Tag Archives: swansea

Pandemic Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Express, Swansea East

Unsurprisingly, it has been a little quiet on here of late. Like most of you, I’ve not been travelling all that much since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In fact, I’d hazard that as I don’t have a car and I am able to work from home, I’ve travelled far less than most, the furthest afield being about an hour’s walk away from home to get a rare bit of exercise.

Until this past weekend.

For family reasons I had to head down to Swansea for a few days, which meant finding somewhere to stay, and I ended up at the Holiday Inn Express, Swansea East, located just off junction 43 of the M4 motorway. I have stayed here once before with Lucy, a couple of months before we got married (I think it was when we were sorting out her hair and make-up trial for the wedding), and knew what to expect normally, but not what to expect during the pandemic.

The first thing to note as I drove down was the difference in policy on face coverings between England and Wales. England requires face coverings in public indoor spaces, but Wales does not. However, on the front door of the HI, there was a prominent sign to say that face coverings are required in public spaces in the hotel.

I donned my mask and entered to check-in.

As I checked in, the changes to service were explained to me. Firstly, there is no housekeeping except by request the day before it is required. Secondly, there was no sit-down breakfast, but a ‘grab and go’ to take back up to the room to eat (or take away).

I made my way up to the room which was the same as pretty much every other Holiday Inn Express room I’ve seen, but with one exception. There was no chair at the desk. I assumed this was also due to COVID-cleaning, but in retrospect I should have checked as it meant any writing, work on my laptop, or eating would have to be done either standing up or on the bed, and who likes crumbs in the bed?

The enhanced cleaning hadn’t extended to the thick layer of dust behind the support for the LED lamp over the bed, but a wipe soon sorted that out.

The grab and go breakfast was just an average breakfast buffet. There were croissants, yoghurt, fruit, cereal and either bacon or sausage baps (one or the other each day, not both) as the only hot option. There was no vegetarian hot option. Not a problem for me, but if I’d been travelling with Lucy there would have been comments.

In the evening the restaurant area was open with a limited menu and was participating in the “Eat Out to Help Out” programme, which provides 50% off food and soft drinks up to a limit of £10 on Mondays to Wednesdays in August. Last time Lucy and I stayed here we had eaten in the restaurant, and I did the same again with a pizza.

That’s pretty much it. I was there for three nights so I managed without housekeeping, but bought a tin of coffee from a supermarket as the instant coffee in the room didn’t last long. It was an uneventful stay and I slept well in the bed (there is no air conditioning in the rooms, so I had to leave the window open overnight as it was rather humid in mid-August). Though I am left wondering how much “enhanced cleaning” the rooms actually get (and I’m sceptical of that at most places that claim they are doing it).

Dragon Hotel, Swansea

According to the hotel’s own website, the Dragon Hotel is “…this fully airconditioned lesisure [sic] hotel was featured as South West Wales’ premier 4-star hotel.”

As someone that was brought up with frequent trips to Swansea to visit family, the Dragon Hotel has always been around, though I’ve never had need to stay there, as I was always staying with family. The road outside the hotel has changed substantially since I was a child, it used to be a roundabout with pedestrian underpasses leading to an open area in the centre of the roundabout. That was filled in a couple of decades ago to make it more friendly to bendy buses, but it is in the middle of yet another regeneration as Swansea City Council tries another traffic management plan along The Kingsway.

As time has moved on, I’ve had more reason to find nearby hotels and my wife and I have stayed at the Dragon a few times. Most recently, towards the end of August 2019, I stayed in three different rooms on the sixth and seventh (out of seven) floors (due to three different bookings) during a week as I wasn’t sure how long I was staying around.

During the week there were some good deals to be had, between £50 and £60 per night, but that rose substantially for the weekend. The best deals were on twin rooms rather than doubles, but as I was staying by myself, that wasn’t a problem.

The rooms are functional, two single beds, a large TV with Freeview channels, a hospitality tray with the usual selection of teabags, instant coffee sachets and UHT milk. There are no in-room safes, nor a mini-bar.

Most of the rooms appear to have a mobile phone for complimentary use around the city, provided by “Handy.” I have no idea what sort of personal information those things hoovered up, which I assume they must to pay for themselves, so I haven’t used one, but it also looks like they might not be around for much longer.

The bathrooms are surfaced with white ceramic tiles, with a large illuminated mirror that has two vertical fluorescent tubes (though in one of the bathrooms, one of the tubes flickered). Toiletries are large pump-action soap dispensers.

One evening, as I got back to my room, I was greeted by a gentleman, wearing only his shorts, laying across the corridor on a speakerphone, but the hotel didn’t provide entertainment the other nights.

There is a comfortable bar on the ground floor with a few local beers, though I’ve tended to head into town for a drink when the urge takes me (particularly to “Copper” or “No Sign Wine Bar”).

All in all, it’s clean, slightly tired, and I wouldn’t describe it as South-West Wales’ Premier Four-Star Hotel, though I don’t know what would fit that description, but it’s very convenient for the centre of Swansea, as opposed to some of the others that are closer to the Marina, or slightly out of town, and what are you expecting for that sort of price?