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The Traveller's Magazine
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When it comes to choosing a hotel while travelling what do you look for: price per night? star-ratings? location? amenities? There is a lot of selection when it comes down to it but how about the whole “you get what you pay for” myth? Some dish out hundreds of pounds for an extravagant list of amenities while others are satisfied with a humble bed, nothing fancy. But does price decide what you’re in for when you walk into a hotel? Absolutely not.

There are a number of urban myths circulating in the travel industry about hotels, specifically that if you pay more for a hotel room you’ll get a better one and that if you find a cheap hotel, you’ll get cheap service and a dingy room. This is not true. Some of the best hotels I have stayed at have been great budget options, small, always clean and friendly, usually quite quaint with more character than the run of the mill Holiday Inn. Before choosing a hotel you should really look at what you’re hoping to get out of it. This may help you choose between one with a long list of ritzy amenities and one that offers the basics.

If you’re planning on living at your hotel and rarely stepping outside of it (resorts, condos, etc), choose one with a long list of amenities: world-class spa, restaurants, work out room, lounge, bar, shops, etc. In other words, a hotel with the whole nine yards because your hotel is your holiday. On the other hand if you are an active traveller who spends every daylight hour sightseeing and touring the city, look for budget hotels that is traditional, run by locals (who offer great city tips) and has some cultural flare to it, you’ll most likely find it in the 2-3 star range, less expensive and far more genuine. These are the best spots to “come home” to after a long day out.

The more money you spend, the more comfortable your stay. This hotel myth is also not true. For many hotels comfort means a refurbished lobby, new gym equipment, a restaurant with a celebrity chef, etc. None of these impact our actual comfort while sleeping, which is the most important thing of all (since we are at a hotel to sleep). As much as a hotel may renovate and add services, room amenities seldom change from the basics. You should search out a hotel with clean rooms, no mould and comfortable mattresses. These are the essentials to a peaceful night’s rest.


When it comes to sleeping at night, most backpackers would be happy with a roof and a floor. Hostels are the perfect places for young travellers who don’t mind sharing a room with others (either mixed or same gender) or a bathroom. Hostels tend to be more colourful places, often including a café or a bar, hang out room, kitchen, second hand books to borrow and more. The staff are either travellers themselves or locals who know where its at and when in the city. You can find a hostel room in Europe for around €20, sometimes less sometimes more.

What you pay for: a bed which is sometimes a bunk bed, a shelf/cubby/safe, communal bathrooms, communal kitchen and an outstanding opportunity to meet fellow travellers and swap budget travel tips! Essentially the basics and a lot more.

In between:

Between hostels and luxury hotels is a long list of standard hotel types: motels, guest houses, pensions, bed & breakfasts… With few differences these all offer standard amenities at a reasonable price. They aren’t bargains but they aren’t going to throw your travel budget off kilter. You can find a wide range of quaint accommodations that are family run, offer breakfast in the morning and will go out of their way to make your stay personal. You can also find an equally wide range of hotels (especially franchise ones) that look exactly like the last you stayed at, same bed spreads, same curtains, same view of the motorway. If you’re arriving late in the day and taking off early in the morning it doesn’t matter too much what you hotel looks like. If you are staying for a long weekend or longer finding something that is intriguing and pleasant to spend time at is very important.

What you pay for: an indoor swimming pool, a basic gym, standard rooms that merit neither a “Oh, how nice!” nor a “Oh, how drab!” The range is wide though, so check out their hotel room photos.

Luxury hotels:

As far as luxury hotels go, ones that charge anywhere from £300 upwards to £7500 a night (in one of the luxury suites at the new Armani Hotel in Dubai). Luxury hotels spend a lot of money on lavish advertisements which consequently cost a lot but in the end offer little more than a standard hotel that is located in the same part of the city or on the same beach front. What luxury hotels do have are delicious restaurants and more often than not spectacular foyers. Don’t stay up in your room to read, put on a cute dress and find a cosy spot in the foyer to delve into your book or get in some people watching time.

What you pay for: reputation, possible celebrity sightings, a chance to say “I stayed at the same place Monroe did” and a glossy brochure.

When it comes to hotel rooms around the world, getting what we pay for isn’t always true. All hotels offer exactly what we need: a bed to sleep in for the night. After that it depends on you and what you want to take away from your hotel accommodations (I’m not just talking about the travel-sized soaps!). What have been your hotel experiences? Did you get what you paid for? Interested in other travel myths that have been busted? Check out our articles on Japan and last minute flights!

Image: kevindooley / flickr cc

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