Last Updated: February 22, 2024
Are you interested in booking a hotel, flight, or rental car through Booking.com but have concerns about its legitimacy, reliability, and safety?
If so, then please keep reading.
After reading this article, you will know EXACTLY if it is a legitimate, safe, and reliable platform or a scam and what you should be aware of before booking.
Let’s dive right in.
Is Booking.com Legit?
Booking.com is definitely legit as it is owned by Booking Holdings, the world’s leader in online travel. However, booking through Booking.com carries a higher risk of issues than booking directly as it acts as a middleman between the traveler and the host.
Although issues can occur even if you’ve booked directly, the chances are much lower compared to booking through Booking.com.
Why are the risks associated with Booking.com high?
Well, it is due to the involvement of a third party (Booking.com).
Let me explain!
In case you don’t know, Booking.com acts as an intermediary between the traveler and the hotel, airline, and car rental companies.
As an intermediary, Booking.com collects the payment and is responsible for your booking.
Since your contract is not directly with the hotel, car rental, or airline company you booked with, they are not responsible for your booking and don’t expect any direct help from them.
In case of any issues between you and the host, you will have to involve Booking.com, and then they will reach out to its partner hosts on your behalf to resolve the matter.
However, the customer service can be lacking on Booking.com.
It is not just Booking.com where customer service can be lacking; online travel agencies (OTAs) in general skimp on customer service to keep their costs down and offer you cheap bookings.
The lack of customer support is part of how Booking.com and other OTAs are able to offer cheap bookings than booking directly.
If you’re booked through Booking.com then there is a good chance you are going to be stuck in a lot of back and forth between you, the host, and Booking.com before your issue is finally resolved.
However, there are possibilities that your issue might not be resolved either, especially if it is urgent due to the lack of customer service.
Likewise, you can’t make changes or cancellations directly with the hotel, airline, or car rental company you booked with.
But here’s the problem:
It is a lot harder to make changes or cancellations to bookings made through Booking.com, especially in the case of flight reservations.
While you may be able to easily make changes or cancellations to hotels, doing the same to flight reservations can be a hassle.
In fact, it is almost impossible to cancel or change flights booked through Booking.com.
The reason is that even if you booked directly with the airline, making changes, especially cancellations to your flight, is challenging.
And if you booked flights through Booking.com, things are going to be more complicated because of the third party involvement.
Having a middleman can complicate any mishaps because airlines will tell you to coordinate any issues through Booking.com rather than offering you direct assistance.
And Booking.com may then turn around and push things back to the airline, leaving you stuck in the middle.
On the other hand, making changes, cancellations, or resolving other issues is much more convenient if you have booked directly since there are no third parties involved.
Additionally, hotels, airlines, and car rental companies give high priority to customers who booked directly with them rather than those who booked through Booking.com.
The reason is simple:
They make more profits from direct sales than those made through Booking.com since they won’t have to pay any fees.
One example of it is that the hotels may not receive your booking confirmation from Booking.com, resulting in overbooking for the same room.
There have been many instances where a guest has been stranded in a strange city without any room availability in the hotel, despite making an advance booking with Booking.com.
In contrast, if you have booked directly with the hotel, you will not be at risk of missing booking confirmation when you arrive at the property since there are no third parties involved.
So to conclude, I would say:
Booking.com is just fine until something goes wrong.
A major advantage of booking a hotel or flight through Booking.com is that the prices are usually cheaper than booking directly.
However, its get complicated to make changes, cancellations, or resolving your issues when you’re booked through Booking.com.
Even though booking directly can be slightly more expensive than booking via Booking.com but it will be much more convenient for you to resolve your issues and make changes or cancellations.
Now coming to the main question, is Booking.com legit?
Although booking through Booking.com carries higher risks of issues than booking directly, but as far as its legitimacy is concerned, it is undoubtedly a legit platform.
Personally, I have also booked a hotel through them and my experience was good.
Despite my personal experiences, Booking.com has been in business for over 26 years.
If Booking.com weren’t a legit platform, it probably would have been dead long ago since scam companies don’t survive this long.
Moreover, Booking.com is ranking at #1 in the top websites for travel and tourism.
Booking Holdings not only owns Booking.com, but also other leading online travel sites like Agoda, Kayak, Priceline, Rentalcars.com, OpenTable, and more.
In case you do not know, the Nasdaq 100 consists of the 100 largest and most actively traded U.S companies listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange.
If Booking.com were a scam company, its parent company (Booking Holdings) probably would not be listed on the NASDAQ 100.
Considering all these major factors, one can easily judge whether or not Booking.com is legitimate.
Should You Book Through Booking.com or Directly?
If the price difference is the same or there are slight differences then there’s almost never a reason to book through Booking.com.
However, if the price difference between booking through Booking.com and directly is huge then it mostly comes down to personal comfort.
Personally, I highly recommend you to AVOID booking flights through Booking.com
As you know, the process of making changes, cancellations, or resolving other issues becomes more complicated if you’ve booked flights through Booking.com.
Contrary to this, dealing directly with the airline is much more convenient in case of changes, cancellations, or any other problems.
I prefer to pay more for flights rather than relying on Booking.com and its customer service.
Additionally, I do not recommend Booking.com for booking car rentals, airport taxis, and attractions.
I only recommend Booking.com for booking accommodation but only under these conditions:
- The price difference is significant between booking directly and through Booking.com.
- Booking an average hotel, not an expensive luxury hotel.
- Not making reservations for a large number of days at once.
Apart from these conditions, you must be aware of these:
8 Tips To Book Safely on Booking.com
Before you book anything, here are the eight tips you need to know to minimize the risks associated with booking through Booking.com:
1. Choose a Safe Destination
Booking.com has over 28 million listings, including more than 6.2 million listings alone of apartments, homes, and other unique places to stay.
While it’s difficult to know for sure how safe any destination will be, doing your homework will help.
Before you go, thoroughly research the travel destination you’re considering for your stay to be aware of common scams, political issues, and other safety concerns.
I highly recommend you to always book your stay in urban areas, where there are plenty of people and access to facilities in case you need any help.
The listings provided on Booking.com will also give you an insight into the amenities and locations available around your accommodation.
Look for an area that appears safe and friendly.
After choosing a safe destination for your stay, you should:
2. Take A Look At The Pictures of Hotel & Its Rooms
To get an idea of how a property looks, check multiple photos of it.
If the property seems good to you, then make sure to check the photos of the room you’re considering booking.
If the property doesn’t have many photos in the listing, avoid booking with them.
Note: The hotel presents its best side to you in the photos. To get a realistic picture of a hotel and its rooms, you need to:
3. Read Guest Reviews
Prior to booking your accommodation, read guest reviews thoroughly to get an idea of what the accommodation is like and what to expect before you book yours.
Always choose your accommodation with a minimum of 100+ reviews and ratings of at least 8 or above and make sure to check the photos uploaded by guests in the reviews.
This should ensure you can get plenty of behind-the-scenes insights into what the accommodation is like before making your reservation.
In case you’re wondering:
Are the reviews on the properties listed on Booking.com real?
Absolutely, since the reviews can only be submitted by people who have genuinely stayed with the property before.
4. Be Aware of Policies
Oftentimes, guests overlook the policies when booking which results in unsuccessful cancellations and refunds later on.
To avoid such issues, be aware of the room cancellations and refund policies before booking your room.
In addition, make sure to read the property rules as well.
Though I don’t recommend booking flights, rental cars, airport taxis, and attractions through Booking.com, if you still want to book then be sure to read the cancellation and refund policies of them before making a reservation.
5. Check Facilities
Now, check the facilities of the hotel.
In addition, make sure the room you’re considering has the amenities you need.
Following the tips above, you’re ready to book your accommodation.
When booking, however, you must:
6. Make Sure The Booking Details Are Correct
Providing incorrect details can cause problems, especially if you are booking a flight since making changes to flights booked through Booking.com is almost impossible.
To avoid any problems, make sure the booking details are correct when booking through Booking.com.
7. Confirm Your Booking
As you know, one of the major risks associated with booking a hotel through Booking.com is that the hotel you’re booked with might not receive your booking confirmation from Booking.com.
This could result in no room availability when you arrive at the property.
To avoid such problems, you must confirm your booking from the hotel as soon as you book and before arriving at the hotel.
The final tip for you is to:
8. Print Out Your Itineraries
Upon successful booking, Booking.com will send you a confirmation email outlining the details of your stay, what’s included in your package, cancellation and refund policies, and other important information.
While you can present an electronic copy of your booking confirmation at check-in, it is preferable to print out your itineraries before you begin your vacation to avoid any problems.
There you have it!
By following these eight tips, you are less likely to run into any problems.
Why Booking.com Is Cheaper Than Booking Directly?
Booking.com is able to offer cheaper rates than booking directly because of these two primary business models they employ:
- Merchant Model
- Agency Model
1. Merchant Model
Booking.com uses the merchant model to buy hotel rooms or another type of booking in advance and in bulk to get discounts and then turns around and sells them to you and me over time at a higher price, passing some of its commission to us.
Confused? Consider this example:
Booking.com uses its purchasing power to buy rooms in bulk and in advance to get a discount rate from the hotel.
For instance, Booking.com books a block of 50 rooms from a hotel for $100 per night while the current market rate sits at around $150 per night.
Over time, Booking.com resells those rooms at a higher rate but not than the current market rate by the hotel.
- Booking.com gradually resells those 50 rooms for $130 per night.
- Booking.com profits $30 if one customer books a room through them.
- The customer (you) is still able to purchase below the current market rate by the hotel which can’t be lower than $150 since Booking.com already reserved those rooms.
By selling these rooms at a higher rate than they purchased them for, Booking.com made a profit but also presented savings to us over the current market rate.
Booking.com also employs the merchant model with airline tickets or rental cars and then combines the different bookings to offer an attractive vacation package with built-in savings over booking the components independently.
So that’s one of the major reasons why Booking.com is able to offer cheaper rates to us than booking directly.
Another reason how they are able to offer cheaper rates is because of:
2. Agency Model
In the agency model, Booking.com acts as a salesperson and facilitates a booking between the customer and the hotel, airline, or car rental company.
To help them sell their bookings, Booking.com gets a commission in exchange.
Basically, Booking.com allows anyone to list on their platform for free and charges a percentage of commission (varies between 10% to 20%) from them once a sale is made through their platform.
Since airlines, hotels, or car rentals pay a commission to Booking.com when a traveler books through them, Booking.com, in turn, may pass some of that commission on to consumers.
Thus, Booking.com is able to offer you cheaper rates than booking directly.
As far as the legitimacy of Booking.com is concerned, it is definitely a legitimate online travel agency.
However, resolving your issues gets complicated if things go wrong when you’re booked through Booking.com.
Although issues can arise even if you are booked directly, the chances are lower and it is much easier to resolve your problems since there are no third parties involved (Booking.com)
On the plus side, their prices are often cheaper than booking directly with the hotel, airline, or car rental company.
To wrap up, here are my two cents:
Avoid booking everything, especially flights, through Booking.com except hotels or other types of accommodation but only under these conditions:
- The price difference is significant.
- You’re not booking an expensive luxury hotel.
Moreover, you must be aware of the safety tips shared above before you book your stay.
Hopefully, all of your concerns are cleared up regarding Booking.com’s legitimacy, reliability, and safety.
If you’ve any questions or want to share your personal experience, please feel free to comment below.
Is Booking.com Reliable?
Booking.com is reliable for booking hotels to an extent but only as long as you do your due diligence before booking. However, it is not reliable for booking flights, car rentals, and taxis.
Is Booking.com Safe?
Booking.com is definitely safe and secure as far as the safety of your account and personal information is concerned. However, it is not completely safe and reliable for booking flights, car rentals, and taxis.