Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: Roomorama, Kuala Lumpur

One aspect of travel that I love is trying to get the local feel as much as possible whenever I'm abroad. Getting that feeling isn't always possible, especially when I'm traveling in a new place for a short period of time, but staying in a local apartment is one quick way to get a local perspective.

Roomorama is a website that helps travelers connect with local apartments. Founded by two young executives with the belief that travel is more than checking off a list of tourist attractions, I was intrigued by Roomorama's philosophy of "living like a local" and decided to try them out during my recent trip to Kuala Lumpur.

The Site and Booking: Roomorama has an incredibly user-friendly site with a nice design that highlights their international properties. I found it extremely easy to navigate and search for accommodation. Property descriptions can be sparse or fully-detailed, depending on the individual host, though a clear overview of amenities is listed for quick reference. Each listing also includes a map so that you can get a sense of what part of town you could be staying in, as well as nearby sights and public transportation hubs.

Making a reservation can be slightly time-consuming as there is no availability calendar for specific properties. Users need to contact individual hosts to inquire about dates, wait for the response, and if the dates are not available, it's back to the drawing board. After a week of searching, emailing a number of properties, waiting, exchanging information, and finally confirming, I had a luxury studio located in Kuala Lumpur's City Center booked for my stay.

The Stay: Upon arrival, I discovered that the studio was in fact a serviced apartment housed within a large hotel. It wasn't exactly the local feel I had hoped for, though I suppose it offered a taste of modern living in Kuala Lumpur. Check-in procedures were hurried and slightly impersonal, understandable given that my flight was delayed and someone other than my "host" had to wait to hand over the keys.

The room itself was spacious and relatively clean, though the kitchen counters could have used a wipe-down and the shower curtain should have been replaced. My biggest complaint is that it lacked small touches to make the place feel like a home. It was like staying in a mediocre business hotel, but without the basic amenities such as toiletries, coffee, tea, or even a tea kettle. The hotel staff was also less than helpful as soon as they find out you are a "resident" and not a hotel guest, though I'm not sure why that would be the case.

The listing mentioned that wireless internet was available in public areas, but it failed to state that it was only available in the ground floor lobby sixteen floors below and that you had to pay for it. The rate wasn't high, but it was a huge inconvenience to not have wireless access readily available in the room, something extremely important for a travel writer and social media enthusiast.

Although the property itself was rather disappointing, the location was ideal. I was within a 10-minute walking distance of Kuala Lumpur's LRT (Light Rail Transit) and just around the corner from a very local street market, complete with delicious local cuisine. This is what I was looking for!

The Impression:  I like the concept behind Roomorama and from the looks of the other properties listed, there are some true gems available through the site. Unfortunately, the property in Kuala Lumpur I stayed in wasn't one of them.

I would be willing to give Roomorama another try in the future, but this particular property fell short of expectations. It certainly wasn't a positive experience, but it also wasn't completely negative. Unfortunately, Roomorama only has the two options when reviewing properties so I wonder if some of the reviews may be skewed due to this black or white rating system.

I would advise users to read property listings and guest reviews carefully, as well as view all available photos, when searching for properties. This will better ensure that your Roomorama experience lives up to the expectations of what you require and the "atmosphere" you want.

To view Roomoorama's property listings and to inquire about booking a local apartment for your next trip, please refer to their website.

*Disclaimer: My stay in Kuala Lumpur was sponsored by Roomorama, but all opinions are an accurate and honest view on my experience there.

© Connie Hum 2012

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