If you’re looking for affordable accommodation, many people turn to the travel juggernaut that is Booking.com. But with questions around fake listings, cheap rates, and customer service quality, is Booking.com legit?
Let’s dive in and find out more in my honest opinion of booking.com.
Is Booking.com legit?
In short, yes, the website is a legit online travel agent that connects consumers with hotels and holiday providers.
While there are some trust issues when it comes to fake listings and reviews, as well as pricing questions, Booking.com itself remains a legitimate business that is part of a business that’s listed on the US stock market.
A lot of the hassle around Booking.com comes from misunderstanding the role it plays in the travel landscape and what it’s setting out to do.
Role of an online travel agent (OTA)
The actual role of an online travel agent or OTA, like Booking.com, is to be a booking facilitator. This means that Booking.com is a storefront or one-stop-shop for travelers looking for accommodation, and helping them to make the right decision about their accommodation.
What Booking.com is not is a holiday operator or provider. It also doesn’t really manage your bookings either. That lies with the hotel or resort that you end up booking with.
It’s important to know the role that Booking.com plays and what it does and does not offer to its customers so that you don’t feel scammed or frustrated later down the line.
Unlike many in-person travel agents, Booking.com isn’t as obliged to help solve customer issues as it’s clearly stated in the T&Cs that the responsibility lands with the hotel or resort, not with them, once a booking is complete.
However, not many of us read the T&Cs anymore, so we can feel let down by Booking.com if we need assistance without booking, only to be passed around from pillar to post.
Is it safe to book on Booking.com?
First things first, is it safe to book on Booking.com? While there have been complaints of scams and extra fees, on the whole, many people have a good experience booking through Booking.com.
It’s important to remember that Booking.com is essentially a storefront for many hotels, hostels, and vacation rentals. With this in mind, you’re not actually booking with Booking.com, you’re booking with these individual vendors. Booking.com is just facilitating the booking.
Does Booking.com have ATOL protection?
Interestingly enough Travel Weekly revealed that Booking.com does not sell under its own ATOL protection. Instead, it’s up to the individual vendors to offer travel protection to consumers.
Basically, only flight-only bookings that are made through Booking.com are covered by Booking.com’s own ATOL protection.
What this means in layman’s terms is that if something goes wrong with your holiday or hotel booking and the individual hotel or provider doesn’t have ATOL or ABTA protection, you might not get your money back at all.
Booking without ATOL has significant risks, especially if you don’t have travel insurance as well. If you’re in doubt, google the ATOL status of the company and make sure you book with a credit card for extra protection.
Is Booking.com responsible for post-booking?
Overall, Booking.com is not responsible for your hotel or holiday booking once you’ve booked. They’re a middleman that facilitates the booking between the consumer and the accommodation provider.
This means that if you have any issues, you need to contact the hotel or accommodation provider directly. Many people try and contact Booking.com and get frustrated when they can’t resolve anything for them.
You need to be aware of who you’re actually booking with so you know who to contact if anything goes wrong.
Does Booking.com have free cancellation?
So, the free cancellation policy for Booking.com depends completely on the property you’re booking. This is clearly laid out in Booking.com’s frequently asked question section, and the cancellation dates have nothing to do with the site itself.
The free cancellation bookings often cost more than the non-flexible bookings, so be careful which option you select when you book your trip. It’ll also detail when you can cancel up to in this section.
For some places, it’s a week before you’re due to arrive, for others, it’s 48 hours, and sometimes it’s as much as a month before. Make sure you note down this date in your calendar!
Are there fake listings on Booking.com?
Like with many online travel agencies, Booking.com does have a fair number of fake listings. Although Booking.com is trying to crack down on these fake scam listings, they are cropping up more and more often.
Much like on Airbnb, VRBO, and other sites where people can upload their own holiday rentals and accommodation listings, there have been scam listings that involve people stealing photos and names from legitimate businesses and rental properties, and then pocketing the cash.
How can you spot fake listings on Booking.com?
This is obviously very distressing for anyone trying to find a reliable holiday on Booking.com, but there are a few ways to spot a fake listing.
First off, you can use Google Image Search or Google Lens to reverse search the photos on the listing. If they come up with the right hotel, with the right name, and the prices are roughly the same, then that’s a good indicator that it’s a legit listing.
Of course, if the photo comes up for multiple places, it’s best to steer clear.
You can also check locations against photos or see how long the listing has been on Booking.com. If it’s a new listing but the photo is old or the name of the hotel has been around for years, that might raise alarm bells.
If you’re unsure, email the property with the link and see what comes back. If the email seems suspect in its content or format, or it’s not the tone or vibe you’re expecting, avoid booking the property and report it to Booking.com for them to review.
Are there fake reviews on Booking.com?
As with the fake listings, there are also fake reviews on Booking.com. This is not a unique problem to Booking.com and it happens across all the various hotel and travel reviewing sites, including Trip Advisor, Airbnb, Hotels.com, and even Amazon.
Booking.com is taking plenty of steps to try and identify and remove the reviews, but they are popping up faster than the company can get rid of them.
If you want to spot fake reviews, look at the dates of the reviews, where those users have reviewed before, and the content similarity of different reviews.
Companies actually pay individuals to write reviews for their products and services without using them to boost review ranking and search engine superiority.
However, there are plug-ins and Chrome extensions that have appeared to help identify and filter out like FakeSpot. You can always run this extension on the Booking.com listing to see if the reviews are legit.
Why is Booking.com so cheap?
One of the reasons that so many people choose Booking.com is that they seem to be the cheapest operator around. When you log into a Booking.com account, you can also unlock extra deals which makes those prices even more tempting.
However, when the prices are this affordable, it does start to raise questions. Nine times out of ten, if a deal is too good to be true, then it probably is.
So, why is Booking.com so cheap? There are three main reasons why they’re able to offer these cheaper rates.
In some cases, the price paid on Booking.com does not include certain taxes or fees. This isn’t always clear when you’re booking and often the amount taken off your card is higher than you expected.
This doesn’t happen too often, but the lack of clarity in rates makes it seem like Booking.com is cheaper when it actually isn’t. These extra fees and taxes have caused a lot of distrust over the past few years, and many people no longer believe that Booking.com is cheaper than alternate sites.
Booking.com is the flagship brand of the Booking Holdings empire. That’s home to Agoda, Kayak, and more huge online travel sites. This helps keep the prices low overall because they can make bulk deals with hotels and big-brand resorts, which often undercuts the prices found on smaller websites.
The final reason why Booking.com seems to be so cheap is down to their commission system. As an online travel agency (OTA), they’ll take around 20% commission from hotels or resorts that are listed on their site.
From this, Booking.com will only actually take 15% of that commission and pass on a 5% saving to the consumer.
This means that they can often offer cheaper rooms than booking directly with the hotel because they’re lessening their own profits in the process.
However, it’s a numbers game. If you offer cheaper rates, you’ll get more bookings, so overall Booking.com still makes plenty of money despite this commission cut.
Is Booking.com’s customer service good?
One of the most common complaints that are made about Booking.com comes down to the company’s customer service levels. As a booking facilitating service rather than being the actual hotel or resort itself, there is very little that Booking.com’s customer service can really do.
This is something that many consumers don’t realize when they make the booking, so if something goes wrong, they feel like they’re being palmed off by Booking.com, rather than going to the hotel directly.
The lack of understanding of Booking.com’s place in the travel industry and the role of an OTA is a huge cause of negative reviews all across the internet. While there are a wide range of self-service questions and answers on the website if it’s about getting your money back or changing a booking, you’re likely going to have to contact the hotel or accommodation directly.
Realistically, as soon as you complete your booking online, Booking.com has no further responsibility to you as a consumer. They say on their website that the payment goes directly to the hotel or accommodation at the time of booking, and while this has been debated in the past, this means that Booking.com can’t do anything to help you past this point.
It’s important to check out the hotel or accommodation before you book to see if they’re legit and whether you can contact them easily or not, as that’s who you’re going to be dealing with if you have any issues after you book.
Overall, the response time for Booking.com depends on the query. While there are plenty of answers on the self-service portal, for some questions, you’ll need to contact customer services.
There have been varying reviews of the customer service response time, but it all seems to come down to query complexity. The easier the query is, the quicker it gets solved.
Of course, during peak booking seasons, the customer service response times tend to get longer and longer, so be prepared for this!
My Final Thoughts on Booking.com
So all in all, Booking.com is definitely a legit website and online travel agency. However, many people misunderstand the amount of responsibility Booking.com has over its bookings which causes confusion and frustration when something goes wrong.
With this in mind, it’s important to remember:
- Booking.com is a facilitator, not a holiday operator or provider
- Check your listings against other travel websites to see if they’re legit listings
- Check the reviews against a fake review extension or website
- Budget for any extra taxes or fees that might not be included in the face value price
- Check out the hotel or resort ahead of booking to see if you can get in touch with them easily if something goes wrong.
Have you ever booked through Booking.com? What did you think of the process and the service? Let us know in the comments below!