I had a heck of a time finding a hotel that seemed right in Sydney. I only had 24 hours between flights and did not really want an expensive downtown hotel. I just wanted something fairly close to the airport that was reasonably priced and close to shopping and restaurants.
One big concern was that I was arriving in Sydney International Airport from California at 8AM in the morning. I’ve had the experience of arriving early in the morning, before a hotel’s check-in time, in London, Buenos Aires, and now Sydney. It is a real pain in the butt, especially if you are exhausted from an international flight. Clients and hotels routinely lie and say sure, we will let you check in early.
London and England has always been the worst for me – I’ve had clients (the BBC and the BG Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, for which I served as a judge) promise over and over again that they would book a hotel which would allow me to check in early and go to sleep. Sleep! The reality, every time in England, was that I arrived and the hotel refused to let me check in early despite their promises. I was left to wander the streets for five hours in a jet-lagged daze. My experience in London in 2006 or so, as a judge for the British Gas Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, was the worst. I urged my wife to come along on a fun English excursion. We were forced to wait for hours for our room, then got a room the size of a closet! I have some photos of this hotel, which had corridors that barely let me pass through. I'll post them in another blog entry so there's no confusion.
Anyway, back to Sydney:
I narrowed my search down to a few places. I’ve been a fan of Rydges Hotels since I stayed with them in their Christchurch, New Zealand location.
I must commend John Ackary of the Rydges North Sydney for replying to my query about checking in early. He wrote back,
We'd be delighted to oblige, I don't think we will fill the hotel the night prior and if this were to occur by 10am we would typically have some rooms ready & clean to go.
I will trace your request and check a few days prior.
We look forward to welcoming you to our Hotel.
Rydges North Sydney”
Wow!! It is rare to find this kind of welcoming attitude and hospitality these days, and I congratulate Mr. Ackary on this.
However, I decided to try to find a hotel closer to the airport than North Sydney. A taxi to North Sydney would cost $60 to $80, as opposed to a hotel in the main south bay area.
The hotel contact at the Rydges Camperdown was not as gracious. She replied, “
Thank you for your email and for choosing Rydges Camperdown for your next stay in Sydney.
Unfortunately I am not able to guarantee check in until 2pm as this is our standard check in time but if you wish to check in at 8am I would suggest you book a room on the Friday evening and this will guarantee the room to be available to you that time.
The rate for the Friday 3rd February 2012 is $189.00, if you would like me to make this amendment to your reservation please let me know and I will forward your request to the Reservations Team.
Really? Your hotel can’t accommodate a guest and at least offer an early check-in if rooms are available from the night before? You’d really charge someone for two nights if he were to check in just a few hours early?
I found what looked like a nice boutique hotel called The Blenheim Randwick on Booking.com. The reviews were good, and I wrote to ask if they would accommodate an early arrival. They were gracious and welcoming,
We can try and get your room ready by 10am as our housekeepers also
work at our other lodge up the road, usually when we have a request
from a guest asking for an early check in we do try get the house
keepers down here to get your room ready asap. I can not promise you
10am but can get it close to that time.
if you have any more questions that i can help you with please don't
hesitate to ask.
THE BLENHEIM RANDWICK”
I can say that the manager Dion was welcoming, and got me into a very nice room as soon as I arrived. I was a happy camper.
A few notes about the Blenheim:
It’s in a great location. Shopping and restaurants are a 5-minute walk away, and I am told that the Coogee Beach is a 10-minute walk away. I never made it as the area immediately around the hotel had tons of restaurants and shops.
The internet works fine, but you do need to use a password and username, and I found myself having to enter my password to regain internet access quite often, perhaps a dozen times during my stay. I could not get on their wifi network with both my ipad and my MacBook Pro at the same time.
I am in a room facing High Street. Many review complain about the lights and the noise for rooms facing High Street. I am finding that the blinds in the rooms are quite heavy and the room is soundproofed enough so street noise is not that bad. This is nothing compared to the constant sirens and noise of New York City, for instance.
The air-conditioning works fine, the room is not huge but it is fine. The room and bathroom are clean, and the bed is very clean and comfortable. I did my routine check for bedbugs and did not see any sign of them.
There are very few shuttle services that come out to Randwick, which is only 3.4 miles from the airport. This is because almost all shuttles go to the downtown Sydney area to the north of the airport. Randwick is to the east. I did find this shuttle service which I met at Bay 35 of the airport shuttle service area (to the right out the international terminal):
Eastern Suburbs Shuttle: he says call him when I get there, he will tell me how long it will take, call him on his mobile 61 416 066 408 or 1300 739 766 between 5.00am and 9.00pm daily.
I paid them $20 for a one-way ticket with my three giant rolling duffel bags, carry-on and backpack.