Back when having a US passport meant you could travel around the world, many Americans would look for hotels affiliated with chains they knew. That’s how we ended up staying at a Best Western on our first stay in Paris and a Westin for my first visit to Tokyo.
Were these the best hotels we could have stayed? Definitely not for the Best Western, where the plumbing was not working for the first day of our stay. The Westin Tokyo was great and we used SPG points, so the price wasn’t an issue. But I’d never want to pay that much for a hotel.
Once we got more comfortable traveling to foreign countries, staying at a chain hotel wasn’t as important. Due to necessity, we had to stay at a Japanese chain when we visited Nagoya for the World’s Fair in 2005.
We booked a room at the Nagoya Tokyu Hotel through Expedia.
We were treated better than any other hotel we’ve experienced, even for Japan. We walked to the hotel from the train station in the rain. We were dripping wet when we arrived. The hotel staff met us at the door and took our bags and dried them off as we walked to the registration area. Additional staff came to wipe down the floor where we dripped water while walking across the lobby. When leaving the hotel, the staff helped us arrange the shipment of our bags to our next hotel via courier, filling out all of the forms in Japanese.
Needless to say, for our next stay in Japan we didn’t hesitate to book a room at another Japanese hotel.
The Keio Plaza Hotel was centrally located and perfect for a three-night stay. It was also half the price of the international chains (IHG, Marriott). We had no problems speaking no Japanese. The hotel even signed me up for their loyalty program, which sent me newsletters, FROM JAPAN, for two years.
It’s not only our trips to Japan where we’ve stayed at a local chain hotel. Just last year, we stayed at the Motel One in Munich. While the room was small, it was well worth the price we paid compared to what the major chains were charging for a room.
The hotel staff also switched from German to English the moment we walked up the counter, which still freaks me out a bit because I hate to be “The Average American” when traveling (but the truth us that Americans really are that easy to pick out from a mile away).
What I’ve learned over the years is not to shy away from local hotels when traveling overseas, especially if you’re paying for the room. If you’re able to use points or a free night, there’s no reason not to do so. But if you’re paying out of pocket for the room, a local establishment will more likely be a better value because the other foreign tourists are going to flock to a name they know. Just like we did on our first trips.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary