Smart move in Mumbai A hotel is your home from home when you’re away; the receptionist, your janitor. His (or her) general disposition really makes a difference to your comfort. Receptionists can give you a good or bad room at an extortionate or fair rate with late check-out thrown in – or throw you out on the dot of 12 or 11 or 10. Been there, suffered that – in both hungover and bright-eyed state – and sadly often without breakfast, too, because I’m a late riser even in hotels. Late check-out means 1 or 2 p.m., rarely 3. Some want ten euros an hour on top for late check-out, others nothing. Capable receptionists are capable of anything. Their remit ranges from providing service to the letter to all manner of assistance beyond their official duties, possibly even erring on the dubious side. For this I am happy to leave a generous tip at reception when I check out – you never know when you might be back, or what your status might then be.
I frequently don’t book a room in advance, and that was the case recently in Mumbai, formerly Bombay. I walked into the small lobby of a hotel I had stayed at seven years before. It’s just a stone’s throw from the Gateway of India, right beside the ocean. Its good location, reasonable rates and cleanliness are all good reasons for the hotel to normally be fully booked, but the man behind the reception desk recognized me straight away and also appeared to recall my nice tip: The room he gave me was equally nice. Through the window, I could see the big ships on the horizon, and directly below me, the palm trees on the waterfront promenade. Also nice, of course, were his words as he handed over the room key: “Welcome home, Sir!”
When he was only 17, Helge Timmerberg (now 63) decided to hitchhike to India and become a reporter. More than 200 countries later, he still writes travel books from places all over the world.