Mouse Trap at the Sheel Hotel in Mumbai

Is This The Worst or The Best Hotel in Mumbai?

Derek India, Perspectives 77 Comments

Mouse Trap at the Sheel Hotel in Mumbai

One of the most important things about travel, something that every person should understand before they set off on their adventures, is that no two people will ever have the same experiences. What one person will love, another won’t enjoy at all. What one person feels is a ‘must-see’ place, another person will label ‘not worth visiting’.

There are simply too many personal factors involved with travel in order for a concrete conclusion to be reached about any particular destination. I doubt there is anywhere on this planet that every single traveler agrees upon in terms of liking or disliking it. It just doesn’t happen, not when we all have our own individual likes and dislikes, our own interests, our own needs and comfort levels, our own beliefs and interpretations, and on and on.

Such differences in opinion obviously extends to activities, cuisine and of course, accommodation as well. A hotel that I feel comfortable at, you might hate. And this is exactly why I can’t tell you if the hotel I am staying at right now is the worst or the best hotel in Mumbai, India. The only thing I know is that this hotel could be either, and that it all depends on the traveler.

Sheel Hotel, Mumbai

The Prison Version

The entire building of the Sheel Hotel appears to be over one hundred years old and it is in the exact condition that you would expect of such an old building that has been neglected for most of its existence. The entrance is narrow and takes you through a long, dark hallway, the staircase leading from the crowded, gloomy lobby to the rooms above is cracked and feels quite unsturdy, the air vents are covered in dust, piles of dishes are being cleaned in the hall and there are people who might or might not be staff hanging around, on occasion sleeping on the floor. The common areas on each level are half-inside and half-outside as they have only three walls, with the fourth side open to the elements, giving you a perfect view of another crumbling building next door.

Common Area at Sheel Hotel

Most of the rooms are very small, with two narrow single beds, very thin ‘mattresses’, somewhat clean but stained sheets (as you find all over India), smudged walls, a loud, unsteady ceiling fan and no window at all. The air inside the room is a bit musty and there are a few small pieces of trash under the bed, left over from the previous occupants.

You’ll find the common bathrooms at the end of the hall where you have one Indian-style squat toilet to share with every other guest on your floor and two cell-like shower rooms, with only cold water coming from the pipe sticking out of the wall.

Oh, there are also some resident mice, two or three it seems. And while they’re tiny, they occasionally scurry into your room through an opening under the door, scoot around for a while, and sometimes climb up onto the other bed, before darting back out again. The staff will give you a mouse trap to place in your room (see the photo at the top of the post!), with a piece of chapati dangling from the hook, but it’s quite pointless considering that once the mice are captured, they simply escape a few seconds later through a hole in the worn-out metal trap.

To top it off, the hotel is located at the edge of a busy market area, with a constant rush of people coming and going in the lanes outside, motorbikes and cars speeding through the crowds, street vendors constantly calling out to you to buy their goods and a few extremely daring, car/truck/bus-avoiding crossings to be made if you want to reach the other side of the main road.

But what do you expect when you book a room at such a prison-like establishment?

The Palace Version

As hard as it may be to imagine right now, this exact same place, the Sheel Hotel, could also very well be the best hotel to stay at while in Mumbai.

The location is absolutely ideal, just across the street from the main CST Train Station and right in the heart of the Fort district. It’s only a twenty minute walk to the popular Colaba district and there is no shortage of shops, good local restaurants, cafes and great food stalls in the immediate area. And as soon as you enter the hotel itself, the noise from all the activity outside suddenly disappears.

The manager of the hotel, Jitin, is one of the friendliest and most helpful managers of any budget hotel that I’ve come across in this country. He greets you with a smile, offers his assistance and is the main reason why the shabby lobby feels so comfortable.

Reception at Sheel Hotel

As you climb the stairs to your room, you’ll pass several staff members, most of whom will greet you with a ‘Namaste’ and a smile as well. The common area on your floor, while basic, offers a big table and several plastic chairs where you can sit in the natural light coming in from the lack of a fourth wall.

Your room is small, but with enough space to move around. The beds are adequate and there’s a sheet and blanket on each. The room is clean (apart from under the bed), there’s a little table, plenty of hooks and a full length mirror. The ceiling is quite high and there’s a fan to keep you cool. Amazingly for a budget hotel, there’s also an air-conditioner that you can use at no extra charge at all. And you even have a television, complete with cable channels, as well.

Room at Sheel Hotel

Sure, there are indeed some mice appearing every now and then, but watching them buzz around turns into entertainment after a while.

Those common bathrooms, including the sinks, the toilet room and the two shower rooms, are very tidy, as they are fully cleaned by the staff at what appears to be every hour on the hour. Speaking of staff, while many don’t speak English, they are all ready to assist at any time and a couple of them go beyond what you would ever expect for such a budget place.

Toilets at Sheel Hotel

The hotel has a reasonably-priced laundry service, you can use their printer at cheap rates and they also have free Wi-Fi in the lobby.

And even though the staff requests that you leave your key at reception whenever you go out, which you would want to do anyway considering that the attached key-chain is about the size of a blue whale, you feel perfectly safe in doing so. Despite being a budget hotel, it feels remarkably secure, especially knowing that Jitin, who is on a mission to attract more foreign customers, is looking after things.

Of course, the best part about this hotel is that a room costs a mere 750 Rupees / $15 USD per night, making it one of the cheapest hotels in Mumbai, a city with a reputation for the highest accommodation rates in all of India. It’s nearly impossible to find a decent room for that price over here as most of the budget hotels offer far poorer quality for two or three times the price.

The Sheel Hotel beats them all. It’s like a palace in comparison.

And that’s how travel works! It’s always quite intriguing to me to hear different travelers express their views about the very same places, and as a result, I can easily understand how some of you might view the Sheel Hotel as a complete dump and some might think it’s a great value after reading the above.

I personally find it to be an excellent deal as I’d rather pay $15 USD per night at a friendly, convenient, clean, yet very basic, hotel than to pay $40 or more per night (which is what I found during my research and previous visits to Mumbai) for a room that is only slightly better.

But again, that’s just my opinion!


What do you think? Is this hotel a prison or a palace (maybe not a palace but perhaps just a ‘great deal’)?

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Comments 77

  1. Pingback: Backpacking India - Part 1: Mumbai Hostels | Tiny Pilgrim

  2. Alejandro

    I have been in India for a month and I will stay here for another 2 months. Since long ago I have been reading your blog and I know that you love India so I have read all the India posts to can catch a few tips, but after being traveling here I think this is the most valuable post you can read about hotels in India.

    It catches the real essence of this country. I have been staying in all kind of hotels here, even with a family using Airbnb, and the true is that no matter how many reviews do you read about the hotels in India, at the end it would be just your perception to enjoy it or hate as the most things here or anywhere.

    And yes, I am right now in Mumbai and the price/quality relation here is the worst that I have seen

  3. Claire

    That sounds a lot like the Hostel I stayed at in Mumbai. We stayed at Delight Guest House in Colaba for Rps700 per night, it was essentially one large room that had MDF boards separating cubicles for rooms. It was great we had a TV and they even cleaned our room for us. It was also a great place for women to stay we where a group of six girls and the staff really looked after us even walking us to the shops and showing us to good restaurants at night, waiting up to make sure that we got home safe. The staff where amazing they all came outside to walk us to the bus station then waved us off crying!

    Yes we could have found somewhere more expensive that was cleaner and more comfortable, however I doubt that I would find staff that amazing.

  4. Vivek

    Well i must stay you brought up a balanced story. I lived in norther part of India (Most beautiful city in India: Chandigarh) and spent a year and a half in an MNC.

    I was paying around 120$ a month to stay in a paying guest accommodation shared by 5 people in 750 square feet 1 BHK flat !!

    as far as your description is concerned, the squat toilet was looking awkward to me..but still 750 Rs considering the location is not a bad deal.

    Now since i left the city, i feel overall i had a mixed opinion about being in mumbai… I found Mumbai a good city to roam around. But as far as the accommodation is concerned i felt it was like hell… but i am sure Mumbai (Bombay) will become poor and poor now..

    I would like you to visit Chandigarh..and guess what it will surprise you..

  5. Pingback: Travel Information About India - Blogs Research - Fluent In Frolicking

  6. Puru

    You know , it is wonderful the way you have given your view from both perspectives. Although I would not call it a palace, but it seems like a good place to stay in a city like Mumbai. $15 is on a higher side for India but considering its Mumbai, still ok.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Puru – For Mumbai, $15 is definitely a good deal, especially for its location. Of course, it’s not a palace but it’s quite acceptable for those on a budget.

  7. Pingback: I Can't Believe I'm Back in South Africa! - Wandering Earl

  8. Patricia

    This is definitely one of the best travel posts I’ve ever read. Sometimes it’s really hard to put things into perspective when you’re out of your comfort zone. But it definitely pays to do so.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Thank you Patricia…and yes, it does make a difference if you’re able to step back, look at the situation from a new angle and then realize how lucky you are to even be traveling. This certainly turns any negative situation into a much more positive one!

  9. Chris

    LOL, very well said. The little cameo from the mice brought back memories of a small Hanoi hotel and a rat that I accidentally locked in (after it came through our window).

    At first it was a touch stressful as we’d just had tales from another couple of toes being gnawed on an overnight train, but we eventually ‘bonded’.

    It became incredibly interesting watching it try to leave the way it had arrived (only to find the window closed), then scurry about finding an alternative.

    I did re-open the window for it, however it showed some intelligence as, having tried that option already, it was a long while before it tried any point for a 2nd time.

    Oh the joys of travel!

    Keep up the great work.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Jan – There were actually a couple of solo female travelers staying here and they loved the place as well. It’s perfectly safe and secure, the staff are great and it’s in a busy area that is fine to walk around even at night. Definitely a good option I’d say and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to female travelers heading to this city.

  10. Prince Bhatia

    I must say this is very difficult to stay this kind of Hotels. I would say they named it as a hotel but in actual it is worse than a lodge. Earl, I will advise you to shed 10 dollars extra a stay in some decent place ,where you can sleep and write peacefully. It feels like a nightmare to stay in this kind of place. Good Luck

  11. Colleen

    Best. I would cheerfully trade my own luxurious and immaculate stateside ‘crib’ for that particular Mumbai accommodation. Clean enough is good enough. When traveling I only really use my room for a place to wash my clothes, sleep and shower in the morning. I like a good value and the people at that hotel seem nice. For me, it’s always about the vibe the hotel staff give off. If it’s warm, familial and friendly, I’m not bothered if the property is not plush. Mumbai is one of the great cities of the world. It has an energy that is so alive, so Indian and chaotic in a good way. A $15.00 room would double or triple the amount of time I could spend in one of my favorite cities in my favorite country in the world. Deal.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Colleen – Well said and I too would rather stay at this hotel when it means that I could stay in this city for a longer period of time. That’s a great way to look at it!

    1. Prince Bhatia

      Hey Matt, I think someone misguided you because in India you can get decent and clean accommodation within 20 dollars, but due to some bad middle man’s you end up in paying much more than the actual cost.

      1. Wandering Earl

        Hey Prince – I guess you haven’t been to Mumbai in the high season….finding a good accommodation for $20 really isn’t possible in this city. I’ve been several times and have plenty of friends in this city and we always talk about how expensive hotels are here. It’s unlike any other part of India.

  12. Clémence

    I like very simple yet clean hostels/hotels too!
    You have all that you basically need, you keep money for more travel, more food or whatever you like.
    It’s funny how sometimes you might feel better in a simple but friendly and practical place that in a more expensive but cold place.
    When I was in Rishikesh I had a very cheap yet nice room next to the Ganja that I really enjoyed. The only problem was I met with 2 big coakroaches, aargh! I killed them with tons of antimosquitoes but after dreamed of them in my sleep.
    That’s the kind of moment where the nostaglia of some comfort hits me back! But often it doesn’t really last 🙂
    I love to follow you and hear what you feel and think when your travelling. Its nice to travel “by procuration” while I’m back home to Europe.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Clemence – It doesn’t last long for me either whenever I am dealing with one of the less enjoyable aspects of a budget hotel. Usually, saving money is the top priority and as long as I have a bed, I can deal with most other things.

      And thank you for following along with the blog…perhaps you’ll be out there on the road again soon!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Shalu – It’s funny because I was impressed with the bathroom…it was incredibly clean for Mumbai standards but I can see how it might not appeal to everyone of course 🙂

  13. Sofie

    I love the way this post is written and you certainly have a point. What’s great for one person, is horrible for another and that goes way beyond places to stay.

    As to your question, I would most definitely say “NO” to this hotel:-)

  14. Nitin Sharma

    gr8 article! I certainly appreciate your attitude and ability to look things from different angles. I live in mumbai and trust me budget hotels can be worse than this one. Though you can get rooms to stay for as low as $10 per day but they wont be clean/secure and with weird staff. enjoy your stay in Mumbai !

  15. Dyanne@TravelnLass

    “It’s like a palace in comparison.”

    Indeed, Earl – and therein lies the bottom line. I agree, everything is relative after all – especially in travel.

    I generally strive for middle-of-the-road guesthouse or private hostel room – not unlike your digs there in Mumbai. Though I must say – 15 bucks for that relative quality (which would run you about 5 bucks here in Veitnam for same-same) seems a bit steep. I can only presume ‘cuz Mumbai has become such a tourist magnet?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Dyanne – In Mumbai, it’s a different story…$15 is VERY cheap and there really isn’t anything cheaper. It’s not because of tourism though, it’s actually because there is no space for Mumbai to expand and as a result, real estate/rent is exorbitant. This drives up the accommodation prices naturally and the result is the above room for much more than you would pay in the rest of India.

  16. Angela

    This is so true! Different people have different experiences. I guess it has to do with your state of mind at hat moment and also where you just came from. If you just slept in the worst hostel ever, this will be a palace. Coming from a luxury hotel, this will be hell.

  17. Charles Rahm

    I’m looking forward to stay in hotels like these once I’ll make it to India. I now enjoy these kinds of hotels, but it was a process.
    Thailand is a good place, as low budget hotels there allow you to “practice” for India. That is my humble opinion.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Charles – It does take some time to get used to these kind of places but once it become normal, you certainly save a ton of money. Practicing for India is a great thing to do and seems like you’ll be all set once you get there!

  18. Alyson

    I’d stay there, do they have family rooms? It’s always the staff that make or break a place, I reckon. How did you take the photo looking down on the beds? When I saw that I thought it must be one of those places where the walls don’t go quite to the top, they’d freak me out if I was a single girly traveller, hunky husband is handy in those situations. I don’t think I’ve stayed in many, if any, places in India that didn’t have a squat toilet, I like them, don’t bother me at all.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Alyson – They did have larger family rooms with four beds I believe and those rooms actually had a private bathroom with western toilet. I think the price was somewhere around $35 USD which is still a bargain for such a room in this expensive city. And I took that photo using my XShot Camera Extender…which is perhaps the coolest piece of travel gear that I own. I have a short description of it here on my Travel Gear page: http://www.wanderingearl.com/travel-resources/travel-gear-list/

  19. Wil

    This seems like a great place to stay. How do you find places like this? Do you just walk around? Also is it normal to ask to see the rooms and shop around a bit when staying in hostels, hotels and guesthouses abroad? Thanks!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Wil – Normally I would just walk around but I actually found this one on Airbnb.com. The manager of the hotel advertises on there as well and I always check that website before booking to see if there is a good deal to be found. And yes, it is perfectly normal to ask to see the room before paying and to spend some time walking around, checking out many places until you find one that you like best. I do that all the time!

  20. Ashley

    Hey Earl my name is Ashley and I would love to travel when I reach 18 yrs of age, I am a guy of mixed race my mum is black and my dad is white, what countries are best for accepting races. I lived in Ireland for a year and experienced loads of racism getting called the ‘n’ word and things like that but I dont want this stopping me from a life of travel, what are your recommendations?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Ashley – You’ll find that most of the world is very accepting of different people. While you might stand out as unique in some places that don’t enjoy a great deal of diversity, you’ll generally be treated the same as everyone else. Also, in areas where tourists are quite common, such as Southeast Asia, South America, Australia, etc., locals will be much more used to seeing all kinds of people and you should have an easier time as a result.

  21. Preeti

    I’ve stayed at some pretty sh**y looking hotels and had the best experince there. If you travel on a budget, you have to learn to look for the positive in the experience. I’ve found that if I remind myself to think of a positive for every negative attribute, I can usually find out that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

    With this place I would go with the palace. Until about 5 months ago, my grandparents house in Punjab had a squat toilet so it doesn’t really bother me much anymore.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Preeti – I agree…it’s all part of budget traveling and it’s all part of the challenge of being outside of comfort zones and then learning how to adapt. There are always positive things around…just the fact that we are traveling and can afford a bed is something positive enough to keep us happy!

  22. Maria

    I wouldn’t stay there but love the customer service side – they gave you a trap at no additional cost. 🙂 It’s wonderful if you can deal with and if not, move on. No wrong answer.

  23. Shubhajit

    I think as a backpacker, you need a bed to sleep, and a toilet where you spend not more than 10 minutes. However, I can understand the pain of squat toilet, oh but again in trekking, and other adventures where you find a decent commode.

    I attitude is appreciable and quite inspiring for backpackers. Kudos!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Shubhajit – That’s the thing…it’s not as if I spent a lot of time in that room. For what I needed (bed, bathroom), it was ideal.

  24. Steve C

    You amaze me every time you come up with a new post such as this. We ride the same donkey on this one. It’s sometimes just a test of how vain we are.

    On your point about agreement; I liken this to an analogy of how do you expect the several billion people on this earth to live in peace and harmony when you can’t even agree with your wife (for those of you who have such a relationship) all the time. Hell, I don’t even agree with myself as time goes by. What I would have done ten years ago or even yesterday, may not be what I would do today!

    On the topic of picking a room for the night, I have a cousin who claims “it just isn’t camping if it’s not at the Hilton”. Everyone has their limits on any given day.

    Next time I’m in Mumbai, I will certainly look up the Shell Hotel, although I generally like to be a few more blocks from the train station.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Steve – Things do change for sure and my style of travel has changed over the years as well. While I would stay at the Sheel Hotel, there are definitely places I’ve stayed at in the past that I wouldn’t stay at right now!

  25. Forest Parks

    It sounds charming to me! Security always worries me a bit but usually I have the most important items with me when I leave a place and as you say this place is being looked after. Mice don’t bother me too much.

    If it’s clean and doesn’t have bed bugs I am happy!

  26. Passport Dave

    For $15 a night in a place like Mumbai, I would have to say this is the best hotel. If your trying to travel the world on a budget then I would think you would already be used to some of the not so pleasant conditions (especially while traveling through India). The only real concern in places like this would be security, and it seems like this place stands up to the challenge so therefore it is a steal.

    Can’t not wait until I set off on my travels. Estimate I am leaving my home country (US) in about six months to enjoy the benefits, delights, and challenges that long term travel can bring for myself.

    1. Wandering Earl

      @Passport Dave – That’s right, sometimes budget travelers just need to stay in a place like this, especially when the alternatives are so much more expensive. And it doesn’t take long for some of these things – thin mattresses, squat toilets, etc. – to become normal parts of life and not as shocking as they may be at first. As for security, this place was very secure, with 3 staff in the lobby at all times making sure that everyone who was inside the hotel was supposed to be there.

      On another note, looks like your upcoming trip is not so far away now and even more importantly, seems like you’re already in the right mindset to make the most out of your adventures!

  27. Sherell

    I had to stop reading after your description of the bathroom. I’ve used squat toilets before, but, I would not want to have to use one in the middle of the night. My stomach is turning after imagining all that you were describing. Mice. Squat toilets. 3 walls. Musty smell.

    Yikes, No, thank you. $15 per night, with a huge possibility of unknown infections and bed bugs and who knows what else!!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sherell – Don’t worry, you wouldn’t get any infections and there weren’t any bed bugs at all. The staff cleaned the place quite well considering the condition of the building!

  28. Sergio Felix

    I was doing just fine and even nodding to everything you were saying, thinking “yes, I could totally go there” until I read this about mice: “and sometimes climb up onto the other bed”.

    There’s no chance in hell I would be able to sleep well knowing that a mouse can snook under the sheets I’m currently sleeping!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sergio – Haha…well, if it helps, the mouse only jumped onto the unoccupied bed and never came near me at all 🙂

  29. Jeniffer Almonte

    Earl, these kinds of posts are why I love reading your blog so much… I wasn’t sure how you could redeem this place after showing the picture of the mousetrap (!!!!!!!!). And yet you did. I really like your attitude about things.

    If I was ever in Mumbai, I would gladly stay here. 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Jennifer – Glad you enjoyed the post and glad you would stay at this place as well…believe me, for that price, it’s a steal!

  30. Mzurie

    I really like how you framed this – best or worst – for same place.

    Funny, I was leaning toward worst until you gave the vital info about the price. All things are relative, as you demonstrate so clearly through your story.

    So: Best. Fortunately, I have no quarrel with mice, as long as they’re polite. Gigantic roaches with an attitude, that’s a different story.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Mzurie – These were certainly polite mice. And I’m with you…cockroaches would be a different story for sure!

  31. Jack Costello

    Earl, very well written. I spent 5 weeks in India in a local business mans hotel, and much the same could be written about it. One night a staff member attempted to steal my computer off the desk while I was asleep, I rose up and yelled scaring him out of the room. But the staff is otherwise very friendly. You captured the essence of the experience – you rationalize that it meets the need and you look for the good in it. A rooftop garden – what western hotel would let you up on the roof? The toilets are disgusting, the hotel bathroom is decrepit and creepy, but you pray you don’t have to use a public restroom and if you do you touch as little as possible, literally nothing if possible. The street noise, the uncomfortable “bed” (mattress ticking on a wood platform, no springs, standard in Delhi) the poverty all around you, you just get used to it enough that you can tolerate it.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Jack – You’re right, you do rationalize it and for those traveling on a budget, paying $15 versus $30 per night is well worth a few inconveniences. Everyone has their own limit and must find their own balance between cost/comfort…and usually while traveling, that balance can change depending on the country.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey James – I don’t mind the squat toilets anymore…took a little getting used to but after being in Asia for a long time, they’re fine with me. But it does take some time to get used to.

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