Travelers beware! Although hotels in Paris are rated on a star system of one to five, one being hostel-like or spare accommodations with some private and some shared bathrooms, and five being the epitome of luxury and decadence, things can easily go awry.
One can be side-swiped by expectations not met. What would be considered a standard-sized queen room in a basic Holiday Inn, might be rated as a superior room in France and cost a bundle. Many of the French hotels are very old and space is considered a luxury. How many first-time visitors to Paris complain about rooms so tiny there is barely enough space for two medium-sized suitcases? Many! Here are some guidelines to be aware of when booking your hotel. Hopefully, all goes smoothly upon arrival and no nasty surprises await...only happy ones.
1.How many rooms does the hotel you are interested in, have? Do you really want to request the smallest one? It might end up being the room under the staircase, usually reserved for hotel staff. What are the dimensions and how much space is there really, on all sides of the bed? These days, one can usually go online to look at pictures of the rooms, and then can email the hotel and ask for the dimensions. Ask the room number if possible (smaller hotels are more able to do this) and have it sent to you along with a confirmation. Always check in with a written confirmation stating exactly what has been reserved. If there is a problem, and the hotel staff is honest and truly cares about its clientele, an upgrade should be possible. Of course at peak times, when there isn't a spare room in all the city, like Fashion Week, be extra cautious about arrangements.
2. If you plan to be in Paris in warm months, and you know you require air-conditioning, make sure the room you book actually has it. In some hotels under three stars, some rooms may have it while others do not.
3. If you are a non-smoker, make sure you confirm a non-smoking room. Although the Europeans are progressively going more smoke-free, you have to ask. For non-smokers, having to spend three days in a room where the carpets, bedding and furniture are permeated with the odor of cigarette smoke, time spent indoors can be very unpleasant.
4. Noise, both on the inside and the outside of the hotel can be bad enough to drive a guest elsewhere. It is very common to check into a hotel only to discover that it is in the middle of a major renovation, where the sound of wrecking balls and jackhammers persist morning through night. Hotels are not required to advise you of this. Ask upon booking, if there will be any construction on the premises or on adjacent buildings during your stay and get it in writing, that this does not exist. Some hotels have paper-thin walls, so you hear every sneeze, every shower, and the tv in the next room. Check out traveler reviews on sites like www.tripadvisor.com and get a general consensus of what pleased or displeased most guests. If every reviewer complains about horrible noise from the street, and the windows are not double-paned, then try and book a room on the courtyard, if there is one, where it is most likely, more quiet. Rooms on the street side might be subject to early morning garbage truck noise and delivery traffic and then at night if there are bars close by, partying kinds might hang out below your window and keep you awake. Check out the street where the hotel is located. Does it seem like a quiet one, or is there a lot of traffic? That courtyard room is looking like a better choice.
5. Email the hotel and get a return confirmation one week in advance of arrival to make sure nothing has changed. Go over every amenity that you expect to be included. Don't hesitate to ask for a free upgrade if a change to your detriment must be made, that might compromise your comfort or happiness.
6. Do not expect every bathroom to have a bathtub. Frequently bathrooms can be as tiny as the rooms themselves, with little counter space and a small stall shower including a hand-held shower head. If you want baths, request a tub. Does a hair dryer come with the room? A robe? (usually three stars and up). Can you get an iron and ironing board when needed? Although there might be a tv, how many stations does it have, is it HD, is there a DVD player there? Mini-fridges are good for keeping a bit of food cool, or for leftovers from a great dinner. Decide what amenities are important to you and then start searching within your budget range.
7. Guests checking into a hotel after a long trip can become mighty frustrated upon learning that there is no functional elevator, and that heavy bags must be lugged up 6 flights of a steep, narrow and winding staircase, in the heat of summer. Stairs tend to be gnarly so if you or a companion are stair-adverse, make sure there is a working elevator. Even then, some of the vintage iron cage-style ones, barely hold two people and two small bags. Then some hotels that have elevators don't tell you that you must walk up a tricky flight of steps, just to get to it.
8. Check traveler reviews online for reports of cleanliness. That's one category that tends to anger most guests...dirty bathrooms, dust, worn out bedding, grimy floors and walls, ick.
9. Do you want a hotel that includes a continental breakfast, usually served in a cozy cellar? Sometimes in charming boutique hotels, this can be a lovely way to start the day without having to go anywhere. If there's a sweet courtyard to dally in, a croissant and café au lait could be the perfect way to start the day. But most likely, right around the corner you will find one of Paris's brilliant patisseries, with a stunning array of goodies, begging to be tried. Generally it is cheaper to buy a brioche or croissant and a coffee drink to go, and bypass hotel food. If you pay for a room and breakfast is included, hope it's freshly baked goods and fruit, and that can be researched online as well. www.tripadvisor.com will give travelers' comments on breakfasts served on the premises.
10. Is Internet service necessary? Is it free? Does it exist in only one part of the hotel, or in your room?
11. How does reception work? Is there a manned front desk 24/7? Do you need a concierge to help make arrangements, for taxis to airports, or to help secure great dinner or show reservations?
12. Finally, research the various arrondisements which comprise the center of Paris and pick one that has a lot of interesting aspects to it, that appeal to you. For instance, if you love to have a great garden nearby to sit in and wander through, maybe you will choose a hotel on a street close to the Luxembourg Gardens. You can grab a beautiful fruit tart and a piece of chocolate and sit by the boat basin, watching the children sail their little wooden boats. If you are enamored of Notre Dame Cathedral, maybe you want to have a view of it from your bedroom window. Listening to the bells chiming every day is quaint and soothing.
Now go and prowl around the internet. Go to a hotel's official website and then compare that with the info and reviews other websites offer regarding the same property. It is fairly easy to come up with a reasonably researched consensus about the hotel of your choice.
The more information you have, the fewer problems you will encounter. Just remember that above all, one must respect the ideals and standards of the country one is visiting. The French consume less energy, drive smaller cars, take public transportation, buy fresh food daily for immediate consumption and generally do not waste raw materials the way other countries like the United States do. When entering a several-story building at night, there might be a button to push on the wall, which turns on a light. But after a few seconds the light goes out. It is meant to guide you to the proper door or elevator, and then is extinguished to conserve energy. Less consumption of energy is evident everywhere, and a great appreciation for the simple pleasures of life , as well.