The difference between hotels, boutique hotels and guesthouses
Rooms for rent is not a new concept, but these days, travelers are given many choices in the types of accommodations that cater to different tastes, requirements and, for some perhaps most importantly, budget.
Hotels have taken on varied forms and have become more than just temporary living spaces. Besides being architectural works of art, hotels come in different options that cater to travelers with different tastes, requirements and budgets.
Hotels fall broadly into three categories: chain hotels, boutique hotels and guesthouses. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Majority of the ‘large’ hotels invariably belong to a company group managing them, but not all hotels under this category are large, posh hotels with hundreds of rooms. The Sawasdee brand, for instance, run a chain of hotels in Bangkok that are smaller in scale compared to many of its competitors in this category.
These hotels are rated with a star system of up till six stars to give customers an idea of how big and luxurious the hotel is. At the highest end of the system are hotels from big name groups like Four Seasons, Banyan Tree, Swissotel and Ritz-Carlton, to name a few.
Most, if not all, of these hotels offer luxurious rooms for an ultra-comfortable and comprehensive living experience. Facilities within the rooms as well as the hotel are meant to pamper, with spa facilities, shopping, big swimming pools, fitness centers and big-name fine dining restaurants, bars and lounges, and chic cafes. These epicurean hot spots are also open to the public, and no efforts are spared in providing customers and hotel guests with the best dining and entertainment experience.
In addition, these hotels provide excellent support for business travelers, offering in-room high-speed Internet, whether cable or wi-fi, conference rooms, business centers and work furniture in the rooms. Business travelers are afforded the best conditions in which to conduct their businesses as they enjoy the comfort of luxurious living.
Luxury travelers staying in these hotels should expect to pay a premium for room rates, which can be upwards of US$400 per night.
Three- and four-stars hotels are smaller in scale than five-and six-star hotels, offering less rooms as well as similar facilities and luxury to a smaller degree. Some of the features mentioned above are also usually not offered in these hotels. However, the price tag is much lower for these hotels. Also, if you are out for a large part of the day most of the time, you probably will not mind having fewer facilities around. Just make sure that the hotels offer the essentials like air-condition, hot shower, Internet (even if not in-room, at least computer terminals at the lobby), television, telephone, and good housekeeping.
You can search and reserve rooms in most of these hotels online, via hotel booking websites like HotelsCombined.com and Zuji.com (under the Hotels tab), which search the best deals for hotels in different cities to suits your budget and other preferences.
While most chain hotels emphasize of facilities, what sets boutique hotels apart are their thematic decorations. Boutique hotels aim to give their guests something to remember about the environment in which they have lived over the luxury and abundance of facilities. The themes range from art to history and culture, and the decorations feature bolder and more creative concepts than most traditional hotels. The name of the game here is uniqueness and intimacy – these hotels aim to offer the intimacy or homely feeling that cannot be found in most commercial hotels while not forgoing any sense of comfort and luxury.
A lot of boutique hotels are housed in old buildings that are conserved and converted for commercial use, and therefore many of them could be old heritage buildings, colonial houses, shophouses, cinemas and even schools. The famous blue Chong Fatt Tze Mansion in Penang, Malaysia is one such example. Guests staying in the hotel, which also serves as a museum, are treated to the original interior decoration and exhibits that provided a glimpse into the life of its former owner.
Room decorations in boutique hotels are certainly not generic. These hotels are heavy on unique identities, and their rooms reflect this. And because boutique hotels are usually not constructed but inherited, the room sizes tend to vary. The room rates in some of these hotels may reflect such differences.
Just because they are not five- or six-star hotels does not mean boutique hotels are necessarily cheap. It is not unusual for rooms in these hotels to be in the US$200 to US$400 range. For the unique environment and experience, though, boutique hotels are definitely worth checking out.
Boutique hotels are not usually found on hotel reservation websites, but a search on Google will turn up many choices with their own websites.
It doesn’t matter if they are not called ‘hotel’ by name; guesthouses are very popular options for budget travelers and backpackers because of the low room rates they offer. If guesthouses conjure up images of small dingy rooms with poor ventilation, it’s time for some updating. Guesthouse rooms these days offer guests either air-conditioned or fan-cooled rooms with clean, comfortable beds, closets and adequate furnishing. Guesthouses are essentially functional, and so there is not much to expect in terms of luxury. Most guesthouses don’t have televisions in their rooms, and guests have to use common bathrooms and watch television together at the café/bar/restaurant, as well as access the Internet in the public area.
Don’t be turned off by this, however, especially if you are the gregarious type who would love to make new friends on your trip. All these sharing of facilities provide great opportunities for meeting people and trading travel stories over drinks. You don’t usually get these living self-sufficient lives behind closed doors in big hotels.
Not all guesthouses are bland and featureless. Apple’s Guesthouse in Kanchanaburi, for instance, feature great authentic Thai food, and the owners even hold Thai cooking classes. Some guesthouses are even located in places that big hotels can only wish for, such as beautiful seaside or lush mountainsides.
Of course, in terms of price, guesthouses figure on the lower end of the spectrum, majority of which not exceeding US150 per night. But with the factors mentioned above, choosing to stay in guesthouses doesn’t have to mean that you have financial anemia. It means that you have done your research and know what you’re looking for.
Have fun searching for the abode for your next holiday!