Do you know how to get hotel discounts and guest house deals in Asia?
I know, saving money on places where you’d like to stay doesn’t sound that sexy – but the more money you save = the more you can travel, and that’s not just sexy, that’s orgasmic! So read on!
Travelling independently in Asia, almost every price is negotiable.
Yes, that’s including the price of your washing powder at the corner shop, and your headache tablets at the pharmacy. So I always negotiate the price of my room.
How do I do that?
I never book through accommodation booking sites.
They operate on commission, so their price will always be higher than booking direct.
Plus, you can’t negotiate price and room type…
And you can’t request a free pick up from the station…
And you can’t ask about other aspects of the guest house…
And you can’t get a feel for the service you might expect when you get there…
And you can’t start to build a relationship with the staff…
So I always negotiate with guest houses directly.
How? If you’ve never done it before, don’t worry one bit. It’s easy. Even if you don’t like bargaining, it’s easy to do over email, and not embarrassing at all:
Step 1 – Research guest houses online and choose a few options
I tend to use Trip Advisor, and initially search by price. Watch out for a couple of things:
[i] Dates of reviews – Things can change amazingly quickly as staff and seasons come and go – only focus on recent reviews.[ii] Nationality of reviewers – Travellers from different parts of the world can have really different opinions about everything, including how clean a place is and how far it is from the town centre.
As a Western woman, when I’m researching accommodation in Asia, I look for places with reviews from other Westerners. Especially for India, I look for reviews from other Western women – not those only reviewed by Indian men. [You usually get a quick idea of the reviewer’s nationality from the name and location on their review].
Step 2 – Check prices on accommodation sites
Search the internet for the few guest houses you’re interested in. If they show up on accommodation booking sites, note the best price they’re offering [Hostelworld, Booking.com and Agoda are good for Asia].
Unless you’re really short of time and really not worried about price, don’t book through them!
Step 3 – Find contact details
Check that internet search again to find an email address or Facebook page for each of your chosen guest houses. If they have web or social media sites they’re often not in English, but you’ll still be able to find contact information on them – or the Trip Advisor forums can often help.
Step 4 – Write to ask for best prices
I try to communicate some interest and enthusiasm in a place, hoping that’ll encourage the reader to help me [and because I am usually genuinely interested and enthusiastic about a place!] If you’re not sure how to start, you can always look up the weather and refer to that:
Hello WXY guesthouse
I hope you’re really well in X X and not feeling too hot – the internet says it’s going to be 38 degrees today!
I’m an English lady who would love to stay with you next month. I’ve always wanted to visit X X and your guest house sounds great.
What’s the very best price you can offer me for a stay in a single room with fan and balcony, from Monday X November – Sunday Y November [a stay of 6 nights]?
Looking forward to hearing from you soon, and sending very best wishes
Hilary : )
Ms Hilary Mehew firstname.lastname@example.org
Step 5 – Agree to the price and book
If you get a price back that’s the same or higher than you’ve seen on a booking site, quote that, asking for a better rate because you can book directly and save them from paying commission.
If you know you want to stay long term, try to get a better price by offering to pay on a weekly basis.
If they really won’t better the price, ask to have free breakfast thrown in with the deal, or a room upgrade, or something else you want.
From the offers you get, and from the “feel” you get for the place [often as important as price!] you’re ready to choose and book.
Step 6 – Ask for free pick up
Fancy a free pick up from the local bus/train station or airport? Ask for one [or failing a free one, a reduced priced one].
Check if they have any guests they’re taking back to the station/airport at the time you arrive – this option often works, especially for airport transfers, when all you have to pay for is the driver’s waiting time and parking charges between someone else’s drop off and your collection.
Step 7 – Re-confirm 3 days before
I usually do this by forwarding the last email between us, so they can easily see all the agreed arrangements re dates, room type, price, pick up arrangements etc, and tell them how much I’m looking forward to staying with them.
And that’s it!
Honestly, this approach has never failed me. Even when I couldn’t get a better rate, I’ve been able to negotiate a better room, or something else free or discounted, or at the very least got advance notice of when a special promotion will be on.
I also really appreciate arriving at a guest house, having got to know one or more staff members by name over the email, and receiving a very personal welcome.
Welcome to XYZ guesthouse and have a great stay…
Hilary Mehew is a big smiler and great traveller [it does make her cheeks ache!] She’s travelled extensively, but Asia is her passion – mostly as a backpacker and on business [though not at the same time!]. Years ago she thought she’d go travelling in the region for one year and ended up being away for three and a half. Since then she’s gone back every year for work and holidays. She’s just returned to the UK after backpacking for two years in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Contact her on email@example.com
1. Research guest houses online and choose a few options
2. Check prices on accommodation sites
3. Find contact details
4. Write to ask for best prices
5. Agree to price and book
6. Ask for a free pick-up
7. Re-confirm 3 days before
Want to dig deeper? Go for it!