Over the years we have made our hotel bookings through an on-line company,   Generally they are excellent and have great offers but, unfortunately, governments are getting more and more particular about issuing of visas without ALL information about your travel plans. How refugees and other persons without valid travel documents get in and stay in countries all over the world is an unknown to me. Yes, we hear that they get there on boats and hidden in trucks etc but it seems so unfair when people like ourselves got through all the required procedures and pay the fees!

Back to hotel bookings. When using one can usually make a booking at a special price and may cancel even on the due day of arrival. For our 2014 trip to Eastern Europe I made all of our hotel bookings on this site but hit a serious problem when it came to applying for our Schengen Visa. A Schengen Visa is issued by the EU  country where one spends the most nights. I made bookings as follows requiring us to get the visa through Germany:

1 night in each of Zagreb, Budapest, Prague & Dresden, 2 nights in Frankfurt and 3 nights in Berlin

We had planned to cancel the night in Zagreb and the 3rd one in Berlin once we had received our visas but got tripped up when asking for the letters of confirmation of reservation. The idea was to add a night to each of Budapest and Prague. The hotel in Zagreb would only do so if the full amount was paid in advance and Berlin wanted payment for 1 night in advance. The Zagreb booking was paid for and then it was planned to cancel the Dresden one after the visa was issued. It is not who had made any errors or given misleading information, but it is the stringent requirements for a visa application. The required letter cannot be an e-mail but must be faxed on the hotel letterhead and so hotels are now asking for upfront payment if they produce a letter stating that you will be there on certain dates.

When the visa was received, cancellation in Berlin was requested first and was denied by the hotel even though we were told that we could cancel up until 6pm on the expected day of arrival. With this response we decided to leave the bookings as they were not realising that we would have only a few hours in each of Budapest and Prague. In the end, we were extremely glad to have 3 nights in Berlin.

In addition, when selecting the location of your hotel eg. close to the main station, use Google Earth. I did not do this in 2014 but did in 2015/16 and it made a huge difference getting to our hotels.

Given this story of our experience, you are urged to be very clear when making bookings as to what can and cannot be done even though the site has said cancellation on the day is OK. Also, find out the visa requirements before making bookings as it can result in unplanned costs.

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