Can you expect all star rating in Spain to be the same?
The short answer is definitely NO. Each of the seventeen regions in Spain give official ratings according their own criteria therefore making it impossible to make an informed choice ( based just on the classification alone ) when deciding where to stay. The only common factor of all regions is that they rate hotels as one, two, three, four or five star according to facilities offered.
In general five star hotels will usually live up to customers expectations as these are the luxury end of the market and are mostly offered by international or national hotel chains who have a quality brand image to live up to. Being the high end market they are of course only for those who can afford them a customer base with high expectations.
Four and three star hotels in Spain tend to be the establishments with the most disappointment when it comes to customers expectations as these vary greatly from region to region and town to town. It is not unusual to find a three star which customers review as a four star and indeed a four star which customers review as a three.
To add to the confusion the official rating given to a hotel is not necessarily that which customers see, as most hotels are booked online or through tour company brochures who have their own star ratings criteria ( or sun, crown, key, moon, diamond etc ). It is also widespread for customers to have their own idea of what a classification actually means based on the services and comfort of hotels in their own country. In Spain the service and especially the type of food offered differs from that of other European destinations and or course is “typically Spanish” as you would expect.
A rough guide of what to expect for each star rating.
1 Star – Basic rooms some with a bathroom or shared facilities. Often no amenities such as lounge, swimming pool, television, room telephone, safe or reception services. Generally small rooms most without balconies or sea views. Although basic this can be a good option if on a budget holiday. You may be pleasantly surprised in this type of hotel if you ask to see your room before payment. Expect dining to be simple Spanish meals with limited choice sometimes only on a bed and breakfast rate or room only. Limited fire safety standards.
2 Star – Basic comfortable acceptable accommodation with some rooms en-suite. Many will offer better services and even perhaps a small swimming pool. Rooms may have a television, air conditioning, bigger restaurant, better style of food with perhaps more choice usually on a buffet basis. Many two star hotels in good sea front locations are unable to gain a 3 star due to restraints with the building but do offer a 3 star service with good quality but smaller rooms. Limited fire safety standards but most do have fire escapes now.
3 Star – Here you will get a larger hotel with better facilities such as T.V games room, pool and gardens or sun terrace, 24 hour reception, lounge, separate bar. Generally with larger restaurant with a comprehensive choice food served buffet style for breakfast through to dinner. Rooms will all be en-suite usually with full bathroom facilities, TV, room safe, balcony, air conditioning, telephone and large enough to accommodate twin beds. Most do not offer room service. Many three star hotels do now offer limited gym facilities. Better fire escape standards and better equipment such as hoses extinguishers can be expected.
4 Star – Large formal hotels with well deigned ambient decor to public areas. Usually offer a choice of bars and large restaurant with buffet service plus a´la carte dining choice in many. Most offer outdoor and indoor heated pool with gym, sauna facilities too. Rooms are well appointed with balcony or terrace (unless city center based). All will provide air conditioning, room service, large bathrooms with hairdryer and toiletries plus luxury towels. Many have a mini bar or fridge but not all. Expect satellite T.V with a good range of channels and an in room telephone. Concierge service to book theatres, car hire etc does tend to be available in most 4 star hotels. Most are now up to the EU fire safety standards.
5 Star – These are the best offering a high level of personal service, luxury and high end premises with landscaped gardens ( unless city center based). You will expect luxury rooms with mini bar, trouser press, fine quality furnishings and specially designed luxurious beds and bed linen. Bathrooms will be of the highest quality and large with luxury toiletries and towels. World T.V and pay per view films / games available. 24 hour full room service. A selection of bars and dining areas with award wining food. Usually have a golf course on site or nearby and full spa / wellness centers. Expect a bell boy service and full 24 hour concierge. All will have good fire safety and evacuation procedures in place.
Hostal & Pension Accommodation
For the budget traveller you may also consider a Spanish one or two star hostal or simple pension. These are often the cheapest with two star hostals offering the best with en-suite shower rooms. Many have small restaurants or bars which serve food. Most are bed and breakfast only and offer very limited services with no pools or garden areas.
Pensions tend to very basic with some en-suite shower rooms or shared facilities. Most pensions do not offer food but some may offer bar snacks or a small continental breakfast. With these you do get what you pay for so do not expect too much other than clean accommodation. Best suited to back packers or those who just need somewhere to sleep in between all night partying. Best advice is too ask to see the room first before deciding to stay.
Many of these older establishments do not offer a high standard of fire safety when compared to many countries. Not many have separate fire escapes a point worth considering.
Concerning food, service, expectations, safety
Generally hotels in Spain below three star will offer limited “international” food, which, if not important can be a good thing depending on your taste and willingness to experiment. If however you want food “like it is at home” then you would be best to go three or four star with four being the best choice for good quality international food. The thing to remember is that Spain is Spain and you should be prepared to immerse yourself into the way things are rather than come with expectations of a home from home. This way you will enjoy a much more pleasant stay. If you are concerned about safety Spain does have an excellent record of fire safety and is a very safe place to be with violent crime extremely rare. The plumbing is different, water tastes different but is safe, things are slower, service is – well – Spanish and tomorrow is another day. Enjoy your visit to Spain and the large choice of hotels.