Monday, July 02, 2007

Booking Indian hotels online

The last time I ever visited India was in 2005 for a conference in Delhi. My wife was there with me and we wanted to mix pleasure with work, so we planned our itinerary in such a way that we would be able to do some sightseeing - including a visit to the famous Taj Mahal. A visit to North India won't be complete without a visit to this romantic tourist destination.

The problem we faced was trying to find an affordable accommodation. You should be aware that Indian hotels often have separate charges for Indians (paying in rupees) and foreigners (paying in US $). The difference can be several times higher.

We were interested in the Bed and Breakfast type hotels so that we had more money to spend on shopping. Searching on the net for a suitable hotel near the conference venue proved to be a formidable task and we finally gave in an choose the 5 star (and costlier) hotel suggested by the organisers. It was not that near either and was somewhere in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of Delhi. Later learnt that there were several much cheaper yet comparable (if not better) hotels in the area. However, most of them don't have a website and you can't deal with them directly.

Anyway, if you want to book Indian hotels, Inasra.com is an excellent site. This online hotel booking site had 35000 listed Hotel Rooms all over India (when I last checked). The company is based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu and was set up in August 2005.

The home page is very neat uncluttered unlike other hotel directories I have visited. It seems like every body is going for the Google look now. Not that I am complaining. However, don't let the simple looking interface fool you as this site is clearly high tech as I found out.

Searching for a hotel starts by choosing an Indian city and the the duration you are planning to say there (from and to). They will then give you a list of hotels which you can then filter by ticking a number of choices such as, whether they have a doctor on call, the star of the hotel, food preference and so on. Unlike other Indian hotel directories I have visited, they do list hotels not affiliated with them. However, we have to make the bookings ourselves. That's great.

I have a good knowledge of India and noticed that a few cities I have been to were missing. Maybe I guess these places are a bit of the beaten track. This site is clearly targeted at foreigners as all the prices are listed in US $. They might be cheaper for Indians. A currency exchange calculator would have been a welcome addition so that people in countries other than the US could find out the rates in their own currency. It would be nice to have a link from the hotel names to the details page.

Other than these minor details, this is a really useful and informative site and I would definitely visit it again when I pay a visit to India again.

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