Hotel / AirBNB / Accommodation

A. Booking a Hotel vs Airbnb

Instead of just deciding on the hotel, travellers nowadays will first have to decide on whether to book a hotel or an Airbnb.  Hotels are generally located more conveniently, and better equipped to cater to travellers’ needs 24 hours a day. However, they are also more expensive. Airbnb is generally more affordable in particular if you are a large group with more than 3 people, and would prefer a larger space for an extended period of time.

For a single traveller or a couple only staying in a city for one to two nights, a hotel is generally an easier option. In particular, if you are arriving late at night since the hotel front desk is open 24 hours a day. The biggest problem with Airbnb is getting the key from the host. You will need to arrange a time with the host to meet, and it might be an issue if you are flying in at 11 pm. Some Airbnb hosts have combination locks on their doors and will simply give you the passcode. This may create a security issue since all the previous guests (and probably half the neighbourhood) would have been given the same passcodes.

If you are arriving on a day when the previous guest has just moved out, you may have to wait for the host to clean the house, meaning that you cannot move in until the late afternoon. If there is an issue with the previous guest moving out or problems with the house (e.g. plumbing, water, or electricity), then you are left with no backup plan. A hotel will simply put you into another room should one be not available (or even an upgrade to a suite if the rooms are full). 

Unless you are living with the host, getting the exclusive local scoop from real people (as claimed by the site) almost never happens. Usually, the host will leave you alone for the period of your stay and ask you to leave your keys behind when you leave (most people never get to meet the host). You are far better off getting guidance on local information from the hotel concierge. 

That said, the advantage of Airbnb is that it is generally more economical for a larger group of people in need of more space (although in some cases, Airbnb may even be more expensive than similar hotels). Airbnb also allows you to do home cooking and save on parking fees if you are on a road trip. 

B. Booking a Hotel 

Once you have decided to book a hotel, you will need to do some research online as there are thousands to choose from. To help you to arrive at a shortlist of suitable hotels, you should consider the following: 

1. What is your budget?

This is the first question to ask to narrow down your search. If you have a high or unlimited budget (e.g. business trip), you only need to look at 4 to 5 stars hotels. A limited budget does not necessarily mean a bad hotel. There are plenty of cheap, and clean discount options available for travellers on a budget. The easiest way to compare prices is to go to different hotel booking websites online.

2. What Amenities do you need?

If you are a single traveller on a business trip, you may prefer a hotel with a business centre and a gym. If you are travelling with a large family, you may want a lot of space with adjoining family rooms, or even a suite with an extra bathroom. Do you need a special room for people with disabilities? Do you want the hotel to include breakfast?

3. What is a Convenient Location for you?

If you are on a business trip, you may want a hotel in the Central Business District or somewhere close to the office. If you are a visitor, you may want your hotel to be closer to the tourist attractions. Some people may choose a more secluded location for more privacy, peace, and quiet. 

4. Read the Online Reviews

Read the reviews of the hotels you have shortlisted to get a sense of cleanliness, customer service, and convenience. Weigh these reviews against the hotel’s price and location to determine whether it meets your needs.

5. Contact the Hotel directly.

For last-minute booking, you may consider calling or emailing the hotel directly to see if you can get a better price. You can also make an enquiry about the hotel’s cancellation policy at the same time. Unless the price offered by a website is considerably lower than that of the hotel, it is always better to book directly with the hotel.

6. Special Request.

Include any special request in your booking. For example, a higher floor on the side of the hotel with a better view and less noise, a non-smoking room with a king-size bed, two adjoining rooms, facilities for people with disabilities, etc.

7. Confirmation.

Once booked, you should receive a confirmation (generally by e-mail) that the room has been booked. Please print to make sure that the dates, type of room, and price are correct. Bring the print confirmation with you when checking in to enable the front desk to find your room easily.

C. Booking an Airbnb

If you have decided to book through an Airbnb instead, be sure to consider the following:

1. Choose the type of accommodation.

Are you looking for a room with a host, an apartment, or a house? Do you need a garden or parking?

2. Set a budget.

As with hotels, setting a budget will allow you to narrow down your search considerably.

3. Choose a location.

Compared with hotels, Airbnb may not be conveniently located, so you will need to make sure there is good transport if you do not drive. 

3. Read the Listings carefully.

Don't assume that Airbnb will provide all the amenities you can find in a hotel. For example, there might be no air conditioning or heating. Also, don’t just focus on the number of rooms and take it for granted that there will be one bed in each room. The host may inflate the number of beds by counting the sofa bed as one bed. In addition, the number of bathrooms is as important as the number of rooms. For certain old homes in the countryside, there could be 4 rooms with only one bathroom. You certainly do not want 8 people to queue up for showers every night. Some hosts have strict house rules on parties or making noise. Also, find out if there is any construction nearby or nightlife just outside the Airbnb which makes it very noisy.

4. Read the Reviews even more carefully.

The quality of hosts and their accommodation varies greatly, so it is important to read the guest reviews even more carefully to understand any shortcomings. Perhaps the rooms are dirty, or they do not provide sufficient amenities. It is always better to book with a super host or an Airbnb with at least 90% positive reviews.

5. Contact the host.

You can click "Contact Host" to ask the host a question on anything that is unclear, or click "Request Reservation" to start the reservation process. The answer will tell you a lot about the host and whether he/she is helpful and suitable for you. Please also be aware that any refund is governed by the host’s cancellation policy and each host is different. 

6. Book early.

As the prices of Airbnb fluctuate widely, especially during the peak tourist season, it is important to book early. There are dynamic pricing tools used by hosts to automatically increase prices when demand is likely to be high. You should always book early for a super host with the best price.

7. Protect yourself.

After entering the house, conduct a security check to ensure that there are first aid kits and fire extinguishers. As with car rental, if you arrived at the Airbnb and something is already damaged, you should send a photo to the host to complain (or at least to inform the host that you did not cause the damage). Taking photos of the conditions of the property when you arrive and depart will also protect you from claims in the future. As most hosts nowadays just give out passcodes for the combination lock freely without ever-changing them, do not keep valuable belongings in the house when you are away, and always lock the door when you are in the house for security reasons.

8. Dispute.

In case of any dispute with the host, you can ask Airbnb’s dispute resolution staff to mediate. All your communications with the landlord will be seen by Airbnb. As the rating on Airbnb goes both ways, you will need to be a good guest to allow you to book an Airbnb next time. You should be good at communication, be polite, follow the rules of the house, and treat the rented house with respect. This is usually enough for you to get a good evaluation from the host.


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