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5 things to look out for before booking a budget hotel

When travelling, your hotel is basically your home away from home, your safe harbour or sanctuary. If you are trying to save money when travelling, you may have decided to search for a budget hotel.

The thing about budget hotels is that some have a knack for promising and advertising more than they deliver. You can book a budget hotel room in advance only to be massively disappointed by the facilities, the staff and the overall accommodation experience when you actually get there.

To avoid such disappointment, there are a few signs you might want to look out for when choosing a budget hotel.

Mixed reviews on multiple sites

Before booking a hotel, it’s a good idea to search for online reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor. Now, it’s best not to let a couple of bad reviews put you off – some guests are impossible to please – but if you come across several negative ones on multiple sites, you are probably better off exploring other options.

It’s also useful to check the dates of the reviews. If you don’t see any recent ones that are positive, there is likely a good reason for it. Something major (such as a change in management) might have happened, resulting in a change of standards at the hotel that is reflected in guests’ reviews.

Unreachable or rude staff

It can help to try contacting the hotel before you book. The response that you get from staff is a telltale sign of the kind of service you can expect once you check in. Ultimately, you need supportive and friendly staff who can quickly and effectively address any problems that you encounter during your stay.

If you call the hotel and the staff are either unresponsive or unfriendly, you can reasonably assume that they will also not be helpful in addressing any problems you experience during your stay.

Poor quality website

A hotel’s website should essentially be an extension of its on-property services. If you find that the website is poorly maintained, difficult to navigate and full of typos, this might be an indication that the hotel’s services are also sub-standard and that the management is generally unconcerned. 

Photos are unclear or just too perfect

If the hotel does not provide clear pictures of its rooms or if all photos seem to be of the same room, this can be a red flag, and there’s a good chance that the hotel is hiding something. On the other hand, if pictures of the hotel’s rooms are seemingly too perfect to be true, they probably are (after all, it’s a budget hotel).

Also, if there are no pictures of the actual rooms, only images of the hotel’s exterior, there is probably a good reason for the hotel not showing you the inside.

Some budget hotels are notorious for posting edited photos of their exteriors. You might be attracted to a hotel’s seemingly beautiful exterior and surroundings, only to discover that the images are out of date or that an eyesore has been conveniently cropped out of the hotel’s promotional photos.

Tools such as Google Maps and Google Images can offer views of the hotel’s real exterior and surroundings and save you from any nasty surprises.

A vague description of location

A vague description of the hotel’s location could be another red flag. A description that, for example, states that the hotel is ‘close to all major transport links’ may not tell the whole story.

Imagine booking a hotel based on such a description only to find that the train station is not within walking distance of the hotel, and you need to book a taxi every morning to get there.

Even when the hotel has provided a legitimate location description, it is still advisable to do a little more research of the area. The hotel may be located in a less desirable area in which you might not feel as safe as you would in the slightly more expensive main tourist areas.

Final word

There are plenty of quality budget hotels out there that offer excellent options to reduce costs when travelling – as long as you know what to look for and what to avoid. Thankfully, poor hotels come with many telltale signs that can help you cross them off your list.

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