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In NYC, a Room With No Loo

John Deiner

Even I was sort of grossed out when I was telling folks about my plans for my visit earlier this week to the Big Apple: I'd be staying two nights (two nights!) in hotel rooms featuring shared baths.

Years ago (okay, maybe a decade or two ago) I was happy to stay in a place where I'd sleep in one room and go to the bathroom or shower down the hall in another. Hostels come to mind, bed and breakfasts, my mean Uncle Frank's house. Just last month, I stayed in a dorm at the Grand Canyon with a shared bathroom for 10 guys -- but I was so tired I didn't care.

But in New York? So many nice hotels, so many choices. And such ridiculous rates. During my stay, the tariff at a Holiday Inn was over $300 a night, and that was on the low end of the spectrum. Being a cheapskate at heart, I dove into TripAdvisor to see what its users recommended -- and was surprised to see the inclusion of someplace called the Chelsea Lodge among its top 20 favorite lodgings (out of more than 350 listings). It's been around for a while, but no one in the Travel section had ever stayed there before. I made a reservation for my first night there for $119. The second night, I decided to try out a shared-bath single at the Pod Hotel on East 51st; our own Gary Lee paid a visit last year shortly after it opened. The rate: $139.

Here's the ending of the story for those of you who bore quickly: I loved both of these places and am eager to return. But they're not for everyone, and the fact that I was traveling solo was important. Not sure my wife and I would have been really happy in the tiny rooms, though both spots offer bigger rooms for doubles. (And the Pod Hotel has rooms with bathrooms as well.)

I spent two nights in NYC for under $300, and tha'ts a real steal.

A quick look at both:

The Chelsea Lodge is on West 20th between Seventh and Eighth avenues, just a few yards from dozens of restaurants and shops and a few blocks from two subway stations. It's like visiting Grandma's house: There's lots of wood, a graceful old staircase, antique wallpaper and lots of clutter on the walls. My room (one of about 20) featured a twin bed, a dresser, a sorta-ratty old chair, a large window with an air conditioner -- and a flat-screen TV. I also had a shower in the room and a sink; the place was spotless and smelled fresh. The room looked onto an alley, so I didn't hear a peep. Surprisingly, most of the other guests were folks in their 30s, 40s and beyond, and not the backpackers I expected. The mattress was soft and padded, the linens fresh and comfy. Down the hall and around the corner were two tidy little bathrooms that were always available. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

A subway hop uptown was the Pod Hotel. Based on Gary's good reviews, I was expecting it to be a pretty decent place, though the fact that there are more than 300 rooms in the place makes it a full-blown hotel. That's a lot of folks sharing the loo (again, some rooms have their own bathrooms). Once again, I was pleasantly surprised. And once again, the clientele was older and more sophisticated than I expected. If the Chelsea Lodge is like Granny's place, the Pod Hotel is where the Jetsons would hang. Lots of metal in my tiny room (about the same size as my cubicle in Chelsea), including a sink and lots of mirrors. The window was smaller, but with neat wooden shutters. But the Pod gets extra points for a larger flat-screen TV, an iPod docking station, a comfy bed-couch combo and a desk. I would have deducted points for the fact that I had to go down the hall for a shower (there's a lighted grid inside rooms to indicate what showers are free), but . . . wow. The facilities are amazing, with cool fixtures and showers with sunflower heads. And it's just a 15-minute walk or so to Times Square and all that lunacy.

This makes me think: What have I been missing by being such a hotel snob? How do you guys feel about hotels with shared baths? Any gems to share? Or horror stories to relate?

By John Deiner |  October 5, 2007; 9:57 AM ET  | Category:  John Deiner , Mid-Atlantic Destinations , The Odd File
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Americans are so tetchy about bathrooms; thanks to time living in Europe and Asia, I'm just not.

Every time I stay at a shared bath place (usually the only way I can afford pricey locations like Key West and NYC) the bathrooms have been immaculate and I never see anyone else in them.

I'm a writer & blogger, married with two kids, age 46, and want to see the world without going broke doing it.

I'm surprised that YOU'RE surprised that such places are just fine. :)

Posted by: Sheila Scarborough | October 5, 2007 2:53 PM

I've had mixed experiences with shared baths. Most places have been great, but my one experience in NYC kind of scared me away from trying them again. It was at the West Side Inn, which I notice has a pretty low ranking on Trip Advisor now. But back in the day when I stayed there, it was recommended in a respected travel publication as a good budget option. Yikes. Really, really gross bathrooms.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 5, 2007 3:48 PM

You Americans are so uptight with your need for private bathrooms and your George Bush. We in Europe are much freer to have topless beaches, men in Speedos and bidets.

Posted by: Folgers | October 5, 2007 5:39 PM

$119 a night? $139 a night? And you wonder why you dont find backpackers there?? Are you serious?

There is better, cheaper accomodation in NYC, and their shared bathrooms are perfectly fine too.

Posted by: Bob | October 6, 2007 9:09 AM

This is for "Bob": Could you share those spots in New York that have shared baths that are better and cheaper than $119 a night? For a city where Holiday Inns routinely fetch $300-plus, I think we'd all like to know.

Posted by: John Deiner | October 6, 2007 12:19 PM

Is the West Side Inn the same as the West Side YMCA? If so I would agree, my stay there about 2 years ago left a little bit to be desired, but that was mainly the room I had, the bath was OK. Much better facilities at the Flushing Y, where I stayed on my next trip. But my prefered place is the Chelsea Pines Inn, where I spent last Christmas. The room was also around $119., bath was immaculate. It is gay owned and run, but there were a number of straight couples from europe staying at the same time, so they don't discriminate. Cons>> not wheelchair accessible, and you have to haul your luggage up the stairs, so it is better if you are traveling lite.

Posted by: rja112 | October 8, 2007 1:00 AM

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