Coming in at under $40 a night, the Vagabond Inn is not a bad place at all. The hotel is typical of many Merced low budget offerings - a former fleabag rehabbed into a decent hotel. This area of town is pretty shabby, though not the worst.
There were some problems with the key card reader - it was wonky cuz of a dying internal battery - but the staff were VERY helpful and really bent over backwards to try and make everything work with the least amount of inconvenience to me. At all times, the staff were extremely helpful and really appeared to care about the guests. The night manager took regular walks around the parking lot to make sure everything was OK.
Unique Quality: This is a bare bones hotel... no shampoo, no hair dryers, no continental breakfast. You get a room, a TV (with HBO and every variation of ESPN known to man), and a hot shower, towels, and ice. And if that's all you want, then you're in business. If you want turn-down service, shampoo and hair dryers, then look elsewhere. If you want a clean, cheap place to crash, shower, and watch some TV, then you could do a lot worse.
There is laundry available, and, if you really want it, they have rooms with a fridge and microwave, but they're extra.
There is a good Denny's a block away, and a 24-hour store on the same street. Some shady characters are out on the streets late at night, but none overtly threatening.
There is some highway and train noise, but nothing really unbearable. Bring earplugs if you're sensitive to that sort of thing. I do!
Directions: Right off of 140.
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Address: 1215 R St, Merced, CA 95340