Where to stay
The hotels in the best locations charge accordingly. But if you don’t need to be at the centre of things, find a hotel a little further out. The cost of public transport will be more than offset by what you save. And you’ll get a more authentic feel for a city if you’re not staying right in the tourist areas.
How to find it
I start with Google Maps in an area that looks good, clicking on the hotels that populate the map, bearing in mind how close it is to transport. Once I have a shortlist, I use TripAdvisor to check travellers’ experiences.
Any hotel prefers you to book directly rather than use a third-party website. The quoted tariffs will usually be the same but the hotel has to pay a percentage to the website for any bookings it generates. So the hotel will look more kindly on those from whom they receive 100 per cent of the tariff. You might get an upgrade, and it’s easier to negotiate a discount for breakfast or long stays.
Room to move
If your pre-booked room isn’t to your satisfaction, ask to change. Unless the hotel is full, they should be able to help. It may mean paying more for a better room, but be prepared to negotiate.
And if you come in off the street and ask if a room’s available, you’re well within your rights to ask to see the room first. That way you can avoid disasters, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
On the move
In rural areas in Europe, you sometimes get free public transport if you’re booked into a local hotel. Larger city hotels tend to have free shuttles to the airport, central city or shopping malls.
Smaller hotels without restaurants often have discount arrangements with local eateries. If not, ask them for a recommendation – you’ll often discover a local gem.
Swanky hotels are used to having people come and go, so there’s no harm in taking a stroll through the foyer to see how the other half lives. The decor is often wonderful, as is the people-watching. I once sat in the foyer of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York on the night of a big Italian-American ball, and about half the Tiffany diamonds in town passed by.