All travelers wish to stay at the 5-Star hotel with the perfect accommodations, the tempur-pedic bed, the tasteful breakfast and most importantly that perfect location close to all the tourist spots, shopping, restaurants and everything that the city has to offer. Unfortunately not all of us have the hundreds if not thousands of dollars to spend every night on that 5-Star hotel, specially when traveling for long periods of time.
If you are like us, you probably are ok giving up on most of those “luxuries” in order to enjoy your days of travel for longer, or so you can have more cash to do all the other adventures you want to enjoy in your trip. You are probably ok fixing a quick sandwich in your room and as long as you get a decent bed and shower you probably are happy to stay pretty much anywhere. What you are not ready to give up is that safe location, close to everything that you want to explore in the city. There is nothing worse to kill the travel vibe than arriving to a city you don’t know to an obscure neighborhood that just does not make you feel safe and welcomed.
How do you then find an affordable hotel in a safe area close to the best areas of town?
In the past couple of months we have visited some of the largest cities not only of Asia but the world. The following strategy has worked out for us to find good locations in every city we have visited in the US and South America as well.
We based all of our online search to Booking.com and Agoda.com, you can apply the same search strategy in any other hotel accommodation website of your choice.
1. Search for Embassies or Consulates in the city you are visiting and find hotels nearby.
This one has worked wonders for us. It works mostly in the capitals or bigger cities of every country. We have seen this pattern in every capital from Buenos Aires to Manila, all embassies are always in some of the best parts of town. If you want to find some of the safest areas in any city, do a Google map search for any big embassy in the city you are searching your hotel, find the US embassy, the UK or Japan embassy, chances are they are located in some of the safest neighborhoods of the city. Keep in mind that they might not be the closest locations to tourist attractions and shopping, but it gives you a pretty good idea of where the good areas of the city are located, specially when you are searching in big cities.
2. Do a search of 5-Star Hotels, get a feel for the Area, then search for more affordable accommodations nearby.
In a search for a hotel in Jakarta on Agoda, it gives me 480 options. In a city of 28 Million people where you have never been before, it is almost impossible to know where a good and safe place to stay will be in the city. As you can see from the photo below there are plenty of options of areas with hotels, for a first time visitor this is very intimidating.
If you narrow your search to show only 5-Star hotels, it comes down to only 41 hotels. Now this is much more manageable than the 480 properties shown above. As you probably know any 5-Star hotel is very likely to be in a good area of the city. I have never seen JW Marriot or Mandarin Oriental in shady parts of any city in the world. If we look at the exact same map, we now discover the neighborhoods with 5-Star hotels in Jakarta, with a heavy concentration in the city center.
As you can see out of the 41 5-Star hotels in Jakarta, 25 of them are in Central Jakarta. Now that we have narrowed down our search to Central Jakarta we can compare this to our search with the embassies. A quick search for the US and Japan embassy shows that the area close to the National Monument is a pretty safe area in the city, and a quick trip advisor search shows me this is near many attractions in the city.
3. Search for cheaper alternatives in your desired area.
Now that you know the area you’d like to stay you can do a search in your favorite hotel booking site, or even try to find a good deal on AirBnb for a private apartment or shared room in your desired neighborhood.
With this exact method we just booked a 2 night stay for only $25 per night at a 3-star hotel with nice accommodations, only 2 blocks away from the intersection where there are four 5-Star hotels where the cheapest room starts at $150/ per night. We are minutes away from all the tourist attractions in the city, and right in front of the nicest shopping mall in the city.
This same search has found us the same results in many different cities. Go ahead and try it out in your next hotel search, hopefully it will land you in the right side of town without breaking the bank.