Can you get a decent hotel room in Manhattan for under $150 a night?
In most cities, a visitor would have plenty of options. Just pop onto booking.com or hotels.com and look toward the low end of the results.
Do that same search for New York, and you will find $129-a-night chain hotels near Kennedy and La Guardia airports in Queens and budget motels across the Hudson in New Jersey. In Manhattan, though, such offerings rarely appear. But a precious few do exist, even if they do not surface on all search engines.
I spent seven September nights sleeping my way around Manhattan (hmm, not sure that came out right) and can report that some of these low-cost places are actually clean, decent and occasionally delightful. I did, however, have to make some sacrifices, sometimes by tolerating what the hospitality industry refers to as “European-style” accommodations. That means I had to share a bathroom.
Of the seven places I tried, two were relatively hotel-like; three were inn-like bed-and-breakfasts, or bed-and-coffees; and one was a solo guest room at the good old YMCA. For the seventh night, I booked a hotel by bidding on Priceline. All cost me under $150, except in one case where taxes pushed the price to $157.
Here is how I rank them, putting the first six in order of preference, and No. 7, the Priceline booking, in a category by itself. All prices include taxes and fees (often not mentioned on websites but disclosed at checkout) and are standard rates for the cheapest rooms in the establishments.
1. East Village Bed & Coffee, 110 Ave. C; 917-816-0071, www.bedandcoffee.com. Single rooms, from $120; double rooms, from $145. I paid $120.
Anne Edris’ extraordinary guesthouse is part loft (tall ceilings, exposed brick), part garage (tools and bikes) and part art gallery (decor that includes a wall-size mural made from torn-up pages of her grandmother’s travel diaries). Each guest room has a different theme; there are the Dutch and Afghani rooms, for example. I stayed in the Observatory, which overlooked the street; it had double windows to keep city noise at bay, a startlingly thoughtful touch.
Common spaces on each floor have well-equipped kitchens, homey lounges and even jars of free earplugs. An encyclopedic binder of neighborhood delivery menus is organized by cuisine. Bikes and helmets are free to borrow, especially useful since the nearest subway is a 15-minute walk away. The common bathrooms are clean and full of toiletries.
But the best part of all is Edris’ dog, Mango, a street rescue from Puerto Rico now in his second incarnation as a lovable and well-behaved East Village mutt, available for unlimited petting.
2. Chelsea Lodge, 318 W. 20th St.; 212-243-4499, www.chelsealodge.com. Single rooms, from $157; double rooms, from $169. I paid $157.
I miscalculated on the taxes on this one but decided to reserve anyway when it topped $150, and I’m glad I did. Housed in an 1892 Italianate building on a low-slung, low-key residential block of West 20th Street, the Chelsea Lodge has a warm wooden interior decorated with old globes, prints of steamships and other bric-a-brac purchased by the owner, Paul Weisenfeld, on a flea market shopping spree. It looks a bit like a cozy bed-and-breakfast that took a wrong turn on the way to the Hudson Valley — except that there’s no breakfast, just coffee.