Join Date: Mar 2005
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I've stayed in many hostels across many countries and I have never experienced anything as bad as this place...ever! I'm very laid back and all I look for is somewhere clean and safe to sleep but this place is so badly organised and the service is so astoundingly awful for such a basic amenity it's shocking. We booked via telephone originally. It took us several long calls of being on hold for the most part before the girl revealed in broken English that she didn't understand how to use the computer to book us in or understand what we were asking for. Her response to our questions were, 'we are busy, I don't understand, can you ring back'. We did a few times, but we kept getting her so it was a bit of a pointless. It's a hostel, we wanted a room to stay in for the dates we gave her! I sent an email after to the address on their website asking them to confirm, as I was a bit dubious to say the least at her booking ability and no one ever replied. I have no idea why we bothered going after all the trouble the booking took but I brushed it off as just unlucky that we had spoken to some inept member of staff since their website was alright and it was listed in some official guides for the city.
On arrival, (and we had been awake for a full 24 hours at this point from travelling and didn't need any hassle, just sleep!), we were greeted with the realisation that not only was this Harlem, but yes, they had gotten our booking wrong and they tried to overcharge us, so Im glad I had taken the safe option and paid by cash, do not give these people your credit card details, I warn you now! After we had paid, the girl informed us as she handed us our key that we were in a different building a few streets away. There was no mention of this up until this point, otherwise I would have kept our taxi outside, and believe me, you do not want to be walking around this area at night looking like a tired tourist. We were too exhausted to get into any argument, so we followed this girls directions and we got lost, with all our luggage in tow. We asked a porter in a nearby building for help and he told us not to ask anyone for any more directions as the area was not safe and he also warned us not to cross a particular road less than a minutes walk from our hostel for any reason as it was 'The Projects', an infamous rough area that you just do not enter, unless you want a quick end to your vacation that is. I wouldn't go wandering in this particular area of Central Park either for the same reasons. In the end, we had to book into a different hostel that we found on the street we were on as we were just too exhausted and, well, to be honest, quite frightened at this point.The next day we found our building after some sleep and with the help of daylight, and the knowledge that most of the nighttime people we had seen on the streets the night before would most likely be asleep at this early hour.
Now, breakfast in this place is another amusing afair. You get a bagel to eat (thats it! If you can't eat these, well, you go hungry) and you get coffee or tea. On the lucky mornings the machine will be working and you can get coffee, otherwise its just tea and, microwaved for the most part. You can buy other drinks, water, juice, hot chocolate at a price, though don't believe their steamed milk sign for the hot chocolate, it's, you guessed it, microwaved, and you have to stir in the chocolate yourself if you buy it form one particular member of obnoxious staff. Their cafe and dining area exists but the TV sound is never on and there are no facilities to cook or prepare anything you might buy yourself, so you pretty much have to eat your bagel and microwaved beverage and be thankful for that. Nearby shops are dingy, sparse and, well, only go out with whatever small amount of cash you intend to spend.
It is also true that there is no curfew. The reason for this is that the main door is always open 24 hours a day which leads directly into the cafe area and the door to the dormitories. No bell, no key, it's just open for anyone to come in and although they give you a plastic credit card style key to get into the dorm area of the main building, that door too is also always open for anyone to enter at their free will, be you wierdo or bona fide customer, though to be fair, it appears as though it's locked, until you try to open it and realise it isn't. At nightime, the 24 hours security against this open door policy is one member of staff who sleeps on one of the chairs in the cafe area, although they have no idea who actually has paid to stay there as there is no system of telling people apart.....if they had a suggestion box I might have suggested such a thing. The plastic key thing they give you has to be activated to let you into your room, and on average you have to return to the desk to get it reactivated at least once a day, as for some reason, everytime someone books out they deactivate everyone else in your dorms key, so you can't get to your bed. They dont ask you for ID or anything either for this re-activation, they just ask for a room number, in fact they don't even look at you. So you can actually give any room number and what do you know, you have entrance into anyones room.
Now the linen and towel facilities are another joke. The one blanket thing you get is like a very thin velvet curtain, and althought the one sheet you get for your stay appears clean, you start to notice the bug bites on your skin after your first sleep. I have no idea what was biting me as I slept and Im kind of grateful for that at least but I still have the fading marks. You have to ask for your towel and for some reason they really don't like giving them to you and eye you up like you committed some sort of heinous crime.
The toilet areas, although they do seem to clean them in the morning, always appeared to be in a kind of pool of water, so bring wet gear to get to the toilet/mirror. If you stay in a private room, also be aware that there is no window, only frosted dirty glass type stuff with a sign underneath warning you not to attempt to open them (I had to stay in a private and then switch to a dorm so lucky me got to view both worlds of this hostels accomodation). The lockers are 50 cents a shot for every time you open it, though you must buy at least two coins a time with no refund for unspent coins and they too come with a sign that items found in them when cleaned will be sold??? And all this time, I thought lockers were for keeping things in?! If you want to use the luggage room facility, you will be charged $4 a day per bag and good luck at actually finding your bag as they are dumped in there in huge random piles.
I don't know what they meant by game room on their site, because there isn't one. Nor is there a bar, and not a single note of jazz or any other kind of live music ever reached my ears throughout my 9 night stay there. I did find what looked like it used to be a bar area though at one point downstairs. It was a large dusty room with some disused laundry machines piled up and I think I spotted what may have been a stage/bar area under piles of debris and old parts of various things. Whatever jazz once inhabited this place had long packed its bags and left. There was a couch down there though, and I spoke to the guy I found sleeping there who told me he was trying to have a sleep as he couldn't hack sleeping in his dorm anymore.
As to air-conditioning in dorms, you have no control over this. The first night in the dorm was sickeningly hot, with people lying awake all night grumbling about the heat. The second night it either wasn't working or they had knocked it off as everyone was awake all night shivering with the cold. This pattern continued throughout our stay.
If you smoke, there is a very small outside patio at the back of the cafe area with a handful of chairs, so at least you don't have to stand in the street, or so I thought. Whilst I had a cigarette, this guy who 'lived' at the hostel, not a member of staff or traveller, but simply lived at the hostel or so he told me, demanded to know what room I slept in after a series of lewd comments which he directed at me. Needless to say, I left rather abruptly. And as for complaing, staff do not want to know.
Overall, I spoke to people with the following complaints:
* The hostel had booked out their rooms to other people so they had nowhere to stay, even though they had paid.
* The hostel had booked them in for incorrect amounts of time and in virtually all cases, had tried to charge them for more nights then they had wanted.
* Keys never worked in doors.
* Several people I spoke to left and found accomodation elsewhere, though our budget unfortunately didn't allow for this.
* Many people could not sleep, either due to heating being on too high or not at all, and noise.
* You cannot complain in this place, as the staff will not speak to you. They are all (bar one mexican guy who worked in the cafe and was very nice and friendly) obnoxious, rude and arrogant. They don't look at you, and when they do, they roll their eyes upwards and mutter under their breath.
* Insect bites in rooms.
* Most things on there website are untrue and I really don't know where they took those photographs.
* Safety is not on this hostels priority list, or on any list for that matter.
* All services were lacking, except the internet which you pay for and is run by an independent company.
* The area is not safe or tourist friendly.
As I checked out, I asked for my key deposit back, and handed the guy at the desk my receipt and my key. He told me that he couldn't and wouldn't give it to me as it was policy to ask for it at a different time and day?!. After all I had been through and witnessed I told him that it was absolutely unacceptable the way they treated people and he stared at me and told me it was only a $5 dollars deposit and to get over it. I didn't say goodbye.
There is one good thing about this place however and that is the fact that it was only a 5 minute walk from a subway station whereby you could get yourself a ticket out of there.