A huge part of travel is accommodation, and the service it claims to provide. A bad place to stay can be incredibly detrimental to the enjoyment of a trip, but what makes a place good?
With sites like AirBnB, sometimes part of the fun of it is taking a gamble, because the absolutely perfect accommodation that suits every one of your needs probably doesn’t exist, and the likelihood is that if it does exist, someone else wants it too. I have used AirBnB once for a trip with my friend to Athens, and we went with the cheapest and most central place, which paid off tremendously. In what we coined ‘the cardboard box’, due to it only having a single, tiny porthole window, we had a very clean, functional apartment with a very nice and helpful owner. There was a view of the Acropolis about fifty metres away and the area was stunning. On our first day he invited us to his flat which was on the top floor of the same building, for cake and a view from the rooftop terrace of the whole city, and it was amazing. He gave recommendations for what to do, places to eat and areas to steer clear of. But obviously, experiences like this are often rare.
My priority when looking at accommodation is the location. Ideally, somewhere close to the things I want to do and see is what I go for, which also comes with more benefits. If it is in a desirable location, the chances are that the accommodation is popular, and therefore needs more maintenance. Popular places need to be kept in great working order because of the numbers that will stay there in a short space of time, and if it is popular with stellar reviews, that will be for a reason! This goes for all sorts of types of residence, AirBnB, hostels, hotels and more.
Hotels, especially chain hotels, are the usually best guarantor of exquisite service because they have a reputation to maintain. Independent places do not have this reputation, and therefore may not regard it as highly. Of course, opting to stay in a hotel comes with a steeper price, but in theory, you get what you pay for. Hostels are on the other end of the spectrum. The often worryingly cheap pricing is a reflection of the lesser standard of hospitality, because they work off the premise that most who stay there will not be there for long, and potentially be less concerned about luxury. Furthermore, staying with strangers, sharing bedrooms and bathrooms is the epitome of a lack of luxury, and the numbers that come through the doors of hostels somewhat justifies the possibly lower standard of service. They are catering for the masses, after all.
For the best chance of a good service I recommend AirBnB or an apartment stay. They offer an opportunity to find a great spot, with a cheap price and a perfect location. Most importantly, because the owners want the income, the effort should be put in to ensure all guests have a good stay worthy of a recommendation, in theory.