Hotel Guide

Guide to European Hotels

Alright the hotel situation in Europe is quite different from what we are used to here in the states especially if you are bargain hunting. The standard European hotel room differs significantly from your typical American hotel room. For starters rooms in Europe are small and simple usually with no TV, although I’ve seen more popping up.

There is no standardization as far as furniture and bed quality but most will be clean. Some rooms can be quite charming while others merely functional. There will be little amenities but that’s fine if you’ve chosen your hotel strategically you will be in the middle of all the action and not far from anything that you might need.

I’ll describe in detail typical European hotels not to scare you but so that you know what to expect. They are not necessarily bad just completely different than what you may be used to here in the states. If you know what you’re in for it will be less of a shock when you arrive.

Even though I’m a budget traveler I don’t feel I’ve sacrificed much in finding budget accommodations. In most cases I’ve fallen in love with these small, charming, quirky hotels with friendly and personable staff that made me feel warm and welcome.

The staff at these hotels have contributed immeasurably to my experiences in Europe. In some cases they are very open sharing what it is like to live in their city. In other cases they can inform you on the best jazz clubs or the best places to eat. I’ve gotten some amazing restaurant recommendations that I wouldn’t have found unless the staff let me in on the best places locals frequent.

Avoid chain hotels; they are usually overpriced and underwhelming. The larger and more expensive hotels are the more anonymous you become as a hotel guest (they will recommend places that only the typical tourist would be interested in). If you are one of 10 guests at a small hotel you bet you will get personal treatment and attention. Granted some staff are strictly business or lackadaisical but at the end of the day you still saved a few bucks regardless.

Bathrooms are set up differently in European hotels. A bathroom in your room (or en suite bathroom) is not a given in budget European hotels.

You actually pay more for the privilege of having a bathroom in your room. Shared bathrooms are common throughout European hotels, though some renovated hotels will a private bathroom.

There are various configurations of the shared bathroom. Some rooms will have a sink and a bidet while the other facilities are shared (usually just down the hall from your room). Some rooms will have a shower but no toilet. A true budget traveler will gladly accept a shared bath to save a little extra money. If you just can’t handle this then prepare to pay slightly more for a private bath.

If you are lucky enough to book a room with a private bath be forewarned these bathrooms will be quite miniscule because truly they were an afterthought. The shower curtains also serve as merely a formality and do little to prevent the entire room much less the floor from getting wet. Just remember to remove any items that you don’t want to be victims of the deluge beforehand. Some hotels have tubs instead of showers; usually these have a handheld shower nozzle.

The European concept of towels also differs from ours so don’t be too surprised when you don’t have the proverbial fluffy towel to dry off with. The terry cloth towel is a rare commodity. European towels are like very stiff, thick bed sheets. The ones in Italy tend to have a waffled texture. This is all part of the experience.

Smaller hotels don’t always have the best soundproofing and you may be subject to some traffic or street noise as well as noise from the next room (but that can’t be helped). Rooms that face the street can give you a nice view of the hustle and bustle of a city. However, you may not want to be awakened by roving crowds of Madrilenos leaving the nightclubs at 5:00 am. You can always request a room with little street noise but bear in mind you may sacrifice a view if you ask for a quieter room. Personally, I don’t mind being awakened by the Parisian trash trucks if I have a great view of a busy city street.

Most hotels in Europe don’t have “lifts” or elevators. If they do they will be the old fashioned kind you see in black and white movies. Most also don’t have the staff to carry your luggage up to your rooms and with the way the typical American packs who can blame them.

Yet another reason to pack light because when your room is on the fifth floor (actually sixth floor, read on) of the hotel you will be happy not to be hauling a heavy load. Climbing more than 100 steps to get to your room is not out of the question.

They way Europeans designate floors differ from the way Americans classify floors. For instance the ground floor here would be the first floor; one floor up would be the second floor. In Europe the floors begin above the ground floor, so their first floor is our second. So if you’ve booked a room on the fifth floor in Europe, it would be the sixth floor equivalent here.

The exterior doors of smaller hotels are generally locked at night. The hotel will give you a key for these doors. Sometimes these locks can be tricky so make sure you know how to use the keys before you leave for your evenings activities. If the hotel clerk has given you an abnormally large or heavy key that usually indicates that you are to leave the key at the front every time you leave.

Usually at the front desk will be the hotels card. Pick up one of these cards because they will have the hotels name, address, and phone number. This comes in handy if you have to take a cab back to the hotel. You would also be surprised how easy it is to forget this stuff especially if you are traveling from place to place or have enjoyed a little too much wine with dinner. These also make for cute little souvenirs. I glue mine into my travel journal.

Breakfast is a nice bonus at budget hotels but don’t expect it. If it is included it’s a great way to get a jump on the day and save a little money. Also these breakfasts will be nothing to write home about. Just take them for what they are fuel for the day not a culinary feast. If there is an extra charge for breakfast skip it, you’re better off with a café au lait and croissant from the local café.

When you do check into a hostel/hotel the clerk will ask for your passport. They are required to register your passport number and fill out some documentation. Sometimes they fill out the paperwork while you wait, most often they will shoo you along to your room and return it when they see you next.

Depending on the hotel you either pay upfront or at the end of your stay. Smaller hotels always prefer cash and some will even discount your rate if you pay cash upfront.

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