This is a question that always vexes me when I travel.
Stay with friends and save on hotel money, have some company and also be certain that the accommodation is safe ( 😉 too many stories about haunted rooms, you see).
Stay in a hotel, not knowing who or what had been there before you; waste good money when you are hardly there enough to justify the price etc.
Of cos, put like that, there seems to be no contest, but that is to load the stay-with-friends option with all the good things and the stay-in-a-hotel option with all the bad things.
In truth, the drawback to staying with friends isn’t minor. When you are the guest in someone’s home, even a very good friend’s home, you have to obey his/her house rules and some of them could strangle a potentially good holiday.
I know of a Singapore woman, settled in New York, who is such a neat-freak that guests don’t dare put down their cups after sipping, because she whips them to the dish washer, even if the coffee is only half-finished. They don’t dare to leave their beds to go to the toilet early in the morning, because when they go back for a further snooze, the bed is already made.
I myself had experienced something similar when staying with a Malaysian friend who had settled in Switzerland. She dries her stainless steel sink so thoroughly after every use that no water mark ever appears to mar the shiny surface. And she expects the guest who should touch the sink to do the same!
And when I stay with friends in Malaysia, they somehow give me the impression that the whole country is unsafe, insisting on accompanying me everywhere I wanted to go, or if they can’t, they will make me stay home till they are free to take me, as exemplified by a visit to Penang I made late in 2008.
An even worse experience was a stay at an ex-colleague’s Bali home. The hostess, whom I’ve known for decades, is a very temperamental person and for whatever reason, during that visit she was downright hostile and rude to me throughout.
When I tell people about that experience, they suspect I exaggerate, as they can’t imagine I would suffer the insults for more than one minute, without packing up and checking into a hotel.
In retrospect, I too wonder at myself. I put it down to the fact that I wanted to save the friendship but on returning home and on calmer reflection, I decided that there was really no friendship to begin with.
Thus the next time my erstwhile hostess made contact, I simply cut her dead, something that was a bit belated but nevertheless still gave me a kick!
So there’s some wisdom in my mother’s stand, that if she doesn’t have money for hotels, she won’t travel (altho she did accompany me to visit friends, once in New York and another time in Hongkong — not the most enjoyable of her trips, I suspect, even tho, she being an elder, my friends were more accommodating with her than with me!).
My mother isn’t alone in her stand, as I stumbled by chance on this declaration by Siutuapui, a Sibu-based prolific bogger, whose site I dug through recently, looking for nuggets of information on Kuching, where I would be heading in a couple of weeks.
The Sibu pacik wrote: “I prefer staying in hotels. Every time I travel, I will gracefully decline any invitation to stay at someone’s house, never mind whether it’s a relative or friend. Maybe it is because I used to travel a lot when I was still in government service and I stayed in hotels all the time…and I enjoyed the freedom and the privacy.”
I had begun to think like my mother and Siutuapui too, especially after the Penang experience, till I remember there are hosts/hostesses who are mostest by doing the least for their guests.
I always remember with pleasure my visit to MK in Shanghai in 2006. She just let LW (who travelled with me) and me have free run of her home, which was most central and convenient, since it was on Huaihai Lu.
She didn’t offer to show us the sights and we met for meals only if convenient, so neither she nor we felt obliged to work to the same time-table. She didn’t “look” after us yet she did enough to make us welcome, without suffocating us.
So we had the best of both worlds, a safe, comfortable and clean place to stay but with the freedom we enjoyed, we could have been in a hotel — but without any price tags.
My conclusion is this: I would stay in a hotel only if the friend who invited is more likely to spoil my holiday than improve it. And the best way to improve my stay is generally to leave me alone!