When booking hotels in popular European cities, it’s easy to spend far too many euros. While some destinations (oh how we love thee, Florence!) are famous for their cheap pensions in centuries-old buildings and former monasteries, many cities are quite expensive (Zurich anyone?). It can be really difficult to find a cheapo night’s sleep.
But never fear, there are a few practical steps that budget travelers can take to lower their costs. Here are four things you can do now to find a hotel deal even in Europe's priciest cities:
1. Lose a star (or two)
Do you really need a trouser press, in-room safe, view of the town's square, and air-conditioning (especially if you’re traveling outside of summer)? If you can do without additional amenities, your budget will thank you. Instead of booking a three-star property, go for a simpler bed-and-breakfast, family-run pension, or even a private room in a hostel. And if you’re willing to share a bathroom, rates will be even cheaper.
In Rome, for example, the Suore di S. Elisabetta, a convent-turned-pension, offers rooms for €60-80 a night. There's no air-conditioning, but rooms are clean and the breakfast is included. A comparable sleep at a three- or four-star hotel nearby will cost you more than double that amount.
If you’re seeking hotels in London, a private room with two twin beds at the YHA St. Pancras near the busy and recently-renovated St. Pancras train station costs as low as €45 a night. Rooms here are cheap, cheerful, and within walking distance of major London sights.
2. Consider seasonality
Going to Brussels or looking for a hotel in Geneva? Stay on a weekend when the bankers and Eurocrats aren’t in town, filling up all the hotels.
In mountainous winter wonderlands like Austria and Switzerland, checking-in during ski season will obviously set you back much more than if you travel during spring or early autumn.
Consider academic vacation schedules, as well. Did you know that two-thirds of European school children have a vacation in the last week of October or first week of November? They fill up hotels, too!
3. Try out a new neighborhood
Consider hotels near a train station or explore a less touristy quarter outside the city center for a cheaper night's stay. Hopping over an old medieval wall or crossing a river to get to your hotel will often help you find a lower rate.
In Brussels, the area just north of city center near the Gare du Nord train station might not be the hippest, but rooms usually go for about 25 percent less per night than rooms near the city’s more central hoods, like the Grand Place or the Bourse. The Sleep Well, for instance, is located here and offers spotless private rooms for between €50-60 per night.
4. Beware of additional or hidden charges
In many cities, such as Paris, you will be asked upon check-in if you’d like the hotel’s breakfast. If you’re looking to save a pocket-full of euros, the answer should be, “Mais non!” You can just as easily grab the same (or better) croissant and coffee at any cafe down the street for far less.
Be careful with hidden charges, too. Maybe those cold bottles of water in your room aren’t included in the nightly rate or there's a surcharge for stowing luggage or using the room’s safe. And don’t even get us started on Wi-Fi charges. If a Wi-Fi connection isn’t included in your room rate, find one that is – usually in cafes and even fast food restaurants (including many McDonald’s throughout Europe).