Guidebooks, apps and online resources are great for learning about a destination, but don’t forget that your hotel, hostel, vacation rental host or other accommodation provider can be a great source of local intel. John Walton explains. 

A woman in a red bathing suit swims in an infinity pool in front of a city skyline.
Asking your hotel a few simple questions could make your trip go so much smoother © SoXWhite / Shutterstock

Sending a few queries in advance to your accommodation can help you pick up a bit of local knowledge that will help you start exploring as soon as you arrive. Sending them via email also allows them to pop your question into an online translator or, if you think staff the hotel might not speak your language, you could always pop them into a translator first.

What’s the best way to get from the airport (or station) to the hotel at the time I arrive?

Which station/stop should I use, and is there any exit that is closest to the hotel?

How much would public transport cost compared with a taxi or ride-hailing app?

Is there anything I should be aware of like early closing or particularly bad traffic on the day I arrive?

People sit on benches inside a New York subway station.
Knowing the nearest bus or train stop can help you get to your hotel easier © Guillaume Gaudet / Lonely Planet

It can be complicated to figure this kind of stuff out, especially if you’re new to a city. The hotel is there to help, and has all kinds of local information like whether there’s a massive football match, getaway weekend or a religious holiday that might make travel more difficult. 

How easy is the public transport to use, what are the details of any multi-trip passes, and what ride-hailing apps (like Lyft or Uber) are available?

The hotel is a great place to start figuring out local transit, and can often be a source of great local intel about which apps locals use. Uber may be your go-to at home, but it won’t help you out in many places around the world. If you need to download a new app, it’s best to do so in advance instead of when waiting outside the airport. 

Is there a local gym/swimming pool/park/running route that you recommend?

Swanky hotels may have their own gyms, but if you’re staying somewhere on the budget-side and still want to get in a workout, asking a local might be a big help. 

A woman wearing a bright red hat uses her phone on a black beach in Iceland.
Getting a local SIM card can help you stay connected © Vitalii Matokha / Shutterstock

Is there a store nearby where I can pick up a local SIM (nano/micro) SIM card for my phone/tablet? Do they definitely sell SIMs to foreign nationals?

Staying connected while travelling is important, if only to figure out where you’re going or to find all the spots you’ve bookmarked. In some countries, though, roaming is expensive and it’s weirdly hard to find a SIM card. The Prepaid Data SIM Card Wiki is a must­-bookmark, but sometimes local knowledge is helpful too.

Would you please allocate me a particularly quiet room facing the sunrise, away from elevators and any families or group event rooms?

Nobody likes to be disturbed when they’re sleeping, so it’s great to at least try to be as far away as possible from noise sources. A sunrise room also means you’ll be woken up by the sunshine – and also means your room won’t heat up in the afternoon sun.

Two birds statues stand among plants in a botanical gardens.
Ask your hotel for tips on the best botanical gardens, like Vancouver's VanDusen Botanical Garden.© Bill Perry / Shutterstock

Where would you recommend for someone who enjoys botanical gardens/arthouse movies/aviation museums/(insert your personal fave here)?

What’s your favourite thing to do wherever you go? Ask about it in advance! And my top tip as a regular traveller: keep a note with a basic list of questions that I’ve asked before, so I don’t have to rack my brains when I’m prepping for my next trip.

John Walton is an international aviation journalist, follow him @thatjohn 

This article was originally published on 15 July 2018 and was updated on 22 November 2019.

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This article was first published Jul 15, 2018 and updated Nov 22, 2019.

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