Hotels are a highly personal service. Unless you’re separating from a spouse, you usually prefer the familiarity of home to the strangeness of a hotel. After all, where the hell are your slippers and why is it so awkward to turn the lamp on?
Hoteliers go to great pains to make their rooms as generic as possible so the largest number of people will feel secure. They want you to enjoy your stay – not because they like you, but because they can’t afford to have bad feedback hurt future business.
Like most young people, when I was a 20-something adventurer I was more than happy to stay in any crappy Motel6 or hostel that saved me money. Now that I’m older, I’m not as forgiving of crappy beds, noisy neighbors and clogged drains. I can’t afford Presidential Suites, but I won’t abide roach-filled crap-holes, either.
As a middle-of-the-road hotel customer, I have the most daunting task when booking hotels. Let’s face it: the two opposite sides of the spectrum are easy to find and easy to book. The huge middle bulge of the market is harder to gauge.
Respected guidebooks like Fodor’s, Lonely Planet and Frommer’s are helpful resources and are generally trustworthy, but a nod from them usually means the suggested hotels are fully booked unless you plan way ahead. I use these guides as…guides. They are helpful, but are not my sole sources of information.
To avoid Hotel Hell, I employ a multi-pronged method of attack: geographical/online/published.
It’s the oldest saw in real estate: the three most important aspects are location, location and location. Download and install GoogleEarth and check the More > Place Categories > Lodging button. Now when you zoom into a city, little bed icons will appear that have weblinks.
Here’s a test: we want a mid-priced hotel in Prague for late September. GoogleEarth: ENGAGE!
I moused around the central district and clicked on the first one that looked well-located. It linked to the hotel website. Looks like they’re having some specials in late September! Double-rooms for €100! That’s about $130 a night! Not bad for a 4-star hotel in a European capital in summer!
Of course, their website shows beautiful rooms and glowing descriptions of the property. For all I know, the place is actually a vermin-riddled dump run by a troglodyte. What’s the web say? Tripadvisor has a solid 4 dots out of 5. Most people from around the world liked the place, while a couple Americans bitched about stupid stuff that reflected more on them than the hotel.
So far, the Hotel Rott is looking good.
How do I know the TripAdvisor 4/5 is earned? Maybe the Hotel Rott staff stacked the numbers with fake reviews. Booking.com, hotels.com and Virtual Tourist produced similar results. One common thread: the staff had a tendency to tack on charges during checkout. This isn’t good, but it’s something that can be overcome by verbal threats and intimidation.
So, it passed the Internet test. By a little red pubic hair, but it passed.
So, what do the snobby experts say? Well, the Hotel Rott didn’t make Frommer’s and didn’t make Fodor’s Choice, either. This means they’ll never make the Michelin guide. Lonely Planet is a stupid waste , so we’re at a crossroads here. We’ll have to weigh the following:
- Cool 13th century building
- Perfect fucking location
- Reviews are good, mostly 4/5
- Prices seem OK
- No established expert opinion of the place
- Some visitors complained of being gouged
If I had my druthers, I’d book this one. Its location is spot-on. You can get roaring drunk in Wenceslas Square and stumble right into your hotel, no problem. The building is attractive and historic. According to reports, it may suffer from some street noise and the staff may try to renege on billing, so you must bring earplugs and a binding agreement at check-in. Not too hard.
I hope you enjoyed this object lesson in avoiding Hotel Hell. If you have any comments, add them.