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By Andrea Drever

Content and Editorial Director

Hotel star ratings are different in Europe than they are in the U.S. They can also be different from country to country within Europe. There are 17 member countries that are part of HotelStars Union, and are rated using one standardized classification. (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.) However, popular destinations such as England, France, Spain and Italy are not members.

In the United Kingdom alone, four different hotel rating boards are responsible for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. They attempt to use similar criteria across borders, but there's no mandate to do so. And among regions within Spain, for example, each locality determines its own criteria.

And, every hotel can be judged differently, depending on its location. Room size, for example, is an important measurement in Spain but receives less emphasis by French standards. Sometimes, lobby lighting is considered important, or maybe in-room bath amenities are essential, or perhaps smartly uniformed porters are deemed crucial. And in France, places with fewer than seven rooms are excluded from national star ratings, even if the hotel happens to be a stately chateau.

With all this inconsistency, people should view hotel stars in Europe as a general guide rather than a promise or a guarantee. Reviews from fellow travelers might just be a better indication of the quality and hospitality offered by a particular hotel.

Having said that, here are some very general guidelines regarding what to expect per star-level in Europe:

One Star: Probably offers small rooms with simple furnishings. Might have a fan and a sink. The rooms probably don’t have air conditioning or TV or an elevator, and might not have private bath. The reception could be closed during certain hours.

Two Star: Rooms probably have a TV, possibly with cable, and might have private baths. Rooms may have air conditioning or at least a fan. The hotel could have an elevator and might offer Wi-Fi or some sort of Internet access. Reception will probably be open 24-hours.

Three Star: Rooms will almost certainly have cable TV, a safe, iron, air conditioning and private bath with hair dryer. The hotel will probably have an elevator, probably Wi-Fi, and almost certainly 24-hour reception.

Four Star: All of the above, and usually some extras. These may include room service, an office center, meeting rooms, pool, fitness room, laundry service, restaurant and concierge services. But keep in mind, you’ll be paying for every perk.

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