Manhattan’s Cheapest Places to Stay:
How Low Can You Go?

January 24, 2013 | ANIMAL

Manhattan is a notoriously expensive place to stay. A mediocre hotel costs anywhere from $150 to $250, but for the strong of heart, there are other options… much cheaper options. Last week, ANIMAL fanned out across the city and each of us spent a night in the lowest priced lodging we could find, whether that be a hotel or hostel. Keep in mind, these are cheap hotels, so we rated them with low expectations in mind.

Address: 220 Bowery, Lower East Side
Reviewed by: Andy Cush
Total cost: $48.25

This is a hotel that really wants you to feel like you’re in a very cool Downtown New York City establishment and for the most part, it succeeds. For under $50, I stayed in a sparse but well-decorated 12-bed room with relatively comfortable bunks, homey decorations, and two fire escapes that could easily double as balconies or smoking zones for the thrifty NYC tourist. But the Bowery House’s crown jewel is easily its shared roof deck, a beautiful, sweeping expanse of astroturf and Christmas lights overlooking the heart of the Bowery.

For the price, this is a great hotel, but its low-budget heart still shines through at the seams. No one else showed up, so I had the run of the room, but the walls were thin enough that I woke up when one of my neighbors starting snoring in the middle of the night (fortunately, the staff had provided me with complimentary earplugs). And the bouquet of aromas in the otherwise pleasant men’s bathroom–tangy body odor mixed with deodorant–gave me flashbacks to the high school locker room.

Though the Times will tell you it’s a glaring symbol of gentrification in the area, and Deadspin calls it a rat-infested “boutique hotel for people who want an upscale slumming experience,” I’d say that for under $50 a night, you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer place to stay in this neighborhood.

Nearest subway: F, J, Z, 6, N, R
Days booked in advance: 11
Cleanliness: 8/10
Comfortable bed: 6/10
Decor: 9/10

Address: 230 West 101st Street, Upper West Side
Reviewed by: Nate Cepis
Total cost: $43.67

There is nothing unnerving about the Broadway Hotel and Hostel. It is a simple place for a sleep-and-get-out attitude. The staff was nice and never seemed reluctant to help you with anything. The room was very blue and equipped with the basics: bunk bed, cabinet, sink and a painting by someone name Patrizio. If you’re looking for the toiletries, such as the shower and toilet, they’re in the hallway in front of the line of people.

I was anticipating a roommate walking through the door at anytime. Fed up with this anxiety, I went down stairs and asked the man behind the desk if there was another person staying in room 626. He said “yes.” But not a single person came in while I was there. The fact that he said someone was coming must be some sort of protocol the staff tells its guests in order to not get their hopes up.

If you’re not one to socialize with 16-year-old kids traveling to America for the first time, there’s not much else to do besides walk around the Seinfeld-esque Upper West Side. Don’t open the window in 626 if you’re not a fan of curry.

I was comfortable in my room until I woke up at 4AM with my back writhing in pain and a constant itch in my eyes and behind my ears. My only guess, hopefully, is they used too much detergent when doing laundry. The itch didn’t stop until the following night.

Nearest subways: 1
Days booked in advance: 2
Cleanliness: 9/10
Comfortable bed: 2/10
Decor: 4/10

Address: 341 West 30th Street, Chelsea
Reviewed by: Bucky Turco
Total cost: $49.38

Tucked away on a residential block on 30th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues is Chelsea Rooms. To check-in, you buzz to be let in, walk down a narrow staircase and make your way to the basement. It’s there that you’ll find their version of a front desk right next to the laundry room, which comes in handy as that’s where you need to go to get your towel. Just make sure you don’t lose your key or something, as the office closes at 12:15AM and doesn’t reopen till 7AM.

They assigned me to a room on the second floor. When I booked my reservation online, it was understood that I may have to share the space with another person. Considering the proximity of the very anorexic-looking beds, the idea of sleeping across from a complete stranger was a tad unsettling, so you can imagine my joy when I opened the door and there was no one in the room. However, it was still hard to fully relax with the very real possibility that someone I don’t know could roll in at any minute.

Apart from the exposed brick, there wasn’t much as far as decor goes. There was a sink in the room, lockers, and no TV. It basically felt like a very sparse East Village apartment.

On each floor, there are shared toilets and a shower. Oddly, the door that opens to the shower is basically also the shower door. It’s that small. To get the full experience, I braved the tile floor without flip flops and actually took a shower. It’s a good thing that there was some liquid soap from another hotel already in the closet-like shower, because I had forgot to bring my own and that’s not the kind of amenity that Chelsea Rooms provides.

The worst part of my stay, by far, was the mattress. At about two inches thick, there’s sleeping bags and cots that are more comfortable. Thankfully, I had enlisted some special herbs to make me really tired and not care as much.

Overall, the best way to describe the Chelsea Rooms is that it’s more of an extremely short apartment rental than it is a hotel or hostel. But fuck it, for the price and the location, it’s justifiable… as long as you luck out and sleep solo.

Nearest subways: F, M
Days booked in advance: 1
Cleanliness: 7/10
Comfortable bed: 2/10
Decor: 1/10

Address: 206 West 41th Street, Times Square
Reviewed by: Marina Galperina
Total cost: $50.49

Come mingle with tourists at Equity Point Hostel before hostels become illegal in New York, apparently… This is definitely the cheapest place to stay in Times Square. There’s a kick-it-lounge on the first floor where a bartender who also freelances as a journalist at the New York Times [sic] will give you dranks for $10 and you can pretend to be Natasha from Russia (if you’re into that sort of thing). Surprisingly clean. Not mega cheap, but sophisticated-like and also HOLY SHIT FREE WIFI!… Fast enough to Facebook, sort of. And we had our own bathrooms! #Swag! Bring some fresh(?) sheets from the front desk downstairs, pay no mind to the reusable blanket.

Apparently, there are some rooms with bunk beds for up to 12-13 people, but nope, mine was nice and uncrowded-like, with only two Austrian tourists (if you’re into that sort of thing) and one empty top bunk for moi. The mattress appeared clean yet hard but all was well and good until the Austrians came back from dinner and turned on the only light in the room — a very bright wall lamp conveniently located SIX INCHES AWAY FROM MY HEAD. Then they cranked up the heat to 85 and had Natasha from Russia not purchased two drinks downstairs from Journalist Dude and ebbed into sleep, it would have been mighty annoying indeed.

Overall, an optimal spot if you work near Times Square and are not planning on making it home and you’re not allowed to sleep over at the office anymore shhhhh. Decor: European dorm room, Starbucks-y lounge. The bathroom of the lounge though… DAMN giant psychedelic looking fishes all over the walls! Natasha do not like.

Nearest subways: 7, S, N, Q, R, B, D, F, M
Days booked in advance: 1
Cleanliness: 9/10
Comfortable bed: 5/10
Decor: 8/10

Address: 140 Hester Street, Chinatown
Reviewed by: Aymann Ismail
Total cost:  $28.46

I checked in at 10:30PM and was immediately startled by what looked like a homeless man standing near the front desk. He had just finished buying four cans of Coke from the vending machine before making his way upstairs to his room. I told the man at the desk that I had a reservation. He made a photocopy of my ID and immediately handed me a key. Apparently you don’t need to put down a credit card at the front desk to rent at this hotel.

Walking up the stairs, the stench of urine gave me a headache. I was on the 5th floor and could peek into the floors beneath mine. Everyone on the 3rd and 4th floors seemed to be a Chinese immigrant. One man was smoking a cigarette in the staircase in front of a “no smoking” sign. I asked him if I could take his photo and he offered me a cigarette. I pointed at my camera and lifted to snap the shot. He blocked his face and scurried away.

On the 5th floor, I was surprised to see how clean it was. The stench of urine was much more faint. It was well lit, all the walls were clean and white. A lot of the rooms seemed surprisingly vacant. There was a man asleep on the floor on the 4th floor, but most rooms on the 5th were empty. 83 rooms on this floor share 4 bathrooms. The bathrooms are clean and stocked with fresh toilet paper. I just wish I could say the same for floors 3 or 4.

My room was VERY small. The twin bed took up most of the space. The roof was open and sealed with something like a wire cage. I suspect it’s made to keep people from hopping into neighboring rooms. One thing the cage didn’t keep out was noise. I didn’t get much sleep from the sounds of people’s foot steps and cell phones.

I checked out at 9am. The checkout process was simple. Return the key and get the hell out.

Nearest subway: B, D
Days booked in advance: 3
Cleanliness: 3/10
Comfortable bed: 5/10
Decor: 3/10

Address: 340 Bowery, the Bowery
Reviewed by: Joseph Schulhoff
Total cost: $42.12

The Bowery White House’s reputation precedes itself. I was alerted of its sketchiness in advance by Bucky and Andy, who were both warned by another hostel receptionist. I got there and was in no way surprised by its decrepit shape. It looks like it hasn’t had work done since the 1960s. After a night of drinking (I refused to sleep there sober) I got up to my cabin-like room and was greeted by a dead bed bug on my pillow and a cornucopia of random hairs. The rooms were more akin to bathroom stalls than actual rooms and none of them have closed ceilings. The whole place was pretty run down and empty. I slept soundly on the not-too-uncomfortable bed and woke up to two live bed bugs. I left promptly at 7 AM.

Nearest subway: 6
Days booked in advance: 1
Cleanliness: 0/10
Comfortable bed: 5/10
Decor: 3/10

We excluded the Jazz hostel chain: they discriminate by not renting rooms to tristate residents. Their rooms start at $20 a night.

(Photos: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)