Accommodation Tips and Advice – Choosing Hotel Rooms

“Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home.”
– Marvin Gaye
Choosing Hotel Rooms

Whether it’s a Brazilian pousada or a Turkish pansiyon, the type and quality of accommodation will vary from country to country, town to town, inn to inn, and room to room. You will come across everything from dormitories to fully-equipped houses. To really live like the locals do, a homestay is an excellent opportunity to experience local culture. Below are some tips and advice for choosing hotel rooms to best suit your comfort level, budget and needs.

Which Hotel?

Have an idea of which hotels you might want to look at, or at least the general area you might to stay in before you arrive at your destination. This is where guidebooks and online travel forums like TripAdvisor can come in handy. Just remember that online reviews are subjective and guidebook recommendations are exactly that – recommendations.

It’s best to check out a number of places, including a few not listed in your guidebook, to find the best price or best value. If you are traveling with a companion, one of you may choose to wait in a restaurant or local park with the packs, while the other examines accommodation, unhindered by luggage. Pick a hotel that looks clean and secure with the entrance on a well-lit street.

Hourly Hotel in Hong Kong

Hourly Hotel in Hong Kong

During busy times of the year, it is usually essential to book accommodation in advance – even if it is only one day in advance. If you are traveling during a busy period, particularly on popular trekking trails, leave early. It pays to get to the next village early, before all the guesthouses fill up and all the blankets are gone.

Most hotels offer a safe or lock box to store you valuables. Use it if one is available, and make sure to get a detailed, itemized and signed receipt. Check to see if the hotel offers either laundry facilities or a laundry service. You’ll have to wash your clothes at least every once in a while.

Room Rates

Ask how much a room costs for one night, before letting the manager know you intend to stay for five days. Simply asking to see a room with a shared bath (after viewing one with an attached bath) may bring about a significant reduction in the rate of the ensuite room. When you’re choosing hotel rooms, make sure whether the price is per person or for the room.

Breakfast is included in many hotels. Ask if there is a discount without breakfast. It might be cheaper to organize your own breakfast, especially if there is a communal kitchen and you buy groceries at the local market or grocery store. Your room might even have a kitchenette or at least a small refrigerator.

Pay for your hotel room day-by-day instead of one lump sum, if possible. In the case of a disagreement regarding the hotel’s services, it is much easier to pack up and leave than it is to get a refund.

Pansiyon Accommodation in Amasya, Turkey

Pansiyon in Amasya, Turkey

This Hotel Room

Don’t be deceived by a hotel’s lobby or reception area. The establishment’s profits may go into dolling up the entrance, leaving the rooms in a sorry state of neglect. Always ask to see at least two rooms, even if it means climbing five flights of stairs, after a 12 hour bus ride, in a town 3000m above sea-level.

Rooms farthest away from stairwells, offices and bathrooms are usually the quietest. Choosing hotel rooms on the ground floor may lead to an interrupted night’s sleep, as those will be noisiest. If you are on the first floor, keep your belongings from arm’s reach from any windows Get a room on the second floor or higher, as these will be harder to burglarize than those on the ground floor.

But, not too high up. Fire ladders usually only reach the seventh floor. Try to pick a room down a well-lit hallway, and one that doesn’t overlook a busy street, busy courtyard, or a yard with crowing roosters and/or yapping dogs.

Coconut Grove Bungalow on Ko Tao, Thailand

Coconut Grove Bungalow on Ko Tao, Thailand

Does the room have a radiator or heater, air-conditioning, a fan, or at least a window? If there is heat, check what time(s) it is turned on – you might not have control of this. Check the mosquito nets and window screens for holes and tears. Are the sheets clean? Pull back the covers to have a look for hairs and stains. Small black blood stains on sheets and walls are an indication of bedbugs, which are not uncommon in some places.

Bathrooms and Wash Closets

Is there hot water? If so, at what times is it water available? In some cases “hot” might mean “luke warm” or even “cold”. “24 hour hot water” might refer to the elapsed time between the hot water tap being turned on and hot water actually presenting itself. Just because a hotel has hot water doesn’t necessarily mean it has cold water. Check both taps.

Beach-Side Bungalow, Nipah Village, Pulau Tioman, Malaysia

Beach-Side Bungalow in Nipah Village, Pulau Tioman, Malaysia

When choosing hotel rooms, check the showers for adequate pressure. If the hotel offers hot water, it will either be piped directly into the bathroom, or the shower-head will be equipped with an electric water heater. If this is the case, the more (cold)water pressure, the colder water is. The less pressure, the hotter (or warmer) the water.

In other words, the temperature of the water is directly proportional to how much you turn the tap. If you put your hand or fingers close to the shower-head while the apparatus is on, you may be in for a bit of a shock. Wear rubber flip flops in the shower, whether there is a risk of electrocution or not. Warm and moist environments are a favorite home for Athlete’s Foot and other fungi.

Hell in a Bucket

You’ll probably have to get used to “bucket showers”. Use the smaller container to pour the water in the larger bucket over yourself to lather up and rinse off. Bucket showers use less water than normal ones. Water conservation is the most important aspect of responsible travel in drier regions and those experiencing droughts or water shortages. If your bathroom has a bucket, keep it full of water. Water supply interruptions can happen without warning, leaving you high and dry – or at least dry. If hot water is only available at inconvenient hours for showering (in the morning, before a day of gritty sightseeing), fill a bucket and cover it with a towel. It should stay relatively warm for the rest of the day until you need it.

Electrical Wiring and Plumbing on Ko Samui, Thailand

Electrical Wiring and Plumbing on Ko Samui, Thailand

Squat toilets are not uncommon. The best way to squat is on your heels, not your toes. You’ll get the hang of it after some practice. Some squat toilets will have a water tank with a handle on a chain with which to flush. If it doesn’t, this is what the bucket beside the toilet is for. Some squat toilets won’t have any toilet paper handy – that’s what your left hand and the tap beside the toilet is for. We suggest maintaining an ample supply of toilet paper for hygienic reasons.

Stinking Papers

Plumbing systems in most developing countries cannot handle anything beyond human waste. If in doubt, don’t flush it down the toilet. This especially includes toilet paper, tampons and sanitary napkins. If you discard these items in the toilet bowl, you will most likely end up with a whole pot of trouble. The wastebasket beside the toilet is the appropriate place to deposit such items.

Venting bathroom plumbing and p-traps (the shape of the plumbing, not what goes in it) aren’t as common in the developing world as they might be at home. Check if the bathroom stinks, and check again after running some water and flushing the toilet. Like the hotel room, check if the bathroom itself has any windows or ventilation.

Bellagio and Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas

Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas

These tips are just a guideline for choosing hotel rooms that best suit your comfort level, budget and needs. But, the more of these factors you remember to check, the better your decision will hopefully be. There may always be an unforeseen or unexpected element that can turn a good hotel room into a bad one, or vice versa.


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