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  The Chatter Box : Travel
To book ahead or not to book ahead? by mr_alex on 5 January 2005 1:14am
In March I am going travelling to USA, Fiji, Australia and S.E Asia, I'm not sure whether I should book my accomodation when i get to these places or book ahead. Being on my own as I shall be booking ahead seems to be the more "comfortable" option but I fear i will be paying vastly inflated prices if i book through a travel agency. Also this being the first time I am going travelling on my own I worry that I may be stuck somewhere with nowhere to stay...Does anyone have any suggestions as to what i should do?
Re: To book ahead or not to book ahead? by Godfather on 5 January 2005 1:50am
How long are you going for, Alex? If it's a long haul then there is no need to book anything (although i should imagine that in popular periods for visiting Australia and U.S.A you may have to plan ahead a little sometimes when arriving in big cities,etc).

As for S.E.A and Fiji. Just make it up as you go along. You can always find somewhere cheap, because guesthouses are numerous in those countries. Yes you will be paying vastly over the odds if you book anything from your country. And i really mean that. "Vastly" over the odds. Apart from big cities in the developed countries,it's easy to just make it up as you go along and walk about to find accomodation. In March, some heavily heavily popular S.E.A countries for backpacking (such as Thailand) may be very busy still. Sometimes you may have to walk around about 20 guesthouses on one street until you get a room. But you'll always find one eventually. Have a good trip.

Re: To book ahead or not to book ahead? by mr_alex on 5 January 2005 2:12am
Thank U, that has been very helpful. Im going for 3 months. Im not overly worried about Australia and USA because I shall mostly be in big cities on my own and being english speaking countries I don't feel I shall have too much trouble. I was told that in places like Bangkok alot of the Youth Hostels especially can be a bit dodgey(junkies, seedy etc.) so I was also wondering if it is fairly inexpensive to stay in a hotel and can I get a room when I'm there.(This mainly applies to S.E Asia.
Re: To book ahead or not to book ahead? by Godfather on 5 January 2005 3:04pm
Hi Alex,

In Bangkok,oddly enough it's usually better to avoid the mass backpacker establishments. Those are where problems can occur with theft. Some people fund their travels by staying places, getting duplicated keys made, coming back a month later for a stay, and quite discreetly looting up to 15 rooms in one night while the owners are out, to fund another few months of travel or drug habit. Cameras,changed Baht cash,Passports,Disc players. It's amazing what value of things even the most budget of backpackers can carry around and sometimes leave lying around in their rooms sometimes.

If your room doesn't have the means to bolt your own lock on the outside,then be very wary and either avoid it or take anything of value with you when you leave. Doors that can be opened by a key, are not that secure really because sometimes staff are involved in inside jobs (in league with police who say nothing can be done,and get a cut).

So cheap guesthouses are fine in Bangkok if they're not overly popular. As for the ones which may be seedy or junkie havens. You probably wont come across those unless you're really really on a bare bones budget,and hoping to spend about B100 or less. They do exist,and are pretty obvious though. Grimy little broom cupboards of a room with card partitions, horrible bed bug ridden mattresses and lots of squashed mosquitoes on the wall. You'll know immediately if you've walked into one of those guesthouses (and the bites will remind you over several days). I've stayed in a few of those in my time,and dont anymore. It's not worth the saving. Above B100,most guesthouses are clean and more pleasant.

The main reason to avoid the guidebook reccomended guesthouses, is more so because the staff are usually jaded by backpackers (some of whom can be quite rude and penny pinching). The staff become sullen and very un-Thai like after some time. And because the establishment is in a guidebook, the owners think it's a one way ticket to riches. Hence the standards slip and they cant be bothered to fix things.

Best to seek out ones you've not heard of before. They still have to make the effort to impress visitors and keep up up the standards. This goes for all of South East Asia. Long established guesthoues in guidebooks are not a wise move. There are so many cheap guesthouses in S.E.A that you will always find good ones just around the corner. No need to upgrade to 'hotels' really. If you do, then you'll end up looking at about B600+ in somewhere like Bangkok. And the same kind of problems can occur in those. So there is no escaping it. Often,the mid range hotels are not so good anyway.

So it's best stick to the 'semi' cheap guesthouses,where you pay about the B200 rate. Most backpackers go to the famous Ko San Rd (Banghlampu) area of Bangkok when they first come to Thailand. It's interesting. But dont stay there or on the few streets around it. The accomodation in that immediate area is crap and highly overpriced for what it is.

Each new generation of visitors gets conned because they assume that because it "had" a reputation as a cheap hangout,it still is thesedays. It's not. The quality really is rubbish for the price. You only have to start walking a few streets away to find far superior accomodation for half the price. Other areas for accomodation are a few places in Siam Square (about B400 range) or Sukhumvit (where you really end up paying more). So Banghalmpu still gives you the wider range of accomodation options. But avoid staying in accomodation directly on places like Ko San rd.

Hope some of that helps :)

Re: To book ahead or not to book ahead? by mr_alex on 5 January 2005 4:15pm
that really helped, thanks a lot 4 ur time!
Re: To book ahead or not to book ahead? by Godfather on 6 January 2005 3:31am

No problem :)


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