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Welcome to our weekly series Hotel Tip of The Week. Being on the road 365 days of the year means we have seen some of the very best, and very worst, of accommodation options around the world. For all the dingy, disappointing digs, there are loads of accommodation gems with five-star service and dedicated owners no matter what price range you are looking for. We only feature hotels we feel confident recommending after personally staying at each, having tried and tested them ourselves.
You could easily miss the Yellow House hotel, located just two blocks west of Antigua’s famous La Merced church. A small brown sign above the door is all that marks it, while from the street all that can be seen are the travel agency signs promoting shuttles, flights and tours in and around Antigua. In spite of staying over three weeks off and on at the Yellow House, even we, chatting away, walked right past the doors a few times.
Yellow House Hotel – Antigua’s budget escape
Once through those doors and past the travel agency, however, it is easy to see that this hotel manages to squeeze in every comfort you could want from a budget accommodation, and nothing you don’t.
Downstairs are two small dorms for up to four people, along with two double rooms and the hotel’s four shared bathrooms. The downstairs rooms are spacious and very comfortable, but if possible, try to snag one of the seven rooms upstairs. All the upstairs rooms (6 doubles and one very small single) either have a view of La Merced church and mountains, or open up to the large terrace space. One room, at only $1 more per night, even opens out onto its own private part of the terrace, which can be roped off with a ‘private’ sign for dinner surrounded by a garden of flowers with a view of all three of Antigua’s volcanoes.
Rooms have new, comfortable beds with fresh white sheets, fluffy pillows and Guatemalan handmade blankets, well-screened windows to keep out insects, bedside tables and lamps, plenty of hooks to hang things and excellent cable TV. Guests range from early 20s to mid-60s, and no matter their age, guests often just shut themselves in their super cozy room at night, enjoying the luxury of a relaxing evening in watching TV.
Antigua tends toward the expensive side for dining options, which is why having a kitchen available at Yellow House is so great. Despite its small size and room for improvement (see below) having the option to cook your own meals, keep food and drinks cold and be able to eat upstairs on the terrace makes Yellow House feel like home.
The kitchen is closed in the morning, as staff prepares breakfast, which is included in the price of the room. Yellow House goes beyond the usual toast and jam included in ‘free’ hotel breakfasts, offering instead either a pancake or porridge, a piece of four fresh fruits (watermelon, orange, a banana and a slice of pineapple), scrambled eggs, black beans, potatoes with peppers and onions, a roll and sweet bread, plus coffee or tea. The first week we stayed there, breakfast was so large it practically spilled over the plate, but as high tourism season approached, the second time we stayed the food was noticeably less as all rooms and beds were completely full every day.
The four shared bathrooms (two with showers, two without) are so clean, they actually smell of bleach most mornings and evenings. The whole hotel is kept tidy, with staff constantly mopping, sweeping, and repairing things which didn’t even look like they needed fixing. But back to the bathrooms…. Those who frequent budget accommodations know that one of the main things you give up in the budget range is a fresh clean bathroom. Not here. Each of the bathrooms is a real bathroom, with doors that close and lock and are private. There is always more than enough toilet paper and soap. The solar-powered showers spill hot water out of a real shower head, not those electric, start your day with an electric shock jolt if you touch it shower heads. Shower Tip: time your showers for the afternoon (3-5 if possible), as showers are solar-heated making morning showers super chilly.
Yellow House Hotel Stand Out Feature: The Roof Top Terrace
The roof-top terrace is an absolute plus. There are three tables, a couch, two comfortable arm-chairs and two hammocks under a covered roof, plus two tables not covered by the roof. At times the terrace is full, while at other times you have it all to yourself. The wi-fi, which is reliable and fast, works best on the terrace, functions in the upstairs rooms and the connection is shaky inside the downstairs rooms.
Yellow House is by far one of the best budget places we’ve stayed, which is why it is surprising that in such a well-run and well-maintained hotel, one aspect could be left unattended. The kitchen is just too small to be used by staff and guests, and since the hotel is always booked out with budget travelers saving cash by cooking in, the fridge is also always too full – but not just with guests food. The fridge also holds all the food that the used prepare the breakfast each day – already enough to stuff the fridge. Staff could pay more attention to how long food sits in the fridge. In the large office behind the travel agency, there is plenty of room for staff to have their own small refrigerator for the breakfast food, and keep the one in the kitchen clean.
Yellow House hotel was our ‘home’ for just over three weeks in total. In that time, we were not the only return visitors. At least 5 other groups left and came back to stay again during our time there, so make sure you either book beforehand or get there early in the morning as this hotel fills up almost daily. Yellow House easily stands out as our top budget accommodation in Guatemala.
Location: 1st Street West between Avenue del Desengano and 7th Avenue, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala (two blocks west of La Merced church).
Price: $21-23 for a double room, $12 for single, $8-10 dorms
LGBT Friendly: yes
Amenities: Wi-Fi, kitchen, cable TV, hot showers, terrace with sofa, hammocks, views
Contact: Yellow House Antigua