1. Location. If you have to choose between a quality hotel in a bad location and a budget hotel in an excellent location for the same price. Choose the latter. Location trumps price. Booking a cheap luxury hotel in an awful location only to spend most of your time and money in the long distance commute is not worth it. A good location means that you have a lot of choices to go eat, have a drink and entertain yourself all within walking distance to your hotel. Known as the backpackers area are Pham Ngu Lao or District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City, Gang I and II in Yogyakarta and Khaosan Road (picture below) in Bangkok.
2. Transportation. Always check if public transportation are readily available. Bus stops and train station should be just a couple of blocks away. I suggest you check out Sentral in Kuala Lumpur, Chinatown (picture below) in Singapore and Nathan Road in Hongkong.
3. Rates. Hotel rates are different in each country. It depends on their economy and standard cost of living. A budget hostel in Singapore and Hongkong is the same rate as a two to three star hotel in Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia and that same price can get you a luxurious suite in Cambodia and Vietnam. Your one week budget in Hongkong might last you a month in Cambodia. Spend wisely, know when to save and when to splurge.
4. Reviews. Basic information such as cleanliness and staff performance are often overlooked when choosing a hotel but minor details like this can make or break one’s vacation. Do yourself a solid and check out hotel reviews online. There are a lot of websites that show customer reviews and testimonials to the public. There’s Agoda, Trip Advisor and Travbuddy. Don’t rely on hotels’ own website and photos as they are most of the time deceiving. Customer reviews are more accurate and reliable.
5. Early Check-in. Some hotels are strict with their check-in time policy which is 2 pm onward. If you have an early flight, contact the hotel in advance to know if you can check-in early. If given an advance notice some hotels can accommodate your need. Otherwise you’ll have to wait in the lobby until your room is ready.
6. Safety and Security. Are there in-room safes to secure your valuables? Are the hallways well lighted and installed with surveillance cameras? Is there an emergency exit? More importantly, are the locks system in your room sturdy and secured? Many small family run lodgings lack these facilities. Do not hesitate to check-out if you do not feel safe.
7. WiFi. The internet is our means of communication back home.The mobile phone you brought is pretty much useless once you hear about the international roaming rates. Five minutes of skyping and facebook chatting can automatically ease your homesickness. Know beforehand if the WiFi is free or not to avoid extra charges. If you did not bring a laptop, some hotels have computers in the lobby available for guests. Based on my experience smaller hotels tend to have a better and faster WiFi signals than the big ones.
8. Airport Transfer. If you like booking hotels before arriving like me. You can score yourself a free transfer to and from the airport. Some hotels can arrange for a pick-up for an extra charge which I suggest you take if its your first time in that country. If you look lost and clueless upon stepping out the airport with no one to pick you up, touts are gonna hound you non-stop. You will find yourself haggling for a price that will still end up with you paying double the standard fare. In Siem Reap a tuktuk ride (picture below) from the airport to the Old Market area is $3 while riding a cab cost $7 which you can get for free in almost every hotel in Siem Reap if you notify them about your arrival.
9. En-suite Bathroom. Yes, not all hotels have a private bathroom. If you plan to stay in a dorm type hostel then you are sure to be using a communal bathroom. If a private room is really dirt cheap then it is more likely to not have an en-suite bathroom.If you don’t mind using a shared shower and toilet then go ahead.
10. Services and Amenities. The services and amenities you need depends on your lifestyle and duration of stay. Room service are readily available in every hotel room with telephones. Same goes with towels, slippers and toiletries. But not all hotels are equipped with a mini refrigerator, coffee and thermos, hair dryer, iron, hot water, balcony, elevator, breakfast and so on. Do you need some or all of these to make your stay better? Do your research to avoid disappointments.