Welcome to our Hotel Tip of The Week series. Being on the road every day of the year means we stay in countless hotels, and at over 500 days as nomads, we have stayed some of the best (and worst) accommodation the world has to offer. We cover everything from budget to luxury accommodation, and believe that any hotel worth recommending must be comfortable and clean, offer good value for money and treat people as guests, not clients. We have personally stayed in every hotel we recommend to you here on Globetrottergirls.com.
You get what you pay for.
We have all heard it before, usually when we have gotten a great deal on something that ends up breaking a few days (hours) post-purchase. The longer we spend on the road, however, we learn that with hotels, price may have very little to do with quality. The same room rate can get us a clean, comfortable guest house with owners who go out of their way and right next door, the same rate might be set for a dark, damp, dirty room and no idea who is even in charge.
Employing the budget airlines no-frills approach, Tune Hotels have made it possible to quite literally only get what you pay for.
We were not sure what to expect when we booked in at the Tune Hotel Kuala Lumpur Downtown, but the Malaysian chain’s promise of a five-star bed at one-star prices was enough to get us in to check it out for ourselves. The bed was heavenly, but more on that in just a minute. Let’s start where you would normally start after arriving at the airport: the check-in desk.
The check-in desk at the Tune hotel bears an uncanny similarity to the one in the Air Asia terminal we had checked into that morning. In fact, Tune hotels sits within the Tune Group, an entertainment and leisure brand started by the owners of Air Asia. This strong relationship is displayed in our room through the advertisement for Air Asia flights on the wall in our room.
That’s right. Where most hotels have a cheesy watercolor painting, Tune has advertisements both in the room and above each room number down the hall. For rates as low as $8, we exchange our freedom from advertising in our sleep. It is a small price to pay, we say, for the sweet spot of quality accommodation and great location that our Tune hotel provides. Passports are handed back and forth, small talk is swapped and instead of a boarding pass, we are handed a room key. For $1.50 each, we also both get a towel and a toiletry kit and head off to our room.
We enter and slide the key into the slot which controls the room – fan or air con, TV & Wireless or not – depending on what extras we have thrown in for. We’ve opted NOT to try all of those extras to see how comfortable a very basic version of the accommodation can be. Upon first glance, we love our room immediately. It is basic, and not that big. The bathroom door is industrial, could be, say, in an airport – and actually has the word ‘Pull’ under the handle.
But the bathroom has a sparkling clean toilet and sink, a hair-dryer, and a separate shower room with a rain shower head. In the room itself, there is a flat screen TV (which won’t turn on unless we pay), a bed-side table, laptop-sized safe, and a bed – a big, comfortable and most definitely five-star bed with crisp white sheets and fluffy pillows. The shower, the hairdryer and the bed are three key ingredients for a perfect hotel room – and these all come in the most basic room rate.
Even worn-in dorm rooms can cost more in a big city like KL, and Tune is miles from that type of accommodation. Instead, the hotel takes a luxury room and takes out everything we don’t really need: things like there not being a specific space for suitcases – that will have to do on the floor; no closet to hang your belongings – but there is an abundance of hooks. Even the nicest hotels overlook how important hooks are to a comfortable stay- Tune seems to have been paying attention there and we are grateful for it.
The other key ingredient to any hotel stay is the location. From our Tune Hotel Kuala Lumpur, we can see the Petronas Towers, which are just one stop away on the Monorail – which passes right by the hotel. There is a large mall across the street with shopping, restaurants, and a Starbucks with free wi-fi. There are two PCs in the lobby with free 30min of internet for guests. We were able to print our boarding passes free of charge as well (a rare perk). For a more local experience, dozens of typical Malaysian hawker food stalls are within a few minutes’ walk of the hotel as well – we get two full plates of veggie food and drinks for under $6 total one night. In the mornings, we eat breakfast at the Subway located on the ground floor of the hotel, both ordering a breakfast sandwich and a coffee for $2.50 each.
It is entirely possible for room and board costs to run under $15 for a single traveler while staying at a Tune hotel in Malaysia, even where we are, in the heart of the capital. However, similar to the booking process on budget airline websites, guests will need to know months in advance of their stay. For example, I have trouble finding such a low room rate online, finally coming up with $8 for a single bed in January 2013 (I was searching in February 2012). In a nearby city called Ipoh in Malaysia, where Tune is opening another hotel in April, the lowest rate is $25, but we stayed at a different Ipoh hotel for the same price, one that included free water, free wi-fi, that same rain shower in a giant bathroom, and fairly decent cable TV, all included in the price. As with budget airlines, it seems there is a bit of research involved in booking with a no-frills hotel chain as well.
Stand out features: The bed
In the end, paying either $30 or a lesser rate, Tune has gotten the most important aspect of the room just right. The bed is truly of a five-star comfort level. We sleep soundly, don’t even want to get out of it in the morning. The fact that there is a rain shower and a hair-dryer are just icing on the cake. The best part of this is that because Tune is a growing chain, this makes booking a comfortable bed like this easily predictable rather than hoping that that $25 Ipoh hotel has a nice bed. There is something to be said for knowing one can expect such a good night’s sleep.
Room for improvement: The towels
This might seem a small complaint, but we were surprised at the scratchy, under-sized towels, especially as we paid for them in the towel/toiletry pack. Plus, the bed linens are just so fluffy…why can’t the towels be, too?
As we said at the start, at Tune, you get what you pay for. Guests have to be on-board with the no-frills approach from the start in order to enjoy this type of hotel. Paying extra for TV and Wi-Fi, towels, and to have the cleaning lady come more often than once every three days is part of the deal. From what we witness in Kuala Lumpur, however, is that Tune appeals to a range of travelers. We saw both young and very old travelers, Asians, Westerners, families and couples. We loved the experience, and are keen to try another Tune hotel in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, or maybe even Britain, where Tune is rolling out 17 hotels through 2015.
Location: 316 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Price: Doubles from RM25 / $8
LGBT Friendly: not sure
Digital Nomad Friendly: yes
Amenities: Rain shower, hairdryer, wi-fi (extra charge), internet station in the lobby (30 minutes free usage), flatscreen TV (extra charge), Subway restaurant in the lobby