A crucial part of travel planning is booking a hotel room or a hostel room. At least for the first and last night of your stay in a country it might make sense. Here is a 4 step guide how to do it.
Step 1 – Read ratings and reviews
Some hotel booking sites: Booking, Hotels.com, Expedia
Some hostel booking sites: Hostelworld, Hostelbookers
Some other good sites to find hotel ratings, booking also possible: Tripadvisor, Orbitz
If you don’t like risks, try booking a hotel room or hostel room with good ratings, that has at least been rated 30 times on the same site. Every hotel might buy up to 10 ratings in their favour. But more than 30 is unlikely. My personal favourites are Booking.com and Hostelworld. Just rely on recent ratings. Avoid places with ratings older than a year and no ratings recently. Something might be wrong.
Booking.com: I never had a disappointment. But it really depends on the country, if you get good deals or not. While I could get good middle class hotel rooms in Australia, Germany, Malaysia and Thailand, I couldn’t find anything good in other countries.
Hostelworld: I had two or three disappointments out of 50 bookings. But I’m older than 30 with some minimal expectations, while people around 20 probably don’t have them. So they rated it good nevertheless. But I just don’t like windowless rooms or noisy air-cons, that’s why.
Tip: If you also don’t like windowless rooms make sure to ask before. Especially China and Malaysia do have a lot of cheap hotel rooms without windows. And it might occasionally happen in Thailand as well.
Tip: If you have a rental car or good public transportation at a place, book a room outside the centre. It usually is cheaper and quieter.
Tip: Just book the first or the first two nights at a place (especially if you will arrive late) and then walk around in the area and try to find a good deal for the rest of your stay. If it’s low season at a place, you don’t have to pre-book at all. Just make sure to arrive in the early afternoon at the latest, because even in low season good hotels can fill up until the evening.
Tip: If you find just one or two very bad reviews, ignore them! It might be from a guest, that takes revenge, because he didn’t get an extra discount or from from a competitor hotel. I once stayed in a hotel, that had two bad reviews about bed bugs and they had no bed bugs at all. It was just the above mentioned revenge type of rating.
Step 2 – Cross checks
Google the hotel name and have a look at its web-page. Search on facebook too, as some hotels only have a facebook page.
Check its location on Google Maps. (It is usually mentioned in the comment ratings already if the place is too far away from the centre or the beach.)
If you have a doubt about something, call the hotel, name the problem and see how they react.
Step 3 – Booking a Hotel Room – Reservation
Book it directly over the hotel page or the hotel booking site depending on the price. Sometimes you might prefer the booking site, because the reservation receipt issued by the system might be more reliable than an e-mail. Plus you could complain to the booking site, if something goes wrong and have a better chance to get a refund.
If you will arrive later than 6 pm, tell the hotel beforehand. Write another e-mail on the day before arrival, that you will really come. That helps, that they keep your reservation.
Tip: If it is not clearly mentioned in the room type description, make sure to tell them that you like to have a non smoking room or a room, that isn’t noisy, etc. You usually can’t do that for hostels. There the motto usually is: Take it or leave it.
Step 4 – Arrival
Bring a printout of your reservation or e-mail confirmation with you. Check out your assigned room. If you don’t like it, go back to the reception and ask for a better one. Especially in Asia they sometimes bring you to a not so good room first in the hope, that you will take it, so they have the bad room rented out.
Tip: If you’re late, you will have to accept the bad room for a night. But in the next morning you can ask for a better room. Be insistent and mention it every time you walk along the reception.
Worried about bed bugs? This article teaches you, how to find out!
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