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ibis Bencoolen - A Great Choice when Visiting Singapore

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Some hotels just seem to get it right, doing the small things well, rather than doing too much, giving guests everything they need without any nasty surprises. Or, to quote Jean-Louis Barc, Director of Operations of the award-winning 538-room Ibis Bencoolen, the hotel "is quite simple, but all a guest needs."

And that is why right now, when choosing an hotel in Singapore, it is very hard to beat the ibis hotel Bencoolen. It is in a great location, just a few minutes walk away from Chjimes, Raffles City, and other major attractions. It is almost opposite the Sim Lim computer mall, and is opposite Burlington Square which is next to that. There is a handy 7-11 downstairs, and a Guardian shop a few steps away. Those interested in culture, will find an Indian and a Chinese temple on a walking-only street a relaxed 3 minutes stroll away. For transport, the airport mini-shuttle bus costing just Sin$ 9 will drop you off at the door (taxi from the airport will be Sin$ 20-30), the MRT - Singapore's underground system, is about a 5 minutes walk away, taxis and buses are both readily available. What more could you need!

Accor does not like the term budget hotel, preferring instead to call ibis an "economy" brand. But, regardless of title, label, or brand, the ibis Bencoolen is a winner, and in fact, despite being just one year old, has already won awards as the best this, and the best that, the most recent [at press time] being for The Best Budget Hotel.

Are these words of praise and prestigious accolades deserved? Too frequently with such things, it would be tempting to question, to look for possible reasons that may have er, "helped" the hotel. But not with the ibis Bencoolen, it is a deserved winner, and one that is going to get even better as time goes on.

What makes the ibis Bencoolen better than some of the other economy brands that we have come across and stayed at, better even than many hotels with an higher star rating? It is the transparency, honesty and respect for its guests. The hotel is not trying to be something it is not, and what it does offer, which is everything many travellers need, in a light refreshing and welcoming package, it does very well.

No, you do not get a pool, gym or a spa, nor are there bell boys to carry your luggage to the room, and no you can't order room service or soak in a bath tub. But what you can do, is pay a local gym a daily rate, use a public pool, choose the best spas Singapore has to offer, and while there may not be room service, you have a very wide selection of restaurants within walking distance, and even an excellent restaurant - TASTE - on the ground floor of the hotel, which will pack food so you can take it to the room. And as for taking a bath, have a shower and help save water!

The ground floor of the hotel is dedicated to the reception area where the multi-task front office team are trained to check guests in within a minute. There is an open, and free, internet kiosk area with three pc's available to guests for up to 15 minutes a time, as well as an area where guests can leave their luggage if needed.

ibis's TASTE restaurant and bar concept is also on the ground floor. With 20-foot floor to ceiling windows offering views of the street outside, the area is extremely light and more than relaxing. A bar area with two large LCD TVs serves drinks in the evening and plays all the popular sporting events such as the English Premier League, other important football matches, tennis, F1, rugby etc. The restaurant which features a dining concept endorsed by makan guru KF Seetoh, is an absolute must, as the menu comprises 20 of Singapore's most iconic dishes all in "tapas style". This gives you the chance to try 3 small dishes for just Sin$ 15++, 4 dishes for Sin$ 18++ or 5 for Sin$ 22++. This is a perfect opportunity to try different varieties of local food without having to invite friends, or waste what you cannot eat.

TASTE is also where breakfast is served. From 4am to 6am continental breakfast is available with muffins, croissants, tea and coffee etc. Then, from between 6am to 10/11 am it is a full breakfast buffet - which considering how much you are paying, is extremely good value for money, with many of the most popular hot and cold breakfast dishes available. Breakfast even continues from 10/11 to 12 with a reduced offering to ensure that those who wake late do not go hungry!

 All areas of the ground floor, the reception, luggage area, internet kiosk, sofa area and TASTE, flow almost seamlessly into one another, and while many hotel companies are now desperately trying to reviatlise their lobby areas into "living spaces" the ibis Bencoolen has succeeded. Perhaps this was a little by mistake, perhaps by design, but TASTE and most of the ground floor is a very comfortable area to spend time in.

The rooms are not large, measuring between 16.7 and 17.7 sqm, but they are clean, light, adequate and comfortable. Available in either Queen or Twin, there is space under the bed(s) to store luggage, an electronic safe, a window desk that offers either Temple view or Bencoolen view through floor to ceiling windows, international plug socket, both WiFi and LAN internet access which is complimentary to all guests, a very small refrigerator which has been left empty so you can fill it with whatever you choose, a kettle with good sized mugs, LCD TV with a few international channels such as CNN and AXN, a small area to hang clothes, a telephone, and a firm, yet comfortable bed. The hotel even offers a selection of pillows which is available upon request.

 The bathrooms feature a toilet, hand basin, mirror, hairdryer, shaving socket and a shower with hand held shower head. The hotel provides liquid shampoo from a dispenser in the shower cubicle, as well as a bar of soap next to the hand basin.

Despite having a 7-11 downstairs, the hotel has even provided guests with a vending machine on each floor. Some of these machines offer both food and drinks while others offer just drinks. The prices are very reasonable and compare favourably to 7-11.

If you are travelling light, or staying for a long period, then you may well need to do some washing. Amazingly, not only does this hotel have a laundry and dry clean service available, but it also has a laundrette! For just Sin$4 guests can wash and dry a whole machine full of clothes without worrying about detergent or washing powder as the machine calculates all that for you. There are even irons and ironing boards available free of charge, if you need to press or iron some clothes.

Guest security has also been considered, and the hotel has installed a key-card lift system which requires guests to swipe their room card for the lift to work. This feature, which is becoming more and more common in top hotels around the world, is an impressive gesture from a property that is officially in the "economy" category.

So if you are a frequent traveller to Singapore, or a first time visitor, and want an uncomplicated hotel that has all the modern day amenities you really need at a very reasonable price, then look no further than the ibis Bencoolen. You won't be disappointed.

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