CONTRIBUTED BY KARI MARTINDALE
European hotels can be quite different from American hotels. If you’re not aware of this, you might come across some pretty surprising situations. Here are 14 common things to look out for:
1. FORMS OF PAYMENT
Know up front, what forms of payment your hotel accepts. Those accepting cards might only accept a European card with the Eurochip in it. If you’re not prepared, you could find yourself scrambling to come up with enough cash for your hotel stay. Also be aware of which currency a cash-only hotel accepts. Some European hotels will accept the Euro even if their own currency is different (e.g. the Croatian Kuna or Hungarian Forint); however, when using this option, ask what exchange rate they’re using that day. In all cases, be sure that you know, up front, how you will settle your bill. If you’re prepared, you won’t have to spend half of your vacation trying to find an ATM.
Germany Ja Pro Tip: Some German hotels will take a VAT form. The hotel tax varies by city and sometimes it is only a few Euros, so the VAT isn’t always worth using.
2. ROOM SIZE
Space is not wasted in Europe. A regular room can be quite small. While in the US you might be able to book a double and bring your infant or child along, you really must book a room for the exact number of occupants in Europe. That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be charged for your child, but it will ensure that they don’t end up on the floor.
That doesn’t mean your triple will be spacious, though!
When you book a double bed in the States, you get one mattress under you. That’s not always the case in Europe. Most hotels will place two twin beds next to one another, or two twin mattresses side-by-side on a larger frame. Looking for a king? Good luck.
Single beds, single comforters. That’s right: you could climb into bed and grab what you expect to be a large comforter, pull it toward you, and the whole thing flies across the bed because it’s half the size and weight you expected.
There are NOT always elevators in European hotels. This makes sense when you’ve booked a 17th century home, but you would be surprised how many hotels look from the outside as if they would have an elevator–but don’t. If you are not able to handle a lot of stairs or are carrying heavy luggage, request a ground floor room.
You’ll often see a bidet in the bathroom. It’s not a foot bath–it’s to keep your bits squeaky clean.
You’re not always going to get a tub/shower combo. In fact, you could get a shower with no tub, or a tub with no shower. My least favorite are the tubs with snake-cord shower.
6. HEAT & A/C
Air conditioning is not a given! This can be especially frustrating in the summer. It is advisable to closely read a hotel’s description, or communicate with the hotel directly, to verify that there is A/C. Or just deal with it.
Heat is quite often radiator heat. Learn how to use it. It’s perfectly warm, but don’t be surprised if the air feels dry to you.
If you’ve booked a room with a kitchenette, you really have no idea where it’s going to pop up, so hunt for it before you think about complaining!
Also, you might have to read the instructions on how to use your toilet.
The continental breakfast at European hotels is similar to continental breakfasts in the States. However, one should note that a boiled egg in a basket probably isn’t a hard-boiled egg, but a soft-boiled egg, often with a runny yolk. Most people eat their soft-boiled eggs by placing them in the egg cup, cracking the shell around the top, peeling the top shell off, and then scooping the egg out of the shell one bite at a time.
Many proprietors will cook eggs to your liking if you simply ask.
You might see a tiny trash can on your table. It is, in fact, for trash. I have seen some hotels use it exclusively for bio waste like egg shells and watermelon rinds; however, many hotels use it for all trash, including your sugar packets, egg shells, tea bags, etc.
Germany Ja Pro Tip: Breakfasts vary country by country! Expect to leave full from a German breakfast – lots of meat, cheese and bread. Breakfast isn’t a big deal in France, so although it is sometimes offered, it might be more of a concession to visitors from outside of France.
Rarely do we come across washcloths in European hotels. You’ll get a bath towel, bathmat, and possibly a hand towel–but nothing that an American is accustomed to using for their face or body. Linens are often hung to dry. In other words, you’re peeling off a layer of skin, so use them gently on your face.
There are many hotels in Europe that provide a shampoo/body wash hybrid in the shower, and that’s it. That’s not to say that no hotels provide a counter full of toiletries for you to stuff in your suitcase, but don’t expect them from a non-chain/luxury hotel.
Even if your hotel is non-smoking, be advised that you might have to walk through a cloud of smoke at the doorway, since people can only smoke outside. I find this is more the case in the winter, when people do not wander far for a smoke.
12. LOW CEILINGS
If you’re reeeeally tall, you might want to steer clear of tiny little Fachwerk structures.
European hotels are often more pet-friendly than American hotels. From chain hotels to boutique hotels, your pooch is very likely to be welcomed by a European hotel. The hotel might charge a pet cleaning fee, a pretty standard practice. The expectation in Germany is that you are not crating the dog. Just make sure your dog stays quiet and well-behaved, because you’ll hear about it if he’s not.
This is great news for those who travel with pets. If you have severe pet allergies, though, ask about the pet policy when making reservations. Not every hotel can accommodate a room that does not allow pets.
Be aware of what kind of hostel you might be staying in. It could be a row of floormats and a shared bathroom.
You could be sleeping in a castle!
Or on a cliff!
Or in the snow-capped Alps!
So…If you know what you’re getting into, your stay will be smooth and you can concentrate on just enjoying the scenery!
More Germany Ja Pro Tips:
- Germany Ja has an entire category dedicated called “Hotel/Motel/Gasthaus.” Check it out for reviews from all across Europe.
- Many hotels have a restaurant attached. It’s a great idea to make dinner reservations when you check in. Often you can bill it to your room and pay for your meals when you check out.
- It’s always a good idea to know the parking situation for your hotel. Sometimes free parking is a great included benefit that really helps in determining the hotel’s value. Sometimes it’s an extra bill or a “park yourself and pay the rate” situation, both of which can be steep depending on where you are.
- By law German hotels are legally responsible for the internet content of their guests. For this reason they may have you sign something before you get your internet access. You can do this when you check in as well.
- Some Americans might think European hotels should come with a parental guidance rating! European television has a different set of rules than American TV. You may want to screen the channels before you set the kids up with the remote control while you unpack! Also, the artwork can be a little less “generic” than in American public spaces – if you catch my drift. Just a cultural difference, but one you might want to scout out.
Kari has been traveling since she wrote this article and has a few more tips to share!
Many French hotel bathrooms have separate toilets and shower/sinks. The toilet is in a closet-like room: just the toilet, toilet paper, and you. The sink and shower are in a room that could be next to or across from the toilet, but without access to the toilet. This is fantastic for those who don’t enjoy showers while someone else is on the pot just outside the shower doors. The only drawback is for someone who wants to wash their hands after they’ve used the pot, and now someone is in the shower. It is also worth noting that I’ve been in no fewer than three French public restrooms with no toilet seats… Look before you sit!
In America, we have become accustomed to fairly tight security measures when it comes to room keys. Numbers rarely appear on the key card/key, key cards are activated and deactivated based on length of stay, and sometimes room numbers are discretely written down instead of given aloud during check-in. We were therefore caught rather off guard during our first hotel stay in Germany, when we were to turn in the key before leaving the hotel. It’s fairly common practice everywhere (except chain hotels). Room numbers are typically written, or even engraved, on the keys. On the one hand, turning in your key can take some getting used to; on the other hand, you feel like you’re in an old movie!
Note: Kari originally posted this article on her site, but has graciously shared it with us here as well.