Hotels in the Big Apple are notoriously expensive, but you can find a funky guesthouse, b&b or “Pod Room” with bunkbeds for less than $185 a night – often within a five-minute walk of Times Square
Hotel rates in New York are easily the highest of any US city. For the price of a luxurious room in a Vegas hotel, expect no more than a forgettable shoebox in the Big Apple – and I exaggerate not. That said, there are ways of keeping costs down, such as visiting out of season in January/February or July/August, though airfares are priciest in the summer months.
Alternatively, book into one of the budget hotels recommended here. Offering stays from $117 to $185 a night, all are in downtown or Midtown Manhattan. Unless otherwise stated, prices are for the cheapest double room during summer 2009, room-only. Rates include local taxes (which went up in March 2009, and now stand at 14.25 per cent plus $3.50 per room per night). Bear in mind that in some instances the rates are not set in stone: like anywhere in the US, many hotels in New York raise and drop their prices depending on how full they are.
East Village Bed & Coffee
If you’re after a slice of New York at its funkiest and most alternative, head for this “bed and breakfast without the breakfast”. It’s in Alphabet City, a culturally diverse and once decidedly dodgy neighbourhood, which in recent years has become more salubrious. Anne Edris, a wonderfully welcoming host, has turned her home into an 11-bedroom guesthouse. Rooms are very individual, many loosely themed on a country, while the most unusual – The Treehouse – opens into a communal loft-like sitting room and is somewhat lacking in privacy. None is en-suite and, as well as sharing bathrooms, guests have access to homely sitting rooms with computers, Internet access, piles of local literature and proper, well-equipped kitchens. There are even bikes to use, free of charge. From $130.
This 22-room b&b spread over two Midtown townhouses ticks all the boxes. The location – just off the Theater District, five minutes' walk from Times Square, one block from Restaurant Row – is excellent. Bedrooms are a very decent size by New York standards and, with their outsize cream-and-grey suede bed headboards and classic black-and-white images of the Manhattan skyline, look pretty good too. Many face 414’s pleasant inner courtyard that separates the buildings, so are quiet. Basic DIY continental breakfasts, plus tea and coffee whenever you want, are available in the welcoming little lobby. From $185 b&b.
Style at low prices is the name of the game at this Midtown property. As implied by its name, bedrooms can be small – but they are intelligently designed to utilise their limited space (eg, drawers under beds) and are user-friendly, with dimmer lighting, MP3 docking stations and rainforest showers. Cheapest doubles are Bunkbed Pod Rooms (from $117), which share smart bathrooms enlivened by mood music. For en-suite accommodation, the choice is between a Double Pod Room (from $151), with very narrow bed, and a bigger Queen Pod Room (from $174). The hotel offers appealing spaces outside the rooms, including a lobby lounge decorated with Pop Art murals, a courtyard cafe open in summer for breakfast and evening drinks, and a rooftop deck with great views up on the 14th floor.
Comfort Inn Midtown
For a decent, conventional, keenly priced hotel in central New York, turn to Apple Core Hotels, a group of five budget hotels in Midtown Manhattan. The Comfort Inn is probably the best. A stone’s throw from Times Square, it has helpful, long-serving staff, and 79 comfy and recently renovated en-suite bedrooms with mod cons such as irons and coffee makers. Rooms facing the street are larger and lighter, though noisier. A substantial help-yourself breakfast is included, as is wi-fi throughout the hotel. Use the Apple Core website (see Make It Happen, top left) to compare rates and availability at the other hotels. $181 b&b.
On an atmospheric side street of Chelsea brownstones, this is one of New York's best bargains. For the flat year-round rate of $151, including tax, per couple per night, you get a compact but attractive, rustic-looking bedroom with boarded floor, patchwork quilt on the bed and prints of American farming scenes on the walls. Rooms come with their own basin and shower, but share loos. Exceptions are the four suites a few doors down the street, with their own bathrooms plus kitchenettes (much more expensive at $265). The hip Chelsea neighbourhood is good for shopping, art galleries and nightlife. Though there is no breakfast on offer at the lodge, plenty of appealing cafes await just round the block.