Few of us book a hotel these days without checking out reviews written by fellow travelers on sites like TripAdvisor, VirtualTourist and the big booking engines. This is where you can learn the truth about how friendly the staff is, how clean the rooms are and whether the Wi-Fi actually works. |
Many review sites also allow users to post photos of their hotel -- which are usually more realistic and less glamorous than the professional snapshots you'll see on the hotel's own Web site. Another good source of undoctored photos: Tripadvisor.com, whose eye-opening Photo Fakeouts contrast marketing photos with candid shots of what the hotel really looks like. Here you can be sure to get a much closer sense of what you can expect from your stay.
Of course, it's always a good idea to take traveler reviews with a certain degree of skepticism. Overly fawning reviews may actually have been written by hotel employees in disguise, while some negative hotel reviews may come from super-fussy travelers who simply have an ax to grind. But despite the occasional misleading review, most traveler ratings are an honest, unbiased and invaluable resource when deciding between hotels.
Pick Up the Phone
These days you can do most of your research on the Internet, but sometimes it still pays to pick up the phone. Calling a hotel directly, rather than dialing a chain's main number, might get you a room at the last minute or during peak travel times. This also means you can get more of a feel for the level of service you can be sure to expect in and from the hotel when you stay there.
If you are overseas or in a bed and breakfast, ask if there are shared bathrooms or showers, and how many there are per hotel room. Also, ask about air-conditioning and where to make meal arrangements. Keep in mind that if you're not dealing with a known chain, user ratings and guidebook reviews are suddenly even more important - and you should always ask about special packages and rates. See what reductions in price you could get and for sure never ever be afraid to ask for the best hotel deal for the stay you wish for in the hotel.
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