Hello everyone! In today’s article, I’ll be documenting my recent stay over at Hotel Bencoolen.
After booking a relatively pricey (but disappointing) stay at Goodwood Park Hotel, I decided to return to more budget hotel stays. I searched on Traveloka for budget hotels with basic facilities (gym, pool, rooms with bathtub), as well as a convenient location. Hotel Bencoolen happens to tick all the boxes, with its rooms typically available for below $100. I decided to book a stay to test it out – let’s see how my staycation at Hotel Bencoolen went!
Hotel Bencoolen – Video Review
For some hands-on footage of my stay at Hotel Bencoolen, do watch my Youtube video below:
Hotel Bencoolen – the Brand
Hotel Bencoolen first opened its doors more than 50 years ago back in 1968, with its latest renovation occurring in 2013. With a mere 84 rooms, it’s a relatively small establishment.
It’s good to note that there are actually two Hotel Bencoolen properties – the original hotel on Bencoolen street (pictured above), as well as a newly opened one over on Hong Kong street, which is designated as a 4-star hotel. Don’t get confused between the two!
Hotel Bencoolen’s Deluxe rooms can generally be found for less than $100, and come furnished with a bathtub. The room looks recently renovated with wooden tones, good lighting, and is relatively spacious (as compared to most budget hotels) at 22 sqm. As such, I decided to take a leap of faith and booked the Deluxe King room.
Hotel Bencoolen – Check-in
Hotel Bencoolen, as its name suggests, is located on Bencoolen street, right opposite Bras Basah MRT. It’s also walkable from Dhoby Ghaut MRT/Plaza Singapura, and a short work to the Somerset area.
The bright marbled lobby of Hotel Bencoolen gave a good first impression – definitely not what I was expecting for an old, budget hotel. The staff was welcoming too, and I must commend the service of Pakcik, who made me feel at home from the get-go. As it was a weekday, there wasn’t a queue and I was assigned a room within minutes. The hotel also has a cafe in the lobby, though the prices felt a tad too high given the budget premises.
Hotel Bencoolen – Deluxe King Room
I was assigned a room on the 6th floor. There’s a single lift in the hotel (for guests anyway), and I did have to wait a while for the lift to arrive. It also looks/feels rather old, jolting to a stop in a manner that was not good for my heart rate.
The corridors are dimly lit, narrow, and feel like something out of a horror movie. It’s a stark contrast to the brightly lit marbled lobby, and I couldn’t help but feel a tad disappointed. I’ll put it this way – I probably wouldn’t stay in Hotel Bencoolen alone.
However, I was pleased to find that the Deluxe Room was almost exactly as described, with it looking near identical to the photos. The room was generally bright, an effect enhanced by the wide windows and the light wooden furnishing. While not exactly spacious, the main bedroom felt ample in size, with most of the space being taken up by the King size bed. Unfortunately, the bed was a tad too soft for my personal liking – I would have preferred a firmer mattress for more support. A pair of bedside lamps flank the bed, while the wall is adorned with a big “B” sign, which I assume stands for Bencoolen.
On the left of the room entrance is a wooden cupboard, with complimentary refreshments, a kettle, a safe, a mini-fridge, and a bag rest. Coffee and tea sachets are from Goldkili, where 20 sachets currently go for $2 – they certainly won’t impress any connoisseurs. There are also a few plastic hangers for one to hang their clothes, with more presumably available upon request.
In a bid to brighten up the room, there’s even a portrait of a vase of flowers, though the painting looks heavily marred and has clearly seen better days.
If you fancy doing some work, there’s also a small workstation, which doubles up as a vanity area for the ladies. There’s also a hairdryer provided, which is not always a given when it comes to budget hotels.
The Deluxe King room comes equipped with a 32-inch Sharp Aquos TV. The quality is decent, and I found myself tuning in to some Olympic matches. However, the TV isn’t smart, so those looking to Netflix and chill will be disappointed.
The wooden furnishing extends to the bedside tables, which was thankfully clean and devoid of stains. Aside from the TV remote, there’s also a newish-looking analog phone, which can be used to phone the 24-hour reception.
The wide windows allow ample light in, but unfortunately there wasn’t really a view to be had – you’re just staring at the walls of the adjacent building. If having a room with a view is important to you, you might want to consider booking someplace else.
The Deluxe King’s bathroom was larger than I had anticipated, though it felt like it didn’t receive the makeover that the main bedroom had – the bathroom looks right out of a 1980s HDB.
Complimentary toothbrushes, toothpastes (generic A.ME kind, unfortunately), soap and shower caps are provided.
The toilet bowl is of the traditional variety, so no hidden cistern or integrated bidet here. However, I do like that separate towels are provided in wall-mounted baskets – a convenient place to store used towels after a shower.
The toiletries provided are from POB Vitalite. Don’t let the atas sounding name fool you, it’s actually an in-house brand from a local hospitality supplier. I first encountered them in my Rest Bugis Hotel stay, and they can be often found in most 3-4 star hotels.
The highlight of the bathroom – for some, the entire room – is undoubtedly the bathtub. It’s actually quite spacious, though it really only fits one due to the position of the faucet. I was impressed by the cleanliness as well – there wasn’t any visible stains or grime in the bathtub. Overall, I had an enjoyable time soaking, although the decor did detract slightly from the experience.
There’s also a handheld showerhead, though the water pressure was weak – don’t expect Grohe standard of showering here.
Hotel Bencoolen – Cleanliness
While the cleanliness of the bathtub passed muster, there were several aspects of the room that left more to be desired.
For one, there was mould growing near the top of the walls – clearly an unwelcomed sight, and a potential hygiene concern.
Furthermore, the chair was simply filthy, with a thick layer of dust and conspicuous stains. I actually took an alcohol wipe, ran it through the side of the chair, and it came back black with dirt. It is clear that housekeeping doesn’t wipe down the chair in between guests. I ended up not sitting on it during my entire stay – I didn’t want to risk breaking out in rashes.
Likewise, the teacup was also heavily stained, and I ended up not using the teacups during my stay, lest I contract stomach issues of some sort.
More dirt and grime can be found on the windowsill, which looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in ages. Let me put it this way – even Tekong windows are cleaner than this.
Hotel Bencoolen – Amenities
A key selling point of Hotel Bencoolen is its amenities.
Located on the 3rd floor of the hotel, the pool area of Hotel Bencoolen is surprisingly idyllic, with plenty of potted plants and lounge chairs scattered around the area. Because of its open-air concept, the pool area feels tranquil – I can imagine just lounging and reading a book here.
Hotel Bencoolen calls its pool a “spa pool” – it’s essentially a jacuzzi. Those planning to do laps here will be sorely disappointed. However, if you’re looking to sit back, relax and enjoy, it does the trick.
Interestingly, there’s a Koi pond beside the pool, something only seen in older, more traditional hotels like Hotel Royal.
There’s also a gym, though it was closed due to pandemic restrictions when I was there. The gym looks spartan, but it has all the basic equipment – treadmill, stationary bike, benches, and a few machines. If you’re just looking to get a quick workout in, the gym should come in handy.
Conclusion – so Hotel Bencoolen “shiok” or not?
All in all, I would say that Hotel Bencoolen was an okay stay. The room was spacious for its price, came with a bathtub, and had a few bells and whistles in the “spa pool” and the gym. The location is convenient too, and I had no problems finding food options or accessing the hotel via public transport. As the icing on the cake, the service rendered – especially by Pakcik – was the best I’ve encountered in a 3-star hotel. I recall Pakcik hanging around in the lobby in his singlet late at night (presumably after his shift), still greeting guests as they entered/exited the hotel. Hotel Bencoolen, if you’re reading this, do give Pakcik a raise!
However, great service cannot hide the fact that Hotel Bencoolen is worse for the wear. From the dimly lit corridors, to the multiple cleanliness issues in the room, Hotel Bencoolen fell short on key aspects of the guest experience. It also faces stiff competition in the budget 3-star hotel segment. If having a bathtub and a pool is essential to you, alternatives such as Hotel Royal has bigger rooms, while Santa Grand East Coast has cleaner rooms. Both hotels can be had for around $80, or about 20% cheaper than the regular going rate of Hotel Bencoolen. I’ll say this – I don’t regret my stay, but Hotel Bencoolen is unfortunately not compelling enough for me to return either. Pakcik did suggest that I try their sister property, Hotel Bencoolen @ Hong Kong Street, a 4-star establishment that is newer and better maintained. If I do, I’ll be sure to do an in-depth review of it here.
Those interested in booking a stay can do so on the Traveloka app. Traveloka constantly has some sort of ongoing promotions, with prices so ridiculously low that I’ve personally booked about 90% of my staycations on Traveloka. Just for my readers, you guys can use the promo code “WAHTVLKSRV” (if you’re using SRV) and “WAHTVLK” (non-SRV) for 10% off any hotels bookings (up to $30 off, with a minimum spending of $100) for new users and $5 off any hotels bookings (with a minimum spending of $50) for existing users. The codes are valid till the end of 2022. Here’s a pro tip: keep a lookout for Traveloka’s Weekend Flash Sales which occurs every Friday to Sunday for the lowest prices! However, this post is not sponsored – I paid my own dime to book and review my staycations.
Hotel Bencoolen’s Location:
47 Bencoolen St, Singapore 189626 (beside Hotel Mi)
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah so Shiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.