Choosing a hotel, some tips
This is what I have used to find good hotels, especially important when you are booking something in another country and need your first bet to be a good (enough) one.
Never override your own senses/reactions with “the rules” but this has been helpful with knowing where to start. Lots of fails and trial and error for me.
– Go as new as you can. In tropical countries, it’s even more important to choose new. Brand new if you can find it. Buildings do not hold up well in the tropics.
– In countries I really want to go to, I’m watching for opening dates of hotels I have my eyes on.
– Big brands can be better. Marriot, Hilton, and Hyatt, and some European brands too can be better built. Though I would not choose an older big name over a newer local hotel.
– High-rise buildings bring in more experts like engineers and architects. Very small buildings may just be built to more local standards which can be poor in developing countries. Look for something that looks like it took some engineering.
– Concrete high rises are usually better than wood built. It helps to know the building types and styles that are used locally and how they hold up to the local climate. This may not be the best building style around.
– Heating and cooling is necessary for concrete to not go musty.
– Ducted AC usually goes moldy. Mini splits do get some mold in them too if used a lot and not maintained. Two years is often the limit on mini splits for me. Mini splits are less likely to have been kept on when the room is empty.
– True indigenous-style buildings can be good but often the traditional building styles are lost or this type is hard to find. Usually you can find these locally and not so much online.
– Have a few places picked out so that if the first option is really bad you have multiple backups. Camping backup, car to sleep in and a list of hotels and bnbs that look good that are very close by.
– The bet for the first stay should be the safest bet possible, whether that’s a place to camp, a car or van you can sleep in, or a brand new hotel. Once you are there you will learn more about what will work.
– I do not spare any expense on that first landing place, otherwise you can lose a lot more money from things going wrong, you crash out or you don’t get better. All of that costs far more than a safe first bet and then taking the time to check out local options in person before committing.
– A tent in a yard, balcony, the rooftop is not good enough in high mold which is far more potent in the tropics. It was a huge shocker to me that this was so hard to find. The building needs to be close to good enough to camp outside of. If camping is your safest bet you need a large yard of a new house.
– Ask the taxi driver to wait for you to see if it’s good especially in remote areas or where it takes a long time to get a taxi.
– Check out multiple rooms if allowed during COVID before ditching the first option. 3 rooms is usually reasonable to see, more than that they might get annoyed but you can try, depending on the country and area.
-I don’t walk away if the lobby is moldy. It’s extremely common for lobbies to be moldy.
– Ask about pesticide spraying (inside and out). Tropical countries also sometimes use pesticide plug ins
– Ask about fragrance if it affects you. I only ask about febreeze type sprays and “signature scents” sprayed throughout vents. I very rarely see scented laundry. And general cleaners are not usually strong (for me). There is no brand of hotel that is consistently scent-free. Highly scented is very unlikely (I have never seen it) in developing countries), pesticide spraying is more likely than in the US and Canada.
– Bring your own blanket, pillow and tarp for the bed so that a bad bed doesn’t ruin the whole thing for you. The bed could be moldy in the tropics, it could be fragranced or sprayed with pesticides. It’s far more likely to encounter a bad bed in the tropics and developing countries. This is not something I do in the US and Canada as that is not really likely here.
– Find local people from the country you are going to, you can pay them to help you check out buildings beforehand, learn about the different neighborhoods, ask about things that are not obvious online.
– If booking a specific room like in a bnb, I never choose the top floor or bottom floor if I can’t see it first. Top 1/3 of the building is usually way better. It’s had less time in the rain and is newer.
– I don’t choose the floor with a pool or above the pool (for indoor pools). You only get three tries usually so ask for different floors. You often need to ask to see higher-up floors.
– The ground floor/slab is usually really bad in the tropics as well as the Mediterranean. In North America, I usually avoid the ground floor as well unless it’s super new.
Trust your instincts. In Cuba I helped someone new to mold avoidance to unmask really quickly. He was not able to choose buildings but after I ruled buildings out or we got stuck somewhere bad for a night or more he did start to notice that he did have symptoms there.
It’s not unusual to check out every rental in the area. 95% of buildings are too moldy for me, in every part of the world I have been to. It can take going to see lots of them. There are also areas that don’t have good enough housing to choose from at all. I have ruled out many towns, cities and even countries due to not having enough reliable housing to choose from. Multiple options that look good is a requirement for me now that I don’t camp. Choosing a good building is really important. Many people try good locations but pick moldy buildings and don’t feel the full results. Some time spent camping can really help to get the full benefits of the location and can help to choose buildings.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.