Booking Hotels Outside India

So your flight was on time, the tour group seems fun, the travel agent has ensured that you will be ferried to the hotel. This is where most package tours begin to come apart. If you are used to Indian hotels and are promised accommodation at a twostar hotel in Malaysia, you will certainly not agree to share a bathroom with five other rooms. But this is what a two-star hotel in Malaysia offers. If you're used to travelling in the US, you automatically look for an ice machine on every floor and, consequently, are horrified when the star equivalent in India does not offer one. Ideally, the tour operator should inform you that the stars assigned to hotels vary from country to country. For instance, northern Europe places a premium on the size of the beds, while Abu Dhabi focuses on eco-friendly practices. All things considered, it's not easy to understand a hotel's rating. Since we don't want you to be shocked by the lack of amenities when you travel next, we give you a rough idea of what to expect where. We look at three-star hotels since this is the most affordable option without compromising on quality.

United States

There is no official hotel classification system in this country. The AAA, North America's premium hotel rating programme, independently reviews properties in the US, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. This system uses diamonds instead of stars. Here's what a three-diamond hotel offers:

  • There is no minimum size for a room, but it must have a comfortable seating area. It should be equipped with a TV, fully enclosed wardrobe with at least six hangers, luggage rack, iron and ironing board, two-line telephone, tea/coffee-maker and supplies, easy access data ports and free daily newspaper. Niceties like an in-room safe, mini bar, CD player or bathrobes and slippers are optional.
  • The bathrooms have to stock a wall-mounted hair dryer, at least two bars of soap and a bottled shampoo, while the front desk has to offer additional amenities like bath gel. In the higher tiers, you'll find a five-or sevenpiece amenity set, a make-up mirror, telephone and weighing scale.
  • While luggage carts are a must, don't bother looking for a concierge and bellstand.
  • A weatherappropriate swimming pool and a designated exercise room must be available; spas and poolside meals/beverages are limited to fourdiamond hotels and higher tiers.

United Kingdom

There's a unified quality standards rating system set by the British Hospitality Association, but there is no legal compulsion for hotels to seek quality recognition. Approved jointly by the English Tourist Board and the two most popular hotel guide publishers in the country, this system grades quality standards through stars. The stars are normally black against a yellow background, but the best hotel in a particular star category gets red stars. Here are some of the most exacting requirements:

  • The hotel should have a minimum of six guest rooms and has to be operational seven days a week during its operating season.
  • Bed sizes are specified (190 cm x 90 cm for a single bed and 190 cm x 137 cm for a double bed). The inroom amenities are similar to the AAA requirements.
  • It should allow one room-service meal in addition to snacks during the day. This facility is not available in a two-star hotel. The in-house restaurant must serve breakfast and a three-course dinner on all days.
  • The reception has to be manned till late evening, ideally 11 p.m. The hotels near busy areas like airports also have to provide facilities like 24x7 express check-in/out.
  • The en suite bathrooms have to stock basic toiletries. Items like toothbrushes should be available on request, usually at a charge. Hot water should also be available at all times. In two-star hotels, this facility is limited to 'reasonable' times.


One of the few countries with an official classification guide, here's what Malaysia's three-star hotels offer:

  • The room should be furnished with a television, music system, fridge, cupboard, writing table and chair, night table, armchair and luggage rack. An en suite bathroom is a must. The more costly rooms should have a hair dryer or coffee-maker. (For the fussy, the room size is specified: it has to be 10 sq m for a single room and 12 sq m for a double one.)
  • It should have at least one restaurant/dining room that serves all three meals.
  • The hotel must offer services such as car rental, tourism information, secretarial services in a common business centre and forex facilities.
  • A swimming pool is a must for four or more stars; a three-star hotel can get by with indoor games alone.
  • Elevators have to be provided in five-storey or higher hotels in proportion to the room capacity.

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