Read a few travelfish reviews of hotels which say they are good then read comments from travellers bagging the place. Seems TF is a bit off with it's comments. I wonder if they even visited the place sometimes as their comments seem to be so inaccurate. Much like LP reviews as well.
#1 Krabiman has been a member since 2/1/2011. Posts: 223
Different horses for different courses. Not everyone likes the same thing.
Places change - prices go up and down, management changes etc. That is one of the reasons why every accommodation review is date-stamped.
If a place is reviewed on Travelfish, it has been visited, in person, either by myself or one of our researchers. There are no exceptions to this. None.
Do you guys tell the hotel you are doing a review so they present one of their better rooms?
I've visited places right after good reviews (not necessary from this site) and they are dumps.
#3 Krabiman has been a member since 2/1/2011. Posts: 223
No. Where possible, researchers work on an anonymous basis and just ask to see a room or two.
In some cases the staff may catch on but this happens very infrequently - it's happened to me maybe a dozen times and I've reviewed around 2,500 places to stay. Even when they know it generally makes little difference regarding which room they'll show you.
In general places can be variable with good and bad rooms - we often say that in a review.
I can't speak for how other sites do it. Some publishers allow researchers to take freebies which removes the anonymous element, but each does it their own way.
Bottom line is places change and have good and bad rooms - the actual research process, regardless of methodology, can do little about that.
I usually rely on the Travelfish comments to narrow my search - then go to the user reviews to make my final pick. A good example would be my upcoming visit to Bangkok.
I looked at the 2009 Top Guesthouses Article first and read those comments along with the comments posted for those locations. I was really set on New Road Guest House from the Travelfish review and comments - but after reading two pretty poor reviews I went with the much more highly regarded (by both Travelfish and reviews) Shambara - which is more expensive anyway.
Even the negative reviews of New Road also mentioned the good vibe though, which seemed like the idea behind the Travelfish comments - so I just think somtam2000 is an optimist that wants to highlight the good things about a place for those looking for that particular trait, maybe looking place some of the dirt and noise that other travelers bristle against.
Accommodation reviews by users on booking and travel sites are much more likely to be sent in by unsatisfied customers. So I tend to ignore negative reviews on such sites unless NEARLY ALL are negative.
Some people are incredibly hard to please. Freak out if they see a cockroach! Virtually impossible to eliminate cockies in a tropical setting.
"Virtually impossible to eliminate cockies in a tropical setting"
You don't even have to be in a tropical setting these days. They used to freak me out. Now we have a problem with them in my suburban neighborhood in NZ. Argh! I've found on my kitchen, lounge and wardrobe walls, wrapped up in my bathroom towel, and under my blanket in bed. I've stopped squealing when I see one now; just get on with killing it. (That probably makes it sound worse than it is... but I have gotten used to them)
Anyhow, back to topic. I agree with tezza - most people to give bad reviews. When travelling last year, I tried to make a point of adding a review for places that I stayed as I went (good or bad), but found that I just didn't have the time/inclination/bandwidth to do it as much as I hoped. I would be more motivated to so if a place was at either end of the scale.
All in all, though, I used Travelfish and LP as a starting point for finding accom - and almost always found the TF reviews more up-to-date, relevant and useful. I like the way that they get rated - and the fact that they reviews are supplemented with traveller reviews.
I also used the Tripadvisor site to check our reviews as another source, if I had access to the interweb - and the time. But for finding places off the street, TF rules in my opinion.
To pay back the community here for everything it offers I plan to write reviews for any place I stay during my short trip of three weeks. That said, I don't travel with a computer and will just scratch some notes for uploading when I return. Anyway, you don't have to review it right away and that gives me a chance to reminisce on my holiday when I'm back in smoggy, intemperate Shanghai.
You see very good reviews and very bad. Not so much in the middle. I look for 3-1 good to bad reviews.
#9 Krabiman has been a member since 2/1/2011. Posts: 223
When you juxtapose a TF review with a user review underneath, you have to account for the number of places each is using as a basis for comparison. I'd hazard a guess that Somtam, having reviewed 2500+ guest houses across all price ranges, would probably know more about just how bad it can get in some of the cheaper places versus little Jonnie Flashpacker on his first trip abroad who's seen maybe a handful of like 3-5 places and decided they suck compared to the pristine North Shore room his parents put him up in back home.
In my occasionally humble opinion, you should temper the TF review with what's underneath, and give more weight to the main article. When I'm slumming it in low rent guest houses and using TF as a guide, it would take at least 3 negative reviews to offset any positive comments given by the seasoned pros employed to review them officially.
Someone looking at a room for 10 mins has less idea than someone who stays for a couple of nights
So i give a lot more weight to the traveller versus the writer
Sometimes you dont see the problems until you have stayed there. the toilet and shower may not work well. the breakfast may be s hit. noise late at night might be bad, thin walls etc. the bed may be uncomfortable. they may be tight with giving water or the tv reception is bad or the aircon doesnt work properly or very noisey so you cant sleep with it on.
unless a writer is actually staying there they cant see all the good and bad things and if they are covering 10 ghs in the area they cant do that
be good if writer reviews actually said stayed there for x no of nights or looked for 10 mins
#11 Krabiman has been a member since 2/1/2011. Posts: 223
Given there's around 200 places to stay within a kilometre of Khao San Road, staying at every place for two nights -- or even one -- simply isn't feasible. By the time you're up to place #200, #1 may have changed hands, rebranded etc.
If we'd have required a two night stay in every place we listed, we'd be looking at 9,000 nights (24.5 years) of research.
Time aside, I'd venture that once you've looked at a lot of places you learn to pick up very quickly indicators that may point towards a good or bad place. Just as an example, quality of linen, cleanliness of bathroom, tidiness of garden can all point to a fondly loved or abjectly ignored property. If a property doesn't bother cleaning the bathroom, washing the pillow cases or trimming the plants, how much attention do you think they're going to give to the guests?
That said, it isn't an "either or" scenario. We have both the researcher review (which over time I think develops a better eye) and you have the guest reviews which may benefit from a longer stay and thus unearth issues a quick visit may have missed. Neither is infallible and each has its pros and cons.
Also, just to touch on what a couple of others have said, it takes quite a bit of effort to review places as you go (or after your trip) and while we do appreciate the quality contributions we do receive, there certainly isn't an expectation in that regard.
Some enjoy contributing to the forum, others to accommodation reviews, others to destination writeups and others just read -- each to their own -- and while I don't say it nearly often enough, we do appreciate all of it!
Thais not caring about plants isnt a big deal. Thais are quite slack in regards to taking care of things. Look at all the stray dogs. Looking at pillow cases isnt going to tell you about the aircon or the tv or the noise late at night.
"Given there's around 200 places to stay within a kilometre of Khao San Road, staying at every place for two nights -- or even one -- simply isn't feasible. By the time you're up to place #200, #1 may have changed hands, rebranded etc."
That's why reviews from real travellers mean more.
#14 Krabiman has been a member since 2/1/2011. Posts: 223
"So i give a lot more weight to the traveller versus the writer"
Interesting. I don't. For me it's a mix between the two. Writer reviews are great to "discover" a place (agree with lizzy on that). Later I might check on Tripadvisor whether other reviews concur.
I find a writer's review more consistent and better able to place a hotel guesthouse in a certain category and compare within a category. With reviews of travellers it's very much a mixed bag. Some travellers write the world about the place and when you arrive...
In my opinion TF guesthouses (I can only speak for cambodian GHs) don't get enough reviews to give a proper impression. With 20+ reviews I start to notice a pattern. With less reviews it doesn't tell me much.
Funny about tezza and lizzy's remarks about negative reviews. I have more the impression that it's more positive reviews that spoil the thing by travellers trying to plug a place just because they had a nice time there.
In general I find most traveller reviews (both negative and positive) exagerated
I was going to make a very similar point to eastwest (beat me to it!) - there aren't actually many traveler reviews for a lot of the hotels on TF and those there are are often quite old (I don't tend to take much notice of reviews that are over say, 18 months old, as places change so much) so without the researcher's opinion there would be nothing. Therefore it's a good startpoint. Plus the researcher does offer a consistency of opinion across the hotels in one area, unlike a traveler. But the traveler has perhaps knowledge of things that a researcher won't spot. So I completely agree that it's good to take a balanced view, looking at both opinions.
Regarding writing 'real traveler' reviews - I'm more likely to make the effort to put up a review if I really like it or really hate it, hence the lack of in the middle reviews I guess.
Sorry to have beat you to it sarah.
On a related note:
does anybody know a good site for reviews about food/restaurants in SE-asia? Where the reviews for guesthouses work in general well there doesn't seem to be a good site with some good reviews for restaurants.
I really find the reviews on tripadvisor terrible and it has nothing really to do with good food.
Regarding many of the reviews being old. We used to get more reviews, but as TripAdvisor has grown and covered more budget places, contributions have dropped off somewhat.
People are still reading them here (had our highest ever traffic day a week back) but they tend to comment less. We also premderate comments now so a lot of reviews never see the light of day on Travelfish.
tripadvisor food reviews have been terrible in my experience
#19 Krabiman has been a member since 2/1/2011. Posts: 223
Isn't food reviews not an idea for TF, somtam?
Personally I'm missing a site where a knowledgable chef/foodie writes a review of a place in different categories (local (simple or upmarket) eateries, marketstalls, western style restaurant (upmarket or basic)) and supplemented with customer reviews.
Now on tripadvisor a place with very mediocre food for $2 can top the list just because some travellers find the owners so charming.
I'm more than happy to give you some more ideas if you're interested
@Eastwest we're in the process of switching back to the old food review style we used yo use on TF, which is similar to the accommodation listings. See the food page for Ubud as an example. Once the change is all ironed out, we'll open that to reviews in the same way that accommodation already is.
Generally speaking, the more we open the site to unsolicited contributions, the larger the spam and trash problem becomes - especially in sections of the site where you don't have to be a member to post (feature stories).
If there is no membership required, then you get lots of random throwaway comments and a bucket load of spam. If you require membership, then spam is reduced, but then new reviewees need to be particularly motivated to join up and post a review - meaning the review is often a rant of over the top glowing -- both of which (in my opinion) are close to useless.
One of the things we've been thinking about is ways to give more prominance to "good reviews" (good meaning useful, not necessarily positive) both to "say thanks" but also to encourage others to contribute. Travellerspoint does this quite well and we may end up doing something similar down the track.
Totally agree on the prevention of spam and so on.
Just looked at the Ubud section and that looks great. Bring it on for the rest I'd say!
Perhaps a minimum of reviews would work as well. That would weed out the one-off reviewers who just want to plug a place and you'll only get the reviews from people who are more serious about it. Besides that it would make it easier to "categorize" a review when you know more about the reviewer and his/her tastes.