14 Things You Need to Know About European Hotels

| March 9, 2015


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:



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.

snow croatia lodge

Like when we drove around a lake in search of an ATM so we could settle our hotel bill in Croatia



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.

Like this debacle in the Netherland

Like this debacle in the Netherlands

That doesn’t mean your triple will be spacious, though!

A triple in Liechtenstein

A triple in Liechtenstein

A triple in the Netherlands

A triple in the Netherlands



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.

"Double" bed

“Double” bed in Liechtenstein

Sometimes they have it made up like a true double.  They're tricky!

Sometimes they have it made up like a true double. Watch out for the crack! – a double bed in Croatia

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.

A double bed in Salzburg, Austria, where they don't try to fool you.

A double bed in Salzburg, Austria, where they don’t try to fool you.

Even a giant, apartment-sized hotel might have two separate beds in one!

Even a giant, apartment-sized hotel suite might have two separate beds in one! – a suite in Hungary



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.

It's not fun when you're 4 stories up! - a hotel on the German/Austrian border

It’s not fun when you’re 4 stories up! -hotel on the German/Austrian border



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.

Water just ends up all over the floor. - Germany

Water just ends up all over the floor. – Germany

Also, you might have to read the instructions on how to use your toilet.

Pay attention!

Pay attention! – Liechtenstein


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!

Like the one in this armoire.

Like the one in this armoire in a Germany hotel



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.

table trash can european hotel breakfast



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.

But sometimes you get lucky! -Strasbourg, France

But sometimes you get lucky! -Strasbourg, 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.



If you’re reeeeally tall, you might want to steer clear of tiny little Fachwerk structures.

Like this.

Like this – Germany



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.


13. PETS

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.

laying in the sun hotel oranien wiesbaden germany

No worries in a Wiesbaden, Germany hotel

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.

(Maybe with a shared bathroom...with no shower!)

(maybe even no shower!) – Switzerland




You could be sleeping in a castle

european castle hotels

Sababurg, Germany

Or a charming example of Fachwerk, inside and out

Strasbourg, France

a boutique hotel in Strasbourg, France

Or on a cliff

swiss aescherposcht hotel appenzellerland cliffside alps

Aescherposcht, Appenzellerland, Switzerland

Or in the snow-capped Alps

hotel balcony girl view

a hostel in the Austrian Alps


So…If you know what you’re getting into, your stay will be smooth and you can concentrate on just enjoying the scenery!

Have you ever been surprised by a European hotel?



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Category: Austria, Croatia, England/United Kingdom, Europe, France, Hotels, In Germany A Broad blog, Italy, liechtenstein, Living in Germany, Shits & Giggles, Spain, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Top Tens, Travel, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

Comments (6)

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  1. Marijane Stomberg says:

    Great info. Thanks to you.

  2. Cynthia says:

    Very helpful! Makes me want to visit more of Europe!

    My son’s getting married in Germany next week in a castle near the Baltic — am wondering if I should pack shampoo and hair dryer. After reading this, it might be a safe bet to buy it somewhere between Berlin and the castle — to simplify packing and to lighten the suitcase.

    • I’m sorry I didn’t see this comment sooner. How was your trip? I definitely would have recommended purchasing shampoo in-country. The hair dryer, only if you have access to an adapter. I hope your son’s wedding was fun!

  3. Lecki says:

    Love this post! Def surprised by London hotel years ago, small twins beds, but that was ok. Beer in vending machine sin the lobby. A bidet in my bathroom in which my schoolmate tossed his cookies into. ( the maid was NOT happy and left most of it). No washcloths! So I went to Marks & Spencer and bought one!
    Afternoon tea…yes please..