Colombo Trips + Planning

Common Struggles in Booking Apartments in Colombo

November 25, 2016
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First of all, not all apartment bookings in Colombo result in bad experiences. While Sri Lanka is the immediate neighbor and second home for Maldivians, I too have had my fair share of unfortunate experiences booking apartments in Colombo through online booking websites.

Here are a list of bad experiences many Maldivians have faced after booking apartments in Colombo through online booking websites:

1. Booking an apartment and finding out it’s not available at the time of arrival. I have personally experienced this myself, however, it was my luck that I called the apartment contact number prior my arrival, to check if the booking was confirmed. The gentleman who answered the call informed me that the apartment was running full and had no available rooms, since I booked the apartment through Agoda, I immediately sent a message to Agoda via its Facebook page explaining the situation including my Agoda booking ID. A couple of minutes later, I received a call from an Agoda call agent and apologized me for the inconvenience and agreed to offer another apartment which in terms of price was a little more than the apartment I initially booked and paid, furthermore they also refunded me the actual amount I paid for the booking.

Here’s what I learned: If we are booking an apartment or a hotel room, not specifically in Colombo, but generally anywhere, it’s wise to send an e-mail or make a call to check if the accommodation we paid is confirmed, so we know to sort it out prior our arrival and avoid inconveniences.

2. Apartment does not honor Agoda hotel voucher. A friend of mine once booked an apartment in Colombo through Agoda, when he arrived the apartment, he was told that the apartment did not receive a request from Agoda, but it had a booking request from Booking.com for the same client, dates and requirements. My friend was very confused, he called me from Colombo and asked me what could he do about it, I suggested him to inform the apartment to check the matter with Agoda the next day, and allow him to check-in and sort things out the next day, the apartment allowed him to stay since he voucher stated his period of stay was 3 nights from that date.

Here’s what I learned: The Priceline empire owns Agoda and Booking.com, and they heavily compete against one another for Asia region sales, with its own competitive rates and allotments. So, for example, when you book Panorama Executive Residencies through Agoda, and if they don’t have available rooms, but if Booking.com does, Agoda will instantly confirm the booking and forward you the confirmation and hotel voucher. What’s really happening is Agoda is protecting the booking through Booking.com with their respective price yields, and the apartment receives the booking request through Booking.com. This is where the first person to greet you from the apartment, usually the apartment watch-guard or the security personnel is puzzled, because your hotel voucher states Agoda and the request he’s got is from Booking.com.

3. At the time of check-out, the apartment asks to pay for electricity usage, based on consumption and meter readings. This is something usually stated in the booking website’s guest policies. The problem is some people are in a little too hurry when booking accommodation online, that they miss out reading the important points.

Here’s what I learned: Read the apartment policies before proceeding payment and booking.

4. Apartment requests for a cash security deposit upon check-in for charges or damages that may incur during the stay, if not, it will be refunded upon departure. This is also generally mentioned in the booking website’s guest policies column. For example, when you book the Luxury Marine City Apartment, Agoda clearly states that the apartment will require a cash security deposit of 200USD upon check-in, while guests can collect it at the time of check-out, this policy is much more complicated than most Maldivians realize:

  • When a guest pays 200USD in the currency of United States Dollars at the time of check-in as a cash security deposit, and at the time when the guest checks-out, the apartment returns the cash security deposit in Sri Lankan rupees with its own rate of exchange. The guest has no value in taking Sri Lankan rupees back to Maldives, even if its changed to United States Dollars at the airport, he receives an exchange loss.
  • Suppose the apartment accepts credit card payments, a guest swipes the credit card for pre-authorisation, and 200USD gets blocked from the guests credit card and will be released once the guest checks-out. However, with the current monetary regulations in the Maldives, if you have used a credit card from a local bank to pre-authorise the 200USD, it could take up to 30 days for it to be available in the credit card account.

Here’s what I learned: Read the apartment policies before proceeding payment and booking.

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People always tend to sort the prices from lowest to highest.

5. Booking the cheapest apartment and ending up booking somewhere else. This is a very common problem, a lot people after entering the dates for the period of stay in the booking website, sorts the prices from the lowest to highest and books the lowest priced place to stay, without reading reviews, or knowing the area or location of the apartment. The guests arrive the apartment, a group of friends or a family with children and finds the place disappointing, also helpless if it is a late night arrival, because its difficult to find another place.

Here’s what I learned: Refer the reviews from other guests who have stayed at the place before and see of the area and location of the apartment is safe and easy to access during day and night.

6. The apartment requests for the guest’s passport, inspects it and informs the guest that they cannot honor the rate booked for the guests nationality and to pay additional charges. Many booking websites offer domestic rates provided to local citizens and holders of local ID only. Failure to present local identification may result in additional charges at the hotel.

Here’s what I learned: Read the booking policies before proceeding payment and booking.

7. The trip had to be postponed or cancelled, and the booking website cancellation policy states a 100% refund, but its taking forever to receive the refund. While credit cards and debit cards are used to settle payments for online booking websites, with the current monetary regulations in the Maldives, if you have used a credit card from a local bank to book your accommodation, it could take up to 30 days to receive your refund and for it to appear in your account.

Here’s what I learned: Unless you have a credit card from a foreign bank, you really don’t have a choice receiving a refund for a booking done through a booking website.

What other challenges have you experienced at a time you booked an apartment in Colombo through a booking website?

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