What matters most to you, when you're looking for a hotel?
I've stayed in some interesting places. The room in Kuala Lumpur, as small as a cupboard. The hut in the rainforest where the bathroom smelled of germolene. The beautiful bungalow in Laos, with resident rat. The cabin in a national park in a remote corner of Nepal with instructions on the door about what to do if elephants came into the village.
So, where to begin looking for somewhere in Havana? There are a lot of high-end hotels, but I don't have an unlimited budget. There are a few hostels, but - given that I've not been there before - I decided to give hostels a miss until I know what to expect. For I do have a rough idea what I'm looking for:
- I need to be safe - I've ended up in brothels twice, and, while it has its funny side, I'd rather not spend too many nights with my rucksack against the door and walking pole on the table beside the bed.
- If the streets outside aren't safe, then I need a hotel with a restaurant.
- I need to be clean - the rat, I confess, was a low point. It's impossible to tell, in advance, if the shower is going to dribble so slowly that washing your hair takes an hour, or if there will be any warm water. But I do need the bathroom to be clean, and sheets washed between guests.
- I need a towel, but not necessarily a big fluffy towel - for if the laundry is done by women in the river it's impossible to keep anything fluffy. Nor do I need fancy shampoo, body lotion, shoe-cleaning equipment, shower cap. A bar of soap - that's all.
- It is impossible for hotels to get the mattress right for everyone. Some of us like to sleep on boards, while others would prefer to sink into feathers. But I'd like a mattress without lumps.
- Mosquito nets - in my experience, hotels always provide these for tourists if there's any risk of malaria. But often they are full of holes: I carry sellotape to deal with that.
- And I like walls thick enough to muffle conversations in the room next door. It's rare to find walls sufficiently sound-proofed to limit the noises of a little hanky-panky, so that never bothers me - unless it goes on for so long you want to bang on the wall and offer them a vibrator, it's quicker.