Ah Hotel – Santiago, Chile

A couple of weeks before traveling to Santiago, Chile I booked myself a room at the Ah Hotel. It is an aparta-hotel, so it comes with a kitchenette. It is centrally located within only a couple of blocks of the historic city centre, on a main street with a bus stop directly in front of the entrance.

My taxi driver dropped me off and I pushed the buzzer for someone to come unlock the front door for me. They keep this door locked all of the time for security, so no matter what time of day or night you are arriving, you need to buzz in, or you can buzz yourself out. It was nice to know not just anyone could come and go, especially with the bus stop right there and what seemed like an abundance of homeless nearby.

The lady who greeted me did not speak much English, but that was ok as I had proudly just had a full Spanish conversation with my taxi driver. So, I was at least over my jitters about opening my mouth to try and speak Spanish. She found my reservation, checked me in and showed me to my room, up one flight of stairs. She also carried my suitcase up the stairs for me.

The room was plain. In fact I can’t even embellish the sentence as it was that dull. Honestly, it made no difference to me as I was only there for a couple of nights. The walls were white, it was sparsely furnished and only one piece of art crookedly hanging above the double bed.

The lady left me to settle in and I checked behind each of the three closed doors to see what I would find.

Door #1 a kitchen the size of a closet, but equipped with almost everything I would need for two days. There was a mini fridge, a cooktop, some silverware, a couple of pots, glasses and dishes. I checked closely for cockroaches, just waiting to let out a horrible scream, but I found none and the kitchen, although not spotless, was sufficiently clean.

Door #2 opened up to a decent size bathroom that looked like it had possibly been renovated in the last few years (unlike the remainder of the apartment). The paint was peeling a bit, but everything was clean, the toilet was new and it was bright.

Door #3 was a small closet with shelves and hangers for those who were staying longer and wanted to unpack.

Sounds good so far right?

Now, keep in mind that I am not a particularly squeamish person. I’m used to traveling and staying in basic accommodations with a variety of issues. I am far from a neat freak, clean freak or perfectionist which all of my friends and family can vouch for.

After getting past the first glance, I looked around and realized that the apartment was actually quite dirty. The floors were smattered in black patches. There were so many of them that I thought it might be part of the colour in the wood floor, but no … Not unless it has been dirty for so long that it has seeped into the wood. This is a distinct possibility. It looked like the floors had not been mopped for a year … maybe more. This was the kind of place that you don’t walk barefoot unless you want your feet to turn black.

It almost looks like soot or volcanic ash, and maybe it is, but if there is that much on the floor in a closed building, what do people’s lungs look like? Yikes!

Based on the dirt on the floor, I became immediately more aware of the dirt everywhere else. The curtains that were once white, were grey; darker at the bottom from the soot everywhere. The walls were the same with the baseboards collecting more dust than I’ve ever seen.

On further inspection, the kitchen had a few bits and pieces of food left around and the plates and glasses were not all that clean. This could be because they don’t provide dish liquid or cleaning cloths. So, if you plan to stay for awhile, you’ll need to buy your own … along with a mop apparently!

The bathroom was actually still decently clean with surprisingly good quality toilet paper. I know, random thing to notice! However, the towels were another story. Although you could tell they had been washed from the way they felt from being air dried and were folded neatly. Maybe they were washed in the river though? A couple of stains, some ground in dirt and even a couple of rips showed that these had been around for a very long time.

At 11pm on the first night there was a knock on my door with delivery of breakfast on a platter for the next morning. An individual-sized packet of Chilean style frosted flakes, a Quaker Oatmeal cookie, tea, coffee, sugar, milk and orange juice boxes and yogurt. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was just enough to get me going the next morning.

The first night when I went to crawl into bed, it was the first bed that I ever in my life have checked for bed bugs. Luckily, I didn’t find any. I didn’t sleep the greatest that night as I was still thinking about them, but I woke up the next morning un-eaten.

I would definitely give the hotel a great rating on location. It really does not get much better. However, if you like cleanliness, you should look elsewhere, this is not the spot for you. I paid about $50 – $55 per night CAD and I’m very excited to move on to my next hotel, included in my tour which should be a huge improvement. Having said that, it wasn’t so bad that I decided to move elsewhere. I survived it. It was a great location, internet worked perfectly, the bed was reasonably comfortable and the shower wasn’t bad. It just needs some TLC and some strong cleaning solution.

Very surprised to see that it won a trip advisor award in 2013. Did I just have a bad room? Did it just not get cleaned fully before I arrived? Who knows … Or sometimes trip advisor isn’t the be-all-end-all.

Hotel Plaza del Sol Review

Located in the University District of Santo Domingo, Plaza del Sol is reasonable priced and in a reasonably safe area of this massive city. As with any area, being a solo female traveler, I limited my outdoor excursions to day time hours unless I was in a group, but I never felt threatened in this area. I did, however, choose to stay inside or in a group after about 7pm each night.

The hotel itself was one of the best ones that I stayed in ($30-$45 US per night range). It was clean, had a small kitchenette and powerful air conditioning in each room. Make sure to pick up your own matches to light the gas stoves though as they don’t have any available for you. The TVs were large, new and cable worked well. The beds seemed fairly new, firm and were very comfortable! The sheets were clean, fitted and the comforter or top sheet was always white (or cream) and well kept. I was also pleased that the internet worked regularly and with decent speed so I was able to keep up with blogging, work and social media whenever I wanted.

The bathrooms were also fairly good, although each one that I stayed in was different. One had a bathtub and a great shower. If you could figure out the switches, I believe there was warm water, although it only worked once for me. The other had just a shower stall and the warm water was hit or miss. The stall also allowed water to spill onto the bathroom floor, making quite a mess.

I dealt with two staff members – a less than friendly woman and a lovely young man. The man was often there in the evenings and was very patient and helpful when I wanted to arrange my taxi to the airport for 3am.

The main doors into the hotel are locked and you need to get the staff to buzz you in or out which is slightly annoying, but also provides good security, so I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Call ahead to make your booking. If you can get a local friend to call for you, you can likely get a better room rate. They often have tourist rates for people who call or book online, but if a local calls, they can get it for $5-$15 per night cheaper.

The Hotel is located on Jose Contreras Street, which is one-way. Don’t be surprised if your taxi driver drives head on into traffic to get to the hotel (about 4 or 5 blocks from the main intersection). Not sure if they are unaware of how to get to the hotel from the other direction, too lazy to drive around, or if they simply don’t care about it being one way, but I was regularly driven the wrong way down this one way street.

The hotel is centrally located and within walking distance to La Sirena (Dominican’s equivalent to Wal-Mart), several local convenience stores, bars and snack shops, as well as being close to McDonald’s, Domino’s, Burger King and several pizza places. You can pick up groceries and snacks at La Sirena, or El Super Mercato National which is also within 10-15 minutes walk. La Sirena also offers a pharmacy, bank with tellers for money exchange, Claro and Orange kiosks for cell phones and a food court with local and American foods.

The hotel is about a 30-45 minute walk from Zona Colonial or the Malecon (waterfront area), both areas offering lots of restaurants, bars and historical sites to view.

Jose Contreras is also well serviced by local buses as it is a university district. If you know where you are going and what bus to take, I assume you wouldn’t have to wait long to hop on one. There were always plenty going by.

You can also walk 5-10 minutes to main public car routes, or call a taxi to pick you up at the hotel.