Watch Out! Excuse me, say that again - No reservations?

Watch Out! Excuse me, say that again - No reservations? 

That kind travel agent, the one with the gorgeous smile, at Brussels train station made our hotel reservations in Paris. Pay in full, she said before that. She was helpful. Despite her warm nature, we had an ounce of uncertainty and therefore agreed to part with only 50% upfront. She reluctantly agreed. The rest was to be paid upon check-in, she reminded us. The hotel brochure displayed decent tourist-class guestrooms that included continental breakfast plus a fabulous view of the city from each room! Awesome deal, I was thrilled.


reachingdelphi Belgium


All set! There was just one thing left to do and that was to get there. So, next morning we checked in at our bus check-in counter. The officer verified our passports – neither of us needed any visas. Next thing we knew, we were heading to Paris. Oh yes, sweetheart! The city of love. I was desperately looking out for the Belgian windmills on our way there. After almost three hours on the road, we noticed sights of the charming renaissance. Oh, I felt her elegance; I did. A true lady and a fine one! I could not wait to get off the bus.


We got off at the last drop off point. Despite being tired and coffee deprived, we mustered the energy to drag our suitcases and headed straight for the hotel. The aroma of freshly baked croissants and steaming brew from the cafes along the way was very inviting, but we decided that those would have to wait until we got settled in for the night.

 Coffee ReachingDelphi Belgium


The hotel was in a hidden corner, away from the main street. It took us a while to find it. Next to the building was a vendor selling something that looked like Indian dosas, but with a sweet vanilla aroma. Crepes, I learnt. We sampled some the next evening. Simply delicious, as I recall. I have a craving for everything luscious, a sweet tooth if you are wondering why. 


I could not wait to get to the room with the nice veranda overlooking the city. We showed our payment voucher. Excusez-moi monsieur, madame, je n'ai aucune réserve pour vous. Okay, not another one, I thought. 


reachingdelphi, Manneken Pis


After 15 minutes of ‘friendly’ discussion, but no arguments, and several phone calls, we settled the remaining unpaid balance and received our keys. It appeared to us that booking through these agents and the unsynchronised bookings between the two parties is a rather common occurrence. We could not tell if this incident was a genuine mistake or a fraudulent practice. But we were lucky that our pre-payment was honoured without much fuss. Our room was comfortable, but I could not see the iconic tower or any part of the city. Instead, we were offered a charming French courtyard view. By the way, quaint hotels may not come with elevator services, so travel light, as you may have to carry your luggage up a few floors.

 

reachingdelphi,  Eiffel Tower


A similar incident happened more recently at another city. This time we had made a fully paid reservation through a reputable booking website. Upon arrival at the hotel (outer Phoenix), the reservation officer told us that they were overbooked. She also informed us that our booking did not show up on her screen. It was after 11 p.m. and we had been driving for almost five hours, so you can imagine our disappointment. You are lucky if the hotel realises the blunder and offers an alternate option, such a transfer to their partner hotels. But unfortunately, that sort of top service is a rare these days. The reception suggested a few other hotels nearby that may have vacancies. We were fortunate that we managed to get a room at the first hotel on the list, but it was a scary experience indeed, especially since this happened in an unfamiliar township. I could not sleep for a long time that night. I reported the incident with the booking site. They provided a full refund that same week.

 

Atomium in Belgium


So, do watch out! Be aware and do your groundwork review before you start your trip. If you are also a budget traveller, you know that hard-earned money is not easy to come by. So be wise. Always watch out.

 

What I have learnt:

  • Make reservations only through a reliable source. Carefully, evaluate the options shown. If online reviews are available, then take some time to read through what other customers had experienced. In the same way, leave a comment for others to benefit from your experience. Both positive and negative feedback is important.
  • Always keep payment confirmation handy. Confirmation of purchase is important. 
  • Reconfirm with the hotel directly ahead of time. I prefer contacting them via email, or online chat. If there is no response to either, I opt for social media such as Facebook. Trust me, this preparation will give you peace of mind. You do not want to be stranded in an unfamiliar place.
  • If you are mistreated or feel cheated for the services you paid for, do not be afraid to stand up firmly (and, calmly) for your rights.
  • Booking sites will usually provide a refund quickly when the supporting documentation has been provided. 

Reaching Delphi in Brussels





Footnote:
Regardless of whether you are a business traveller or vacationer, a one-time or frequent traveller – if you travel, you are exposed to risks. It’s important to understand that some of us are easier targets than others.

This series is dedicated to Doc, SV, who constantly reminded me to 'Watch Out!. Through Watch Out! Travel Mishaps from Reaching Delphi Travellers Alert series, I will share some of our travel misadventures with you. My aim is to create an awareness of such incidents and some useful suggestions to reduce the occurrence of unpleasant events. 

Follow Coffee Trail – Counting Stars, Reaching Delphi for travel updates and tips.