4 affordable hotels for travelers who call Mumbai or Pune their second home
"Traveling a lot for work does often involve missing out on the comforts of home. So I've come to demand a home away from home... a place nice enough for a good night's sleep, but that's not too hard on the pocket."
"Not being a student anymore, a bunk bed in a dorm room with communal showers is just not going to cut it. I don't ask for five-star luxury, but a clean room, hygienic bathroom, good linen, working (preferably quiet) air conditioning, hot water (nothing like a warm shower), and it all has to be conveniently located."
Here's Gurnani's list of hotels, in no particular order, that tick those essential boxes:
1. Chateau Windsor Hotel
86 Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate; tel. +91 (0) 22 66224455; www.chateauwindsor.com
"I found this place by accident. Near Churchgate station and approximately two minutes off Marine Drive, it is located next to the Ambassador Hotel. With a quirky Franco-British name like this, there is no way I wasn't going in to check it out. The building is a typically old-school colonial, like those found in South Mumbai, with high ceilings and spiral staircases. The stewards at the front gate will happily lead you to the reception, which is a couple of floors above. The staff is very courteous. A single room is Rs 3,600 plus taxes, with complimentary tea/coffee in the morning. The rates have been revised recently by a few hundred rupees, as all the rooms have been renovated. But it's worth it: the air conditioners are much quieter, the linens are better and the decor is contemporary. I loved the shower cubicle for obvious reasons. The hotel doesn't have a kitchen, but that's offset by enough restaurants diagonally across the road. Windsor is a good value for the comfort it offers at that location for someone on a moderate budget."
2. Kemps Corner Hotel
131 Cumbala Hill, August Kranti Marg, Kemps Corner; tel. +91 (0) 22 23634646; www.hotelkempscorner.com
"The first time I stayed at Kemps Corner Hotel was almost 10 years ago, when we had gone to apply for our US visas at the consulate, near by. The application was rejected the first time (don't ask why!), so we had to go back, and stayed there again. This place hasn't changed over time. Since I had to stay in the same area, I went back to Kemps Corner Hotel purely for nostalgia's sake. Located below the Kemps Corner flyover from Peddar Road, it is next to the relatively flashier Shalimar Hotel. But here an ordinary single room costs Rs 2,010 and a deluxe Rs 2,970. The ordinary is slightly more rundown and more like a dorm room with an en suite toilet and bathroom. The single deluxe is not the roomiest of rooms, for that matter, but it checks most of the boxes on my list for a stay over. The food menu is basic with the usual variety of omelets, club sandwiches, juices, etc. But what was a surprise was the bacon and cheese canapes! Not quite the place I expected to see bacon on the menu. For a more sumptuous dinner, there is East, the Pan-Asian restaurant around the corner. The air conditioners can be a bit noisy, though, and the beds in the single rooms are quite literally single. This place reminds me of a hostel, which is not a bad thing if you manage your expectations and your stays here are short.
3. Bawa Regency
Behind Chitra Cinema, Gokuldas Pasta Road, Dadar East; tel. +91 (0) 22 2413 7843; www.bawahotels.com
Bawa Regency is in the bylanes of Dadar behind Chitra Cinema, not too far away from the far more extravagant ITC Grand Central in Parel. Its part of the Bawa Group of Hotels, which holds various other properties under the Bawa Suites, Continental and International titles around Mumbai. It is conveniently located just off Dr. Ambedkar Road, so it's easy to head in either direction of Mumbai quickly, both north and south. A standard room costs Rs 2,500 and a deluxe is Rs. 3,500. The room for a single is smaller compared to the football-field-style long room for two. The wall-mounted LCD TVs in some of the rooms are a nice touch, as they economize on floor space. The toilet in the double room is quite cramped, though, almost as if it were an afterthought. There is also a double room with a heart-shaped bed. I didn't know honeymooners frequented, of all places, a hotel in Dadar -- the heart of Mumbai! The room service menu has the usual Indian and Chinese combo. The tandoori chicken is quite delicious.
4. Hotel Lotus
Lane No. 5, Koregaon Park, Pune; tel. +91 (0) 20 2613 9701; www.hotelsuryavilla.com
Although in Pune, this hotel is my personal favorite home away from home. The place, I believe, is one of the best hotel values in the whole state. Situated bang in the middle of Koregaon Park, you cannot go wrong with the location, for starters. The thing about this hotel is that it doesn't feel like one, starting from the building itself. If not for the hoarding at the front, it would look like any other apartment building in the area. The reception itself is so spacious -- a few couches and coffee tables rightly placed -- it could pass for someone's living room or veranda. The rooms themselves are very spacious and all come with attached balconies. The decor is unpretentious and reminds me more of a bedroom than a hotel room. There is no kitchen, but that's not a problem considering the number of eateries and takeaways available in Koregaon Park. In fact, lately they have added a complimentary breakfast to the package, a choice between an omelet or parathas. And the best part is, wait for it... free WiFi! Just ask for a Tata Indicom voucher from reception and browse your way to glory. All this for only Rs 2,000 plus taxes for a single non-air-conditioned room and Rs 2,200 plus taxes for an A/C room. The double room is similiar at only Rs 500 more. This is as good a bargain as one can ask for.
When Gurnani is not bunking in Mumbai and Pune on business, he can be found at his eight-acre family-owned wine estate in Nashik overlooking the Gangapur dam. We visited him on CNNGo's Nashik wine-tasting trail. For tours of the vineyard and winery call +91 9657728070 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Also on CNNGo, Mumbai: The 20 best hotels.