How to Book a Great Hotel Online
How do you go about finding a hotel in a new place without overwhelming yourself? [Well, first, you ask us for help!] Fortunately, there are a few resources we like and have helped us immensely throughout the years. Here are a couple tips on how to find accommodation that best suits your needs in your destination. (If you are looking for specific hotel suggestions for South or Southeast Asia, please see our Best Times to Visit Asia blog.)
Booking a Hotel Room (or an Airbnb, below)
[Summary: ·They are owned by the same company and nowadays show most of the same hotels, although Agoda used to specialize in Asia. ·You can earn reward points on Agoda. ·Agoda shows you price per night, Booking shows you total price. ·We prefer Agoda.]
They have the same parent company, but Agoda, being based in Singapore, has more Asian hotels listed. More and more, though, Agoda and Booking have overlap (almost entirely these days, honestly). However, you can earn yourself points by booking through Agoda that can lead to $25 vouchers. Also, we find it helpful that Agoda lists prices on a nightly basis, as opposed to Booking listing the prices as a total amount for your stay. You’ll have to check the find print on both sites to see if all taxes are included or if you will be responsible for any fees at the hotel.
In addition, if you book through Agoda, in some locations you will have to pay at the hotel, and in others you will pay by credit card via Agoda. To generalize, we find that within Asia you pay online via Agoda, and outside Asia, you generally pay in person. With Booking, you almost always pay at the hotel.
Both Agoda and Booking have parameters for searching for hotels; you can refine your search by location, price, and amenities such as wifi, air-conditioning, swimming pools, etc. My favorite refinement tool, however, is the map. Once you click on a hotel and find it on the map, other hotels in the area will pop up; if you hover over the map markers, the name and the price will also appear. This is a great tool if you know you want to be by a certain site, monument, or train stop, but you’re not exactly sure where to start.
At the end of the day, if you don’t want to commit to a hotel for your entire stay, you can just book the first night or two, and then decide to stay longer if you like the hotel. It’s not ideal, but sometimes realizing nothing is etched in stone can help you pull the trigger and book a hotel.
We would appreciate it if you would use the Agoda and Booking search boxes on this page; it doesn’t affect your price at all but it helps us strengthen our professional relationships with the companies and enables to keep providing free advice on hotel booking!
What About Airbnb?
If you’ve tried Airbnb, you know the virtues. If not, here’s a quick break down of what we consider the pros & cons of Airbnb.
How do I know if it’s a good hotel?
The great thing about the reviews on Agoda and Booking is that you can ONLY leave a review if you’ve made a reservation there. This is a great way to filter out both competitors’ overly negative reviews and the overly positive reviews from friends and family of the establishment, leaving only reviews from actual guests.
You can also look up your destination on Tripadvisor.com. Get a feel for the top-rated hotels in your chosen area, but don’t get TOO hung up on the 1 or 2 star reviews (unless they make up the bulk of the reviews!) You can’t please everyone, and there’s always the chance of competitors leaving negative reviews (sad, but true). Take them into account, but also take them with a grain of salt and look at the overall “bell curve” of the reviews.
(Note: Tripadvisor is notorious, in our eyes, for having false locations on the map, so don’t get too attached to the locale before you cross-reference it!)
- Often cheaper than hotels
- Many properties give you access to a kitchen, making some meals easier & cheaper, if that is a priority
- Many hosts offer tips about the local area
- Generally more comfortable, dollar per dollar
- The fees can add up (Airbnb’s fee, potential cleaning fee)
- The cancellation of refund policies are usually much more stringent
- Often not as many reviews as a hotel, to get a better gauge on the property
- Sometimes the hosts want to be a little too chatty
- Check-in times have to be more precise