How to Choose

How To Choose a Guest House

For many travelers seeking accommodation, Vancouver guest houses are an appealing option. Some of the motivating factors include the opportunity to meet other travelers, to have direct access to the knowledge of the host, to be in an intimate environment and to experience the uniqueness of the establishment. It is fair to say that no two guest houses are the same. Yet it is precisely the lack of standardization that can make choosing a guest house  somewhat overwhelming. Here are some guidelines that can help you.

Choose an Accredited Accommodation

Guest houses are the ultimate cottage industry. Especially since the advent of the internet, anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a guest house. Find out if the establishment you are considering has any accreditation. Do they belong to a local  association? Are they certified by a government agency? Does the local tourist bureau know about them? If you get a positive answer you can know with some certainty that at the very least, basic standards are being adhered to.

Travel publications are a somewhat useful guide, especially those that offer critical evaluations, such as Frommer’s and Fodor’s. However, many excellent establishments are often not mentioned in these publications simply because their writers don’t know about them.

The best thing to do is to invest in a phone call and have a chat with the innkeeper.

Choose a Professionally Run Accommodation

Just because a guest house is accredited, there is no guarantee that it is well run. When you call during regular business hours, do you get a helpful and courteous person on the other end or do you get voice mail? If you do leave a message, is your call returned promptly? If you email the establishment do they answer quickly? Personal service and attention are what make guest houses special. If these traits are perceived to be lacking in your initial encounters, you have to ask yourself how you’ll be treated if you were to be a guest in that establishment.

Choose a Guest House That Suits Your Needs

It’s important to be very clear at the outset what your needs are, so that you can ensure in advance that you won’t be disappointed. The more you can narrow the gap between expectation and reality, the better you are going  to have a positive experience. Here are some major considerations, not in any particular order of significance:

1) Location

Where do you want to be? Do you require a location in or near downtown? Do you want to be some place quiet and secluded? In addition to checking with the innkeeper, or the inn’s website or brochure, it’s also a good idea to refer to Google Maps or similar sites. Once you’ve established the location, it’s then easier to determine if you’ll need a car, or if you can get by with public transportation. If you do need a car, you’ll want to make sure that adequate convenient parking is available. Most Inns offer free parking.

2) Special needs

Do you have allergies to feathers or animal hair? Do you have difficulties with stairs? Do you need a particular kind of bed or bed arrangement? Are you a smoker or a non-smoker? Do you require a refrigerator for special food or medication? Do you require internet access in your room? Will you be arriving/leaving very late or very early? These are all matters which should be discussed with your host prior to your arrival.

3) Environment

How important is décor to you? Will you be bothered by a more feminine style of décor with frills, pillows and stuffed animals, or do you insist on simplicity?

4) Children

Many guest houses are adult oriented, but if you have a preference to not being around children it’s best to ask what the policy is at the particular inn you are considering. By the same token, if you are travelling with children, you must tell the innkeeper in advance, or risk being turned away when you arrive.

5) Price

Everyone loves a bargain, but if a guest house is priced very low you’ll want to be circumspect. Perhaps the room is small, or the bathroom is shared with several rooms, or it’s not well located or well maintained. By the same token, a high priced Guest House should offer amenities worthy of the price. Also with regard to money, make sure that you will be able to pay for your accommodations in a manner that is convenient to you. For example, some Inns ask for a credit card to secure the reservation, but then ask for cash or traveler’s cheque to settle the account. It’s always best to know in advance.


Although there is a lot to be said for spontaneity, it is always best to make a reservation. Some people think that a guest house may not be as busy as a hotel and they can just turn up and get a room. Often this is not the case, especially during the height of a busy tourist season or a major event such as a convention.

To conclude: know what you want, ask the right questions, and enjoy a wonderful stay at the guest house of your choice! That is what guest houses are all about.