Booking Hotels In Southeast Asia
Some of the links below contain my affiliate ID. I recommend booking hotels through Agoda in Asia for the reasons you will find below. By recommending Agoda I want you to get the best deal for your hotel room and if you choose to use one of my links I will receive a small commission.
This money goes towards my website running costs and compensates me a little for the large amount of effort that I have put into this site over many years.
Hotel rooms are simply a commodity and, like all commodities, they are traded. Room rates tend to be quite expensive and since the introduction of the Internet a huge on-line hotel booking business has emerged because there is a lot of money to be made.
This is mostly good news for consumers because we have a lot more choice and the competition helps to keep prices low. On the other hand, with so many different ways to book a hotel, and because prices can fluctuate so wildly, the process can be quite confusing.
I have been booking hotels in Thailand since 1987. In the pre-Internet era it was very different, but I had very limited choice. These days I have a huge choice, but even with the experience I have it can still be bewildering at times.
On many occasions I have gone through the process of trying to get the best deal, only to end up doing what I thought I was going to do in the first place. By providing the following case studies and advice I hope to save you time and money.
If you find this useful, please consider using my Agoda links to help with the running of this website. Thank you!
The following hotels are ones that I have stayed at personally and represent typical family accommodation in popular Southeast Asian cities and beaches. I did these case studies in March 2018 using dates for September 2018. The reason for this is that if you look at hotel prices six months ahead the prices stay relatively stable. If you check prices a week or two ahead the prices tend to fluctuate wildly. See 'When To Book' below.
The following rates from different on-line travel agencies (OTAs) and, where applicable, booking directly with the hotel are for a three night stay between 10th and 13th September 2018. Prices are in Thai Baht.
I have chosen the cheapest rate available that includes breakfast. However, please be aware that the cheapest rates are often non-refundable. If you think that you may have to cancel you will probably need to pay a higher room rate in order to get the option of a free cancellation.
Most OTA prices are inclusive, but Agoda adds 10% service charge + 7% tax to the rooms rates if you go ahead with the booking. It would also seem that if you book directly with a hotel the rate they give you normally isn't inclusive of taxes and fees.
- The Pelican Residence & Suite, Krabi, Thailand
Deluxe Two Bedroom Suite
Agoda: Bt3,429 per night + 10% service charge + 7% tax. Total Bt12,036
Booking.com: Total Bt40,500
Hotels.com: Total Bt16,402
Traveloka: Bt5,459 per night. Total Bt16,377
Book directly with hotel: Bt14,580
Summary: The price booking directly with the hotel isn't bad, but Agoda wins. However, when I booked at this hotel in March 2017 the price booking directly with the hotel was significantly higher than the Agoda rate.
I am told that Booking.com is the biggest OTA in the world, but whenever I check their rates for hotel rooms in Thailand they are normally more expensive compared to Agoda and sometimes a lot more expensive.
- Royal View Resort, Bangkok, Thailand
Superior Double Bed
Agoda: Bt1,178 per night + 10% service charge + 7% tax. Total Bt3,781
Booking.com: Total Bt4,500
Hotels.com: Total Bt4,500
Traveloka: Bt1,407 per night. Total Bt4,221
Book directly with hotel: Bt4,500
Summary: As I usually find, Agoda once again has the lowest rates. I'm not sure why I often see exactly the same price for Booking.com and Hotels.com. The former is owned by Priceline and the latter by Expedia. If both OTAs were owned by the same company I could understand, but this seems a little strange.
- Anantara Si Kao, Trang, Thailand
Deluxe Family Room
Agoda: Bt3,456 per night + 10% service charge + 7% tax. Total Bt12,130.
Booking.com: Total Bt12,307
Hotels.com: Total Bt13,560
Traveloka: Bt4,556 per night. Total Bt13,668
Book directly with hotel: Bt3,840 per night. Plus Bt2,137 taxes + fees. Total Bt13,657
Summary: Agoda once again has the lowest rates, although Booking.com isn't far behind this time.
- Grand Swiss Sukhumvit 11, Bangkok, Thailand
Agoda: Bt2,378 per night + 10% service charge + 7% tax. Total Bt8,347
Booking.com: Total Bt11,097
Hotels.com: Total Bt11,097
Traveloka: Bt3,699 per night. Total Bt11,097
Book directly with hotel: Bt9,428. Plus Bt1,669 taxes + fees. Total Bt11,097
Summary: On several occasions when I have checked hotel prices I have found rates on different websites to be exactly the same, in this case Bt11,097. I'm not sure why, but it makes me a little suspicious. There's definitely some price fixing going on. Anyway, once again - by quite a considerable margin - Agoda is the winner.
- La Residencia Hotel, Hoi An, Vietnam
Agoda: Bt1,573 per night + 10% service charge + 7% tax. Total Bt5,521
Booking.com: Total Bt6,629
Hotels.com: Total Bt6,190
Traveloka: Bt1,928 per night. Total Bt5,784
Book directly with hotel: Total Bt5,068
Summary: This is one of the rare times I have found it cheaper to book directly with the hotel, although this is a limited offer and the normal price booking directly with the hotel is Bt11,264. Agoda, once again, is the cheapest OTA. This example is also a reminder of the excellent value of hotels in Vietnam. Hotels in Thailand are getting more and more expensive and this is a bargain price for a truly excellent hotel.
- Grand Swiss Sukhumvit 11, Bangkok, Thailand
Hotel Price Comparison Sites
Some sites, such as Hotels Combined, offer to do the price comparison work for you in order to save you time. You tell them where and when you want to stay and they compare all the OTA prices.
This sounds great in theory, but I have noticed some problems. When I was doing the price comparison above I tried Hotels Combined for some of the hotels. My research showed that Agoda offered the lowest rate, but Agoda wasn't even shown in the Hotels Combined list.
For one hotel Hotels Combined told me that Booking.com had the lowest rate at Bt12,387. However, when I clicked through to the Booking.com website the actual price was Bt40,500. Hotels Combined told me that the Hotels.com rate was Bt13,935, but the actual rate at Hotels.com was Bt16,402.
Sometimes Hotels Combined does give accurate information, but sometimes it can be misleading and it doesn't tell you where to find the lowest rate.
When To Book
What I have found is that if I check a room rate several weeks or months before, the rate remains relatively stable. However, if you check a week or two before your date of travel there can be wild fluctuations. Let me give you a real world example for the Pelican Residence & Suite listed above.
I checked roughly two weeks before my date of travel and the rate for a Deluxe Two Bedroom Suite was about Bt2,800. I didn't book because I wanted to think about a few things and discuss it with my wife.
I decided to book the next day and the rate for exactly the same room on exactly the same dates had risen to Bt3,700. I wasn't pleased, but blamed myself for proscratinating.
When I checked the day after booking the rate had fallen to Bt3,400. Again, I wasn't very pleased to see this drop in price after I had made my booking.
The following day it had risen to Bt4,100, which made me feel a little better, and then it rose again to Bt5,225 - almost the double the rate a few days previously.
Obviously, if a room remains vacant it is better to sell it off cheaply rather than not sell it at all. Therefore, if you wait until the last minute you may be able to get a great deal. On the other hand, if you wait until the last minute you may find that there are no rooms available.
It depends on your personal circumstances. If you are single and/or not travelling with young children and you don't mind where you stay it can be a good idea to wait for last minute deals.
As I have young children and need to stay in hotels that have family rooms or other suitable accommodation it isn't always that easy.
You may be able to get a great last minute deal, but generally it is advisable to book ahead as early as possible.
Ways To Save Money
As I have illustrated above, you can normally save money by booking through Agoda. Furthermore, Agoda has a 'Best Price Guarantee' and if you find a better deal for exactly the same room on exactly the same dates elsewhere, Agoda will refund the difference. Therefore, you can't really lose.
If you are flexible with your dates you may find it is cheaper to stay a day or two earlier or later than you had originally planned. Weekend rates will often be more expensive than mid-week rates.
If you are certain that you won't cancel your reservation you can normally get a better rate choosing the "Non-refundable" price. However, if you do need to cancel you can't get your money back.
You will often find that there is a room only rate and a rate that includes breakfast. Sometimes there can be a big difference between these rates. If you are travelling alone and the difference is Bt600, it means that the price for breakfast is Bt600. If there are two of you, the effective price for breakfast is Bt300.
Bear in mind that the buffet breakfast at many hotels is quite ordinary and that many small Thai restaurants serve breakfast for around Bt100. If you wish to save money it may be cheaper to choose the room only rate and eat outside of the hotel.
Obviously, eating in the hotel is more convenient and there may not be many restaurants nearby if the hotel is in an isolated position. Additionally, breakfast in the better Thai hotels and resorts is very good and worth paying for. It's up to you, but this is one way of potentially saving money.
Most Thai hotel rooms have a mini-bar, but prices are generally very expensive. There are 7-Eleven stores everywhere in Thailand from which the same items can be bought a lot cheaper. I never use hotel mini-bars.
This also applies to massage. Many hotels will offer an in-house massage service, but massage from a shop outside is generally a lot cheaper.
Getting the best rate for a hotel is never straightforward. When comparing room rates, are you comparing the same thing? Some rates include breakfast, some rates are non-refundable, some rates may include access to certain hotel facilities, some rooms may have a better view than others.
At certain times room rates from the same OTA fluctuate wildly and can almost double in a few days. The laws of supply and demand are universal and if one OTA has a lot of rooms on its books the price may be lower because there is lots of supply.
In most cases I have found that booking directly with the hotel isn't the cheapest method, although in one of my examples above the hotel was offering a limited term special deal that was the cheapest way to book a room. You can't generalise and every generalisation will at some time be contradicted.
Despite this, I have found over many years that Agoda normally offers the lowest room rates in the Southeast Asia region and that to avoid wild fluctuations it is best to book as far ahead as possible.
When researching room rates don't be pressured by the tactics used by the various OTAs. As you browse you will be told that other people are looking at the same hotel and that there is only one room left. This is using the pyschology of the 'Fear Of Missing Out' (FOMO) and it is quite powerful.
At the same time, remember that popular hotels at popular times do get booked up quickly and it is better to book early.
Good luck and now that you are ready, use the search box below to book your next hotel!
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
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