There’s no harm in being surprised when you arrive at your reserved hotel, as long as that surprise is limited to a room upgrade, a free bottle of Champagne in the room or especially kind service. Otherwise it’s best to know what to expect when you select a hotel. This article provides general hotel information that you should be aware of when traveling in France.
Official check-in time is generally 2 or 3pm. If you anticipate arriving at the hotel before check-in time, let the hotel know in advance so that its staff can try to have the room ready even if they hotel will rarely promise (or hold a promise) that your room will be ready when you arrive. “We’ll do our best but…” is the standard response. Not to worry. Just leave your baggage at the hotel, enjoy a bit of a walk in your new neighborhood, and stop into a café. There’s no better introduction to Paris or any other town in France anyway. By the time you’re ready to return to the hotel your room ought to be ready.
Reservations are typically held until 6pm, so if you plan to be arriving after that time, be sure to notify the hotel in advance.
There are two types of hotel breakfasts in France: continental and buffet.
A continental breakfast typically consists of a hot drink (tea, coffee, hot chocolate), juice, one or more breakfast pastries (croissant, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins), bread, butter and jam, and possibly yogurt. The quality of this will naturally echo the quality of the hotel.
A buffet breakfast, also sometimes called an American breakfast, will be more elaborate. There you’ll additionally find hot and cold cereals, eggs, bacon, cold meats, and more or less fresh fruit. Again, quality will vary.
Some hotels offer both types of breakfast, with the cost of the buffet option being up double that of the continental.
All 3-, 4-, and 5-star hotels offer the possibility of breakfast in the room. In 3-star hotels that generally means the continental breakfast. In 4-star hotels the breakfast served in the room usually offers more.
Price of breakfast: The hotel breakfast generally costs 5-10% of the price of a standard room. In theory, if you have not eaten breakfast at the hotel you cannot be billed for it, unless you have accepted a promotional price stating that breakfast is included. If in doubt you should inquire before or when reserving and re-verify when checking in. There’s no surer way to spoil a stay than to dispute a bill as you leave – and to (re)discover the aggravation of being confronted with the expressionless poise of the service industry in France.
Hotel breakfast vs. café/bakery breakfast: Given the hefty price of a hotel breakfast and the fact that Paris is the world’s greatest city for cafés and bakeries, the more significant choice for a traveler isn’t between continental and buffet but between breakfast at the hotel and breakfast at a café and/or bakery. Convenience may lead you to have breakfast at the hotel, however some mornings you may (actually, should) prefer venturing outside of the hotel for breakfast. You’re sure to find a cozy café in the neighborhood offering their own continental breakfast (unexceptional, perhaps, but with the atmosphere of the café rather than that of the hotel). Or you might pick up a pastry at a bakery then take it to a nearby café for your morning coffee or tea. A café may well frown upon clients entering with a pastry in hand when the café serves its own croissants (often less good, less fresh). However, eating an imported pastry discreetly (i.e. not unwrapping it on the table as though you were having a picnic) is normally tolerated.
As a low, dense city Paris is not the place to come looking for vast rooms with a wide view, unless you opt for the deluxe rooms in a luxury hotel. Expect comfort but not necessarily elbow room. Size may vary from room to room in hotels that are in old buildings. If concerned about room size you might inquire as to surface area when reserving—the occasion to remember that 1 square meter = 10.8 square feet.
NOISE & AIR
With any visit to a major capital comes the noise of the big city. In most of the hotels we review in Paris, double-glazed windows adequately isolate the rooms from the sounds of the street. Furthermore, air conditioning is standard offering in 4* and 4*L hotels as well as many 3*s. It may work more as a ventilation system than as a cooling system, nevertheless, with the movement of air provided by the system you typically won’t need to open the window at night to let in a breeze and the accompanying noise.
Hotels located on major arteries may, however, endure a hum of traffic behind their double, sometimes triple, windows. This can be barely audible and of no bother to most sleepers. With the slight hum may also come a view, so you’ll need to consider the trade-off. Sufficient sound-proofing and the possibility of a view of the street or beyond lead us to prefer rooms facing the street. Light sleepers may nevertheless prefer a room facing the courtyard or the back since those often sheltered from street noise. In large and palatial hotels the courtyard may be a spacious square or patio that can itself be pleasant to look out over. However, in small hotels the courtyard can be so narrow that from your window you could play handball against the opposite wall. Your choice. In any case, if you have a preference for a room on the street or on the courtyard you should specify when reserving. View naturally affects price.
In Paris a city tax of about 1-1.5 euros per night will be added to your bill unless the hotel has already indicated that it is included in the price. Many other destinations in France have a similar tax. All other taxes should be included in the price originally announced by a hotel.