San Francisco was my home town for almost twenty years and I am visiting frequently since we moved to Asia. Hotels have become outrageously expensive in San Francisco and as part of my “Battle of the Budget Hotels” I decided to stay at a budget friendly option. I chose the Days Inn San Francisco Downtown Civic Center. Find out how that stay worked out!
Location: The name of the Days Inn San Francisco Downtown/Civic Center is a misnomer – it’s not really near downtown or the Civic Center, but in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. It’s misleading for first-time visitors, as it is nowhere near shopping, tourist sights or the convention center. But it’s a good thing for repeat visitors: It’s close to my old home in San Francisco and one of the nicest neighborhoods in San Francisco! You have a good 10-15 minute walk to the Muni subway station at Van Ness Avenue with access to downtown or the BART station Civic Center with train access to the airport. It’ll take you about 45-60 minutes to the airport with public transport or 30-45 minutes by taxi/uber.
Hayes Valley has a number of wonderful little stores, as well as great coffee shops and restaurants. You’ll have fewer tourists, giving you a much more local experience. The location was the main reason I chose this hotel over other budget options in San Francisco!
Unfortunately, that local experience also includes homeless people roaming the property and there is a housing project nearby – neither was a surprise or issue for me as a long term resident of San Francisco, but might make visitors to San Francisco uncomfortable
Service: The service at this Days Inn was atrocious – by far the worst I experienced at any of the budget hotels on this trip to the US, or pretty much anywhere. And while my service expectations for San Francisco in a hot economy are pretty low to start with, it was unacceptable even by those low standards.
It started with the reservation process. Oddly, room prices were swinging wildly and rooms had become available online a day at a time, which resulted in me holding 3 different reservations for a total of four nights, with the Wyndham website not providing confirmation emails for all of them.
The website also failed to disclose that the hotel was under construction during my stay – more on that later! Luckily, the front desk agent was friendly, she found all of the reservations and promised to assign one room for the full stay. They required up front payment for the room – maybe appropriate for a budget hotel, but still surprising in the age of credit cards and online bookings. Somehow that check in didn’t work and I had to make multiple trips to the front desk to reconfirm my reservation and payment with different front desk clerks, get my key card to work and ensure that I don’t get kicked out.
Housekeeping wasn’t doing much better and didn’t clean my room after my first night’s stay. The front desk didn’t do anything about it and I considered myself lucky to get some fresh towels after insisting on that as a minimum. I supervised housekeeping the next day, gave them a nice tip and they did better going forward.
The lobby is locked during after hours and requires the staff to open the door for entry (guest key cards don’t work). On one (cold for San Francisco) evening, I tried to enter the lobby to address the problems above and the staff was talking to another guest, noticed me and indicated with a raised index finger for me to wait. While that gesture might work in a soap opera, it is inappropriate in a customer service situation. He then proceeded to talk to the other guest and didn’t let me enter, until he was finished, leaving me to wait out in the cold! That was a first for me in hundreds of hotel stays and is an unacceptable service attitude. Added to the issues already encountered, it made for the worst service I’ve encountered in a very long time – I suggest you arrive with low expectations and lots of patience!
The staff responsible for breakfast did a little better and kept the tables clean and buffet stocked despite the heavy traffic in the morning.
Room: The highlight of the Days Inn is the room. It has been renovated recently and is among the most stylish of all the budget hotels I stayed at, with almost a boutique-like feel. The room had nice carpets and sported a turquoise accent color on one wall. That went well with the espresso-colored wood headboard featuring a large black-and-white photo print of San Francisco. There is a desk with work chair next to the bed, a wardrobe, cupboard with tea/coffee maker, microwave and a flat-screen TV mounted against a wooden wall panel, all in the same espresso wood. There is no safe – a feature that many budget hotels don’t have, but this hotel really needs! The bed spread and task chair matched the turquoise wall paint. Despite the recent renovation, the furniture did show some wear and tear and the curtains had mold stains, but I’d consider it cosmetic and ok at a budget hotel.
Unfortunately, the bathroom didn’t get the same renovation and, while large, had 80s style, brown wall tiles and a toilet, sink and tub that were well past their renovate-by date. I enjoy a hot bath to relax after a long day and had booked an upgraded room with a hot-tub. It was large, but very shallow and so old and stained that it wasn’t very inviting – certainly not worth the higher price for the room! The toilet was in equally bad shape and there were some broken tiles – all of which I’d consider beyond acceptable, even at a budget hotel – the bathrooms do need a renovation sooner than later!
The free WiFi internet in the room was strong and very fast at an average 49.8Mbps, better than most hotels! It did drop down to 5.48Mbps in the evening, but still fast enough for video streaming or work!
Amenities/Restaurant: The Days Inn is an old-style motel with exterior corridors. While I’m ok with that in rural destinations and small towns, in San Francisco with higher crime rates and the nearby housing project locally known for crime issues, it does provide some security concerns. During paint works and room cleaning, the room doors were left open and one day I noticed a homeless man wandering through the property and peeking into the rooms. There is no security on the grounds and neither hotel staff nor construction workers confronted the man. I had a ground floor room and despite having lived in the area for more than 10 years, I did consider this a safety issue. I would recommend to request a higher-level room to reduce the risk of a crime-of-opportunity. The hotel should hire security during the renovation to avoid the issue.
The hotel has a laundry room and ice machine available for guests, but no pool or gym. There is free parking, which is a rarity in San Francisco and a great perk! Parking in San Francisco hotels can cost over $60/day. I don’t recommending having a rental car in San Francisco, but if you do, this can be a significant money saver! The parking is limited, so you should plan on returning early to the hotel (or leave the car) to avoid finding yourself on the street!
The free continental breakfast is served in a small room next to the lobby with tables for 6-8 people. With most guests taking advantage of the free meal, the room was crowded with people standing. The buffet offers coffee/tea, juice, cereal and yogurt as well as toast and very low quality pastries. It was at the lower end of what other budget hotels offered. Fortunately, you have plenty of good coffee shops in the neighborhood for a much better breakfast and more comfortable seating.
Bottomline: Hotels in San Francisco are excruciatingly expensive due to the hot economy and even mid-scale hotels like Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn Downtown frequently cost more than $300/night. The Days Inn was $176/night during my stay and I booked a points & cash rate of 3,000 points + $86 (or $116 value). For that price, you get a nice room in a great neighborhood, but have to accept terrible service and live with the safety concerns. With construction finished and an upstairs room, I’d consider staying again for the room and neighborhood – at half the price of other hotels. In most cases and with a smaller price gap, I’d recommend to pay a little extra for a much better hotel downtown or consider an airbnb rental in one of the fun San Francisco neighborhoods at a similar price to the Days Inn. My favorite hotel in San Francisco is the Intercontinental San Francisco, with beautiful rooms, good service and a great location, but comes at a steep price. The new Hampton Inn Downtown is a less pricey option, with nice rooms and a great location at prices that range from $30 more than the Days Inn (a great deal and much better choice) to twice the price, depending on the dates! You can find current San Francisco prices here!
UPDATE: The Days Inn has increased the cash & points price to $133 + 3,000 points (or $163 value). At that price point, the hotel is a lot less attractive and my recommendation is to look for other hotels or pay cash when competitive rates are available.