Featuring: Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, USA. Please note that some things might have changed since I stayed at these hotels, Internet access being the main change to expect.
(*) : avoid at all cost
* : if you can’t find anything else…
** : just for sleeping, it’s fine
*** : good
**** : fantastic
This is a standard business hotel chain you can find everywhere in the country. There are often more than one of them per city, and unless you get unlucky (broken aircon, happened once), it has everything you’ll need. List of places where I stayed in this chain:
Shinagawa ; Narita (airport) ; Sendai ; Hachinohe ; Hirosaki ; Aizu Wakamatsu ; Niigata ; Matsuyama ; Takamatsu ; Osaka ; Kagoshima ; Kumamoto ; Fukuoka ; Nagasaki ; Okayama…
Reasonable prices, the rooms are not too small, it’s quiet. Internet access is with a LAN cable, like most places in Japan, however some of them now have WIFI too. If you intend to stay at more than one of these hotels, take the member card. Please note that you might find yourself without a window, or with a building very close to the window so you don’t get any natural light. This is a relatively rare occurrence but you should keep it in mind.
J&F House (Tokyo : Warabi) ***
Clean, friendly guesthouse, housing mostly international students. Extremely tiny rooms with a desk, a bed, a shelf and a fridge, crammed in such a small space you can open the door from your bed. A/C and LAN available. Bathroom shared with the rest of the building, separate for men/women. Laundry room, public computers, huge kitchen, dining room and TV are on the ground floor.
Less than 40’000 yen a month. Unless you break everything, your caution will be refunded fully. The manager speaks English.Strict rules.
Distance : 15 minutes walk from Warabi station on the Keihin-Tohoku line
Shopping : there is a combini a few meters away and a mall at about 5 minutes walk.
DK House : (Tokyo – Shiki) ** (*** in the past)
Guesthouse with bigger rooms and comfier beds than Warabi. Heater available (this is not always the case). A/C, LAN, balcony, fridge, wardrobe, sink.
Price : between 52’000 and 60’000 a month. WARNING : prices have exploded since I visited in 2008. Internet is not free anymore either. I won’t recommend this guesthouse unless they lower their prices again.
Laundry room, showers, public computers, huge kitchen, vending machines, dining room and TV are on the ground floor.
The manager speaks English
Distance : 2 minutes walk from Shiki station on the Tobu Tojo Line
Shopping : the house is right behind a mall (SATY) and there is a much bigger one close-by (OIOI (maruimarui)).
Kimi Ryokan (Tokyo – Ikebukuro) ***
Traditional hotel, cheap, very popular with foreigners so book early. Hard to find and taxi drivers don’t know where it is so bring a map and if you do take a taxi, have the address clearly written in Japanese for them. They might deny you a ride because of how close it is, it takes them longer to pull away from the station than drive to it. About 10 minutes walk from Ikebukuro station. Great location, cheap, clean. Shared showers and toilets. Highly recommended if sleeping on a futon doesn’t give you back pains and you want some kind of traditional feel to your night.
Shinagawa Prince Hotel (Tokyo – Shinagawa) *
There are several buildings for this hotel and I have no doubt that most of them are luxurious and awesome. However, at 10k yen a night (each!) we were given a dirty, old, dark room and had no Internet access.
Grand Park Hotel Panex Tokyo (Tokyo – Kamata) ****
VERY convenient; a minute walk from Kamata station on the Keihin Tohoku line. It’s in a side street next to a pachinko parlor but the isolation is good and you won’t hear them. Parts of it are under renovation at the moment (on the first floor). The beds are awesome, and the bathroom is massive. Shower and toilet rooms are separated so you can have a truly Japanese style experience in the shower, splashing water in the room and taking your bath in the very deep bathtub afterwards. I’ve also never seen a toilet room that big in Japan. There is enough space to put an extra bed in there. Booked through Booking.com
Yokohama Kokusai Hotel (Tokyo – Yokohama) ***
Business hotel I found randomly when I was lost and had been walking for hours in a residential area of Yokohama. It was my savior. Given how long it took me to find it, I don’t think it’s a convenient location, but it was quiet, in front of the river. Limited English from the staff. The room is big for Japanese standards, lots of light, very comfy. Wifi, kettle, awesome bathroom. 6000yen a night.
Yokohama Hostel Village (Yokohama – Ichikawa – Matsukage-cho) (*)
2500 yen a night… run away. The staff is nice, but that’s the only quality this dump has. It’s far from everything in an unsafe area (by Japanese standards so, not actually unsafe, especially if you ever went to Paris. My taxi driver freaked out though.). This place, and the back streets between Shin-Okubo and Shinjuku are the only spots where I ran into obvious members of the Yakuza. Anyway, my room was absolutely tiny. The window was broken. Since it was on the ground floor it had been secured by planks so I had no natural light. There were bugs everywhere. Only one shower for the entire building. Don’t go there even to save money.
Hotel Nikko Narita (Tokyo – Narita) ****
2 minutes by car from the airport, this is a rather luxurious hotel with special offers that you should keep an eye on. I do recommend the Toyoko Inn now, instead, because at least the prices are set.
Juyoh Hotel (Minami-senju) **
Popular hostel for foreign tourists. For this price, I’d much rather go to the Kimi Ryokan, at least it’s in central Tokyo. The Juyoh Hotel is not. Internet is very unreliable especially from the 2nd floor up. Shared bathrooms.
Hotel Cinquante (Maebashi) ****
About 10 minutes walk from Maebashi station. There is nothing to do there, the only reason I was there was for a concert, so you will most likely never set foot in this town. Luxurious hotel, huge rooms.
Hotel Hinodeya ***
Great location, just a minute away from the station. Look-wise, I’d give it 1 or 2 stars only. It kinda looks like an old people’s home and the corridors are very hospital-like. The staff is adorable – no English spoken however. I would have stayed at the Toyoko Inn but it was full. Not a bad deal. Very tiny beds in the twin room. Very deep bathtub. Booked through booking.com. I did not test Internet and do not know if they have it as I had a portable wifi.
Palace Side Hotel ***
Great location: the Imperial Palace is on the other side of the road. Close to the metro station, nice staff, reasonable prices for the area. Internet available. The walls can seem pretty old.
Long term only (1 month or more)
Clean, room bigger than the one in Warabi. Close to everything (station Kireuriwari on the Tanimachi Line, malls, combini, restaurants). A/C, Internet with LAN cable. Great staff. No heater, be careful in the winter! Kitchen, shared bathrooms, woman-only floor if needed.
Via Inn (Shin-Osaka) ***
Extra-hard beds. Conveniently located next to Shin-Osaka station, where the Shinkansen stops.
Backpackers Hostel Ann ****
Good location (close to Kanayama station), low price, this is a cute hostel with a traditional style (tatami mats/futon). Only one shower, there is a schedule to use it. Wifi available. Shared kitchen.
Matsuya Ryokan **
This ryokan is inside the temple complex so it’s pretty much perfect, location wise, even though it’s a bit of a walk to the train station. Two issues: the owners and cleaning staff constantly come into the room. The only bathroom is a public bath (onsen), which is great if you want to experience it, not so much if you don’t fancy being stark naked with strangers. No Internet access. Despite the staff’s lack of… err… door-knocking-abilities, they’re adorable.
Matsuya Ryokan via Japanican
City Hotel Ikeda*
Once again, booked because there was no other choice during the high season. Not particularly recommended. It’s about 10-15 minutes walk from the station, in a tiny backstreet with soaplands and pubs around, but unlike the “red light district” of Beppu, this one is very noisy in the evening. It can also be hard to find because the sign is only in Japanese. I did not test Internet as I had a portable wifi but they do have wifi access.
I give it 1 star for the inconvenience, for the extra small size of the bathtub, for the fact that the isolation is so bad you hear the noise from outside as if you kept the window open (on a Saturday night I’ll let you imagine), and because there is never anyone at the reception in the afternoon when you want to grab your key and go to your room. I found out after 2 days that there is a button to press on the phone, but no one told us that, and the explanation for it was in Japanese. I only tried it because I had been waiting at the reception for 30 minutes.
Perhaps it deserves more than 1 star. I’ve been in worse places after all. But if you can find something else, go for it. Booked through booking.com
Daiwa Roynet Hotel Okayama-Ekimae ***
Right across the train station, there is even an underpass to reach it directly. Quiet, big room, incredibly comfy beds, nice view from the upper floors. It’s a bit pricey but the good night we had was worth the money. Highly recommended. Only 3 stars because of the price. Booked through Booking.com
Horrible decoration in the private room (there was a non-functional kitchen hidden in the cupboard, a hilarious discovery, and the room was tastefully (…) decorated in shades of green and pink with flowery tapestry just like your great-grandma would do). It however offers everything you need and is inside a buddhist temple, without the inconvenience temple stays usually have (no need to wake up at dawn and participate in anything)
Ryokan Senju **
In the middle of Takachiho, small ryokan with very ugly corridors, no Internet, but fine for a night. No English spoken
Ryokan Senji via JapanHotel
Hana Ryokan Iwatoya ***
If this ryokan had not been 10 minutes away by car from Takachiho and had Internet access, I’d have given it 4 stars. Fantastic place, incredible food. No English spoken.
Hana Ryokan Iwatoya via Japanican
No Internet in 2010, though I managed to grab the neighbor’s unsecured wifi.
3 hot springs in the ryokan, huge gorgeous traditional room, very good location in the city center (even though it’s in the red lights district, you don’t really notice it except for the few hostess bars and strip clubs around it)
Takasago *** (minshuku)
Minshuku (homestay, family pension) on the beach of the small island Megijima. During the day, the place is used as a restaurant for the teens from Takamatsu, since it’s just a few minutes away by boat. They come for the beach, and leave at sunset. After that, the island is completely dead.
To book a room, you’ll need to go through the tourist office in Takamatsu station. Be warned that the owners, who are in their sixties, are not exactly fond of foreigners. They liked my friend and I, but it took some time, and it was only because I spent a while talking with them in my very broken Japanese until late at night with a cup of tea. They explained they had a series of really bad experiences and decided to ban foreigners from coming over. They gave us a chance because we were girls and I could speak some Japanese, and I hope I changed their mind a little bit.
Miyakojima Paradise ****
This place is unfortunately closed now. The owner was French and had a few fully equipped studios for rent at a very reasonable price right in front of the beach. Miyakojima is a tropical island, so a studio right there was perfect.
Eight Elephants Hostel ****
Nothing to say. Convenient area, nice atmosphere, clean, quiet from midnight on, comfortable… it’s a gem, at least in a private room. I don’t know about the dormitory, but people keep coming back. Try their neighbor, Dreaming Dragon. It’s staffed by the same people, right next door, and from what I’ve seen when I went to spend an evening there, it’s pretty nice too, maybe a bit classier than EE. Note that the main entrance can scare you because it looks extremely run down.
Don’t ask me to judge perfection. This is not really an inn, more like a homestay where the owners don’t live there and have employees to clean things up. They have more than one house in the area. The one I was in had about 4 rooms if I remember correctly. The owners speak French, English and Korean (the wife is a former supermodel, so you’ll see quite a few guys booking the place xD)
(important: this was a rather expensive private guided tour. I did not choose my hotels, and I am judging them according to the price I paid in total. The agency did keep their word, except in one case and a half which was the hotel’s fault. They have been notified, my review is up on their website, and they left it intact.)
Days Inn Forbidden City ****
Perfect. Expensive restaurant but great food. Location was very close to the Forbidden City and next to Wangfujing. Highly recommended.
Z19 : sleeper train Beijing-Xi’an **
Noisy, yes, it’s a train. I was sharing my cabin with 3 men who fell asleep as soon as they lay on their beds, and I didn’t feel unsafe at any point. Comfortable bed, personal TV, aircon. Only issue? No water bottle were in the room (they said there would be several of them) and I was horribly thirsty. The toilets could have been worse.
City Hotel *
Broken kettle. Since I had to boil water to drink it, it was really annoying. No hot water in the shower. I give it one star because it was in a convenient area.
Tianfu Sunshine Hotel ****
This is a 4 stars hotel that deserves them fully. I was upgraded to a suite for the second night. Room service was great and I had the best food of my trip there.
Building N°5 Hongzhushan hotel ***
5 stars hotel in the forest. Gorgeous.
Universal Hotel *
The staff’s attitude is ridiculously rude. A shame.
I unfortunately do not remember my hotel but I will update if I do. I was upgraded to a fantastic suite after finding out the LAN port was broken and complaining gently.
Holiday Inn Express Zhabei ***
3 stars and not 4 because there was no room service or restaurant for something else than breakfast, and the minibar was empty.
Shanghai Sina Hotel *
This is the only hotel I booked myself, close to the airport, because my flight left early the next day. Very poor soundproofing and shady area, I don’t recommend it.
Gusu Hotel ***
Great area. Small hotel, bad soundproofing, doesn’t look like much and the rooms are a bit on the older side, but the food is divine.
Unfortunately I didn’t write the reviews at the time and my trip happened 4 years ago, so my memory doesn’t allow me to leave a detailed review. I didn’t have bad experiences at any hotel, though there was one near LA Airport, which I forgot about now (a small inn next to a Mexican restaurant) that I would not recommend, because of how unsafe the area was. Go to a regular airport hotel instead. I also don’t remember our second LA hotel in Koreatown. Even if I don’t remember much, I’ll still list the hotels I went to, so you can know they’re safe to book.
Classic hotel that reminded me a lot of The Shining. We had a small issue with our booking, we booked a twin room instead of a triple so I shared a bed with my friend. Tiny bathroom, not much space in the room itself, but it’s perfectly fine to sleep. There is a Starbucks downstairs.
I have nothing to say about it, it was just a one night stop on the way to Death Valley. The town has nothing in it.
Exchange Club Motel
Same as above, I have no memory of the place, but certainly nothing bad.
Location wasn’t great, it’s not on the Strip. Internet is not free. Regular Vegas hotel with a casino downstairs. The not-free-Internet pissed me off.
Pretty sweet location (obviously). Lots of trees, the bathrooms are clean, the spaces for the tents wide. Recommended.
I only remember the delicious restaurant close-by where I had the best piña colada ever.
Not a convenient location: in the middle of office buildings, nothing to do close-by. But it’s the Hyatt, the room was fantastic.
I stayed there for a few days before heading home. There is a bus stop very close to go to San Francisco. Otherwise there is not much to do, I spent my days going to the mall.
DISNEYWORLD, ORLANDO, FLORIDA
Caribbean Beach Resort****
Beautiful resort, very convenient with the bus (it has its own bus system unlike some other Disney resorts that share their buses with others), but so big it can be a bit of a pain if you just want to buy a fanta and need to walk to the main building. I would not recommend staying in the rooms around the main building (Old Port Royale) due to the noise the daily and nightly activities can make. The resort is divided in “villages” each with their own bus stop and pool. The food isn’t bad at the food court (not the best but it’s fine). The food at Shutters, the restaurant, is hit or miss – my tuna and yuka gnocchi was perfect, but my friend’s pasta didn’t seem to be that good.
The best part of the hotel, to me, were the individual pools. Everyone always went to the big pool at Old Port Royale, which meant the smaller pools were free of screaming kids and even completely empty sometimes.
I’d go back, though I’d want to try out some of the other resorts too.