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Southeast Asia

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The Christmas rush and do you need to book in advance? Should you panic?

Posted by somtam2000 on 24/10/2016 at 22:42 admin

From this week's newsletter:

The messages have begun: Do I really need to book a room at X on Y over the Silly Season or can I just show up? These questions pop up every year around this time as people start to make their Christmas and New Year plans, go to book a bed and find everything they want (or even don't want) is full. Panic!

I have a few thoughts on this, which I hope will help to calm at least some nerves.

Most importantly, despite online travel agents boasting that they list six squillion properties in Southeast Asia, many budget places cannot be booked through online agents like Agoda, Booking, Expedia and so on. Many **still** don't even have a website – you need to call them, or they're just walk-in only. So just because there is no availability listed, doesn't mean there are not other properties with rooms in the area you want to stay.

Secondly, hotels and guesthouses generally assign a limited number of rooms to each agent. So a 20-room guesthouse may assign five rooms to Booking, five to Agoda, three to Expedia and keep seven for walk-ins and direct reservations. What this means is once the agent has sold their allotment, they'll suggest the property is "full". The exact language varies on this, so you need to read between the electrons, but one agent saying there is no availability means **only** that that particular agent has no availability. Check the others.

Thirdly, contact the property directly if you come up empty handed at the agents. Not all websites list direct contact details for properties (Travelfish does). If the place doesn't have a website, email them. No email, call them. If a place has none of these, it is probably a good bet they are walk-in only.

Now if a place is walk-in only, trying to walk-in on Christmas Eve just before dinner will probably not pay dividends, especially if you're talking about a very popular spot like Ko Phi Phi in Thailand. You'll need to bank on getting there a few days earlier, and hoping that you find something that suits your needs.

So, where are these "super busy" places? Places I would definitely work towards having an advance booking for over Christmas and New Year would include:

Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lipe in Thailand
Both of these destinations will be jammed, but they do have a lot of rooms that are walk-in only (which are generally not very good and well-overpriced though). If I wanted somewhere good, I would absolutely have it booked well in advance. If not, I'd aim to get there a few days earlier to be sure I could get something habitable. Alternatives: Ko Jum and Ko Lanta .

Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia
Same as for the above Thai islands: these are going to be packed. They lack the vast number of mediocre overflow rooms that Phi Phi and Lipe have, so there is a greater risk of ending up on the beach or the restaurant floor. Alternatives: Sihanoukville mainland beaches or one of the other Cambodian islands.

Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam
Borderline call on this one. If you've got very specific desires, then yes, book ahead, but Phu Quoc has a lot of (mostly mediocre) accommodation that would do at a pinch. Any of the sought after properties on Phu Quoc are probably already nearing capacity. Alternatives: Limited. Con Dao perhaps.

So don't panic. Yet.

Good travels

Stuart

PS: If you are searching the online travel agents like Agoda and Booking, please consider using these links, which may see a commission paid to us (with no effect on what you pay) and help us keep rolling along.

#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,089


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