92-223036
Email: HotelShekhawati@sify.com
Stayed there: December 15th 2006
Rates: We paid 500Rp (plus tax) between us for a twin with a telly and en-suite bathroom

The hotel was being repainted when we arrived. This is not a bad thing as the paintwork’s the main reason for visiting Mandawa. It was a chance to watch two craftsmen at work on some amazing murals.
The room was brightly decorated with a mural (one of Krishna’s 16,000 girlfriends) on the wall and some lovely ceiling decorations. The floors were clean tile and the large bathroom was a little dingy but not unhealthily so. It was one of those where there isn’t a separate cubicle for the shower so you’ll get your loo roll wet if you’re not careful!
We didn’t bother with aircon (it was winter, after all), but did make use of the TV as it had an English-language movie channel. The beds were a little softer than those we had in Delhi, but that didn’t reduce Hans’ snoring any…
We were welcomed by a very friendly proprietor who was only too happy to tell us about the murals, and to recommend a young boy to show us around the town (90 minutes – 100 Rupees).
Dinner in the restaurant was 150Rp plus beer and it was a very nice set meal.

Palolem Beach, Goa

Om Sai Guest House
Main street
Palolem
Goa
Phone: 0832-6470336
Stayed there: January 10th 2007
Rates: We paid 400Rp between us for a twin with en-suite bathroom

The address isn’t hugely exact, but the hotel is within 20m of where the public bus drops you off in Palolem. Basically, stand on the road leading to the beach with your back to the sea. Walk to the end of the road, turn left and you’ll see it shortly on your right hand side.
Fairly typically, we ended up there as a young man mentioned the price of his wonderful abode when we stepped off the bus. It seemed a reasonable price, and it was for some reasonable accommodation.
Nothing brilliant, nothing bad. Pretty much mosquito-free, quiet and less than 2 minutes’ walk to the sand. We only stayed the one night as we preferred to be on the beach, but that’s no reflection on this place as an alternative.

La Allegro Holiday Home
Beach front
Palolem
Goa
Phone: 2639232, 2644261
Email: bugsbeeteld@yahoo.com
Stayed there: January 11th to 16th 2007
Rates: We paid 500Rp between us for a twin concrete shack with en-suite bathroom

Prices vary hugely depending on demand, the type of accomodation you go for and how far off the sand you’re prepared to be. Huts on stilts are dearer, but also more in demand.
The room we had was clean, comfy, secure and had a decent bathroom. The shower was room temperature, but given that it was well over 30 degrees outside, this wasn’t a bad thing.
There were only two problems, really. The electricity was variable. From around 6pm to 10pm, there was a current flowing into the room, but not enough to light the fluorescent light or turn the fan. This seems to be area-wide.
Secondly, the friendly dogs on the beach all wake up and go psycho at dawn, howling and barking at one another for an hour on and off. Don’t expect to be able to sleep through this without earplugs or a large amount of alcohol. This is an issue pretty much everywhere beachside.

Pushkar

Sajjan Bagh Resort
Vamdev Gurudwara Road
Opposite Bus Stand
Nala-Pushkar
Rajasthan
Phone: 0091 145 2773821
Email: bhawani_sr_rathore@yahoo.co.in
Stayed there: December 21st 2006
Rates: We paid 400Rp per day between us for a twin with en-suite bathroom

This hotel was “decided on” by our driver, though as ever he said he would have been happy for us to check out other accommodation as well. His judgement had been sound up to now, so we weren’t about to doubt him.
It’s a pleasant enough hotel and was almost full when we arrived (it filled up by early evening) with spacious rooms and clean bathrooms. The only quibble I had with ours was a lack of hot water, but we were only staying the one night and I wasn’t desperate for a shower.
Food was good and very reasonably priced. They also served the food faster than anywhere else we’d been in India, typically less than ten minutes.
The staff were helpful and a couple spoke superb English. They were happy to pre-warn visitors about some of the scams in town (such as the Brahmin who try to ask for enormous donations for religious “good luck” ceremonies) as well as just sit and chat.
Shopping is available very nearby – less than five minutes’ walk will get you onto the main road with the bulk of the enormous market being a hundred metres or so further on.
The other features of note are a small garden which is pleasant to sit in, and a swimming pool. It’s only small, but was the first we’d seen with water in.
They also offer all the usual extras you get to expect such as camel treks, massages, internet (not sure if this is broadband or not) and the like.

Ranakpur

The Castle – Ranakpur Resort
Near Ranakpur Temple
Sadri Distt. Pali
Rajasthan
Phone: 02934 285133
Stayed there: December 19th 2006
Rates: We paid 550Rp (plus tax) per day between us for a twin with en-suite bathroom

Not a lot to say about this place, to be honest. There’s not a lot of choice for accomodation here. The resort next door is 800-900Rp per night, and the posh resort down the road is 5000Rp.
There are nice gardens out front, plenty of animals (two tortoises, a goose, two dogs… the resort next door has a friendly cat and a tame wild squirrel) but there were virtually no other tourists in the area when we were staying so atmospherewise the whole area was lacking.
Our room had aircon, although we didn’t bother using it. The ceiling fan was enough. Beds were comfy enough and this was the first place we’d stayed in a while which had a large shower area in the bathroom rather than just a spout over the lavatory. Essentially – functional.
The business card says that they offer several services, including mountain trekking, jeep/horse safaris and a swimming pool but we really didn’t have the time to check any of them out.
If you do stay here – and by “here” I mean the area – be aware that there’s a whole lot of nothing to do. The nearest town is 5km away and is really just a market. The main temple is 1km away, and your next decent population centre is Udaipur around 90km distant.

Trivandrum

Hotal Ganesh
Ambujavilasam Road
Opposite P.R.S. Court
Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum)
Kerala 695001
Phone: 0471 2461070 or 0471 2478544
Stayed there: January 5th and 6th 2007
Rates: We paid 500Rp per day between us for a non-a/c twin/three with en-suite bathroom

This place was listed in the India Lonely Planet in the budget section and it lives up to the category in price and facilities. A short drive from the airport (it cost us 206Rp in a pre-paid taxi), it’s up a long alleyway which runs parallel to one of the main roads.
Like so many places in India, it “does the job”. No towels or blankets are provided, neither is soap or loo roll, and you only get hot water once the sun’s heated up a couple of the pipes. The fan worked, as did two of the lights for the first night. Then the main fluorescent tube conked out. Mosquitoes were a huge annoyance at night.
The day staff were OK and quite chatty, but the guy who checked us in would easily take Basil Fawlty’s “surly” crown.
Still, it’s in a very quiet area with hardly any traffic or other noise late at night or early in the morning, and the train and bus stations are less than thirty minutes’ walk away (well within a 10 minute tuk-tuk drive).
Simply put – it’ll do for a night or two.

Udaipur

Hotel Hanuman Ghat
Outside Chandpole
Udaipur
Rajasthan 313001
Phone: 0091 294 2431027
Stayed there: December 20th 2006
Rates: We paid 550Rp per day between us for a twin with en-suite bathroom

We found this place almost by accident. Some girls in Delhi had recommended the nearby Dream Heaven Guesthouse, but it was full. We also checked out the Panorama around the corner, as recommended by Lonely Planet, to find that it was also full. However, the same family who runs that establishment also runs the Hanuman Ghat.
The hotel had only been opened for a month when we stayed there and it showed, especially in the bathrooms which were gleaming. Talking to the friendly owner (one of three brothers), they will have a third hotel in operation this time next year.
Food was of a good standard and the usual reasonable prices. Hans reckons the special thali is the best he’s had so far in India – in fact, the best meal he’s had so far.
As far as location goes, it’s fine. There are a ton of shops, internet places and so forth right on the doorstep and the hotel itself has a decent tuck shop for all the basics (including chocolate bars, which are hard to find). They also do international phone calls at very reasonable rates and Hans had no issues with the costs and quality of the line to Canada.
Most hotels in the area advertise the Bond film Octopussy at 7pm – several scenes were filmed around Udaipur – and this place is no exception. However, the locals do seem to have gotten a little bored with one film and instead a selection was offered. We settled on Superman Returns (with ropey sound) and Crank on the TV in the rooftop restaurant. A lovely view of the river and buildings in the distance set the scene well.

Varanasi

Scindhia Guest House
Scindhia Ghat
Varanasi
Uttar Pradesh
Phone: 2420319
WWW: ScindiaGuestHouse.com
Stayed there: January 21st 2007
Rates: We paid 350Rp between us for a non-a/c twin with en-suite bathroom, though rates are from 250Rp to 1200Rp

This was our second choice guest house after the Hotel Alka which was full. Basically, we just went by the order in which they were listed in the Lonely Planet.
It’s not easy to find if you don’t know where you’re going, so it’s ideal that they arrange pickup from the train station. This is free if you’re spending two or more nights, or 90Rp otherwise. Not too bad considering the pre-paid rate is 150Rp.
The manager’s English is superb and he was really helpful. The hotel has various sizes and styles of room, a large lending library (not a book swap – 15Rp or 25Rp per loan), a restaurant and organises all the boat trips and taxi rides you’ll need.
The room was clean and good enough for the night we stayed with a view out over the river. More expensive ones have a balcony. If I had to be critical it would be to say there was only one plug socket, but as the room was kind of small that’s not a big complaint.
Internet facilities are available, but are the most expensive we’ve seen in India at 50Rp per half-hour, 30Rp to print out a page or a whacking 350Rp for wireless access. Heck, they even have a 50Rp charge for attaching a USB stick, or 70Rp/hour for webcam use. We found a cybercafe a few minutes’ walk away which was a much more reasonable 30Rp per hour.
Boat trips are scheduled at 5:30am and 5:00pm (sunrise and sunset) each day and cost 80Rp per person for a maximum of 12 people. They each last 2 hours. All the taxi fares and so forth also seem very reasonable.
Food in the in-house veggie restaurant was good, varied and reasonably priced.

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