When booking hotel rooms in Portugal, using booking sites, such as agoda, booking and hotels.com, I have come across something that I think is a bit of a problem at times in Portugal and maybe also in other countries and I thought I would share it with you.

My so called guest house in Lisbon.

My so called guest house in Lisbon.

I travel 365 days a year and stay in well over 50 different hotels a year. I travel and work quite a bit in Portugal, so I book many different hotels there. I often use booking sites as you can get some good discounts there from time to time, but there is a growing trend in Portugal that the place you book is not a hotel, but a room for rent in a private house, even if the property has a hotel like name.


So why do I think this is a problem?

My problem with this, is that I am often taken to a private house, where the owner is not living and there is no supervision of the place, except for when the owner comes by with a key for a guest. This would be fair enough if I was renting the whole property myself, but I am not happy to stay in an unsupervised house with random people.

It’s not that I am some pussy. I have cycled through places like Syria, Brazil, Mexico, Albania and many other places. But I have worked for several years as a hotel receptionist in 7 different countries and I have witnessed when and how things go missing in a hotel/hostel. That happens when the place is left unsupervised, because that opens the door to the very few people who stay at hotels and hostels in order to help themselves to other peoples stuff.

One so called guest house that I stayed in, while I was in Lisbon last week, was an apartment in a fairly crappy part of the city and the room to my door had a very old fashioned lock that a professional thief can open in less than 5 seconds. The friendly owner only showed up to give me the key for the room and told me to throw it in the mailbox when I was leaving the next day. This was also the type of key that can be copied in a key shop in less than 5 minutes.

Portugal is wonderful, but they need to change a few things in their accommodation sector.

Portugal is wonderful, but they need to change a few things in their accommodation sector.

Sometimes they also have facilities that are 2 kilometers away.

3 days ago, I stayed in a small coastal town on the west coast of Portugal, where the room I rented advertised having bar, restaurant, free wifi everywhere and several other things. When I got there it had none of this. It was all located  kilometers away at a hotel where I had to pick up the key and drop it off. The villa where my room was did not even belong to the hotel, but to a private person who just rented it out through the hotel. My room was actually super nice and it’s a shame that false advertising makes me think bad about this place, as this was in many ways luxury accommodation. But I was a little sour because they are selling it as something it isn’t.


Most of these places would be fine on Airbnb.

Nice Airbnb street, but not a guest house street, when they do not have a sign outside

Nice Airbnb street, but not a guest house street, when they do not have a sign outside.

Many of the places I have stayed would actually be perfect for Airbnb and I guess they advertise them there too, but they just want a double or triple shot when they advertise, so they create a fake name so that it looks like a hotel and then sell it on hotel booking sites too. Some might say that I am a little uptight here, but as I mentioned before, I see a security problem here and would not be happy to leave my laptop behind in any of these place. I would be happy to do that in 95% of all the hotels I stay in on 6 continents. And I like when a place has hotel services like a little cafe, a receptionist who can help you if you need it and so. This is like trying to sell steaks in a vegan restaurant. I’m not much of an Airbnb user for the same reason and if I am, then I want to rent the entire property that I stay at and not just a room in a shared house. Remember that many booking sites allow you to book without using credit cards, so it’s quite easy for any criminal to book in to these places, pay cash for one night and then help themselves to peoples stuff and vanish before everyone wakes up the next morning. I would personally feel much safer using couchsurfing than staying in one of these places.


How do you make sure that you are actually staying in a place with a permit?


If you are booking in Portugal and the place you book on a booking site is called either Hotel or Residencial, then you are generally fine, as you need to have a license to run a hotel or residencial. The people who rent out a room in a random house usually use words as “guest house” “vila” “lodge” “inn” or some other creative name. All these terms are not common in Portugal, so they can use them online without having the tax man being too suspicious about whether the place is registered and pays tax. Whether they pay tax is not really your worry, but it carries the risk that the place get’s raided while you stay there and that you are evicted from the place. I have seen that happen before and they usually raid these illegal guest houses in the middle of the night.

What you can also do is check if there is a website for the place. These days, even the cheapest and crappiest little hotel has it’s own website, but many of these places do not want a website, cause the authorities might come and check if they have a license if they are too easy to find. The people who run these places tend to have only a phone number you must ring and then they bring you the key. I also find it bloody annoying to arrive to my so called guest house and the place does not have a sign because the owner does not want the authorities to see that he is running an illegal guest house.

Nice little hotel with a sign outside, a reception and a bar.

Nice little hotel with a sign outside, a reception and a bar.

So this was my little rant everyone. I hope I do not sound too much like a sour old bastard, but I think that in this wonderful new technological world, we are having a loophole for scammers and people who like to loot hotel rooms.

And remember that fear should never stop you from traveling. There is no reason to sit as an 90 year old, wishing that you had seen the world while you were younger. All you need is to sometimes navigate around the pitfalls that will always be, no matter where in the world you are.

Happy globetrotting 🙂


Cheers to the world.

Cheers to the world.

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