How to book hotels without Booking.com: a list of services and expert advice
Rosturizm and the Ministry of Digital were instructed to create a domestic analogue of Booking.com. But even now there are Russian services for searching and independent booking of hotels. Let us tell you about their pros and cons.
The departure of Booking.com from the Russian market has not caused such a stormy reaction in social networks and the professional community as McDonald’s or Visa says goodbye to MasterCard.
This is not because people do not care about travel these days. Tourism, especially domestic tourism, is and will be. And hotels are needed not only for leisure – business trips, scientific conferences, competitions, concerts… And it is certainly not because Booking did not play a special role in the Russian hotel industry. On the contrary: it accounted for up to 70% of the online booking market.
But still it is only a tool. Albeit a familiar and convenient one. And the hotels themselves have not gone anywhere. And book them the old-fashioned way, by phone or from a travel agency, you do not have (what are the options, read below).
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko instructed Rostourism together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work out the question of creating a domestic analogue of Booking.com. As noted Chernyshenko, there are already services in the country that are engaged in the provision of services for online booking of accommodation facilities. “First of all, it is necessary to pay attention to their experience,” believes the Deputy Prime Minister.
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Pros and cons of Russian hotel reservation services
What are the advantages of Russian platforms?
- The most important point in today’s realities – the ability to pay for accommodation with a Mir card or Visa and MasterCard cards of Russian banks. Booking.com, in fact, has not entirely stopped working in Russia. It is no longer possible to book hotels in our country through it. But Russians can find accommodation for trips abroad, to Turkey or Uzbekistan. There are still user profiles with all the discounts for the loyalty program Genius. But how to pay? “The world does not offer Booking.com as an option, and transactions by Visa and MasterCard issued by our banks are now only possible in Russia (where Booking does not allow booking hotels, it is a vicious circle). So we have to look for hotels which are ready to accept cash on the spot and do not ask for advance payment.
- Some hotel booking sites participate in the travel-back program, such as Ostrovok.ru, Bronevik.com, 101Hotels.com. Paying for accommodation through these services, you can get a partial refund – 20% of the cost, a maximum of 20 thousand rubles. The next phase of our cashback promotion has just begun. Find and pay for a hotel until May 1, and rest until July 1.
Children’s cashback: how to get back money for a trip to the camp
In 2022, children’s cashback program will start again in Russia, when buying a trip to a summer camp, you will be able to get a partial refund of the money spent. Instructions have been drawn up on how this will work
In what ways do these services lose out to Booking.com:
- Booking.com has a database of about 30 million accommodation options, the domestic sites so far have noticeably fewer.
- They do not (at least not yet) have a huge database of reviews from millions of travelers from all over the world, which Booking.com automatically translates into Russian. Reviews and evaluations on many parameters, from location convenience to room cleanliness, help a lot in your choice.
- Not everyone has a mobile app.
- few domestic services have their own loyalty program.
- You can find and book both hotels and private accommodations through Booking.com. Other services usually specialize in one or the other option. And to compare prices and comfort, choosing between a hotel or an apartment to rent, you need to spend more time.
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A Russian service through which you can book not only hotels but also flights, rail and bus tickets, tours, and car rentals, buy insurance and check in for flights. In general, plan your entire trip. OneTwoTrip has 2 million accommodation options in all countries around the world, searchable by price, number of stars, rating, location. There are mobile applications for iOS and Android. And also a loyalty program: the “tripcoins” are rewarded for reservations, and then they can pay part of the cost of tickets or accommodation.
In the Russian service you can plan your entire trip, from buying tickets to organizing tours. Photo: pexels.com
Denis Drozdovsky, head of the hotel service OneTwoTrip, told KP that there has been a noticeable increase in clients after the departure of Booking.com:
– We have recorded an increase in demand by more than two times. To a greater extent, of course, we are talking about trips to Russia. OneTwoTrip has been developing the hotel business for seven years, and in that time has amassed a huge base of hotels. All the accommodation facilities included in the Federal List of tourist attractions in Russia work with the service, many of them are connected to OneTwoTrip through direct contracts. We expect that the suspension of Booking.com activity in Russia will increase the number of our hotel bookings in both the travel and business travel segments.
The service, part of the international Emerging Travel Group, is one of the leaders on the domestic market for online hotel reservations. Ostrovok.ru won the “Runet Prize” in the category “Digital Tourism” in 2020, three years in a row it was named the best online travel agency in Russia by World Travel Awards.
In the database of “Ostrovka” – 1.7 million hotels, hostels and other accommodation options around the world, of which about 60 thousand in Russia. There is a mobile application. The loyalty program with the beautiful name “Dream Bank”, alas, was frozen during the pandemic.
Travel and travel service Tutu.ru, where you can book train, plane and bus tickets, buy a tour or excursion, has just opened hotel reservations in its apps on iOS and Android.
– Tutu Hotels was launched last year, until recently it was possible to book a hotel on the Tutu.ru website, now we have added this function to our applications, – commented to “KP” the head of Tutu Hotels Roman Medvedev.
Users who already have downloaded applications (and there are 10 million of them) are advised to update them to have a search and booking function for hotels
Since recently, you can also book a hotel in the app. Photo: pexels.com
In the base – 1.7 million accommodation facilities around the world, including in all regions of Russia. Payments are made in Russia, payment by any card works, emphasize Tutu.ru
A useful point for those who travel for business: if you specify that the reservation is made for a business trip, your personal cabinet will automatically receive documents for accounting in electronic form. If necessary, the originals will be sent. Payment can be made from your company account or by card.
Another story: this is a service for comparing prices in different booking systems. Hotellook was created by the same team as the popular flight search engine Aviasales, and works on the same principle. You enter dates, city, and get options for accommodation and prices from different services, and then you choose who you want to pay.
Hotellook is a service for comparing prices from different booking systems. Photo: unsplash.com
Hotellook compares prices from 67 different reservation systems. It searches over 358,000 hotels, 110,000 hostels, 602,000 lodgings, and nearly 4 million apartments. If you’re used to searching for airline tickets on Aviasales, check out Hotellook, and chances are, you’ll have a successful experience with hotels, too. A mobile app, of course, is also available.
Strictly speaking, this is no longer an alternative to Booking, but to Airbnb, which also suspended its work in Russia. The service helps to rent private accommodation for trips: apartments, cottages by the sea and in the country, apartments… On the website and in the app Tvil.ru is available more than 200 thousand options throughout Russia, as well as in Abkhazia and Georgia.
Also mostly accommodation in the private sector – apartments, rooms, cottages and guest houses. However, there are also hotels among the offers. In total, there are more than 100 thousand options in Russia and neighboring countries. There is a mobile application and a bonus program.
How to book a hotel on your own – profitable and safe
Accommodation in a hotel is an expensive part of any trip. Accommodation choice affects the level of comfort and the overall impression of the trip. It is important to know how to choose and book a hotel on your own, as the price-comfort ratio is a very subjective parameter.
In 12 years of family travel, we have tried different ways to find hotels on our own. In this article we decided to transfer our experience into a manual – where and how to book a hotel room profitably.
How to book a hotel
The most popular way to book a hotel at the moment is to use an online booking system.
Reservation systems are online services, which have in their database many hotels around the world. With their help you can compare offers of different hotels by price and level of service and book a suitable hotel. Being intermediaries between tourists and hotels, services serve as a kind of guarantors of the quality of services provided.
The most famous example is Booking.com. Once number one in its niche, but after the introduction of Western sanctions in the spring of 2022 it decided to leave the Russian market (booking hotels abroad is still available).
✅ Now Russian companies have taken its place (top 10 alternatives to Booking).
Why have reservation systems become so popular? Firstly, the high competition between hotels does not allow unreasonable price increases. And the system of reviews provides tourists with up-to-date information about the level of service of hotels. Also these systems are easy to use, which allows everyone to book a hotel by himself.
➡ Compared with other ways of searching for hotels reservation systems have distinct advantages due to the extensive and clear base.
- You can search for hotels via maps (Yandex, Google, 2Gis) and other non-core information, as well as advertising resources that provide hotel contacts. But this way you’re sure to miss out on a lot of good hotel alternatives.
- Searching for accommodation on the spot as before “the old-fashioned way” is justified only if you’re flying to stay for a long time. So do winterers – book a suitable hotel in advance via the Internet for the first time, then look for on-site accommodation at a discount on account of rent for several months at a time. If you come for a few days or weeks, it is not justified to spend money on searching for a hotel “with your feet”, it may cost more. Often hotels charge a higher price than in the reservation systems for those tourists who come and ask for a hotel room on the spot.
Where is the best place to book a hotel?
As foreign companies began to withdraw from the Russian market, domestic services began to gain popularity. The most advanced counterparts of Bukking , they are the most reliable system where you can book a hotel:
– search for hotels and hostels around the world
- Tvil.ru – Russian reservation system for hotels, apartments, resorts in Russia and neighboring countries.
These are the most popular, but not the only sites, working in Russia. Often a hotel may be represented in all major services, but the price for the same room may vary. In order to save money, it makes sense to check prices for the same hotel in different systems. Read more about how to do it in the next section
How to save money when booking a hotel
There are special metasearch engines that compare prices between different reservation systems. In their search you can cover and compare several different sites at once – the same Booking, Ostrovok, Tvil, major tour operators and others.
Among the hotel metasearch engines we would like to highlight hotellook.ru – the site of the developers of the popular in Russia metasearch engine Aviasales.ru.
Hotellook gives the greatest number of hotels and more often than others finds the cheapest accommodation options. As a result, using this site you can save up to 20% on hotel reservations.
Simple and easy search Hotellook is like any other booking engine. To find a hotel on your own, you need to specify the city, check-in and check-out dates, and the number of guests. Try searching for a hotel on your own right now using the form below.
Another actively gaining popularity hotel search engine is service Yandex.Travel .
There is a discount by promo code, for booking hotels you get 10% points back on Yandex Plus, and here you can also get 20% cashback on the Rostourism promo ❗.
In addition to the technical part of searching for the low price, there are also general principles of saving money when booking hotels :
- The earlier you start your hotel search, the better. Closer to the check-in date there will be fewer and fewer options with an optimum price/quality ratio.
- Hotel prices vary depending on the season, holiday dates and weekends. If you have the opportunity to change dates, try different options for the selected hotel.
- The location of the hotel is also directly related to the price. Closer to the sea, the city center and subway stations – the prices are higher. Before booking a room carefully study the map, the location of attractions of interest to you and the scheme of transport. This will help you find the best and most convenient hotel.
Step by step guide – how to book a hotel room
The principle of hotel booking on all sites is similar. In order to book a hotel online, you must have:
- A bank card. There must be money on the card! Hotel as a check may freeze part of the amount for a period of time. If there is no money on the card, booking may be denied. The best card for travel and everyday expenses, with free service and home delivery can be ordered here – we recommend it!
If you are used to a specific site – for example, Ostrovok.ru. Choose a hotel on it, but before booking check the selected hotel via hotellook.ru (copy the name and put the same dates). To avoid missing a possible discount on the hotel, which may be in other booking systems.
1. On the main page you indicate the city (hotel or place), arrival and departure dates, and the number of guests – press “Check Rates”.
2. Then we go to the hotel search page (for example, 4821 hotel properties in Barcelona).
To sift out unnecessary options and find the right one faster, use filters according to your needs. Parameters with which you can get relevant options for you: sorting, price per night, rating by reviews, type of accommodation, distance from the center, neighborhood, amenities in the room, hotel amenities, room options. If you are already familiar with the area, you can switch to map mode.
In the example we made sorting by discount, put price limits and removed hostels from the output.
4. To find out details about the hotel, you need to click on its name. On the page of each hotel you will find the description, as well as prices in different booking systems for each accommodation option. After clicking on “Book” you will be directed to the hotel reservation system website, where you can also find information about the hotel, accommodation conditions and directly book a hotel room.
There are not many reviews on the hotellook site, so go to the booking system that you trust to read them. The more hotels you browse and read reviews about them, the better. Pay attention to the minuses in the reviews.
5. Once you go to the reservation system site, confirm your choice by clicking on the “Book” button in the desired accommodation option.
6. On the final booking page you need to carefully fill out the form. These are names and surnames of the guests, e-mail address, phone number, card details. Be sure to carefully read all the conditions of the reservation and then confirm your desire to book the hotel.
7. You will then receive an email voucher confirming your booking. If you have a personal account in the reservation system, you will also see your booking there.
8. 8. We recommend that you print out the reservation voucher and show it at check-in. Alternatively, you can show the voucher with your cell phone.
What to look out for when booking the hotel
Rixos Beldibi Hotel, Turkey
It is very important to understand the booking conditions offered by the hotel, as well as the check-in. We have collected the main points you need to pay attention to when comparing hotels and accommodation options.
- Free cancellation. This option affects the price of the room – it is cheaper without it, but there are risks of losing the entire amount if the trip does not take place. Free room cancellation also has conditions: how many days before arrival it is valid, as well as how much is deducted if these conditions are not met. You should pay attention to this, otherwise the “free cancellation” will not turn out to be so free.
- Booking without prepayment. Payment at the time of booking or later at the hotel upon check-in – is also stipulated in the hotel’s terms and conditions. It is good when the hotel allows you to pay on site, but sometimes, if the ruble-to-dollar exchange rate is good, it may be advantageous to pay the entire amount at once.
- Meals at the hotel. The availability or lack of food also affects the cost of the room. Sometimes you can choose a room with or without meals. Evaluate the cost of food and read reviews to decide whether it is worth paying for it.
- Tourist Tax. In some countries there are taxes for tourists, which you have to pay at the hotel upon check-in. The amount of tax will be listed when you book the room.
- Deposit. Some hotels at check-in take a deposit in case you use the bar or break something (you get it back when checking out).
- Check-in counter working hours. Some hotels do not check into the room if you arrive late. Read about the check-in time and agree with your plans.
- Check-in and check-out times. Do not count on the fact that you will be checked in for free, if you arrive before that time, and allowed to stay beyond the scheduled check-out time. But sometimes you can make an agreement, it all depends on hotel policy and the availability of rooms.
- Type of room. There are often a lot of hostels on the search that offer either a bed in a shared room or, for example, a private room but with a shared bathroom and toilet.
Lifehack A great way to save money when booking a hotel in Sochi, Krasnaya Polyana, Crimea, as well as Moscow and St. Petersburg is to buy a tour without a flight from a tour operator. Read our guide
How to book private accommodation
Booking rooms, apartments (flats), cottages and other private housing – a separate niche with its own characteristics. There are special booking systems that develop in this direction.
Apartments in Rome, Italy
In what cases is an apartment better than a hotel room:
- If you are traveling as a family or a large company. Renting a spacious apartment can be much cheaper than staying in a hotel;
- if you would rather cook your own food, for economical reasons or for special dietary requirements;
- If you want to live in a house to see with his own eyes how the locals live, and just to get the atmosphere of the city;
- in popular tourist cities where hotels charge high prices, renting from a private person might be cheaper.
Where best to book an apartment
For private rentals we recommend the following proven services:
– extensive worldwide base (now, due to sanctions does not accept Russian cards); – domestic counterpart for travel in Russia. Pay attention if you go to our south.
We quite often rent private accommodation on a par with hotels. Usually, if we stay for a few days, we take a hotel, and if a week or more, then apartments.
What you should pay attention to when booking an apartment with a private agent
- Reviews. When booking an apartment keep in mind that you will not have a reception with an administrator who you can turn to in case of emergency and ask to move to another room. So you should carefully study reviews, and we recommend not to consider options without reviews at all.
- Accommodation option. On the sites, the search presents not only individual apartments and houses, but accommodation in rooms. We are traveling as a family, so I immediately limit the type of housing, so that the options were only individual apartments without roommates.
- Deposit. The deposit amount is not removed at the time of booking, but it may be required at check-in (will be returned on departure). Within this amount the owner may make a claim to you after you leave, if something is broken or damaged. We advise to take pictures or make a video of the apartment on the first day of moving in, and if you find any damage inform the owner and attach a photo. It may happen that the tenants broke something before you, and you might be responsible for the damage.
- Cancellation rules. It is best to choose options with flexible cancellation policy to get a refund if the trip does not happen.
How to save money when booking an apartment
Apartment in Sorrento, Italy
Airbnb.com has an invitation-only program. You can get a discount of 2,100 rubles for the first booking of 13,000 rubles and more when you sign up through our friendly link (temporarily unavailable). Later you can get bonuses by inviting your friends. Also you can register a new account specifically for your travel companions and relatives to get a discount on the first booking.
Apartment in Sorrento, Italy
Another feature of the service – some owners are willing to make a discount that depends on the number of days booked (from a week or more). Booking for a month, you can save up to 50%.
But that’s not all. There are discounts for booking on the day of arrival. It is better not to procrastinate until the last moment, but if you suddenly find yourself in this situation, you can even save money.
Going on a trip abroad, do not forget to buy health insurance. See the special article on how to choose the right insurance, without overpaying for it.