When booking a hotel room outside the United States, you need to be aware of the inherent differences in accommodations. Sure, hotels around the world are clean, safe and comfortable, but they don’t always offer the same type of amenities as their American counterparts. Plus, some things are just, well, different than what we’re used to in the U.S.
As you plan your trip, learn how hotels differ from those in America, so you won’t be surprised when you arrive. We’ve compiled some tips to help you book a hotel room that meets your needs and exceeds your expectations.
Hotel star ratings are intended to be objective and quantifiable. That means the more amenities a hotel offers, the higher the number of stars it receives. If it has a pool and an elevator, the star rating will be higher than hotels that don’t offer similar services. Even so, since there’s no standard rating systems, star ratings vary from country to country and sometimes from region to region within the same country. But the rating system does provide a basic guide for which services a hotel might offer and how much you can expect to pay.
Your budget will largely dictate the star level hotel you will book, but it should not be your only consideration. Consider both the amenities and the location of a hotel as well. For example, if you have a choice between a four-star hotel within walking distance of major attractions or a three-star hotel that requires a subway ride to reach the attractions, it might be a better value to choose the more expensive four-star hotel. When you factor in the money you’ll spend on public transportation, you might actually end up spending less by staying at the four-star hotel, especially if it provides a complimentary breakfast.
Most hotel rooms in other countries are quite small when compared to those in America. Since many hotels are located in beautiful yet compact old buildings, they simply can’t offer the same amount of space as hotels back home. In fact, rooms are so small, many Americans say their closets are bigger!
That’s not to say every hotel room abroad is tiny. Some can be quite sizable, but you may pay a premium for the additional square footage. Just be certain to consider the size of the rooms as you’re packing, especially if you plan to stay for several days in the same location.
Hotel bathrooms outside the U.S. are set up a little differently. They usually don’t offer shower/bathtub combos. If there’s a shower, it will probably be quite small. A bathtub may have a handheld shower wand. The bathroom will probably have a bidet along with a toilet, but it probably won’t offer washcloths. Most hotels don’t offer them. Hand and body towels probably won’t be as large as those in the U.S., and linens typically aren’t laundered every day. Hang them to dry after your shower.
Many hotels don’t offer air conditioning. Or, the hotel may simply choose to leave the AC turned off expect on the very hottest days. Even when the A/C is turned on it tends not to be as strong as the American air conditioners. For Americans who are accustomed to central air conditioning, hotel rooms overseas may seem stuffy. Consider packing a small, battery-powered fan to circulate air in your room. In winter, hotels will have radiators for heating, which are effective but can be quite dry.
Wi-Fi and Television
In American hotels, Wi-Fi is generally a standard amenity, meaning you can connect to the hotel’s Wi-Fi router as soon as you are registered. It’s not the same outside the country where Wi-Fi is generally available for an added charge.
The same is true of television channels. Don’t expect access to satellite channels such as CNN or ESPN. Most hotels outside of America only offer local channels with programs available only in the local language. Some hotels don’t have in-room televisions at all.
American hotels of all types offer in-room alarm clocks, irons and hair dryers for guests to use when needed. Many hotel rooms outside the US don’t consider these items standard amenities. You may find a hotel that does offer these items, but don’t count on it. Hotels of three stars and above usually offer a hair dryer, but even then, it can be hit and miss depending on the location. If an amenity isn’t available directly in your room you can always ask the front desk. You may be able to barrow the item for a short time.
Apart from roadside motels, most American hotels offer elevators. Older buildings that house hotels generally don’t have elevators for guests’ use. Therefore, you may have to lug your bags up several flights of stairs. If you’re in good health and can manage the stairs, don’t let this be a deal breaker, especially if you’ve found a great deal on a beautiful hotel in a convenient neighborhood. It’s just something to be aware of so you’re not surprised when you arrive. Or request a ground-floor room when making a reservation, the hotel will do it’s best to accommodate when you check in.
American hotels generally come with two queen or a king-sized bed. Outside of the U.S., you’ll find bed configurations set up as twin or double. Twin means two separate beds. Double means one bed that can fit two people. It won’t necessarily be a queen or king, but is meant to be shared by two people. In some places, you may find two twin beds pushed together to create a larger bed for two.
When booking a hotel room, be sure to ask specifically about bed arrangements so everyone in your traveling party can sleep comfortably. You should also be sure the room will accommodate the exact number of people in your party. There are rarely sofas or chairs where someone can “crash.”
Before booking a hotel for your trip abroad, recognize there are some differences in lodgings. That doesn’t mean hotels outside of the U.S. are bad, just different. Knowing what types of questions to ask when making the reservation will ensure you’re not surprised at check in.
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