Mena House, Cairo, Egypt
Slow Travel,  Travel

5 Ways To Find An Authentic Hotel

How can you find an authentic hotel that lets you experience local history or immerses you in the landscape? Here are my tips.

Your hotel can be one of the highlights of your trip. An authentic hotel can charm you and connect you with the local community. And it can make the past come alive. It can make you feel at home even in the most unfamiliar city. Or it can be an experience in itself.

Here are my tips to find an authentic hotel:

1. Try a boutique hotel.

A boutique hotel can often offer a more unique experience than a chain skyscraper. Fewer guests mean the staff have more time for personalized service. And boutique hotels are often more unique since they don’t have to follow corporate standards. This original personality will make you feel like a local.

Boutique hotels don’t go beyond 100 rooms. And this means fewer noisy neighbours and less crowds filing past your door.

Here are some websites to help you find that one-of-a-kind boutique hotel:

5 Ways To Find An Authentic Hotel
Arcosanti is an experimental micro-city in central Arizona where you can book overnight stays.

Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) has some 500 independent hotels in more than 80 countries that promise distinctive experiences. The hotels are small and offer intimate charm. You can search by destination or by experiences like properties in UNESCO sites.

The Boutique Hotel Awards is an international awards organization dedicated to recognizing excellent luxury boutique hotels. Their website is great for browsing winners in categories like eco-friendly retreats.

All the hotels promise to transport guests into another world through the history or culture of the location.

Great Small Hotels offers a collection of 3,637 hand-picked small luxury hotels from around the world. Each promises to enrich your travel experience with something different. They offer a slice of local history or a unique sense of place. Founded by two Barcelona architects, the website launched when finding unique hotels wasn’t easy. However now with information overload, they say careful selection is essential.

2. Use Google Maps to pick your neighborhood.

Before your trip, get on Google Maps and map out all of your must-see sites at your destination. Then pick a hotel roughly in the middle of those attractions. This will let you explore more of the city on foot. You can wander the neighborhood and blend into its everyday life.

5 Ways To Find An Authentic Hotel
Villa Belle Epoque is a boutique hotel in a leafy Cairo suburb.

3. Listen to the expats.

Expats can give you valuable insight into their adopted cities and the most original hotels.

You can often find expat communities in Facebook groups. Make some friends and they’ll be happy to recommend an incredible hotel.

4. Use Pinterest to find blog posts.

Pinterest is a gold mine to discover local blogs with reviews of hotels off the beaten path.

5. Read the local media.

Read online magazines that give an insight into the city’s life. And they’ll help you pick the best up-and-coming hotel or hip ecolodge.

Zowara ecolodge, Fayoum, Egypt
A weekend at the Zowara ecolodge in Egypt is a chance to reconnect with nature.

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5 Ways To Find An Authentic Hotel


  • nottaholiday

    Good advice. I am formulating a list of questions I need answered when booking accommodation. Learned from on the road experience lol
    Love the look of the Ecolodge !

  • simpsonsisters

    Dee I’m so glad I clicked through to this post. We were looking at holiday spots just last night and I dismissed several recommendations for being just ‘too corporate’! So I’m grateful for your pointers, thanks. Xx

    • Dee

      I’m so happy to hear it’s been helpful! Wishing you a wonderful holiday, Vanessa, and I hope you find something great.

  • thewonderer86

    Some good tips here Dee. I like the Google Maps one. I read up on a place and pick the area I want to stay in first – I look for cafes, markets, etc and never worry about where ‘the sights’ are. Although, price comes into it, aren’t those boutique hotels expensive?

    • Dee

      That’s a great approach, Tracey! Boutique hotels are often more luxurious, but not necessarily always more expansive than the big chains.

      • thewonderer86

        It’s funny how you get stuck in a particular mind-set. I always thought they were very expensive. Guess I will check some out for our next trip! Thanks for helping me see differently.

  • twobrownfeet

    Spot on! We love boutique hotels. We generally choose hotels depending upon their location (unless transport is easy or offered by the hotel). We try to mix the cost, few nights fancy and few nights budget friendly. 🙂

  • The Book Family Rogerson

    I check out travel reviews in newspapers that I trust then cross-check all the online reviews. Staying in great accommodation is my no.1 priority when we’re away and I tend to prefer boutique & indie for character.

    • Dee

      Those are great tips, and an indie hotel makes all the difference especially when you’re travelling with family! 🙂

  • shannon

    This post is SO helpful!! I can’t agree enough with boutique hotels. We’ve scored some major deals on them on hotwire & every single time, we’ve been blown away & they have totally made the trip that much more special! They all have so much charm reminiscent of where you are visiting! That last photo is stunning too – I bet in person it was just captivating. Have a wonderful weekend! x Shannon 

    • Dee

      I’m so glad you’ve found it useful, Shannon! I love a good boutique hotel, and there are so many great deals you can find as well if you do the research 🙂

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