Tripadvisor.com is not a web site I use or recommend, but it does no harm.
Yesterday, here in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala I assisted a man in renting a Hotel room way out on Finca Road. I am fluent in Spanish, and he needed help translating to rent the room for 1300 Quetazles per month.
During the day, he kept talking about another Hotel listed as number one on TripAdvisor.com, and I finally had to say,
"That is not a benefit to me, it is a negative."
I am not saying TripAdvisor.com is bad, it is for people who pay more, and are afraid, it is not for getting the best value. Tourism is 98 percent of the time about bragging, trends, fashions, and not about culture. It is about returning home, and having the ability to brag well, without someone saying you are stupid.
He did rent a rather nice Hotel on Finca Road, it has a great view of the lake, and the cleaning lady, and guardiano who manage the place were great. The owner appears to only live there occasionally, the Hotel is OK.
He asked me while I was at the Hotel,
"How much would you pay?"
I again said,
"I would never live here, it is too far out."
It is interesting to me how people believe you agree, if you do not argue with them, as if I would also would want to live there. Tourists want to defend they decision, as if their personal preferences should be the same as mine, or somehow it is of value to me. It is quite amazing to me what percentage of people make really bad decisions in life, somebody needs too, I think life is graded on curve, someone has to lose.
Now, there is nothing wrong with the Hotel on Finca road, if you agree to walking 30 minutes to get to the closest restaurant, or supermarket, I just said,
"I am way too lazy to walk that far."
We walked back to San Pedro, and as we walking it started to rain, and I kept thinking to myself,
"I did not bring my umbrella."
"I forgot my umbrella."
"There are not taxis on this road."
"We are way too out."
There is nothing worst than being stranded on a 30 minute walk, on road with few if any Tuk Tuk Taxis.
Upon arriving to San Pedro after renting the room, and he wanted to buy me a cup of coffee at Las Cristalinas coffee shop. This is the yuppie equivalent of Starbucks, which does have an inordinate amount of pretty girl tourists in one spot; it was the fourth time in my life I have stopped there, I have only paid twice.
It is sometimes a little weird talking about tourists information, they often are waiting for me to agree, or disagree. And, in my mind, as long as they are not doing something horrible dangerous, I do not say much when people talk about buying or spendign money, it always reminds me children talking about toys.
I did tell him he increased his chances greatly of getting robbed out on Finca Road, and he should not walk home at night. This is 0 or 1, on or off, yes or no thing to most people, they cannot weigh odds, ratios, percentages or probabilities.
I think he wanted more of a place to brag about than to be practical, so this is normal life, and the Hotel is not expensive, it is about the same as my Hotel without the Internet. However, for me, I would need to add on 300-500 Q for Tuk Tuk Taxis, at the minimum, it will be fun to see if he likes the place.
I recommended to him three times to rent it for a week, then do the jump for a month, but I think he needs the month to feel safe because his Spanish is a zero.
I have no idea why I would use TripAdvisor.com
I do not believe a recommendation by tourist who go on a two week vacation once or twice per year are worth anything. They just want to substantiate, that they made a good decision to themselves. I went to TripAdvisor for San Pedro la Laguna, and I never even heard of the first one, and know for sure the next few were just gaming the system, not to be trusted. It just meant the next few hotels spoke more English, and were more Gringo, less Guatemala.
I said to him,
"When a person says he lived in a Hotel for a month, then I do listen."
But to say, you lived in a the number one Hotel on TripAdvisor to me, just means you are tourists and paid 3-50 times more than me for about the same, and normal worst location.
Another strange thing about TripAdvisor.com and this man, he kept using TripAdvisor.com as a guage of value, and has now rented three Hotels in San Pedro that are not on TripAdvisor, he is not aware of the incongruency in thinking.
I was wondering why he was there? Only as a tourist for a month or some other reason?
How old is he approx? He's rented 3 how long is he staying? This guy seems a bit strange.
When I travel I do my best to save money on accomodations. Regardless of cost I want a clean room, private bath, hopefully quiet and reasonably close to main areas I would want to go to.
I do not let language get in my way as I know there is always someone around that can help.
"I do not let language get in my way as I know there is always someone around that can help."
Or you could use Andy's suggested method of a "Finger Dictionary"...
I don't know about Central or So. America other than what I get at sites such as this and of course the many travel, hotel, etc sites.
I do check out as many as I think are worth the time when I plan my trips and have always been able to save money.
In Europe it's easy by going to the local "find me a room with whatever at this price, give or take a few $$$" as they have offices either right outside or inside the train depots in most large cities. Even in the busy summer time I have always been able to get what I ask for though at times I have had to go on the outskirts of some cities but then local transpo in Europe is great and cheap, not taxies though.
Asia is a little less helpful but then I still have found what I want with a little effort without a hassle.
The other thing is in both Asia other than Japan where just about anything is expensive, and Europe the Hostel systems are great. What a lot of over say 25 yrs old people don't seem to realize is their hostel don't have a maximum age limit.
I stayed in a great one in Beijing, right behind the super, over the top hotel that also ran the hostel. Cheapest hotel room was around $175 a night, I had a private room with TV That I seldom ever looked at, private full bath and breakfast of 1 egg, couple slices of bacon, toast and coffee or tea with Wi Fi for less than $30 a night in one of the most expensive areas in Beijing, one of 2 Embassy/Consulate areas in Beijing.
The people were always helpful and almost all hotels and hostels in China have a tourist desk available from around 9am to 6 pm every day.
You do have to know what you're doing though before you set up any tours as they treat you as if you're either very rich or stupid or both and ask for more than most tours are worth, need to do some on line homework 1st.
Anyway the hostel systems in Asia and Europe are a very good way to go and it's a lot more interesting socializing with young people than older business, wealthy tourist in the hotels.
A note for anyone going to China 1st time, subways have English directions and info and taxies are extremely cheap but you need to have your where to and return info translated, written out in Chinese 1st by a helpful employee as very few taxi drivers understand English. Also both food and taxies do not take tips generally and if you offer they generally refuse except at the main tourist restaurants but they are catching on. But you should offer 3 to 5 Yuan which is all of .50 to .80 cents and if more than 2 passengers than double or triple the tip offer which again may be refused anyway.
The only time I went to a main tourist restaurant was when friends invited me for Peking Duck, 4 of us it cost about $75 with drinks, and tip and it was worth it but I know you could go where the locals go and pay only around $35 to $40 for 4 without a tip.
Hope this helps out a 1st timer going to China. This does not include either Hong Gong or Shanghai, both are well into western tourist rip off prices for just about everything incl where the locals go. I lived in Chengdu for over 5 months as I married a Chinese lady a couple of yrs ago and am very happy with this.
I would live in China as the COL is very cheap but I cannot take the SMOG which is just about everywhere but in some mountain and coastal areas.
One other tip: Be very aware, alert of crossing bike paths, streets, etc where there is heavy traffic as they still ride thousands (probably millions) of electric bikes and scooters and a few motorcycles which make no sound and sneak up on you and at times they drive on sidewalks if the traffic is exceptionally heavy and come from behind you.
Anyone wanting more info feel free to let me know and I'll help you out.
Also anyone who has been to Buenos Aires and surrounding area I would like any helpful info as that may be my next main trip next year Sept through Oct and maybe into Nov. Me and wife.
Thank you and enjoy wherever you go.
A few years ago I made the mistake of joining Trip Advisor putting up local travel information for El Salvador, (still an 'exotic' destination for aficiandos of 'Guerilla Tourism' a long term destination for Surfers and a great destination over all, a nice respite from the Antigua-Lake Atitlan-Highlands-Tikal-Rio Dulce -Livingston Guatemala Tourist trail, check out www.theotherelsalvador.com/ for more country info, ES is geared to independent travelers, a friend in the upscale area of Escalon in San Salvador this year, 2012, recently converted half of his failing 3 star hotel into backpacker dorms and two 10 USD pp rooms which are generally full while the 42 usd a day rooms go begging!)Well to make a long story short I did some detail work for a female traveler for her journey here on the promise our native driver would escort her, however a Salvadoran member of Trip Advisor read the post and underbid us, taking her to 4 and 5 star hotels where he obviously got a commission, asi es la vida, well if you need information on travelling budget to billionare in Central America, message me with a question or two and I will gladly send you my Primer for First Time Travelers, url from Google Documents, no effort on my part, I worked in hospitality based in Guatemala in 1980s and early 1990s, the bragging of the three week wonders really got to me and the way some of them treated us 'ex pats' got to me, in fact hope I never meet another Trust Fund Baby from the USA in my lifetime!!!!!! Saludos.