Picking a good hotel
If you choose to prefer hotels in a chain (see Chain Hotels for reliability and known standards) picking a good hotel is mostly a matter of checking the chain websites for the best deal and the most convenient hotel. You don’t really need to research the hotel quality because that’s why you choose a chain brand.
However, if you are using a 3rd party booking system you will want to look a bit more carefully to be sure that you are picking a good hotel.
You cannot rely on entirely on star ratings – many independent hotels are self-assessed. There are two good sources of information and both of them are on Trip Advisor. The first is the trip advisor reviews. If you see a predominance of good reviews and high user ratings then you can be pretty confident. You will ALWAYS see reviews from unhappy people. But honestly most of them read like they will always find something to complain about or that they expect and demand everything but don’t want to pay much. Occasionally you will see a genuinely regrettable story but then it is useful to read the manager’s reaction.
My approach is to ignore the top and bottom 5% of reviews and make a judgment based on the rest.
The other source of information is traveller photos. Ignore the professional photos. With the right lens you can make anything look good. The traveller snaps are the ones that will give you a good sense of the room size. And the traveller snaps will tell you what the bathroom is really like. I hate those artistic professional photos of the soap and amenities – I always suspect the bathroom is a bit ordinary when they have to include shots like that.
Something that we look for in the bathroom pics is whether there is anywhere to put our own toiletries or if it is a just a pedestal hand basin with no vanity – in other words the bathroom is tiny.
When you find a hotel via a 3rd party booking website, before you book, Google the hotel website. If the hotel website is terrible, run away! But mostly you are looking to see if there are better or different deals available if you book direct. You may also be able to book with just a credit card guarantee rather than prepayment.
Having said that, let me assure you that we have never had any difficulties with third party bookings. They work quite smoothly. However, booking directly with the hotel sometimes offers different deals, room or breakfast options.
Photo: Leela Palace, Bangalore India. A part of the Global Hotels Alliance.