The Anatomy of an Indian Hotel: Broadway Hotel in Kolkata
As a traveler and travel blogger, I’ve always been a firm believer that what makes a city memorable, is its highlights, people, culture. One thing I never wanted to admit to myself was that a lot of it has to do with the hotel you choose!
You’ll find all types of hotels in India from guesthouses. From budget hotels, guesthouses and five star luxury hotels … the differences between Indian accommodations can feel extreme. Paying a higher rate for a hotel doesn’t necessarily gain you much difference from a budget one, at times.
Finding a hotel I feel compatible with can occasionally feel like a challenge. Not all hotels have a website or an email address and viewing photos on review listings, is something I never quite trust with India ( I never trust photos of Indian hotels!). Instead, I search for Trip Advisor reviews, Agoda.com, Booking.com for hotels in Kolkata for and travel blogger recommendations.
Being a female solo traveler, I’m concerned about safety . Outside of the occasional traveling Indian family, you don’t find many lone female hotel guests and hostels are not common to India.
Broadway Hotel in Kolkata
When I arrived at Broadway Hotel in central Kolkata I was pleasantly surprised. An Ambassador styled hotel built in 1937, it had an old elevator lift and spacious, clean and comfortable rooms. You also get the Daily Kolkata newspaper delivered to your door. There’s a Art Deco styled restaurant which tends to be popular with guests and locals. Front desk receptionists are all male, but so helpful. I very much acted like a female tourist and asked for everything from directions, to recommendations, etc.. and they were patient to explain and offer guidance.
Broadway Hotel was in an ideal location for me, across the street from Chandni Chowk metro station. It was also walking distance from a handful of good city attractions I had on my itinerary. I loved it and it was largely due to the fact I felt so comfortable and compatible with my hotel surroundings, that I extended my stay and could’ve easily have stayed longer. When you find a good hotel in India at a good price (I paid $14USD), you don’t want to leave! In fact, due to my hotel, I extended my stay another day. If not for the fact I had to be in Varanasi by Diwali, I would’ve stayed much longer. To me, Broadway Hotel was the best hotel in Kolkata.
When I had to leave for the train station, the front receptionist hailed a taxi for me. For a split second, I felt like I was emerging from a New York city hotel, as a doorman hailed me a cab. It was a strange but beautiful moment: one that leaves me with a great impression of Kolkata and its culture.
The Anatomy of an Indian Hotel
While I’m singing the praises of my hotel, I want to point out some things that I find unique and occasionally, common of hotels in India.
1. Elevator Operator
Having an elevator operator was a unique and special feature of this hotel. I felt like the hotel was adhering to a certain standard of luxury and first class service, despite being an old hotel priced at inexpensive rates to casual westerners. It certainly added to the special charm of the hotel and made my stay feel more personal, safe and friendly.
There’s even a kind of doorman/second receptionist that monitors the entry a bit as well as, a bell boy. They weren’t dressed in uniforms but they very much treated you as if you were staying in a palace. Now how’s that for first class service?
2. Electricity Controls
This was the first time I’ve experienced electricity controls on the outside of my hotel room. It shows my hotel was old. There are many buildings and guesthouses/hotels that are old in India, so it’s not as if what I’ve experienced is possible. It’s very possible. The controls were to power the entire room, while the main control panel and switch for lights and fan, were inside my room.
3. The Indian Padlock
These days, many modern luxury hotels have card keys. But you’ll still find some hotels in India using large padlocks and keys.
4. Doors Bolts on the Inside
Occasionally, you’ll find some hotels in India, with door bolts used in the place of key locks. I rather love hotels like these because it gives me peace of mind that no one will be able to enter while I’m asleep.
5. Room Control Panel
A central control panels for your room’s electrical features not common, but it’s not uncommon. I actually had more lights and outlets in my room than I ordinarily do. It made it feel a little more luxurious, although initially,… puzzled.
6. Outlets in India are raised high
I’ve found many Indian budget hotels and guesthouses to have outlets raised high versus close to the ground. It’s a good thing to note for travelers to prepare for if they don’t want their electrical devices to be dangling from the wall three to four feet off the ground.
7. Shower and toilet in a shared space
If it’s your first time to India or Asia, you’ll be shocked to find there’s no partition between your bathroom shower and your toilet. That’s one of the culture shocks of bathrooms in Asia/East Asia/Southeast Asia. It means your toilet seat will get wet as you take a shower, so it’s best to put down the lid before you do so.
7. Hot Pour Buckets
Many travelers will be relieved to know that a majority of hotels and guesthouses have western toilets. Something you will see which may feel cultural frightening are the buckets. They’re actually hot pour buckets and an older style of bathing in Asia and Southeast Asia, where you fill the buckets with warm and cold water and do a kind of dip and pour, mixing the hot and cold waters on yourself to make ‘warm’.
Hostels aren’t a term in India, but recently, a hip and boutique hostel chain opened up for modern travelers (wifi available). I’ve seen a couple of their hostels; book in advance as spaces fill up fast.