Tip: “double” for hotel reservations may not refer to the number of beds

I was traveling in Asia with J in December of 2013. Shortly before the end of the trip, we decided to visit the Indian Sundarbans. J was not convinced but I told him we would see wild tigers; the Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world and home to perhaps one hundred tigers, I said.

We booked flights in Jet Airways from Bangkok to Kolkata. I was thrilled with the idea of seeing one of the remaining homes of the tiger. We were to arrive in Kolkata around 5pm and find a place to stay the night, and then leave first thing in the morning to travel southeast for three hours to reach Godkhali, the last road point. From there we would continue our journey by boat. We had not slept at all the night before in Bangkok, so it was imperative to find the two comfiest beds in Kolkata for less than $25 USD the night.

I opened the Expedia app in my phone and started browsing. Boarding would begin soon. Find something good, fast! J said. For less than $25, user reviews were not stellar and none of the names sounded familiar. Waiting to arrive there and walk around might have been a better idea, but the thought of roaming with no clear destination, with backpacks and a liver still engaged in metabolizing Singha beers was tough to entertain.

I kept swiping up until I read Holiday Inn. That’s it, a name I recognize. Book double room, submit reservation… done. We boarded the plane and off we went.

In Kolkata, we got on a cab at the airport and the driver had no idea where the Holiday Inn was, but he refused to admit it and drove us all around the city. Riding shotgun in Kolkata should be included in everyone’s bucket list of “extreme experiences to try before you die” (although after two hours one gets used to it).

Finally, he starts asking around until we meet someone who seems to know what we are looking for.

We were tired, thirsty and starving. An old man greets us politely at the front desk. I give my name and he starts checking his computer, then looks at us and asks “are you a couple?”

We shook our heads.

Your reservation is for one bed, said the man. No, I said, I booked a double room. No, the man insisted, single room. If you want two beds, pay extra ten dollars!

The conversation then went on like this:

“No, we already paid online for a double room”
“No, the computer says single room!”
“Wait, I’ll show you on my phone the reservation. What is the wifi password?”
“Here… but I’m saying: if you want two beds, it’s ten dollars more. Why can’t you pay ten dollars?”
“Here here, you see? Expedia says double room”
“Double room means one bed”

I paused for a few seconds. I thought I needed a shower, a cool clean stream of fresh water. I looked at the old man:

“Home court advantage is pretty serious in this city, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is.”
“We can only afford an extra five dollars, sir.” I said.

I put an Abe Lincoln face up on the counter. The old man gazed at his golden wristwatch.


P.S.: I made two discoveries much later, when I was back home: 1) reservations sometimes say “double room with double-bed” or “double room with two beds” 2) mine said two beds