In all my personal travels, accommodation selection is a very important part of the planning process. I try not to travel on group packages when exploring Asia, they usually take me to cashew nut factories, gem merchants, and bird’s nest restaurants, none of which appeal to me. I also often get put up in hotels which are cramped and fairly worn by groups of travelers brought in by the travel agencies.
The internet is my best source for planning a trip, I get great deals on hotels, transportation and on-the-ground arrangements and very good information such as reviews and recommendations from fellow travelers.
When doing a personal trip on a mid-range budget, it is not as easy as business travels where I can pick a reliable hotel chain and book a room. I personally choose my accommodation based on the following:
1. Location – close by to the following, depending on the purpose of the trip:
a. The Skytrain/underground (for places such as Bangkok, Singapore, London and etc)
b. Shopping center (s) or point of interest, within 10-15 minutes walking distance is acceptable
c. Good hangouts, e.g. eateries or pubs/bars/clubs
d. The beach or nothing for that matter (for pure relaxation, isolation can be therapeutic. I personally like views of the paddy field when in Bali)
For location, I would try to stay away from being located on main streets, on the entertainment row (pounding music at night is no fun nor the sight of men picking up scantily clad women), brightly lit neighboring buildings (which is quite common in Hong Kong),
2. Price – a very important factor, several sites offer very good discounts, here are some I recommend, Asia Travel, Asia Hotels, Asia Best Hotel, PYO Travel. Asia Travel has been most reliable and no issue with internet payments so far. For country-specific travels, there are other sites, some local, which offer better discounts. I’ll cover this in a related article. Best is to always compare offers from several sites, you can sometimes save quite a lot – extra money can always go towards the shopping budget :p
3. Traveler reviews – I use the Tripadvisor site religiously, they provide rankings of hotels as rated by travelers based on several criteria. This is important as images of the rooms provided by the hotels are usually not accurate. Often I’ve passed on some hotels as travelers did mention that it was old or dirty, important facts that you cannot obtain on brochures or hotel websites.
4. Cleanliness – I’m Virgo and a clean environment is very important to me. Clean carpets, sheets, room walls, and bathroom are necessary. Heaven forbids that the room or sheets smell. I can’t sleep otherwise. I’d sacrifice a small room for cleanliness anytime. Try to pick hotels which have been newly opened or recently refurbished. For the latter, make sure they put you in the new wing.
That aside, go out, explore and have fun! Accommodation is important but please don’t stay indoors and explore the room walls when traveling. It should only be a place for peaceful rest in preparation for the exciting travel ahead the next day.