Finding The Right Place To Stay Abroad
Finding the right place to stay when traveling abroad can seem like a daunting task. How do you make an informed decision without having ever been there?! I have been asked this many times and have definitely had success and failure with this, but thankfully more successes. Here are some of my tips for finding the right place to stay.
Figure Out What's Important To You
Every traveler has preferences and knows what are the things that they are not willing to compromise on. Some of those things may vary depending on whether it's business or personal travel or if you are traveling solo, with a group of friends, or on a family trip.
I tend to travel solo and have a mix of personal and business travel. When my company is paying for my travel, I am all about the points - hellloooooo Hilton Honors! However, when I am on personal travel, I care less about those points because every dollar I spend on accommodations is a dollar less I have to go do stuff.
While you consider all of these things, below is a list of important things to me. Some of these might seem trivial if you've never traveled abroad, but be mindful (trust me).
I don't care if it's winter, I need to be able to control the temperature in my room. But be warned, "air conditioning" doesn't always mean you can make the room cold. In Santiago, Chile my room came with "air conditioning" and it was literally a heater on the wall. Wasn't the best considering the 90+ degree temperatures outside...
I usually don't upgrade my phone plan to include fancy international roaming, so WiFi is definitely important when I want to upload all of my photos and videos of the day to preserve space on my phone.
Much like an air conditioner, I like to be in control of my comfort. I don't necessarily take really hot showers but I'd like to option of not having the water come out glacial.
Private Room and Bathroom:
I said some of these might seem trivial... I don't care so much about staying at a proper hotel, there are lots of accommodation types, but I definitely don't want to stay in a dorm with strangers and certainly don't want to share a bathroom.
24 Hour Front Desk:
This one is important when traveling internationally because flights can be at weird times and time zones are all different. Fortunately, this has never happened to me, but you want to make sure you can get into your room in the middle of the night.
Location, Location, Location!
Never underestimate the importance that the right location can have on whether you have an okay vacation or an incredible vacation. So many factors go into choosing the right place, and again, this will vary depending on the type of trip and who's joining you. Below are some of the things that I consider.
Proximity to City Center:
Many tour operators will provide transportation for you if you are within a certain radius around the city center. Don't get caught in a situation where you have to figure out (or pay for) how to get to a rendezvous point. Also, I hate to be in the very middle of a big city because traffic may make it difficult to catch a taxi plus pollution from all the vehicles passing by and the noise it creates.
Access to Good Food and Drinks:
I tend to plan my trips by the time of day. I always have a day activity and a night activity. In general, the day activity is going to visit either a landmark, museum, or natural site, and my night is always centered around food and drinks.
I am always on the hunt for a great night market or street food vendors that provide me with the option to try lots of little things and usually very cheap. When searching for accommodations I always think about what my night will look like (and sometimes that means being within stumbling distance from a bar to the hotel).
Find The Right Side of The Railroad Tracks:
Find the place where people say "don't stay there" and stay just outside of there. No, seriously! Have you ever had the most amazing food at a hole in the wall mom and pop shop in a kinda sketchy neighborhood? Yea, every time!
OK, so I am kind of kidding, but kind of not. Don't totally ignore what you read about the "bad parts of town", but don't be afraid to explore. I'll provide some of my safety tips in another post. You are bound to find the most humble and wholehearted people on your entire trip if you are willing to stay just outside of the touristy areas.
Like I said before, I'm all about Hilton points when I am on business travel, and even at times during personal travel. However, when I travel internationally, I try to avoid big chain hotels for a couple of reasons.
First, they always cost more - always! Think about it, they have to pay to be part of the brand the same way that brand name clothes cost more. Second, I am a big fan of giving money to locals directly because you know it goes right to their household. This is why I opt for either smaller hotels or privately owned apartments. Below are a few types of accommodations to consider.