“ Address: 15 Brunton Road Cross / Bangalore / 560 025 / Tel: (+91 80) 25584797 / E-Mail: email@example.com „
When faced with trying to find somewhere to stay in Bangalore, I was really having problems to identify something suitable. As one of the wealthiest cities in India, it's never going to be a cheap place to stay so I knew it would be hard to get a bargain. But the bigger problem was the sheer size of the city - I was clueless about which part of Bangalore would be good. Finding something suitable taxed all my travel research skills.
I started with the hotel booking sites - plenty of choice, but no realistic sense of how to narrowing things down. I contacted a fellow review writer who lives in the city (thanks Kiran) and she really helped me to understand which part of the city to aim for. She suggested a couple of options but neither place had a website so I couldn't get in touch with them directly and I didn't want to impose on her for more help. This is a very frustrating aspect of trying to find places in India - if you don't want to go for the expensive up-market chains, then chances are high that many of the smaller cheaper places don't have websites and the only way to get a price is through a local agent. I tried to get prices for the Woodlands, a place she said was good (and where we subsequently met and had dinner) but the Bangalore-based travel agents needed only to spot that I was foreign for the prices to soar. In frustration I turned to the tripadvisor forums and posted a question. Could anyone help me find a good, clean budget hotel and did the site members agree that the $60 a night I'd been quoted for the Woodlands was a total rip off?
The response was fast and friendly. Several people advised me that the price was indeed ridiculous and then someone recommended I try the Terrace Gardens Guesthouse. Further advice about the guest house followed - that I should go for certain types of room, that I should try for a room in the main house and not one of the annexes and so on. The website address was supplied and I headed off to have a look. Without the help of the tripadvisor member in Bangalore, I can't imagine I'd ever have found the Terrace Gardens so I remain indebted to him/her for that help.
The hotel's website introduces the Terrace Gardens as the first ever 'Bed and Breakfast' in Bangalore. It seems a strange sort of claim but when it opened in 1996 there were no other options based on the very British idea of B&B. I learned that it was quite central, should be in a quiet area despite its proximity to the MG Road (Mahatma Gandhi, in case you were wondering) and seemed to be offering clean en suite rooms. The photographs showed a range of clean but fairly basic looking rooms and some gorgeous gardens. Prices started at 1800 Rp (at the time this was about £25) and rose up to 4500 Rp (ca. £60) for the 'Ultradeluxe Suite'. All rooms had 10% tax to pay on top.
I contacted the hotel through their website and asked for a double room with air conditioning for two nights followed by a third night later the same week. I don't actually want or need air con (November in Bangalore isn't hot) but in a lot of Indian hotels, they only put air con in the better rooms so it can be worth paying a little extra. I got a reply from the guest house very quickly. The A/C room for the first two nights would be 3000 Rp plus tax and the final night 2250 Rp plus tax. I asked if they had something cheaper and they offered a non-A/C room for the first two nights for 1800 plus tax and I asked for that but said we'd keep the A/C for our return.
Trying to pay by paypal I got annoyed that paypal was converting the price twice over and charging me a lot more. They took the original 1980 Rp, converted it to dollars and then again to sterling and somewhere along the line the price soared by 10 to 15%. I wrote again to the guest house (who must have been wondering what kind of nutter they were dealing with) and asked if I could pay for just the one night in advance and then pay the balance on arrival. They kindly agreed to this suggestions and I let paypal rip me off for just a couple of quid on one night's booking charge. When the staff showed me that they were willing to be helpful and flexible, I felt confident that everything was going to be OK.
We arrived on the overnight train from Hampi which terminates at Bangalore station at about 5.30 am. We'd splashed out on a first class sleeper and got some advice off the retired military gentlemen who shared our carriage about how to get to the hotel. "Keep away from the touts" he told us "and head for the pre-paid taxi stand". We joined the throng of travellers and as we stepped out of the station were pounced on by a taxi driver. He wanted 350 rp (about £4.50) to take us to the hotel. I told him to get lost. He dived into his vehicle and came out with an official looking laminated rate card confirming the price of 350 rp. I told him again to get lost, doubting the authenticity of his rate card. I asked an auto-rickshaw driver for a price and shaved 100rp off the first price. I wanted to go for the prepaid taxis and both drivers swore blind that was what they were and I couldn't see anything that looked like an official office. Eventually I gave in and we paid 250 to the taxi man but it left a nasty taste in the mouth. I knew I'd been played but after a night on the train I'd lost the will to fight harder.
On our return to Bangalore later in the week we were better informed. An elderly gentleman strode up to the taxi drivers who were pestering us, called them 'parasites' and told them they should be ashamed of themselves and that they were a disgrace to their country. He accompanied us to the real prepaid taxi stand and explained the routine to us. You wait in a line for five minutes or so, then when your turn comes, you tell the operator where you want to go and how many bags you have and they issue you with a printed chitty showing the cost and an assistant summons an autorickshaw to come and get you. From memory I think we paid a couple of rupees, certainly not more than 10, for this service and were given a chit saying around 50 or 60 rp for the journey. Hubby had forgotten to tell the operator we had a bag so the driver said he'd charge us an extra 10 rp but it was still really cheap. When we eventually got to the guest house we were more than happy to give him 100 rp (about £1.30) which was a massive tip but still much cheaper than dealing with the touts. On paper the distance doesn't look like much but first timers need to be aware that Bangalore has a ludicrously complex one way system that might possibly cut congestion but certainly increases distances.
~Arriving at the Terrace Gardens~
I had written to warn them that we'd arrive really early in the morning on the overnight train from Hampi. They promised the room would be ready, even though it was just after 6 am when we rolled up. The night receptionist showed us to our room and said he was happy to wait until later for me to pay for the rest of our stay.
We had a large ground floor room in the main Terrace Gardens building. They have several annexes, one just across the street and a couple further away and I'd been recommended to try to get a room in the main building. The room had its own door onto the garden outside and was large, spotlessly clean and a luxury compared to the place we'd just been staying in. It was one of the cheaper rooms at about £25 per night and this was because it had a fan but no air con. We realised that we didn't need more than this and soon changed our booking for our final night (which would have been about £10-15 more) and asked to keep this room because we liked it.
The room was large with a spotlessly clean tiled floor. It had a high ceiling with a floral border and cream painted walls. We had two single beds which is pretty typical in India as well as a soft squishy sofa, a desk or dressing table depending on your perspective, a fridge and a television, good lighting and a couple of nice rugs. There was a tray with tea and coffee making facilities and a basket of snacks which weren't priced too outrageously. The bathroom had a rather ugly blue suite that reminded me of the 1970s but who cares when the water is hot? We quickly went through our bags to root out our dirty washing and handed it in at the desk before going to sleep in the comfortable beds.
~What's on Offer?~
The hotel has small but lovely gardens and they actually run a garden design business from the premises. We were thoroughly charmed by the surroundings, especially up on the top floor roof terrace where breakfast was served each morning by a chef in a fancy hat. All the staff we met were super and a couple of times we saw the lady owner who was clearly very proud of her premises. Despite the rooms being available on the very-Indian scheme of 24 hour rates (which means the room is yours in units of 24 hours from when you check in - so no early or late check-in charges), we were able to persuade them to let us stay a little later on the morning we were due to leave for Mysore. I'd have paid extra if I had to, but not being chucked out on the streets at 6 am was definitely a bonus and we weren't charged anything for staying a bit later.
Basic meals can be arranged if you are willing to book them in advance but it wasn't clear to me where we could eat them and I was a little reluctant to be tied to having to be back at the hotel at particular times so we didn't use their service, preferring to eat in the restaurants at a large shopping centre nearby.
On our second visit we were back in the same room but we visited the annexe opposite to use their internet terminal. The computer was really awful and the connection - when we eventually got one - was dreadful but the staff went out of the way to try to help even when they were considerably less clueless than I was. In the end my favourite member of staff (whom I won't name for fear of getting them in trouble) said "There's an internet café at the end of the road. I'm really sorry I didn't just tell you to go there but the boss was listening and I had to sell you a voucher." They also offer wi-fi cards for anyone travelling with their own laptop and the service for that was a lot better and less complex than trying to use their computer. I only did it because I needed to do an online check in for our return flights, otherwise I really would have given up very quickly.
On our final morning the hotel arranged our taxi to Bangalore airport at an ungodly hour of the morning. For the previous few days we'd been buzzing around in autorickshaws and it was lovely to be in a proper car that could do a decent speed on the nice new highway out to the airport. The car turned up on time and was comfortable and clean.
What you won't find in the Terrace Gardens is lots of the unnecessary clutter that fills up the fancier hotels. There's no pool or gym, no big business centre or travel agency and certainly no shops. But it's so well located that we found everything we needed within a 5 minute walk. We went to the cinema in the Garuda Mall, ate in several of the Mall's restaurants, went shopping on the MG Road and for anything further away we had the services of an over-enthusiastic auto-rickshaw driver who charged us almost nothing to drive us around but insisted on taking us to a lot of tourist shops who would each give him about 100 rp for taking us there. We weren't in a hurry, we quickly learned that Bangalore didn't have too much in the way of tourist attractions and we went along with his game.
Terrace Gardens is great. If you want something a bit more special than a faceless chain hotel, but you don't need all the expensive 'extras' of the big hotels I thoroughly recommend this place as clean, friendly and excellent value for money.
15 Brunton Cross Road