This section of GoRoundTheWorld.com addresses how to find appropriate accommodation while you are traveling.
When choosing accommodation, remember that you pay a premium for staying at internationally-branded hotels. You can and will find equivalent, if not better, lodging without the brand name for significantly less money if you are willing to do your homework, listen to other travelers, and have a look around.
It is generally not necessary to book accommodation ahead of time unless (a) you are arriving for the first time in an unfamiliar place after a lengthy mode of travel (a long-haul flight, a long train ride, or similar), or (b) you are arriving in an unfamiliar, large urban area and the accommodation you have been able to identify which meets your needs isn’t close to the terminal or station where you are arriving.
Booking in Advance
If you are more comfortable booking ahead of time, or if it is advisable to do so given the above, then you have a few options for how to approach your reservation:
The best way to make an advance booking for which you can have some assurance about the quality of what you will get is to talk to other travelers. Go to an internet café and chat people up. If you are shy, let them chat you up, as they most certainly will. There is bound to be someone coming from the location you are about to go to, and they will be able to offer some advice. They will also surely appreciate the advice you can give about locations you have just come from. If they were happy with where they stayed, and if it sounds like a good arrangement to you, try to make a booking at the same place.
Peruse online sources or use travel guidebooks such as Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Fodor’s, or Michelin Guides. If you feel you have enough information from those sources to book ahead, then by all means do so.
Talk to travel agents where you currently are or to the guesthouse operator where you are currently staying about where to stay at your next destination. They will typically have a “cousin” with a guesthouse or know of something along those lines with availability. You will be sure to have a booking, but you generally cannot depend on those agents or guesthouse owners to give you an accurate picture of what you are getting into. And it is not necessarily their fault - they may or may not be joking about the “cousin” part, but they probably are honestly describing the guesthouse they are referring based on what they have been told. I can almost guarantee you, though, they have never seen or stepped foot in that guesthouse themselves. Ask them for a website for the guesthouse they are recommending or for pamphlets with photos. That is certainly not a fool-proof way to manage your expectations, but it is better than someone’s description alone. And always remember, when you are referred to a guesthouse by another guesthouse owner or by a travel agent, they are doing so for commission. That does not mean they won’t make a good recommendation, but keep that in mind to put any conversations in the right context.
Use an online booking tool such as Orbitz.com or Hotels.com.
Booking On The Spot
This is my preferred method for finding accommodation. It has generally led to far better results for me than advance bookings.
Try to arrive on an early train or flight to wherever you are going. Hail a tuk-tuk, rick-shaw, or taxi and tell the driver you would like to see two or three places before deciding where to stay. Based on your online research, the information you have gleaned from your travel guidebooks, and discussions with other travelers, have one or two places picked out in advance. In addition to those, always let the driver take you to a location of his or her choosing. By seeing the two or three places you have picked out in advance, the driver will have a sense of the type of accommodation you like and your budget. He or she may know of new and similar places which are not yet in the guidebooks. Of course, the drivers are never fully independent, and they are going to receive commissions for dropping you off, but that’s life and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be getting into a place where you won’t get value for your money.
At each of the locations you visit, talk to the guesthouse owner or staff, and physically inspect the room you are being offered. That way you have minimized any surprises about what you are getting (it still doesn’t mean the hot water will work!). One benefit to this method is that when the owner sees you are savvy enough to check out more than one place, he or she will often offer you a discount. And no matter what is offered, you will be able to bargain the room rate down to some extent if you choose.
Once you’ve had a look around, choose the guesthouse you liked the most, the one you felt most comfortable in, or the cheapest one, depending on your priorities.
Mudslide While Crossing The Notorious
Tibet - Nepal Border
© Stephen Braun
Accommodation and Your Personal Life
Many RTW travelers are used to being able to have friends in their hotel rooms when traveling. In many locations overseas, you will not be allowed to have others in your room, unless they are staying at the same guesthouse. This is a fact that is pointless to argue with a guesthouse owner or one of their staff. If you do decide to take issue with the matter, you will only alienate the guesthouse employees and ownership from yourself.
You will usually be asked to present your passport and visa to the guesthouse as well. They will often make a copy of it, or they will record your details in a register. In most cases, this is required by law and you should not be concerned.
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