If you’re looking – searching and comparing rates – for a place to stay in New York City (the one some people call ‘The more expensive city in the world’) you won’t come to a blog for some advice: you’ll just take your credit card and book the four star hotel that pops up first in your booking app.
Therefore, as your humble servant, I decided to say farewell to those beautiful places with their gorgeous towels, countless threads sheets… and cockroaches, and I booked an adventure that consisted in spending almost two weeks in a hostel: a hotel in which the only privacy you could have would be under the sheets… if the key to your room is a keycard and not an old fashion key. Does it have an old fashion key? Get ready to show your bottom.
I have to admit that I prepared myself mentally for staying at the Bowery House… I’m almost forty, and I only stayed at a hostel when I was 19 years old with a group of Blockheads, which was like spending the most magical days with the people who gets you the most. So basically, for my purpose, before the Bowery House I was a hostel virgin; sharing the bathroom with strangers, not having TV or a kitchen, it felt like having to eat ants on a trip to Colombia during an American Race: “I want to win! But, ugh!”
Why was the Bowery House a good idea?
The look, the price and the area. Its website looks great, the pictures helped me to get a good idea of what I was going to get (there’s some kind of beauty in being be naive at 40), and it was in a neighborhood I don’t go often; so basically: adventure 2.0.
They offered ‘cabins’ – with window or no not – , a living room to watch some tv, a dinner room, a bar, and of course shared bathrooms.
What was my experience like at the Bowery House?
To be fair enough, I’ll talk about the differences between what they offer and what you get in reality; but first, let’s talk about the hidden truth.
When I was checking in, I got my first unpleasant surprise: rules I didn’t sign up for. “No guests in the cabins; no phone calls in the cabins (because they try to keep it quiet); no music; no food in the cabins.”
– Can I…just…like… stay?
– Yes, you paid for it, in advance.
Once you get into the cabins, you understand why they set these rules – which, they don’t state on their website – ; the cabins are not rooms, they are boxes sharing the same opened ceiling, same air-conditioned, same smells and snores. This is, however, mention on booking apps like booking.com.
Another major thing to point out is the fact that there are no elevators and you have to get lucky to get someone to help you with your bags, because the doorman is not always there. When I’ve arrived, I got help from Matthew, a very nice guy from the staff; however, during my stay, I helped two different guests to bring their luggage upstairs because there was no one there; one of the girls even offered me a tip thinking I was from the staff, ha!
As you can see they are quite small, but they are more than enough to spend you’re night after exploring the city. The beds are comfy, the sheets and towels are clean, and your pillow won’t break your neck. And yes, I moved a lot 😉
There is one for the girls, and there is another one for the boys. At the third floor, one finds the bathroom for the girls, which includes three showers and two toilettes; there is also a private bathroom next to it (without a shower). Were they always clean? No; however, I saw the difference over time: the difference guests make when they choose to be clean or not. These are shared spaces, and one has to be aware of it and respectful. Hair in the shower? Get ready to find it. Girl using the private bathroom to iron her hair and do her make up for 30 minutes? Get ready to tell her all about your “number 2 needs”.
The floors are not exclusively for women and men, even though – as they said to me – they try to. I stayed two nights in one “full cabin” located in the fourth floor, which meant that women like me, had to go in their bathrobe downstairs, walk across the front desk located in the living room at the third floor, and hide their shameful faces… or shake their bottoms… this is quite personal.
Free High-speed wi-fi: it wasn’t high speed, and it was no secure of course; security guard: sometimes; full-time housekeeping: they never cleaned my cabin, change my sheets or towels… Was I supposed to ask for it?
The “Bowery Bodega”, is a fridge – with cans and bottles – placed in the living room, next to a very small storage space, with few shelves containing – clearly – few snacks. But, it will get you through the night.
Laundry pickup and delivery available upon request: when I asked where could I get my laundry done, the guy at the front desk sent me to a Laundry service two blocks away; ‘That’s where we do our laundry’, he said.
This is the main reason why I would come back: with a five-minute walk you can find plenty of subway stations to choose from; there’s also a CVS four blocks away, a Starbucks at the same distance, many coffee shops, pubs, restaurants, and even a “Whole Foods” two blocks away, a market in which you’ll find almost everything you need (even hot meals, salads and sandwiches)
I thought I’d meet new people from all over the world, but I didn’t engaged to a single soul during my stay. One night I went to the living room with a friend and a bottle of wine, and as we were talking and hanging out there, the rest of the people in the living room were immersed in their cell phones.
About the privacy… I was packing my bags one day to change to another room, when a guy… just opened the door! I looked at him like… (I’ll try to be polite here) “DUDE, WTF!!”; he didn’t even apologize, he just asked how much time I needed to finish packing… So I think this is something they should work on… 😉
The staff is very polite and they are willing to help… and I think that after eleven nights, I will actually miss their faces.
To sum it up
At the Bowery House you’ll find a nice bed to sleep after exploring the city, and if you can’t handle the snoring, you can wear the earplugs they leave in your nightstand, or you can get up and knock the wall as if you had the strength to break it down, like I did, of course. You’ll also find nice people among the staff, giving you maps and trying to do their best to help you out.
It’s a fine cheap choice, but I believe is over priced; I stayed for one night at the “World Hotel”, two blocks away from the Bowery House, and it was a clean room with a TV and a private bathroom. In my opinion, the Bowery House should charge – at least – $15 less.