International Student Center
38 West 88th Street, New York, United States
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Reviewed by EuroCheapo.com Editors
Situated in a brownstone on the Upper West Side, the bare-bones-to-the-hilt International Student Center is not a place where you stay for the ambiance—unless, of course. a down-at-heel boarding house with high ceilings and a few quirks is your idea of charm. Those looking for a cheap bed in a great neighborhood are the Center’s natural clientele.
Pros: Good value. Excellent location on the edge of Central Park. Helpful staff.
Cons: Large luggage not allowed in rooms. No Wi-Fi. No air conditioning. Room lock-out during daily cleaning.
The International Student Center offers 50 beds in single-sex or co-ed dorm rooms. These are your standard dorm rooms: eight to 10 wooden bunk beds and little else, save for maybe a rug and some brightly colored walls. They are incredibly basic but very clean.
There are a few important things to note about rooms at the International Student Center: First, there is no air conditioning, which is fine at most times, but could give a whole new meaning to “hot summer nights.” Also, luggage is not allowed in the rooms (small backpacks only).
All bathrooms at the Center are shared, and guests gripe that there aren’t enough facilities (expect a wait to use the bathroom at high-traffic times). Nonetheless, the bathrooms are clean and functional.
Note: Towels are not included so be sure to bring your own (or be prepared to rent one).
There are few bells and whistles here, and the Center has several quirks that guests may find bothersome. The Dutch backpackers we intercepted on the way out complained about the omnipresence of video cameras (which might be viewed as a plus to many). Also, rooms are closed each day from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. for cleaning.
And then there is the luggage policy, an oddity worthy of a second mention: Guests may take small backpacks to their rooms, but luggage must remain at reception. Lest you fear for your belongings, however, we were reassured by many (guests included) that all is safe: Bag storage is in the lobby, which is locked at night and guarded in daytime hours by the responsible, friendly staff. (Due to space reasons, though, luggage storage costs $1 per hour after you've checked out.)
Still, we admire the mission of the International Student Center, which is operated by the non-profit organization Association for World Travel Exchange and aims to celebrate and encourage diversity and multicultural experience among young travelers. The Center offers several perks to support that goal, including a communal kitchen and basement lounge with television and public phones. There is also a “Sacred Garden,” with free herbs for guests to harvest in summer months.
Wi-Fi is deliberately not offered, in order “to promote an environment of social interaction and New York City adventuring.” Guests can stay connected by using the Internet stations (for a small fee). There is no curfew and breakfast is not included.
Note that guests must be between the ages of 18 and 35 to stay here. The International Student Center requires a $10 key deposit, refundable on check-out, and there is no elevator.
The International Student Center is set in a rich neighborhood, with Central Park and the jogging track around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir just steps away. A lovely walk across the park gets you to Museum Mile, Manhattan’s famous stretch of Fifth Avenue, lined with some of the best museums, including the Met and the Guggenheim.
To the south of the International Student Center, the American Museum of Natural History— with its fascinating collection of dinosaur bones, rocks and minerals—is located eight blocks down Central Park West, and a little farther south are the city’s most exclusive luxury apartment buildings, like the famed Dakota (at 72nd Street), with Central Park’s the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields just across the road.
Subways: The B and C trains are conveniently around the corner from the hostel, at 86th Street and Central Park West. (Note: B trains run on weekdays only.) The 1 train stops at 86th Street and Broadway about a five-minute walk to the west.
JFK: To reach the International Student Center from JFK, take the Air Train to Howard Beach Station, and catch a Manhattan-bound A train to 59th Street, where you can transfer to an Uptown C train to 86th Street. The hostel is a quick walk from the station.
LaGuardia: If you don’t have much luggage, take the M60 public bus, which stops outside the airport terminals and it travels west across Manhattan. Get off at 1 25th Street-Frederick Douglass Boulevard, and walk down the block to catch a Columbus Circle-bound M10 bus, which will drop you off at 88th Street, on the same block as the hostel. Another option is to take an airport shuttle to the Port Authority and then catch an Uptown C train to 86th Street.
Newark: Take the Air Train to the NJ Transit station, and then any NJ Transit train into New York Penn Station. Transfer to an Uptown C train and get off at 86th Street.
Reviewed by: Alex Robertson Textor, EuroCheapo Staff Writer
Note: This hotel was visited by a EuroCheapo editor. This review is based on cleanliness, location, price and overall quality. EuroCheapo did not charge this hotel to be listed.
38 West 88th Street
Upper West Side to Harlem, New York, United States
About the International Student Center neighborhood
Located west of Central Park, the Upper West Side is a largely residential area, filled with tall apartment buildings, stately brownstones, and families. The area is home to Lincoln Center, the American Museum of Natural History, and Columbia University. One of its greatest attributes may be its borders: you're never more than a few blocks away from either Central Park or leisurely Riverside Park. Famous Harlem, whose importance as a historically African-American neighborhood cannot be matched, begins north of Morningside Heights. Despite its dangerous reputation, Harlem has become much safer... and much more popular with tourists.