How To Know If A Hotel Is Going To Suck

How To Know If A Hotel Is Going To Suck
Carly Jacobs


This post is sponsored by Star Ratings Australia

’m not actually very fussy when it comes to hotels. If the sheets are clean and the room doesn’t smell like a rat made of stinky feet died in it, I’m quite happy. Having said that, I’ve stayed in some shocking hotels in my time. There was the ski lodge, where the room we rented had an adjoining door to the room next to us that didn’t lock. I barely slept a wink that night, especially because the drunk morons next door thought it was hilarious to keep opening the door and then pretending to be asleep. I also once stayed in a hotel near the beach where there were actual piles of sand in the bed. Visible piles, it wasn’t just a case of regular sandy beach cottage sheets. I have, on occasion, booked a fancy hotel and when I do, I turn into a nightmare customer. The cheapest accommodation is usually what I go for, so when I go somewhere fancy and I fork out the money for those extra stars, I expect it to be pretty bloody good.

how to know if your hotel is going to suck

The hard part is, trying to figure out where to get all the info you need. I’ve teamed up with Star Ratings Australia to bring you some tips to make sure that you never find a strangers pube in your hotel shower again. Basically, Star Ratings help Australian travellers make the right accommodation choice so they get what they expect. Here’s how to know if your hotel is going to suck before you fork out the big bucks for a booking.

Ask for a recommendation

Some of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in were recommended by friends. If I’m travelling somewhere, I’ll put a post up on my personal Facebook page and wait for the recommendations to come rolling in. People are weirdly smug about finding awesome hotels and are more than happy to spread the word about them.

Take what a hotel says about themselves with a pinch of salt

Don’t just Google a hotel and take their own word for it. They are going to tell you that they’re totally awesome, even though they might not be. Check out review sites, take note of their Star Rating and do some digging to see what people honestly think about their services.

Figure out what Star Ratings actually mean

I was kind of vaguely aware of the star system and in my head 5 Stars meant super fancy and 1 Star meant sharing a bed with a dead body. I was totally wrong. Here’s what the stars actually mean.

5 Star – Properties that typify luxury across all areas of operation. Guests will enjoy an extensive range of facilities and comprehensive or highly personalised services. Properties at this level will display excellent design quality and attention to detail.

4 star – Properties which deliver a deluxe guest experience. A wide range of facilities and superior design qualities are typically complemented by service standards that reflect the varied and discerning needs of the guest.

3 star –Properties that deliver a broad range of amenities that exceed above-average accommodation needs. Good quality service, design and physical attributes are typically fit for purpose to match guest expectations.

2 star –Properties that focus on the needs of price conscious travellers. Services and guest facilities are typically limited to keep room rates affordable and competitive but may be available upon request or fee-based.

1 star –Properties that offer budget facilities without compromising cleanliness or guest security. Guests may access fee-based services or facilities upon request.

So 1 Star hotels are actually great, they’re just super basic. A star rating is determined by more than 200 criteria that have been ranked by Australian travellers according to what’s important to them and then the rating is determined by Star Ratings. This stops that pesky system of self ratings where hotels just choose how many stars they think they should have. Which obviously doesn’t work because then you’ve got hotels running around going ‘La la la! 5 Stars for me!’. When you see a Star Rating at a hotel, make sure you check that it’s the official Star Rating and not just 5 paper cut out stars that they whacked up there themselves.

Learn how to pick a fake review

It’s a not very subtle trick but some hotels will leave themselves fake glowing reviews on travel sites. They’re so obvious though, it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out the fake ones.

Over use of buzz words like ‘must see’ or ‘unmissable’ or ‘one of a kind’.

Over use positive sentiments with very little description of the actual hotel.

Reviews that come from accounts that haven’t reviewed anything else.

Reviews that come from accounts that only give 5 Star reviews that all sound really similar.

Any review that explicitly references the hotels key marketing messages and/or tag lines.

I’d also be wary of any hotel that only has good reviews. Not that you want to stay in a hotel that has bad reviews but if the majority of them are great, with one or two negative ones, it legitimises the rest of the reviews. Newer places may have just a few positive reviews which is fine but if a hotel has 250 reviews and all of them are positive, I’d be a bit suspicious.

Find a source you can trust

I once stayed at a hotel that got terrible reviews on an American travel site because it was ‘too far away’ from the restaurant strip that was supposed to be nearby. It was nearby – it was like a five-minute walk away. I then realised that the American site was not the place to look for hotels for me. I adore walking and the people on this site definitely did not. Make sure you take all reviews with a grain of salt (seriously, people on the internet can be really weird) and do your own research as well. And always make sure that you search in places where the people leaving reviews are similar to you and not people who will give a hotel a terrible review because they had to walk 500 metres.

All this talk of hotels has me hankering for a holiday. If you’re keen to bugger off on a tropical getaway and escape the winter the crew at Star Ratings are having a stella comp. Just follow this link to enter:


You’ll be put in the draw for a chance to win tropical holiday. Easy peasy right?

I’m actually super keen to hear some of your terrible hotel stories. I’m always morbidly fascinated by stuff like that. So tell me…

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What’s the worst hotel experience you’ve ever had? Gross bathroom? Rude staff? Questionable bedding?


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P.S Oh hey you should totally sign up for my newsletter. It’s full of cool stuff.


  1. chrisatpb 6 years ago

    The days of dive accommodation and roughing it camping have long gone, along with my youth. When I go to Brisbane or Sydney I stay at the Stamford, which I can highly recommend. Xx

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      Oh thanks for the recommendation! I never know good hotels because I never pay for them! 🙂

  2. feenk 6 years ago

    Hostel, not hotel – but it was in the Lake District in England, I was traveling by myself, and instead of putting me in the all female dorm I booked, I got put in the all male dorm! Brilliant! There was nobody on reception, and one of my male roomies kept asking me why I was upset – did I think they were going to assault me? Well, I was certainly comforted by his aggressively repeated use of the word ‘assault’… and the endless fart smells overnight. Good times!!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      Oh gross! I would be really weird about that too. I wouldn’t sleep! Eeeeek!

  3. Dee 6 years ago

    Like you Carly if I spend big bucks I expect more! One time I wanted an extra blanket and they were going to charge me an extra $25. Not happy Jan, I said I’d could just pop down to woollies and pick up one for that price. They brought it up at no cost. I would go back there because they handled that really well xx

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      You’re joking? That’s ridiculous! I once asked for a blanket on a Jetstar flight and they refused. I was FREEZING and I’d just come from Bali so I was wearing I maxi dress and a cardigan. I was in pain I was so cold and they suggested I hold a cup of tea.

  4. Kerrin 6 years ago

    Once I found skid marks in the complementary bathrobe (not mine, of course).

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      Gross!!! I guess does that mean they don’t change them that often?

  5. Harlow 6 years ago

    In Sydney I stayed in a 3 star place that was all kinds of gross. But here are the highlights: It looked like a turn of the century brothel. I am fairly certain at one point in the history of the building it must of been a brothel. Or maybe it was still a brothel at the time we stayed there…The place reeked strongly of bad perfume and cigars and it was dark and dank with a depressing skeezy vibe. You could hear people fucking loudly in the room above you/next to you. Good thing a lot of men don’t last too long, but I really could have done without hearing that! What pissed me off is that on the booking website the photography/photoshop was really great and made the place look really bright, cheery, warm and inviting and the reviews were glowing, nothing mentioning the roach infestation or the carpets in the very dark hallways that reeked suspiciously of urine. It was essentially a crack den/vintage brothel. The only reason I didn’t complain or leave an angry review was because there was a cute orange kitten that seemed to live there and I didn’t want to make problems for the cat.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      How sweet are you that you didn’t want to make problems for the cat? That’s gorgeous. I find that if a place isn’t as good as I expected, if it’s interesting, they seem to be able to get away with it. This place sounds amazing! I’m loving that with AirBnB actually – all the weird cool places are usually the best.

  6. We arrived in Washington DC without booking a hotel and had zero idea about what was good so we used one of those light-up boards with a phone at the airport. This was 2007 so online booking was still relatively new and we hadn’t really thought about it that much. We ended up getting a taxi out to this place and noticed the decline in amenability as we drove through some sketchy streets. “Don’t walk around at night” advised the cab driver.

    The hotel was sketchy, dirty and scary. Our toilet blocked up in the middle of the night so we had to change rooms. People rattled the door constantly, there were so many comings and goings, screams, hobos fighting outside and more that I’ve probably repressed since I spent the entire night throwing up with anxiety. After my Trip Advisor review I was contacted by a reporter regarding my stay and advised that other travellers had experienced bed bugs and worse. I believe the hotel is now closed down . . . on our return trip, we stayed in Arlington which was just out of DC but much more affordable and presentable. We’re not fussy but I do need the place to be clean and safe as a minimum. Similar walking story though, we asked where the nearest Metro station was and the staff were like “Oh, you’ll need to catch a cab down to . . . ” and we asked “Is it not walking distance?” “Oh no ma’am, it’s over 2 miles away”. Us “LOL”

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      You know what I prefer gross to dangerous. I’d rather see a grotty sheet that can be replaced than feel like I’m going to get killed in a hotel. I cannot believe you got approached by a reporter to comment on it! That’s actually incredibly shocking. 🙂

  7. Holly 6 years ago

    Cheap motel in California. Pubic hairs in the sheets. Not ours. THE HORROR.

    Meanwhile…I have a ‘zero’ birthday to celebrate and I’m bringing a girlfriend to Melbourne and want to stay near the laneways in the middle of the city. Is the Hotel Lindrum good? Any advice gratefully accepted!

    • Alix @ thebuilderette 6 years ago

      I love Ovolo in Melbourne. In one of the laneways and very cool.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      Oh I’ve never stayed at the hotel Lindrum but I’ve heard good things. Also apparently the Abbey in Fitzroy is pretty cool – it’s literally an old Abbey at the top of Fitzroy about 15 minutes walking distance from the city.

  8. Malcolm McDivitt 6 years ago

    Must admit I will always prefer an apartment to a hotel but for 1 night stays they make sense. Totally agree with your comments about reviews and would add that it’s worth checking the hotel and surrounding area on Google map street view. Although I find the more expensive hotels a bit the same, (sanatized and directed towards the average American tourist) It is worth staying budget (1 or 2 star) then splurging on 1 night at the Ritz, Gritti Palace or Villa d’Este, if that’s where your budget extends.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      That’s a great tip! You want to make sure you’re staying in a decent area. I feel the same about fancy hotels – I like a bit of character!

  9. Sally 6 years ago

    Thanks for the info about the ratings, now I don’t feel so bad about booking 2 star accom all the time! As for worst hotel experience? Well that would be in Sydney. Upon checking into our room we were greeted by the worst smell ever only to find vomit on the wall. All over it…how did the cleaner miss this?

  10. William Johnson 2 years ago

    Thanks for the info about the ratings, now I don’t feel so bad about booking 2 star accom all the time! As for worst hotel experience? Well that would be in Sydney. Upon checking into our room we were greeted by the worst smell ever only to find vomit on the wall. All over it…how did the cleaner miss this?


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