I’m the type of person who enjoys research before action. So when theres a holiday on the horizon, whether I have a destination planned or not, I head straight to my computer for some serious online research.
Although I’ve heard unsavoury rumours like some (or even most) of the posts are actually paid on these sites – whether for negative or positive, there are few places online where you can (hope to) get “real” reviews from the travellers themselves, and its worth the time surfing – depending on what you’re looking for.
Trip Advisor is my favourite for hotels, and indeed, one can even start the booking process through them, though I havent done this myself. What I usually do is go through their list (where you’ll invariably find that the most expensive ones get the top marks), read their reviews and go from there.
If Asia is your destination, Asia Rooms is a good place to look for hotels and read reviews. However, I’ve found that their prices certainly arent the most competetive. They are reliable though (which means a lot when it comes to website bookings), and I say this from experience, having booked our hotel in Vietnam through them last year. The hotel was nothing to write home about (airconditioning was bust, cold hard floors and too many large tour groups milling about the lobby), but the service of Asia Rooms was commendable. We changed our booking a few times, and it was no problem at all.
Virtual Tourist on the other hand is good for travellers tips. While this site doesnt have enough feedback on hotels, it has very useful sections which include: “Off the Beaten path”, “Warnings and dangers”, “Tourist Traps” and so on, which are like getting tips from a friend whose already been there. And the site just seems less commercial than the others – authentically put together by travellers for travellers.