This section of the blog is dedicated to my reviews of hotels, restaurants, tours, or of anything else I feel the need to comment on. Most of the reviews are on hotels. Hotels sometimes shape our experience on a place more than the location itself – I’ve travelled a few places where a hotel feels like a refuge from the outside world and where you just don’t want to leave its doors (Havana, Cuba comes to mind). I’ve also been to some places where my stay was tarnished by bad hotel experiences (Lucerne, Switzerland and Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica are recent examples of bad hotels we’ve been to).
Because of the internet and sites like www.tripadvisor.com, its rare to really screw up on a hotel on a hotel today unless you really don’t do your research. Still, I’ve had a lot of pleasant or not so pleasant experiences that are more than standard deviation away from the average rating given on internet review sites. How many good hotels, especially small ones, are weighed down by negative ratings given by customers who complain about the lack of English spoken at the front desk or the lack of “turndown” service on beds (which, as I recently found out, is when the maid comes in your room in the early evening to turn down the covers and fluff your pillows). I don’t need that fancy stuff. All I really want a simple, safe and clean room with friendly service and a central location. And privacy – I don’t need and I don’t want to be woken up early in the morning by someone wanting to change my towels. Don’t even think of barging in to fluff my pillows when I’m taking my afternoon nap.
The least I ever paid for lodging was $3/night (in a tiny village called Chalok Lam, on the north side of Koh Phangan in Thailand). It was actually a really nice little bungalow. The most expensive to date was the $260/night paid in Rio de Janeiro (nice, but still very much overpriced). That was slightly more than the $242/night I paid at the San Bada hotel in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica – the lowest rating I’ve ever given a hotel. I still get upset to this day thinking of that dump.
The ratings I’ve given are based on my experience and the value for money for each hotel – I expect more from a hotel that I’ve paid $200 for than one where I’ve paid $30. But I expect cleanliness and friendly service from both. I’ve travelled a lot which has meant plenty of experience to either appreciate how well certain places are run or how badly others screw up on the basics that most travellers want. My comments are as much for other travellers as they are for the resorts/hotels; most of which are run by nice people who are too involved in their business to have an objective view of where they’ve gone wrong or how they can improve. If I like the owners of a hotel (and I have a bias for small hotels) I will write them personally and give them some constructive feedback on what they can improve. In almost 100% of these cases they really appreciate the feedback. In other cases, I just post a comment to Tripadvisor (again, with constructive feedback) with what I think of a certain hotel. It is very rare that I go on a rant and slam a hotel (like I did with the above mentioned San Bada). But when I do it is because the experience was so bad that it is obvious – in my opinion – that management is beyond caring about how to improve the customer experience. I’ve stated this before on the site but it is worth repeating: I have received NO compensation, either monetarily or in the form of free lodging, from any of the places referenced. These reviews are 100% based on our own experiences.
I’ve organized my reviews by country.