The range of accommodations around the world is incredible, from luxury multi-million dollar resorts, to dorm-room style bunks packed together into common rooms. You should choose your accommodations on the characteristics of cleanliness, cost, location, security and amenities
Your budget will probably be the primary consideration when looking for the type of place to stay. If money is no object, then there are many luxury hotels and resorts to choose from. However, you do not need to spend a lot of money to find a very nice place to sleep. Lodging is available almost anywhere at reasonable prices. All it takes is research, looking around a bit and doing some bargaining.
The cardinal rule in renting a room is to “see the room first before you accept it!”. While this is not a requirement if you are staying at a luxury resort or hotel - it is a requirement if you are shopping around from hotel-to-hotel to find the best deal. Don’t believe the hotel clerks description - their viewpoint and yours may differ as to what is “spacious”, “clean” or “fantastic”. You also can’t bargain effectively until you’ve seen the room, and seen any problems with it.
When bargaining the following factors can work in your favor:
- If you are staying for several nights, especially 3 or more - then you can usually get the room for less.
- In the off season, or during prolonged periods of bad weather or other factors affecting tourism.
- When the hotel has lots of vacancies (check how many room keys are hanging on the wall).
You may sometimes actually get a cheaper rate by going through a travel agent then by booking it yourself.
Location doesn’t just mean a fantastic view, other factors to look for are:
- Is it convenient to transportation so you can easily and inexpensively get around the city?
- Is it in a secure, not too-noisy location? A place to rest where it’s too noisy to get any sleep isn’t any bargain.
- Does the hotel have a reputation as a gathering point for fellow travelers and a good information source? If the hotel caters to other travelers with similar interests to you then it can be a great place to meet people and get up-to-date information about the local area.
Furnishings and Amenities
In the ideal world you want a room that is both comfortable and beautiful that also has a great view. However, don’t just a place just on it’s rooms - you will also want to take into account the common areas of the hotel - any pools, quiet courtyards and the friendliness and professionalism of the hotel staff.
When checking out the room you will of course first notice if the room is clean and beautiful, beyond this there are several things to check:
- Is the room secure with locks on the doors and windows?
- Will the room be quiet enough to sleep in? Check if there are disco’s, nightclubs or bars nearby that might make it too noisy to sleep at night.
- Is the room and bed clean? When you are walking up to the room make a general assessment of how clean and well-maintained the hotel is. It is no fun waking up to a floor full of cockroaches in the bathroom.
- Check the beds. Are they comfortable and clean? Is it soft enough and long enough to sleep in? Also, if you are staying in budget accommodations then you may want to check under the sheets for bedbugs.
- In the tropics or hot weather, check the cooling situation - fan or aircon. In cold climates the same goes for the heating situation.
- If you are in a malarial area then you also want to check there is something to deal with mosquitoes. Whether this is a mosquito net, mosquito coils or some other protection - make sure you won’t become a night-time snack.
- Check the bathroom situation - is it clean, does it have a western style toilet and shower? Finally, check about hot water.
Finding somewhere to stay
Finding someplace, anyplace to stay is usually not a problem. The minute you step from a train depot or airport in most cities you will be surrounded by touts flashing hotel pictures and pamplets. Getting a good and reasonably priced place to stay may take a bit more work.
Your guidebook and searching online will probably be more reliable then any touts on recommending a place. Also - don’t forget that you are perfectly capable of finding a good place all on your own. Just go out and look around!
Here are some tips for finding a good place:
- You can call ahead to the next city to pre-arrange a place to stay - although many times this is only necessary during the peak tourist season or if you want to stay at a particular place.
- If you don’t have a place pre-arranged - use travel guides, tourist offices or cyber cafes to call to places when you arrive. Tourist offices are a good place as they offer free and generally not-too-biased information.
- Ask other travelers! They can be your best source of information and recommendations.
- Remember: Check out the accommodations before taking a room and don’t be worried about refusing one if it is not clean or safe.
Hotels are not the only place to stay. Guest houses, Homestays, Hostels, Elderhostels, YMCA’s and YWCA’s, backpacker hotels and Formule 1’s are all great alternatives to hotels and will generally help you save money! They are also great places to meet fellow travelers and the local people.