How To Interpret Bad Hotel Reviews

Picture the scene. You’ve spotted the hotel of your dreams – it looks good, it’s in a location you want to visit, it’s a place to cross off on your bucket list, plus it’s in your price range (just about). So, you are about to wave off your deposit when you stumble upon the review section. Regardless how many excellent reviews a hotel gets, it is the bad review that has grabbed your attention. Let’s face it, every hotel whether it is 1 star or 7 star deluxe gets a bad review at some point.  Why is that? It is because the majority of reviewers are of two types: the ones that moan and complain for the sake of it – usually the complaints are fairly trivial but they are normally the ones that leave a review of essay standards; the ones that take their holiday experience as a whole so that the bad parts are not necessarily actually to do with the hotel itself (tour guides, holiday reps, weather etc). I am not saying that bad hotels don’t exist, they do, but interpreting the bad reviews helps in deciding whether the hotel is right for you or whether you should avoid it like the plague. Here’s my guide on interpreting just some of those reviews (all reviews mentioned are true and have appeared on Trip Advisor & Hotel sites)


REVIEW:  “People were like zombies in the lounge area”

INTERPRETATION:  Hotel had limited wifi in the lounge area.

ADVICE: This is a typical “moaner” review as obviously people can spend time on the internet if they wish. However, if you require a better internet connection then perhaps this isn’t the place for you. I visited this hotel – all I saw were a couple of teenagers on their iPhones!


REVIEW: “Pushy attitude of the Saga holidaymakers who pushed at the bar & at the buffet, and who insisted on bingo every night”

INTERPRETATION:  Elderly clientele who like to play bingo.

ADVICE:  Check when the reviewer visited the hotel & whether it was the same time of year as you’re planning to visit. Bear in mind that hotels change their entertainment programmes during the season. Saga holidays do not operate in July/August – I visited in August and the entertainment was geared towards a much younger clientele – not a bingo card in sight but plenty of action in the pool area with international water polo contests.

3. UK

REVIEW: ” Disappointed that the breakfast was only served from 8am to 10am at weekends; the continental spread was good, but the cooked breakfast was left on the hot plate and past its best.”

INTERPRETATION: Somebody obviously overslept and the kitchen had stopped cooking.

ADVICE: That’s life.  Food times vary.  In the UK restaurants often open for dinner at 5pm – in France it is nearer 7.30pm.  


REVIEW: “On the way back from a walk we bought some rolls and crisps from a nearby shop. The hotel security guards stopped us, searched our bags, and confiscated our food.  We did see the sign stating no food or drink should be brought into the hotel, but surely rolls and crisps were OK…”

INTERPRETATION:  This was a 5 star all inclusive hotel that had this strict policy. Food available all day/night at no extra cost as you’ve already paid in advance.

ADVICE:  I liked the way that the hotel responded to that review – they stated that they were very pleased to hear that the security guards were doing such a good job. 


REVIEW: ” When I got home I realised that between Cape Verde and home my suitcase had been tampered with. I had jewellery and watches worth £1000 stolen”

INTERPRETATION:  Not anything to do with the hotel but …

ADVICE: That can happen anywhere, any place unfortunately. Wherever you go, keep your wits about you and use the same security precautions as you would at home, eg avoiding unlit areas, etc.  Never pack valuable jewellery in your suitcase – put them in your hand luggage, wear them or leave them at home in your safe.


REVIEW: “Red ants everywhere.”

INTERPRETATION: I’m on a safari but I’m not keen on little critters…

ADVICE: Research the country you are going to, especially if it is of a vastly different culture than where you live. Wildlife is wildlife. This chap also complained that the beer wasn’t cold…. 

There are many more examples, so my general advice is to read and interpret those reviews from people who share your:

  • gender
  • age group
  • country/nationality
  • time of year of travel
  • type of travelling companions
  • length of stay

If you decide to write a hotel review after a less than happy experience, please remember to keep the review relevant to the hotel; remember that not everybody shares your tastes; offer advice to help prevent a repeat of your bad experience rather than be totally negative.

After all that, I hope you have a good holiday! If you come across any funny reviews, do let me know (good or bad).  I came across a review for Diani Beach in Kenya (which is in East Africa)… “I’m giving this beach 5 stars as it’s the best beach in West Africa….” 🙂

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden


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34 thoughts on “How To Interpret Bad Hotel Reviews”

  1. Excellent post Linda (as usual) and very good advice. I always find the bad reviews more enlightening than the good ones – but you’re right, you do have to run them through an interpretation filter. Two of my favourite comments, from two completely unrelatered reviews were ‘ the TV in our room didn’t work’ (stay home and watch your own for a fortnight then) and ‘there were paint drips from the refurbishment’ (obviously the sort of person who spends their holiday going through the accommodation with a magnifying glass because their favourite thing to do is complain)

    1. So pleased you enjoyed the post Kat 😊 Trip Advisor review reading can be quite addictive – and although I do feel sorry for those whose holidays don’t quite go to plan, it always seems unfair to me to blame the hotel when the problems were clearly not to do with the hotel. The Moroccan hotel addressed the other poor reviews that were not hotel related “and did you enjoy our infinity pool, our peaceful gardens?” Liked the refurbishment comment of yours; as well as the TV one – it was almost as bad as one review I came across stating that only the terrestrial TV channels were available, no SKY! Honestly!! 😊

  2. This was a great read, Linda!!
    We always read the reviews before we stay at a hotel, and if there aren’t any bad reviews, we tend to think it’s fishy!!
    There’s always at least one complainer in the group, right?
    I love the complaints in NYC that say the hotel room was small! Well, of course it was—every room in NYC is small (basically!!)

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Jodie! Room size is difficult to interpret – travelling as a family with kids in tow then connecting rooms or a large room or suite is ideal. On my own or as a couple then room size doesn’t matter to me. I stayed in a hotel once in Ibiza – 2 adults, 2 young children – the room as you opened the door you nearly hit the first bed, there were no gaps to walk around – to get to the small balcony you had to climb over the 4 single beds to get to the patio door. No air conditioning, it was extremely hot (August) and I was 6 months pregnant too. We lived liked that for 2 weeks! Nowadays I have become more picky about room size when travelling with family in tow.

    1. Definitely Jeremy! That’s why I recommend making sure that the reviewer seems closest in gender, family group, age & country to yourself. I once was looking at a hotel on the Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria – it had rave reviews from young couples from Romania and Croatia; not so good from families from UK and Germany. Different expectations maybe?

    1. The bad reviews,on the whole, are not intentionally misleading – different people put a different onus on things. You can’t please everybody all the time. It really is a matter of deciphering the reviews to work out whose sentiments will probably match your own and then you have some idea of what to expect.

  3. It’s great fun reading reviews and you’ve summed it really well. It’s funny how the bad reviews always grab your attention despite being fewer than the positive ones!!

    1. Some reviews really do make the mind boggle such as the hotel review in Madeira that I feature in my post. Having visited the hotel after reading the review, I was relieved that this reviewer was prone to slight exaggeration/poetic licence …

  4. OMG I love this idea for a blog post. So many of us need that gentle reminder to take reviews with a grain of salt, funny enough a conversation I was having with my grandmother yesterday afternoon!

  5. Brilliant Linda! I wrote a similar post last year, it was so funny to create an entertaining post out of this incredible stupidity you’re writing about. I could actually write a story about the things I had to deal with myself during 13 years in the tourism business. Sometimes it makes you just wonder.

    1. I think people need to think before writing a review – a lot of complaints are not actually to do with the hotel in question!

  6. I’m always amazed at what people complain about while on vacation. Maybe it’s the fact that travel is rarely a thing I get to do, so when I’m able to I’m just happy to be wherever I get to go. That said, I can also also understand someone wanting a perfect vacation when vacationing is rare. Whenever I write a review, my main point is cleanliness. I can handle not very friendly staff, weird dining hours, odd food choices, and other things to do with decor or ambience. Usually, it’s a cultural thing and people who respect and try to enjoy different cultures will realize it’s not something to complain about. However, if a hotel room isn’t clean, that’s definitely going in my review!

    1. Reviews regarding cleanliness are always taken seriously by me – especially reports of bed bugs, dirty sheets and pillows.

  7. I am a review writer. Both the bad and the good. On our most recent vacation, one of the last resorts we stayed at was horrible and we couldn’t get in touch with management or housekeeping to take care of some of the problems. We were in a condo unit and there was hair in all of the tubs, mold in one closet and crumbs all over the floor. I wrote the review when we couldn’t get in touch with anyone, but after we were able to speak to the manager and show her the pictures, I did update the review to reflect the changes. We also look at reviews and interpret them. We look at the volume of reviews, the number of excellent to bad reviews and the date of the reviews. If the resort has very few bad reviews, but all of them came during the last month or so, then that is a concern just as much as if there were more bad reviews about a resort than good.

    1. It is so important to report the bad things as well as the good. I do take notice of reviews regarding cleanliness and general food hygiene. “Tired” hotel rooms and “smelly toilets” don’t bother me – but finding scum around the bath and obviously dirty sheets/towels would get me complaining too! If a resort/hotel has excellent cleaning staff then everything else pals into insignificance. One good thing about review sites is that if there is a spate of bad reviews about a hotel,the hotel, on the whole, do actually try and rectify the situation. At the end of the day, those reviews can make or break a company so it is in their best interests to take note and action if necessary.

  8. The hotel was proud of its staff instead of falling all over itself to apologize. I like that. Sounds as if they offer a great experience with capable people. Did you end up staying there?

    1. My son and his girlfriend stayed at that hotel in Marrakech – I was quite pleased that the hotel took its security obligations seriously.

  9. I never trust reviews from strangers because I have no idea if they’ve been paid to write something good, if it is really the person responsible for the product pretending to be anonymous, or someone with an axe to grind.

    If it’s someone I know, I’ll trust the review. Other than that, I just ask my Magic 8 Ball. 🙂

    1. At the end of the day the hotel is what it is and your holiday is what you make it 🙂 I love checking out the YouTube videos of the place I want to visit.. it gives me a clearer idea of whether I will enjoy it or not.

  10. Ha, loved your interpretations! Many of the bad reviews remind me of a woman I knew who ordered a CHICKEN salad and then screamed at the server when he delivered it, saying, “I can’t eat this! I’m a vegetarian!” Obviously, the restaurant’s fault. 😉
    (This really happened!)

  11. My husband is so big on reviews. I just like to look at pictures and let him do the thinking. He also enjoys writing them as well. I have to show him this!

  12. My ex sister in law used to thrive on leaving nit picky bad reviews of places. Hell she even complained about a Disney resort for lack of towels or something trivial. Good post Linda 🙂

    1. I have “friends” who do the same – this couple are now retired so they go to several places a year – but they always have a bone to pick and demand refunds etc – I think it has become a habit.

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