What takes a room from being mundane to being simple and yet inviting? In this case, not much other than those tell tale patterned bedspread and fluffy pillows that you are in someone’s home. Only that it is not just a home. With gleaming sun rays filtering in through the windows, a beautifully manicured guest room in Vasant Vihar is one of the many home-stays that have opened up as boutique staying options in New Delhi.
This little cozy nest is the home of a baker and homemaker who built it with love in her 50s. The place comes with all the right kind of additives that we all seem to create a check list for (but actually not always find) — private bathroom, hot water and fresh towels.
Delhi wasn’t this hospitable though (do pardon patrons!) but recently over 300 recorded homes have opened up their spare bedrooms as bed&breakfasts. How did this revolution happen overnight? The Common Wealth Games. While naming the sporting event starts a slew of debates on misappropriation of funds, this is clearly one good thing that came out of it. New Delhi, while preparing to host the games faced one of it’s many shortcomings – it did not have enough beds for its guests. The government started a drive in 2006 to let hosts like Mrs. Bindra to register their homes as bed-and-breakfasts on their official website. Well, it only grew.
The variations are not slim either with budget end options usually starting from around Rs. 1,500 which are essentially no-frills staying options. They are not charming and the decor will probably be limited to an ageing calendar on the wall. But it’s a home, it has to be better than a run down hotel.
Towards the higher end though, like everything else, a lot of options open up. Take for instance a very chic looking private villa with a penthouse in Nizamuddin East goes for around Rs.8000 per night. But it sleeps more than two. Go bargain now!
The straight-from-the-homes kind of hospitality obviously brings in all the goodness that Airbnb.com cashed in so well — take out the plastic comfort of hotels and throw in some read beds and what couchsurfing.org worships — live the life of your host for the day.
While the Indian travel community is fast evolving, the change is not yet widespread – most Indian travellers are still family trippers with age groups upwards of 35 and with kids. This demography of course finds hotels, establishments with glass doors and gloved service more attractive for a number of reasons. Sadly, one of them is social bragging rights.
How does this work (and how Airbnb.com can take over big time)
If this has got you interested, you probably want to forget the Ginger and Windsor chains and give the homes a shot. Brace yourself. If you have even the faintest of ideas about booking trains in India, you’ll be in known waters.
Start off at the Indian Ministry of Tourism Web site but don’t expect to find an obvious booking solution there. The site offers very little apart from a pdf file which has a list of bed & breakfast establishments, listing the owner’s name, address, telephone, the number of rooms and whether it is a “gold” or “silver” property — without explaining what those designations mean. Take a deep breath, expect stark accents, call up, and have patience.
In many ways, staying at a B&B in New Delhi did feel a lot like a home. However, I also realised that it is not as cleanly defined as you’d expect in places which has seen the culture for a while now, like Singapore (even with the legal issues out there). You can expect a pet for instance, to dart in and hop on to your bed for the nap. It used to be his place until now, you realize. Being a pet lover, it’s more or less alright for me. Might not be so for you. This is where a service like Airbnb can really make a difference.
A list of legally registered B & Bs in Delhi can be found on the Ministry of Tourism Web site here.
Dipmala Bindra’s apartment is pretty close to the airport at 2 Palam Marg, Vasant Vihar. Call: 91-98-11-039-894.
Rajiv Chaudhary and Janis McClinch, two architects designed and renovated their spacious villa to create a six-room B & B called B Nineteen. B-19, Nizamuddin East; 91-98-1896-7438; www.bnineteen.com.
If you are looking to find some cool things to do while in New Delhi, do check mygola.com — the world’s largest hand-curated collection of authentic trips by real people which lets you create your own custom travel plan within minutes.