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Understanding European Hotel Star Ratings

Dear Anita,

My wife and I are planning on going to London and touring England early next year. We're both having problems understanding British hotel ratings. We've been told to avoid one and two-star hotels and seek out three-stars and above. Are British hotel ratings the same as American hotel ratings?

Dennis Rodney
Kansas City, Missouri

Dear Dennis,

I can understand your confusion. When it comes to lodging many of us like to know the amenities of a hotel before we book. What most don't realize is that there's no international standard for rating hotels. In fact, a five-star establishment in one country may warrant three-stars in another.

European rating systems are completely confusing as each country has its own homegrown rating requirements. For example, government inspectors in France assign one of six ratings, from zero to four stars. In Italy, the regional tourism offices assign one to five stars to their area's hotels. In England, The English Tourism Council, in conjunction with the Automobile Association (AA) and the Royal Automobile Association (RAC) rate hotels on a scale from one to five stars. According to the British Tourist Authority's (BTA) website, here's what you can expect from a British hotel:

  • One Star - Offer a high standard of cleanliness. Limited range of services and facilities. Friendly helpful staff. Restaurant/eating facilities are open for breakfast and dinner, there is a bar or lounge serving alcohol. 75% of bedrooms have en-suite or private facilities.
  • Two Stars - All of the above plus better-equipped and more comfortable bedrooms, all with en-suite or private facilities and color TV. A basic range of services, with a more personal touch, food and drink of a slightly higher standard, and an elevator is usually available.
  • Three Stars - All of the above plus, higher standard of services and facilities. Usually larger hotels with more spacious public areas and bedrooms. More formal style. Room service of continental breakfast, laundry service. Wider selection of drinks, light lunch and snacks served in the bar or lounge.
  • Four Stars -All of the above plus, superior comfort and quality. All bedrooms with en-suite facilities, bath and shower. More emphasis on quality food and drink. Skilled staff anticipating and responding to needs and requests. Room service of all meals. 24-hour drinks and snacks. Dry-cleaning service.
  • Five Stars -All of the above plus luxurious and spacious surroundings. The highest international quality of service and range of extra facilities. Professional, attentive highly trained staff. Superb cuisine. Striking decor. Exceptional comfort and sophisticated ambience.

Many travelers from the U.S seek out the familiar overseas, "Americanized" aspects of a hotel and shy away from one and two-star properties believing they are not quality hotels. This isn't necessarily the case as many two-star properties can exceed many well-known hotel chains in quality. If you want to check out an individual hotel, go to TripAdvisor. This site offers a collection of unbiased hotel reviews and articles about vacations and hotels worldwide.

I hope I've been helpful. Have a wonderful vacation!!

Anita Dunham-Potter

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