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Fair dinkum, mate. Keywords1

Thailand Accommodation
Where Will You Be Bedding Down Tonight?

"There's always a hotel deal somewhere to be had in Thailand.  Just hope that that somewhere is the place you happen to be heading."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic

Actually, the good news is that there's always a deal to be had in Thailand if you look hard and long enough.

I can give you several examples.  Let's take Songkran, one of Thailand's most popular holidays.  Thais have four days to travel during their New Year.  For the last two Songkrans, the then girlfriend and I fled Thailand after spending the prior two in Hua Hin.  We went to Malaysia one year, and then Bali the second, booking our tickets long in advance to escape prohibitively expensive airfares.  This Songkran we hadn't booked tickets abroad and went to Chiang Mai, one of the most popular places in the country to travel during that holiday period.  Despite booking only a week or two before our trip, we were able to score decent deals at two different places. 

On another long weekend, we made same-day plans to go to Pattaya.  We booked a room at the #1 listed resort on a popular travel site and still managed to get a favorable rate. 


Thailand truly caters to all budgets, from $1 pig hovel to thousands of dollar per day mega suites.  Where do you fit in?

Rooms For Every Budget

Here's what I really love about Thailand.  You can truly get a room in any price bracket . . . and I mean ANY.

In a place like the United States, a low-end range (LER) hotel is still going to run you USD 40 and more like USD 50 after taxes as of 2011.  These would be the generic chain motels you see along North American motorways.  You don't stay here for the character. Many a town won't have hotels/motels/B&B's in this price range.  Recently, my brother and father went driving through the scenic picture postcard perfect locations of Alberta and British Columbia (Canada).  They weren't aiming for the low end, but in places like Banff, Whistler, and Vancouver Island, there was nothing available at USD 40.

In Thailand, the LER room can be USD 3-5.  This would not be a good room.  It would be little bigger than the size of your bed, fan-cooled, and the bathroom would be a shared one.  I stayed in such a room off Khao San Road back in 1994, and then it only cost 75B, the equivalent of USD 3 at the time.   I guess it's a sign of aging that I would not stay in such places today, although if the situation were forced upon me, due to ample training in my past, I could tolerate it. 

Atlanta Hotel Sam's River Raft House Kirakayan
Koh Phangan Panviman Patumwan House
Thailand accommodation comes in all shapes, sizes and prices:  foyer of the 1950's styled Atlanta Hotel, an elegant rundown hotel for 600B rooms (top left);  a raft house room in Kanchanaburi on the River Kwai for 350B (top middle); a USD 200 luxurious pool villa in Koh Samui (top right); a rustic bungalow for one or two on Koh Phangan for 400B (bottom left); a spacious palatial treat in the hills outside Chiang Mai for 2500B (bottom middle); and one-bedroom in a very sizeable two-bedroom suite centrally located in Bangkok for 2,100B

Low Mid-Range (LMR)
Thailand hotel
The years of slumming it made me realize the bare minimum of what I require in a place like Thailand:  (a) a comfortable bed, preferably a double  (b) air conditioning   (c) an attached bathroom.  Shared bathrooms can turn out to be very bad news.  I consider it convenient to have a refrigerator and cable TV in the room, but those two amenities are really not necessary.   The refrigerator would be preferred over the television.  Even with cable television and 70 channels, there's often little to watch.  HBO in Thailand shows movies that aired 20 years ago and have long gone into syndication.   I'll call the establishments offering (a), (b), and (c), low mid-range places.

What's fantastic about Thailand is that low mid-range places abound and can usually be found in every town, particularly those frequented by Thais.  The cost usually falls somewhere between 350B-700B (USD 12-24), with the upper figure typically being something quite nice.  On my 2-week motorbike trip through Isaan, I never paid more than 500B (USD 16) for a room, usually more like 400B, and none of the places were dives. I have an easy test to gauge whether a place is an incontestable dive.  I just ask myself if my wife could handle staying here for a night.  If the answer is no, it's a hole.  When I'm on my own, I tend to stay in non-hole LMR's. 

Mid Mid-Range (MMR)
From 700B to about 1,200B (USD 24-40 as of this writing), you're in the mid mid-range category, and this is usually the type of places my wife, I, and step-son stay during family vacations.  The cable television and refrigerator are bonuses in the LMR rooms, but standards in the MMR's.  The MMR places pay more attention to cleanliness.  Usually, there's a basic breakfast served and a swimming pool on the premises.  Unless you're a movie star or swank businessman obsessed about the places you're seen in, an MMR should cater adequately to most.  MMR's are usually two-star establishments, sometimes three-star, but in Bangkok an MMR can be 1-star or no-star.  I'll discuss stars more later.

Upper Mid-Range (UMR)
From 1,200B to 1,800B (USD 40-60), you can score yourself an upper mid-range room (UMR). Now you're guaranteed the swimming pool, refrigerator, breakfast, and you could get a balcony or porch. The room is larger and could be oozing with Thai atmosphere.  With UMR rooms, you're in solid 3-star territory, and if you've sourced yourself a terrific deal, possibly 4-star.

Upper Range (UR)
I won't even bother classifying these by low upper-range, mid upper-range, and upper upper-range.  If you wanted to get scientific about it, you probably could make these distinctions.   Upper mid-range and lower upper-range rooms would enjoy considerable overlap.  Middle upper-range would be the reputable 4-star international hotels, breakfast buffet included.  Upper upper-range would be the five-star international hotels.  Prices for the upper-range can span from 2,500B, during a low season deal, all the way up to the sky.    

I have endeavored to classify hotels by some arbitrary standard of my own devising since Thailand seems to lack that standard.  Four-star and five-star international hotels, particularly chains, have a brand name reputation to live up to, so you can be sure they really are deserving of their four- or five-star status.  Problems arise with local Thai hotels.  Hotels seem to be able to self classify over here or else the star gauge appears to only measure if particular amenities are available at the hotel, regardless if those amenities actually meet an accepted world standard.  Hence, it is all-too-common to stay in what you believe to be a 4-star hotel and feel like it's seen better days and should be classified as a two-star.  In general, non-international four star establishments you've never heard of are probably not really international four-star level, but more like (lower) three-star.  The hotel may have truly been sailing in four-star waters when it opened a decade-and-a-half ago, but has long since deteriorated, as many places do in Thailand, and is continuing to classify itself by some outmoded measure.  Ignore stars as an indicator.

starsThe price ranges I used above are rough yardsticks only.  Special promotions and low-season kick ass deals can make lower upper-range rooms available for upper mid-range prices.  My wife is adept at finding these bargains, and when we do stay in a high ranked establishment, it's always at a fantastic price.  Several years back, my wife's colleague at another luxury 5-star hotel chain offered us a deal we couldn't refuse in Phuket: USD 50 a night for an upgraded 5-star room, including a luxurious breakfast buffet and meal vouchers for two at an international dinner buffet.  Yes, you'd probably have to know somebody in the right places to get this good of a deal, but the point is, you'd likely be able to get a reliable four-star hotel without the dinner vouchers for this price range during that same low season period in Phuket.    

The Nature Of Hotel Bookings In The Post Noughties World

AgodaThe internet has changed the nature of hotel bookings for sleeping establishments in all price ranges apart from the low-end.  Low-end hotels are the only ones that may not have web sites.  For everyone else, hotels rely on a usually bogus price promotion model.  The practice is not limited to hotels in Thailand.

The practice goes something like this.  On the hotel's own web site, they will list their 'typical' room rates.  These listed room tariffs are like the maximum suggested retail price (MSRP) you'll see on the sticker for a stereo, blender, or automobile.  The MSRP is always crossed out and the "sale price" listed to make you oh so glad about all the money you 'saved.'   Only idiots actually pay the MSRP.  Most times, the sale price is the real competitive retail price, and if you're lucky and enter the store during a real sale, you can get 30% of the true competitive retail price.

The prices many hotels list on their own web sites aren't what most vacationers would ever pay.   Nowadays, travel revelers can book on a plethora of hotel-booking web sites.  A hotel's web site price will be shown crossed out and the kick-ass price (i.e. the real competitive price) shown instead.  Don't think you're getting a deal on a hotel just from reserving it on a hotel-booking web site.  Think more along the lines that you're getting a competitive deal.  For a really kick ass deal, you need to do your due diligence to see that the hotel you're booking really is being significantly discounted. 

AgodaRates can differ across the different hotel booking web sites, and this is how hotels get rid of rooms nowadays at different prices.  Before planning our own trips, we've noticed considerable variances in prices at Sawasdee, Asia Web Direct, Asia Rooms, and Agoda.  Sometimes, the prices may appear similar but then the final booking fees the web site assesses distort the difference. 

Not all hotels practice this price distortion model.  I have sourced a decent hotel on a booking web site and then noticed the hotel was charging the identical price directly on the hotel's web site.   Booking web sites usually have it in their contracts that for a hotel to list, it cannot offer a better deal on the hotel's web site than is available on the booking web sites, which explains why many a hotel inflates the prices on its own hotel web site and then discounts from there on the wide range of hotel booking web sites.   These contracts, however, don't forbid a hotel from offering the same 'discount' rate directly through their web site that would be available if the customer booked the room through Agoda instead.  Hotels would ideally prefer that all their traffic came directly through their web site, as they would then not have to pay a commission to the hotel-booking site.

What I usually do is find the best price from a hotel-booking web site, since multiple hotels and prices for a single location are displayed in one place, then see if the hotel I desire has its own web site.  If the price the hotel is charging is more or less the same as the hotel-booking price, including additional fees, I always book directly through the hotel.  If there's a problem while staying a hotel, you're going to have more leeway cancelling additionally booked days or getting some form of compensation if you've paid the hotel directly.   

From my own experience, the majority of the non-international grade hotels practice the price distortion model.  We can only obtain the true competitive price of the room through an external web site.  I remember when we visited Khao Lak.  My wife found an excellent deal at an international 3-star place for USD 30.  The hotel's own web site listed the price at USD 45.  We booked for two nights through the hotel-booking web site.  When we decided to extend for one night, the hotel would not honor the USD 30 rate directly and told us to go back on the web and book there.  Hotels which rely on external web sites for bookings don't even want to secretly undercut the hands that are feeding them.  If a hotel does it once, then does it twice, then does it three times, the hotel booking websites will get wind of what's going and could refuse to list the hotel. 

Heavenly hideaway or hellish hovel, Thailand has got it all.  Good look sorting between the two.  Sometimes, they're both being sold for the identical price!


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  Thailand has so many accommodation possibilities. Do you want to stay in a hotel or guest house or a bungalow? There's wide range, zero star or five star. Get your ass onto Agoda, Asia Web Direct, or Asia Rooms and book!