Rick Steves' Top Ten Tips for Sleeping Cheap in Europe
When the economy is jittery, there is no need to put your vacation plans to Europe on hold. Americans need to travel smarter in order to turn their trip into a safe, smooth, and affordable reality, says Rick Steves, author of 31 books on European travel and host/producer of Rick Steves' Europe . Here are Rick's TOP TEN TIPS for landing a cheap (and yes, clean and safe) room in Europe for Fall 2004:
1. Think small: Larger hotels are usually pricier than small hotels or B&Bs.
2. Consider a chain: More hotel chains offering cheap or moderately priced rooms are springing up. You won't find character, but you'll get predictable Motel 6-type comfort.
3. Business Hotels: In Scandinavia, Brussels, and Berlin, business hotels need customers in the summer and on weekends, when their clientele is away. And, the later your arrival, the better the discount.
4. Don't stray from your needs: Know the government ratings. A three-star hotel is not necessarily a bad value, but if you stay in a three-star hotel, you may have spent $50 extra for things you don't need (a/c, elevators, room service, porters to carry bags).
5. Check prices and discounts: Room prices can vary greatly within a hotel (i.e. a shower is cheaper than a tub). If you want a cheap room, say it. Some have a few rooms needing renovation without private baths. They usually don't mention them, figuring they'd be unacceptable to Americans. And, if you plan to stay three or more nights, or if you pay in cash, it's worth asking if any discounts are available.
6. If it's off-season, bargain: Prices usually rise with demand during festivals and in July and August. Off-season, try bargaining. If its too expensive, tell them your limit; they might meet it.
7. Travel with a good guidebook: To sleep well and inexpensively on a big-city bed, you need a good guidebook's listing of hotels and budget alternatives. It's like having a friend check places out for you.
8. Consider hotel runners: As you step off the bus or train, you'll sometimes be met by hotel runners wielding pictures of their rooms for rent. They are usually just hardworking entrepreneurs who lack the guidebook listing that makes life easy for small hotel owners. If you like what the runner says, and the hotel isn't too far away (many are), follow him to his hotel. You are obliged only to inspect the hotel. If it's good, take it. If not, leave. You're probably near other budget hotels anyway.
9. The early bird gets the room: If you anticipate crowds, arrive in the morning when the most (and best) rooms are available. If the rooms aren't ready until noon, take one anyway. Leave your luggage behind the front desk; they'll move you in later.
10. Let hotel managers help: Have your current manager call ahead to make a reservation at your next destination (offer to pay for the call). If you're in a town and having trouble finding a room, remember that nobody knows the hotel situation better than local hotel managers.
For lots more tips, check out our best-selling Europe Through the Back Door travel skills guidebook.