Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Stella Shon
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Singapore can be an expensive place to visit, and hotels in Singapore prove this point. You’ll find a wealth of options for high-priced lodging, but there are few options for using low-value free night awards obtained from loyalty programs or credit cards that offer free night certificates. That’s why we were so happy to find a new Marriott Bonvoy property that we could book for 3 nights with free night awards in Singapore: The Serangoon House, Singapore, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel.
This is one of the most unique hotels I’ve ever visited, harking back to British colonial days in India. The hotel has maintained this theme throughout, from decorations to food, and it fits well with its location in the Little India neighborhood.
But is this hotel more than just its quirky thematic options? And what’s with the bunk beds? Here’s what a 3-night stay in early October was like for my wife and I.
The Serangoon House is part of Marriott Bonvoy’s Tribute Portfolio. Marriott describes the Tribute Portfolio brand as a “family of independent boutique hotels bound by their indie spirit and heart for connecting people and places.” And since these are Marriott Bonvoy-participating properties, you can book them with cash, Marriott Bonvoy points, free night certificates, or a mix of the above.
During our stay, standard rooms cost 34,000 points per night. To book, we paid points from my account for the first night and used 2 free night certificates from my wife’s account for the next 2 nights. She obtained these free night certificates as cardmember anniversary benefits from holding the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card. Each free night award was worth up to 35,000 points, perfect for this stay.
Cash rates for this same room were S$304 (~$223). That gave us a redemption rate of 0.66 cents per point, which is a bit below our valuation of Marriott Bonvoy points. Given the other cash costs we would have during this trip, though, we were happy to save over $660 for our 3-night stay.
However, the “Club lounge access” in the booking details was a bit of a misnomer. There was no lounge at this property, nor is there sufficient space to add one in the future.
Given that I hold Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite status and my wife only has Gold Elite status, the strategy of booking the first night in my name was to hope for an upgraded room. Hotels tend to offer this to me and let us keep the same room for the nights in my wife’s name. However, we always mention this at check-in to ensure there are no issues.Hot Tip:
If you’re making split reservations, putting the first night in the name of the person with higher elite status tends to provide better perks. Many hotels will offer room upgrades and allow you to keep that room when you tell them you’re staying for more nights under a different person’s name. Communicate this clearly, though; no one likes surprises.
The Serangoon House is on Serangoon Road in Singapore’s Little India neighborhood. Shops, cafes, restaurants, shopping malls, and temples surround it.
While the hotel wasn’t near the most famous tourist sites on Singapore’s southern edge, it was conveniently located near bus and subway stops. And it was less than 2 blocks from the hop-on, hop-off Singapore Big Bus‘ Red Line, which we found extremely convenient for sightseeing.
Interestingly, there’s minimal signage for the property. Our taxi driver from the airport had never heard of it, and we passed it on the street when we arrived after dark. As seen from across the street during daylight, the hotel’s only sign is small and without lights at the top of the building.
And from the street level, you’d hardly know there’s a hotel here. It looked more like the entrance to an apartment building.
Before arrival, we had a feeling this wouldn’t be an ordinary hotel stay. First, we noticed online that The Serangoon bills itself as the only hotel in Singapore that can fit 6 guests in every room. And that same claim greeted us from above the entrance on our arrival. After our stay, I can’t imagine cramming 6 people into our upgraded, larger room — let alone the standard rooms.
We noted from the hotel’s website that it had a colonial India theme, which greeted us immediately upon entering the small lobby. The fabric on the seats and the 8-pointed marble tables made the design choices bold and immediate.
A small nook in the back corner of the hotel provided a great space for hanging out, meetings, or having a cup of chai while engrossing yourself in a book. The art on the walls echoed scenes of India from 150+ years ago.
When we entered the lobby, a friendly employee at the desk greeted us and confirmed our suspicion that the hotel was new, opening less than 9 months ago — in early 2023. The employee confirmed our reservation for 1 night in my name and the following 2 nights in my wife’s name.
As the hotel had emailed me in advance to inquire about our arrival time, the employee knew our booking situation and said that the hotel would offer us breakfast throughout our stay (a benefit my wife normally wouldn’t receive) as a welcome gift option instead of points. We gladly accepted this and kept our upgraded room (they called it a suite, but more on that below) for all 3 nights. We were delighted with this arrangement.
After taking a security hold from my credit card and making copies of our passports, we were on our way to our room in just a few minutes. A small elevator in the corner continued the hotel’s theme with its interior design.
When arriving on the seventh floor, this imitation rotary phone harkened back to the days of the hotel’s overall theme. We thought it would make for a great picture, but it rang the front desk as soon as my wife picked it up. She hung up immediately.
Beyond some interesting items here and there, The Serangoon House is rather short on amenities. Given how small it is, that didn’t surprise us. There was no on-site pool or gym and no lounge (despite saying “Club lounge access” in the description of our room type, it merely meant we had access to drinks at the bar in the evening).
Wi-Fi was consistent throughout the property, even if speeds could have been better. We got nearly 19 Mbps on average for downloads and average uploads above 23 Mbps.
Before arrival, the hotel emailed me a list of amenities shared with other Marriott Bonvoy properties nearby, as well as dress code policies for the restaurant (no ripped jeans, flip-flops, or dirty clothes):
I quickly noticed that none of the items in this email included access to a pool or fitness center. If you’re looking for those on your trip, you’ll need to book another property.
We received an upgrade to a Royal Maharaja Suite, which included 2 queen beds and a sitting area. While the hotel billed it as a suite, it technically needs a closing door to isolate the bedroom, which this room didn’t have. It’s better understood as a deluxe room.
Aside from the aesthetic, the biggest quirk at this hotel is that all rooms feature bunk beds. Having 2 queen beds stacked above each other is something I’ve never seen before. To access the top bed, a ladder was stored against the wall, which you could attach to the railings when ready to use.
I assume the bunk beds are how the hotel claims you can fit 6 people in a room, but we didn’t have a fold-out sofa bed, so I’m not sure where the sixth person would go if you had 2 people on the bottom bed, 2 on the top bed, and 1 on the sofa.
Next to each side of the bed was a marble nightstand. The side closer to the entrance had a mock rotary phone, TV remote, lamp, and notepad.
Since the phone didn’t have labels like “call 0 for this, call 9 for that,” the notepad had hand-written instructions to call 100 for assistance.
Each side of the bed had a 3-prong outlet (U.K.-style), a USB-A charging point, a switch to turn the outlets on and off, and 3 light switches. These controlled the overhead, entry, and night-light near the bathroom.
Near the bathroom entrance was a makeup counter with a leopard-themed stool.
And a leopard-themed luggage rack near the windows continued the theme. Interestingly, there were already signs of wear in the fabric despite the hotel being just months old.
We had a large wooden desk and chair on the far side of the room.
The desk had a lamp and multiple outlets featuring universal, U.K., USB-A, and USB-C ports.
While small, space in the bathroom was maximized well. The wall’s black and green marble design complemented the tile floor well, accentuated by brass fixtures and a marble sink. On one side was a toilet with a small shelf in the wall above it.
On the other side of the bathroom was a shower in a glass box. However, we had to close the door to access that side of the toilet.
While it looked small, the shower didn’t feel cramped. It had a rainfall showerhead in the center.
There was also a handheld option.
Pump bottles on the wall provided body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. The products had a fantastic citrus smell that made us hungry every time we showered. No washcloths, loofahs, or body gloves were provided for the shower here.
In the middle of the bathroom, a sink was set in a marble basin with a mirror on the wall.
There wasn’t much counter space around the sink, but we had 2 dental kits, a box of tissues, lotion (with a lemongrass scent), a bar of soap, and 2 drinking glasses.
A shelf under the sink held a hair dryer, slippers, a bath mat, and a laundry bag.
There was also an outlet for charging electric shavers next to the mirror.
There were 2 hooks for towels on the back of the door. One was loose, looking like it was ready to fall off.
The slippers were nice, showing the hotel’s logo. It might also be the first time a hotel gave me black slippers (though they appear a bit blue in the lighting from this picture).
A closet with 3 doors was near the entrance. One side had space for hanging clothes, and we found 2 bath robes there.
The middle section had coffee pods and bottled water.
A shelf above this held coffee cups with brass-colored handles, continuing the hotel’s theme.
The door nearest the entrance had cubbies for holding our belongings.
And drawers with glass fronts provided additional storage.
On the far side of the room, there was a seating area. While this isn’t enough to qualify the room as a suite, it provided extra space for hanging out somewhere other than the bed. There were 2 armchairs, a marble coffee table, a TV, and a sofa. It did not fold out into a bed, which is why I question where the sixth person would sleep in this room if you put 1 here and 2 in each bed.
We had a view from our room into a courtyard behind the hotel. We also could see the logo of the Holiday Inn Express Singapore Serangoon on the building to the right.
The sole option for food and drinks at The Serangoon House is the GupShup. Located in the basement, the colonial-era theme is on full display here — from the walls to the fabric on the chairs, the bathroom, and even the menu.
There were standard and high-top tables available for guests.
And a bar area in the back served drinks in the evenings.
During our visit, breakfast was available from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Evening drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served from 4 to 7 p.m.
The breakfast menu served mostly Indian fare, as well as a few Western offerings. The ordering process was simple: Choose 2 mains, a side, and a drink.
That turned out to be quite a lot of food. I had the masala dosa and fruits each morning, plus juice, hash browns, and tea.
While the breakfast menu indicated non-dairy options for soy, almond, and oat milk, these weren’t available at all during our stay. Staff mentioned that these had been “out of stock” for several days before our arrival, as well.
There were also restrooms adjacent to the restaurant.
The marble fixtures and artwork here were beautiful.
In the afternoons and evenings, GupShup also served light bites — chaat — from a small nook to the right of the hotel’s main entrance.
There were a handful of tables and chairs for enjoying these savory snacks.
While service was generally good, there were a few areas for improvement. Let’s look at some examples.
Highlights included the excellent communication via email before our arrival and the paperwork being organized for our separate stays on arrival, stapled together to make the process very simple. However, the employee forgot to return our passports and was confident he’d returned them to us when I said he hadn’t returned them. After I asked him to please check the copy machine, he found our passports. However, he was very friendly and efficient other than this minor blip.
Staff always smiled and greeted us by name whenever we passed through the lobby, and employees at breakfast were consistently friendly. However, after we’d eaten, the staff disappeared at breakfast on the first morning. It took more than 10 minutes of actively hunting for an employee to inquire about signing for our breakfast. Once the employee said we didn’t have to sign anything, we left and were glad we didn’t have to repeat this when employees disappeared after serving our food on the remaining 2 mornings.
On arrival, our shampoo pump bottle was nearly empty and ran out during our showers. When we went out the next day, we asked the staff to refill it. However, housekeeping didn’t refill the shampoo, and we had to call the desk to ask for it after our return.
It also annoyed us that the breakfast menu touted 3 non-dairy options for milk but was out of all 3 throughout our stay. It seems like sending an employee to a nearby supermarket could provide an easy fix, but the various staff said the non-dairy options had run out at the hotel before our arrival. Why advertise products you don’t have? And not providing non-dairy options in a major metropolis in 2023 is a bit strange.
So, while employees were very friendly whenever we talked to them, they could be hit-or-miss between conversations.
I always judge a hotel most by “Would I stay here again?” for the overall impression, and I would stay at The Serangoon House, Singapore, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel again. The location was excellent, and the hotel offered the essentials. It didn’t wow us with extras, but we were able to use Marriott free night awards in a city that tends to have high-priced hotels; we got free breakfast beyond our guaranteed benefits, the bed was comfortable, and the staff was friendly. They could use a bit more attention to detail, but we had a positive overall experience.
Would I try to jam 6 people into a room like the hotel says you can? No way. But we had a fair amount of space for 2 adults. Those looking for a resort experience or pampering won’t like this property, but this is a good location for 2 people who are independent travelers.
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You won’t find a pool, gym, or spa here. However, you will find a bar and a restaurant serving both Indian and Western food.
The Serangoon House is on Serangoon Road. It’s located in the Little India neighborhood of Singapore.
The Tribute Portfolio is part of Marriott Bonvoy. Thus, you can book these properties with Marriott Bonvoy points and free night awards. You also can earn credit toward Marriott Bonvoy elite status by staying at these properties.
No, it doesn’t. While there is breakfast at GupShup on the lower level of the hotel, there is no buffet. You will order from a menu.
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Ryan has been on a quest to visit every country in the world and plans to hit his final country in 2023. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publications including AwardWallet, The Points Guy, USA Today Blueprint, CNBC Select, Tripadvisor, and Forbes Advisor.
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