Welcome to World Traveler in Training!

A to Z Challenge: S is for Star Ratings

By Wednesday, April 22, 2015

In the past few years, I've stayed in a lot of hotels in a lot of cites, and I've found that the overall quality of the hotel doesn't always match up with the starts they advertise. A newly renovated hotel with a pool can be a 2, but a 4 can put a shampoo/shower gel combo dispenser in your bathroom.

Star ratings are supposed to be an easy way for a consumer to identify the class and amenities of the hotel they are considering booking. Instead of having to compare point by point what a hotel has to offer, a quick look can help you decide if a hotel is somewhere you'd be interested in. In the US, this is largely true, but I've been disappointed with a few 4 start hotels here in Europe, which makes me wonder:

I often find myself automatically passing over 1 and 2 star hotels, but is this fair?

In recent yeats, I've stayed at a few supposedly high rated hotels and was overall unimpressed. I like swanky modern hotels better than stuffy traditional ones, which seem to be favored here in Europe. But taste aside, I've been surprised at just how ugly and sparse the rooms are (they're smaller too, but that doesn't surprise me or bother me particularly), so I thought I'd take a look into how stars are determined.

The list included a lot of surprising criteria. You can read the Hotel Stars Union rating system here of which Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Malta are a part of.

Almost everything I want is included in the 1 Star hotel, with the exception of towels, accepting credit cards, and internet access. The difference between a one star hotel and a three star are things like "Sewing kit, shoe polish utensils, laundry and ironing service" and "Systematic complaint management system".

It doesn't look like including a gym, pool or spa figures into these ratings, although I'm not terribly interested in those and they probably wouldn't influence our choice when picking a hotel.

Of course, a lot of what's important comes down to personal taste whether it's more important to you to have bath robe and slippers on request, or the decor to look like it was updated since you were born. I'd rather have a (clean) bathtub than a make up mirror, and internet access over a TV.

But some things make very little sense to me.

For example, that 4 star hotel in we stayed at in Berlin, instead of getting little bottles of Shampoo, Conditioner and either shower gel or a little bar of soap we got two of these, one in the shower, and one by the sink:

Which gave it a very "public bathroom" feel. This was a general soap/shampoo combo, with no conditioner whatsoever (this seems to be standard in Europe). That might be fine if you're like me and have straight hair, but we have to buy a bottle of conditioner where ever we go for my husband's curls. There was also a stray sock under the bed, making me wonder about the cleanliness.

On the other hand, my husband and I stayed at a two star hotel in south west France that had newly renovated rooms (which were tiny, I should add, and opened to the outside rather than a hall). There was a bar (the receptionist was the bar tender), and a pool, but no restaurant so it only got a 2.

What I've come to find is that a hotel can earn a high star rating without all of its rooms being up to par. The hotel might have an elegant lobby, swanky bar and a constellation of stars on the door, but you might find yourself in a dismal closet if you book the "economy" room.

I think after researching this I'll look into more lower star hotels that might be cheaper, even if they don't have "shoe polish utensils" or seats in the lobby.

Have you ever been surprised by a hotel rating? Do you think US and European star ratings are comparable?

You Might Also Like


  1. I've never been to Europe but in the U.S I tend to rely on user ratings before selecting a hotel as you tend to get the real scoop there.

    Sean at His and Her Hobbies