Scams and rip-offs at the hotel—many of them perfectly legal. Avoid the minibar, phone, laundry service, and parking garage
I have nothing against hotels, but some of their common charging practices are so sneaky as to almost qualify as criminal.
This page is not about outright thievery—that rare front-desk clerk who will try to slip in an extra night's charge on unsuspecting guests (in 30 years of European travel—including more than 20 years of researching and writing guidebooks and magazine articles—that has happened to me precisely once).
All of the rip-offs listed below are perfectly legal; they're just not very nice.
Also, I should point out that, by a huge margin, it tends to be the pricier establishments that do this. The smaller mom and pop hotels and B&Bs do it much less (or at least less flagrantly), and their extra charges are often nominal and quite reasonable.
Many hotels, though, try to squeeze every pence they can out of you beyond the cost of the room. Because, hey: once you're booked in, you're bound to get thirsty and give into the temptation of that Coke in the minibar, or want to phone some great-sounding restaurant to make reservations for the evening or (God forbid) make a quick call home, or you may eventually want to, you know, eat breakfast or something. And then they have you.
Let the fleecing of the unawares begin!
- Booking.com - We have done extensive testing, and Booking.com is hands-down the single best booking engine, with by far the largest number of hotels (and other lodging options) in all price ranges.Partner
- Agoda.com - This booking engine, once just an Asia specialist, has recently rocketed to second-best all around the world.Partner
- HotelsCombined.com - An aggregator looks at the results of all the booking engines and presents the prices it finds at each side-by-side. It's a great concept (and works well for airfares), however in our tests the actual booking engines themselves often offered better deals on more properties.Partner
- Hostelz.com - A booking engine that specailizes in hostels and cheap hotels.Partner
- Hotels.com - Since Hotels.com absorbed its Venere.com sibling, it has been performing much better in Europe than it once did.Partner
- Priceline.com - Priceline not only offers decent deals on standard hotel bookings, but also "Express Deals" in which you only get to know the hotel's star rating and neighborhood before you pay for it—but the savings can be substantial (usually 18%–20%, though occasionally much higher).Partner
- Hotwire.com - Like its competition Priceline, Hotwire offers both straightforward hotel bookings as well as "Hot Rate" deals that save you 25%–65% on hotels that you book blindly, knowing only the neighborhood and star rating before booking (and paying) for it.Partner
- Trivago.com - Depsite its aggressive advertising camapaigns, in our tests Trivago does not actually perform all that well as an aggregator (and it has gotten worse as time goes on). Still, it can be handy.Partner