Superficially, the Ufulu Gardens Hotel is a good value establishment, with large rooms (including a separate lounge area) at $100 per night for a suite. However, things went downhill rapidly from there.
Upon arrival, I was informed that the room rate had increased to $120 for the third to seventh night inclusive of my stay. When I discussed this with Elizabeth, the manager, she agreed that the website price should prevail and that I should be charged $100 for all nights of my stay. This was discussed with and agreed by the owner.
In addition, the reception staff seem utterly incapable of managing foreign currencies. The Euro is hardly a minor currency but they initially ended up undercharging me by MWK 80,000, which I then paid. Furthermore, in general the reception staff were rude and unhelpful and could not remember that I was keeping the room until 1245hrs on my day of departure, rather than the normal 1000hrs checkout time. On reflection, they are THE worst I have ever encountered in the world.
However, because the hotel only changes rates every three months and works in local currency, even though the website rate is clearly in US Dollars, I was in fact being charged the local equivalent of $123 per day.
So, in US dollars, I was expecting a rebate of $100. With these rigged exchange rates, I received the equivalent of around $31. The principle here is surely that the room rate you see on the website should be the price you pay, it’s that simple.
Moreover, the website claimed that all rooms have a veranda/balcony area. However, this is definitely not the case and I had to ask to change rooms when I saw that the room initially allocated to me had no outdoor seating area. As of June 6th 2013, the old prices and the fiction regarding the verandas was still on the Ufulu Gardens website.
Elizabeth the manager is friendly and approachable, but it appears that she has been given only limited discretion by the owner to deal with customer complaints. This is a great pity as the Ufulu has the potential to be a good quality hotel, subject to a) firing many of the staff who have no place in the hospitality sector and b) improving the catering facilities, which are dire (breakfast excepted).