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Finding Budget Hotels Outside France and the U.K.

SmarterTravel

My recent column about European budget hotels focused on France and the U.K., because those countries host the largest numbers of low-end chains. Obviously, however, many of you who are traveling in other European countries have an equal interest in budget accommodations. One reader asked it this way:

“We envy travelers who can use those very inexpensive accommodations in France. But we’re interested in Italy—is there a chance for us? What’s the latest of modest accommodations in urban areas of Italy?”

The short answer for Italy is that you won’t find many low-end chains there, but you can still find quite a few low-priced independent and small-group options.

But this reader raises the larger issue of low-end European chains, generally. Here’s a current look.

Italy

I found no locally-based budget hotel chains in Italy. Among the big international chains:

  • Ibis has 11 hotels in Italy, with most daily rates this summer between $70 and $100 per night.

  • Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express have 15 locations, but mostly with rates starting at more than $100.

For a different experience, you might also consider a Monastery, although not all monastery stays are budget-priced.

Spain

Spain follows France as a base for large international hotel chains. Two big Spanish chains have at least some properties in the budget range:

  • Husa operates more than 160 hotels in Spain, many in the budget range. Rates start at around 30 euros, with lots of options at 50-80 euros.

  • Sol Melia has more than 300 European hotels, mainly in Spa in but with 19 in Germany, 18 in Croatia, and a few in other countries. The chain’s “Tryp” and “InnSide” brands feature rates starting at around €50.

Germany

In my earlier response, I noted Motel One as Germany’s leading indigenous budget chain. And I noted that the big French chains have a few locations in Germany. I couldn’t find any other locally-based budget chains with more than a few locations.

Several big multinational chains operate budget-range hotels in Germany, including Holiday Inn/Express, London-based NH Hotels, and Ramada’s Tref brand. Many offer rates under $100 per night.

The U.K.

I covered the big chains based in the U.K. in my recent column, as well as noting some of the French chains with a few U.K. outposts. Also worth mentioning is Stelios’ new venture, EasyHotel, currently operating six hotels in the U.K. with rates starting at around 25 pounds per night. This chain follows a strict “the earlier you buy the less you pay” capacity-controlled pricing scheme. Although EasyHotels are staffed 24/7, hotel rooms and services are minimal—the cheapest rooms are “insides” with no windows. EasyHotel’s site also links to many other budget hotels, worldwide.

In the French Mold

Beyond the Metro Inns chain in the U.K. I cited in my earlier column, I found only one other European chain that is apparently following in the traditions of the big French low-low-end motels with small rooms, only basic furnishings, automated registration, and minimal staffing. Omena Hotels in Finland, with rates in Helsinki and Tampere starting at less than $100 a night—good prices for hyper-expensive Finland.

Although nor really germane to this European discussion, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ginger Hotels, also following the French model, with rates starting at around $25 a night.

I expect to see other such startups in coming years.

Where You Can’t Find Big Budget Chains

Tourists in countries without a large-scale budget chain presence will find their best bets among the many independent budget hotels throughout Europe. Start looking on the usual U.S.-based websites: Our own booking/search engine, Expedia, Orbitz. Travelocity, and such.

Also consider the larger Europe-based sites, which I checked for Italy:

  • Booking.com (Priceline’s European affiliate), shows lots of hotels in Italy’s more popular cities starting at around $40 a night. Even in hyper-expensive Venice, it lists several abound $100 a night.

  • Travel to Italy shows similar rates, but lists fewer hotels.

  • HotelsItalyOnline had some of the lowest rates when I checked, with some Venice options as low as $60 a night.

The bigger sites generally last thousands of hotels throughout Europe and the rest of the world, many in the budget range. Of course, many—if not most—of these non-chain budget hotels are apt to be older and relatively small, but they can also be charming and a lot more interesting than cookie-cutter budget chain properties. Before you book any hotel, however—especially a small, independent one—check it out through sour sister site TripAdvisor. Many large booking sites also include traveler reviews.

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