In some cases, user generated review sites are useful, but they’re rarely written by experts and may be unreliable. Take both gushing five-star reviews and angry one-star rants with a pinch of salt – the middling verdicts probably offer a truer picture of the hotel’s pros and cons.
Check dates, too: a lack of recent positive reviews might suggest standards have slipped. Also be wary if hotel owners leave defensive or dismissive responses, no matter how justified they may seem. Nobody wants to stay at a modern day Fawlty Towers – the owners should be focusing on remedying concerns rather than arguing.
Even good hotels can suffer from poor customer service, which can ultimately lead to a bad experience. Fortunately, customer service is something that can be tested before booking. If the hotel has a phone number or email address listed, think of a small, reasonable request or query and get in touch. If the staff aren’t particularly helpful or are impossible to contact, they’re unlikely to be accommodating when you arrive at the hotel.
As well as being difficult to contact before arrival, if a hotel’s website looks extremely dated, it’s likely the owners don’t care about presenting their hotel well. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, as some decent hotels won’t even have a website, but it’s certainly worth searching. Also, if the hotel website pays far too much attention to the location, rather than the property or facilities, it’s almost definitely just another overpriced hotel cashing in on its local surroundings.
It should go without saying that any hotel with reports of bedbugs should be avoided. Fortunately, there are numerous online databases listing hotels where bed bugs have been experienced. No matter how small, or how long ago, if a hotel has had a bed bug infestation, there’s likely to be more.