Ceci c'est un hotel

A quick guide to European hotels and what to expect from them

Traditional European hotels tend to be simpler and have fewer bells and whistles than Americans ones. Free HBO is considered a God-given right in the cheapest American motel. In Europe, few hotel below the moderate level will even have TVs, let alone satellite channels such as CNN and BBC.

Europeans just have different standards and expectations when it comes to lodgings. Their hotels tend to focus on cleanliness and friendliness over amenities. They're old-fashioned, somewhat worn around the edges, with small rooms and furniture that's either mismatched or aging ’60s functional units, but they're great deals.

The Ratings Game

European hotels are generally rated from one to five stars (plus, in some countries, an extra "Five-Star DeLuxe" category for places that really want to pad the prices).

As hotels get more expensive (four- and five-star ), they get more similar to standard hotels in the U.S.—where hotels are renowned for their absolute lack of character and cookie-cutter sameness.

There's rarely a good reason to book anything fancier than a three-star, where you'll still get most of the amenities you'd expect at home, just perhaps not as standardized.

As far as the cheaper, more traditional European hotels and pensions at the one- and two-star levels, here's the "worst" of the differences you can expect to find:

A Peek Inside

The beds may have all the spinal support of a wet noodle, bowing deeply in the center on very lazy cot springs, or bulging up and bucking like a bronco every time you stir, and dumping you unceremoniously on the floor should you attempt to do something as drastic as roll over in your sleep.

Lobbies and rooms rarely agree. Never judge a hotel by its entrance; expensive hotels almost always invest heavily in the lobby, often skimping on the rooms, whereas cheaper hotels may just have a dingy desk in a hallway, but spotless, fine accommodations.

Double beds are often two twins with a single top sheet and blanket (or two twin sheet made up to overlap). Turn the mattress parts parallel to the springs and you won't suffer from separation anxiety (or end up slipping through the crack) in the middle of the night.

Many hotels in old buildings don't have elevators. Those that do usually feature rickety, slow lifts that really belong on the city's official register of historic relics.

Floors are often tile or linoleum, not carpeted.

European hotel bathrooms are radically different from the American norm—so much so that there's a whole separate section devoted to them.

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in April 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.