Motels in Europe, Africa, and Asia
An (inexpensive, temprorary) home by the side of the road for $40–$60
This Ibis Hotel in Agadir, Morocco charges $45 for a double room. Motels around the world are really pretty much like motels in America: simple, modern, modular rooms with easy highway access providing a cheap place to crash for the night as you're making a long dash from Point A to Point B.
Of course, the only area outside of North America where most travelers actually drive to get around (as opposed to taking trains and buses) is in Europe, and since all points in Europe are so darn close together—and most towns or cities you could choose to stop in for the night are fascinating places to poke around for a while—one could argue that motels are a bit superfluous. In other words, why stay in a boring ol' modern motel when you could head into town and sleep in some medieval building surrounded by cobblestone streets?
Well, for one thing, motels are usually a good deal cheaper than that hotel in the historic center, and they keep you zipping along without getting distracted by some new town if what you really need is to get where you're going.
Major motel chains around the world
A Best Western affiliate overlooking the gondola parking lot of Venice, Italy.Some familiar names and chains like Holiday Inn (www.holidayinn.com), Best Western (www.bestwestern.com), and Days Inn (www.daysinn.com) have properties all around the world.
Others—like the Accor family based in Europe—may be less familiar to Americans. All can offer decent night's sleep at surpringly affordable rates at thousands of locations in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.
Here are some faves:
Motel chains with locations around the globe
Ibis Hotels (www.ibishotel.com) - This Accor family chain is the Motel 6 of Europe, Africa, and the rest of the world. If you're looking for a clean, comfortable place to spend the night with no fussiness, no fanciness, and a very low price tag, Ibis fits the bill perfectly. What they lack in character they more than make up for in standardized comfort and cheap rates—and locations, with more than 900 Ibis hotels in 40 countries on six continents. Rooms are available from $40 or $50 and up.
Formule1 Hotels (www.hotelformule1.com) - The quirkiest (and cheapest) of the Accor brands, more than 330 inexpensive roadside motels with achingly bland modular rooms, shared baths down the hall, and minimal service—but fantastically low rates (starting at €29/$40—though you get 10% off for reserving 30 days in advance). And when I say minimal service, I mean they're only staffed 6:30–9:30am and 5–9pm.
That's no problem, though, since you can check in and out at an automated machine with a credit card (MasterCard or Visa)—think of it as checking yourself into a vending machine or an ATM for the night. (I loved this feature when I was a kid, and would clamor to stay in a Formule1 just so we could pretend we were living in an Automat—yes, I'm old enough to remember Automats.)
The vast majority of the chain's properties (252) are in France—where they have since been rebranded as Hotel F1 (www.hotelf1.com); same rules and operating style, just a new name and logo—with the other 80 hotels still operating as "Formule1" are in the U.K., Spain, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Japan, and Indonesia. Again, rooms start around $40.
Etap Hotels (www.etaphotel.com) - Yet another Accor chain, is a baby step up from Formule 1, with the addition of private bathrooms in each guest room so you don't have to share one down the hall (but you can still check yourself into and out of automatically). There are also way more of them: some 360 Etap hotels in France, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Spain, Great Britain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, and Switzerland. Rooms about $50.
A Holiday Inn outside Trieste, Italy.Holiday Inn Hotels (www.holidayinn.com) - The classic affordable hotel, with 1,241 properties—about two thirds in the Americas, the rest in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Consistently voted bed mid-market hotel brand in the world.
Holiday Inn Express Hotels (www.hiexpress.com) - One of the best, most consistent budget hotel chains in the world. They ain't fancy, but they give you exactly what you need: a clean room, comfy bed, high speed Internet, and a modest, but free, breakfast. There are 2,075 Holiday Inn Express hotels globally—most in the Americas, but about 200 of them in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and another 30 in Asia and the Pacific.
Best Western Hotels (www.bestwestern.com) - Best Western is the one (happy) exception to the cookie-cutter rule that dominates chain hotels. Abroad, rather than building new hotels to mirror their U.S. ones, Best Western has merely partnered up with existing hotels all across Europe—and we're talking four-star properties here, often historic ones to boot. So you get all the Best Western amenities you'd expect, and on the plus side the building might be a 17th century palazzo in the heart of the historic center, or some grand hotel edifice from the Belle Époque era of Grand Tourists, or overlooking gondolas bobbing in a canal of Venice (as in the picture way up above to the right). Neat.
Days Inn (www.daysinn.com) - 1,800+ mid-scale motels in 14 countries, the vast majority in the U.S., but also plenty in Canada, the U.K., and China—plus a smattering in South America, the Middle East, and elsewhere in Asia. Rooms from $40.
Howard Johnson (www.hojo.com) - A family favorite for generations, this mid-scale roadside hotel chain has 450 locations in 16 countries. nearly 300 of these are in the U.S.A, but there are also many in Canada, China, Argetina, and Mexico, plus a handful elsewhere in Central and South America, the Middle East, and Europe.
Microtel Inns & Suites (www.microtelinn.com) - Some 300 economy hotels in six countries with free WiFi and breakfasts. Rates start around TK.
Campanile (www.campanile.com) - Chain of 380 hotels in nine European countries, with prices starting around $55.
Motel chains in the U.S.A & Canada
Motel 6 (www.motel6.com) - It is anything but fancy, but it sure is realiable and advertises the lowest price of any national chain. As long as you come expecting a bare-bones room with thin walls and few amenities beyond cable TV (and WiFi), you can find more than 1,100 locations across the U.S. and Canada to lay your head for very little bread—plus kids stay free. Rates from $36.
Super 8 (www.super8.com) - 2,000+ budget motels in North America with free breakfast and internet.
Knights Inn (www.knightsinn.com) - Doesn't pretend to be more than it is: a cheap place to crash by the highway exit, with 250 locations across North America.
Wingate by Wyndham (www.wingatehotels.com) - Top-end motels with WiFi, a 24-hour business center, hot breakfasts, fitness room, and more—view it as sort of an inexpensive, entry-level version of a full-service hotel, with 165 locations in North America.
Travelodge (www.travelodge.com) - Another cheerfully honest roadside motel chain that doesn't promise anything beyond "the best of the basics"—and, really, what more do you need?—in 436 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Motel chains in The U.K.
Premier Travel Inn (www.premiertravelinn.com) - Combined site of Travel Inn and Premiere Lodges, which are a bit like a Motel 6, but clean, decent (thin walls, though), and the price is usually excellent for expensive spot like Great Britain. I particularly like the London Southwark, which is attached the the venerable Thameside Anchor pub. Rooms start around $80.
Travelodge (www.travelodge.co.uk) - Totally different company from the U.S. Travelodge chain, this is a U.K. version where the rates for a double room start at $50.
Motel chains in France
Besides the many Accor family brands (which is based in France) listed above —Etap (www.etaphotel.com), Ibis (www.ibishotel.com), Hotel F1 (www.hotelf1.com), Formule1 (www.hotelformule1.com)—check out:
Kyriad (www.kyriad.com) - A French motel chain.