Travel News

How to spot a dodgy travel review

Travel expert Megan Singleton shares her tips for picking the fact from fiction when booking your next holiday.

Are you like me and a bit nervous about committing to an Air BnB or property just in case the reviews are fake? Or what about Tripadvisor? Do you read reviews with a cynical eye and then wonder who you can trust at all? Especially if you’ve been burned before – like I have.

Here are some giveaways that the fakers often use when writing their reviews, because believe it or not, some people are paid to write them. Hundreds of them!

O-T-T wording

Look out for writing that includes little about the person’s individual experience of the property or airline or attraction and an overkill on superlatives. It’s “amazing”, “awesome experience”, “to die for”. When you haven’t visited the place it’s a bit hard to describe it so they err on the side of “I” and “we” to discuss what a great time they had rather than too much helpful information. Watch out for exclamation marks to really drive their “awesome” point home too!!

Check the dates

If you’re suspicious, sites like Tripadvisor allow you to see who posted the review. So click on the link and read their other reviews. Also, cast your eye down the page of the reviews on a property and see when they were posted. Fakers tend to be hired to blitz it, so you might find a load of over the top positive reviews (or converse ones) all within a short space of time.

Manager’s comments

I always read the responses from the manager of the property. I get that some people will be writing a bad review because of a genuine experience and I’m always interested in how the manager responds. When they say things like, “we were sorry about that and paid for you to stay in another property”, then you know the reviewer has a chip on their shoulder and even though the issue was sorted out, they still deem it necessary to put the boot in.

Compare sites

If you suspect a dodgy review, I jump on to other booking sites to see if there’s anything there too. But beware that Expedia only lets people review a property who have made a booking with them and VRBO (a site I had a horrendous experience with) do not allow negative reviews and eventually I had the big boss in the US tell me it is because they are an “advertising” site for properties. Hmmm.

*Megan Singleton is an award-winning travel writer, who has been galavanting around the world for 15 years and blogging for nine. You can hear her every Sunday on Newstalk ZB.

For more on Megan’s escape from a “hovel in New Orleans” and her quest to post a review on VRBO, jump to her blog, Blogger at Large*

Related stories


Get your favourite magazines home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.