Finding the perfect room abroad can be harder than mastering a foreign language, especially in places where amenities and prices vary widely. Budget Travel to the rescue: We sniffed out the hotel chains that locals rely on most—and compiled them into this handy hotel cheat sheet.
By Sandra Ramani
Whether you favour basic, no-frills bargain hotels or accommodations with a happy balance of perks and price, you’ve probably already found a hotel chain or two that suits your needs—at least here in the States. But what happens when you travel abroad? We searched far and wide for the foreign hotel chains locals rely on most, from Mexico City to Moscow, compiling them all in this international cheat sheet to a good, cheap night’s sleep (almost) anywhere on earth. Among our search criteria, consistency was key—we prioritised chains with reliable standards of service, cleanliness, and amenities (since you can’t always trust hotel ratings abroad, and filtered out those with erratic pricing or less-than-desirable locations. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some (pleasant) surprises in the mix—many of our bargain picks also include indulgent extras like monsoon showers, on-site spas, and design-mag-worthy interiors.
Started in Pamplona, Spain in 1978, NH has grown to become one of the top 20 largest chains in the world, with more than 400 properties in 26 countries, from Andorra to Uruguay (most are concentrated in Europe and South America). The look varies from one hotel to the next, but many are set in historic buildings with original architectural details and filled with stylish, modern furnishings: solid, neutral-hued linens on the bed and abstract art on the walls. NH also often has several hotels in the same destination—so it’s worth it to check out all your options for the best rate and location.
Sure, the hotels may be cookie-cutter (furniture is of the basic, blond-wood variety) and the locations aren’t exactly thrilling (most properties are near business districts and airports), but the brand definitely has a lock on convenience, thanks to 24-hour snack bars, WiFi, and often on-site parking. All 900-plus outposts, from continental Europe to Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East, and Australia, also serve locally-influenced breakfast buffets (say, crepes in France, or tropical fruits in Brazil).
Most of Mercure’s 725 hotels (across 49 countries) are in Europe, with the remainder in Australia, South America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.The three- and four-star properties include both business-friendly city spots and resorts—the latter of which are more likely to incorporate vernacular design elements such as thatched-roof cottages at a Bali resort or a hammam at a Morocco hotel. All have on-site restaurants, and most offer packages with conveniences like breakfast and internet.
TRYP by Wyndham Hotels
A boutique brand from the Wyndham group, TRYP aims for the spot where form and function overlap, providing urban adventurers with 21st-century amenities (WiFi, fitness centers, flat-screen TVs), a streamlined aesthetic (neutral color palettes, hardwood floors), and legitimate social scenes (on-site bars and active lobbies designed for mingling). Spain, Germany, Portugal and Brazil have the most properties now, but there are one-offs in Europe, South America, Canada and the U.S.
BEST BY REGION:
ASIA & THE PACIFIC
Centara Hotels & Resorts
With their fancy pool decks, on-site spas, and concierges, properties from the Centara brand (Thailand’s largest) all feel like splurges, even if they’re not. You’ll find them in most of the country’s major tourist destinations, from Chiang Mai to Krabi, along with the Maldives, Bali, Vietnam and the Philippines. The brand includes several sub-categories: The five-star Centara Grand and the Centara Boutique Collection are on the pricey side, so stick to the four-star Centara and three-star Centra properties for comparable quality at better rates. And watch for deals when you’re booking—often, the online rates are much lower (up to 60 percent) than standard published prices.
Whether you’re in Beijing or Nanjing, you can expect this fast-growing Chinese chain to deliver clean, pleasant rooms with free WiFi, TVs, and basic amenities, all in locations that are convenient to universities, train stations and conference centers.
Lemon Tree Hotels
Travelers looking to set up a home base in one of India’s larger cities can take good advantage of Lemon Tree’s growing chain. The hotels were originally designed for business travelers—but you’d never know it at first glance. The rooms are cheerful (brightly hued bedspreads, colorful expressionist and abstract artwork) and well-equipped (LCD TVs, orthopedic mattresses, free bottled water), and nearly every hotel has a decent swimming pool. There are even a few affordable resort outposts—one in Goa, and one near Vembanad Lake. Solo female travelers can book into a “Lemon Tree Diva” room, which is on a women-only corridor and has extras like reflexology foot massagers.
Dedeman Hotels & Resorts
Founded in Istanbul in 1966, Dedeman now has hotels and resorts all over Turkey, as well as in Bulgaria, and Uzbekistan. Rooms are more comfortable than cutting-edge, but the properties have worthwhile bonuses such as Turkish baths, indoor/outdoor swimming pools, and multiple options for on-site dining, drinking, and even dancing.
No one-trick pony, this Spanish chain’s strength lies in its diverse roster of hotels, each defined by the type of experience the traveler might want. In Barcelona alone, you can choose between nearly two dozen very different Husa options—12 branded “Urban” for their strategic city-center settings, and five in the higher-end “Luxury” level. Other lodging categories include “Holiday” (resorts like the beachfront Conil Park on the Atlantic Coast),”Well Being” (serenity-focused spots like Sant Bernat in the Sierra del Montseny, surrounded by woods and gardens), and “Mountain” (the Chalet Bassibé in the Valle de Aran, with a lobby fireplace and indoor-outdoor pools). At all hotels, however, you’ll find well-priced rooms decorated with the kind of details that channel old-world glamour: leather, velvet, and wood-paneling. Often, you’ll find top-quality fitness centers, serious restaurants, and spas.
This is the fastest-growing budget brand in the UK, and it shows: With over 600 hotels in cities, near airports, and along highways, there’s pretty much always a Premier Inn nearby. With that kind of presence, they don’t really have to deliver much else, but they’ve still improved upon the bare-bones motor lodge model. King-size platform beds are standard, bathrooms come with tubs and showers (not always a given in Europe), and most of the properties have their own restaurants and bars.
AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
City Lodge Family of Hotels
This South African brand’s hotels are separated into four categories: one-star Road Lodge hotels, two-star Town Lodges, three-star City Lodges and four-star Courtyards. Not surprisingly, the Courtyard options are the most charming, and have studio and suite options with kitchenettes, which can help offset the higher nightly rates (a March price check at the Courtyard Cape Town revealed a promo rate of $139 per night). Still, most all hotels under the brand’s umbrella have on-site restaurants and WiFi, and even the one-star spots offer 24-hour service, breakfast and, in some cases, swimming pools.
Africa’s largest hotel group, Protea has properties in eight countries—Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa and Malawi—plus one outpost in London.They range from country inns and mountain retreats to seaside resorts and city-chic spots. The urban hotels tend to be edgier—a purple pool table here, neon-pink lighting there—while the out-of-town properties are more likely to feature native artwork or old-fashioned canopy beds and floral-upholstered furniture.