By law, hotel prices in Spain must be posted at the reception desk and should indicate whether or not the value-added tax (I.V.A.; 8%) is included. Note that high-season rates prevail not only in summer but also during Holy Week and local fiestas. In much of Spain, breakfast is normally not included.
Most hotels and other lodgings require you to give your credit card details before they will confirm your reservation. If you don't feel comfortable emailing this information, ask if you can fax it (some places even prefer faxes). However you book, get confirmation in writing and have a copy of it when you check in.
Be sure you understand the hotel's cancellation policy. Some places allow you to cancel without any kind of penalty—even if you prepaid to secure a discounted rate—if you cancel at least 24 hours in advance. Others require you to cancel a week in advance or penalize you the cost of one night. Small inns and bed-and-breakfasts are most likely to require you to cancel far in advance.
Apartment and House Rentals
If you are interested in a single-destination vacation, or are staying in one place and using it as a base for exploring the local area, renting an apartment or a house can be a good idea. However, it is not always possible to ensure the quality beforehand, and you may be responsible for supplying your own bed linens, towels, etc.
Barclay International Group (516/364-0064 or 800/845-6636. www.barclayweb.com.)
Home Away (877/228-3145; 512/782-0805 international. www.homeaway.com.)
Interhome (954/791-8282 or 800/882-6864. www.interhome.us.)
Villas and Apartments Abroad (212/213-6435 or 800/433-3020. www.vaanyc.com.)
Villas International (415/499-9490 or 800/221-2260. www.villasintl.com.)
Youth hostels (albergues juveniles) in Spain are usually large and impersonal (but clean) with dorm-style beds. Most are geared to students, though many have a few private rooms suitable for families and couples. These rooms fill up quickly, so book at least a month in advance. Other budget options are the university student dorms (residencia estudiantil), some of which offer accommodation in summer, when students are away.
Note that in Spain hostals are not the same as the dorm-style youth hostels common elsewhere in Europe—hostals are inexpensive hotels with individual rooms, not communal quarters.
Hostelling International—USA (301/495-1240. www.hiusa.org.)
Hotels and Bed-and-Breakfasts
The Spanish government classifies hotels with one to five stars, with an additional rating of five-star GL (Gran Luxo) indicating the highest quality. Although quality is a factor, the rating is technically only an indication of how many facilities the hotel offers. For example, a three-star hotel may be just as comfortable as a four-star hotel but lack a swimming pool. Similarly, Fodor's price categories (¢-$$$$) indicate room rates only, so you might find a well-kept $$$ inn more charming than the famous $$$$ property down the street.
All hotel entrances are marked with a blue plaque bearing the letter H and the number of stars. The letter R (standing for residencia) after the letter H indicates an establishment with no meal service, with the possible exception of breakfast. The designations fonda (F), pensión (P), casa de huéspedes (CH), and hostal (Hs) indicate budget accommodations. In most cases, especially in smaller villages, rooms in such buildings will be basic but clean; in large cities, these rooms can be downright dreary.
When inquiring in Spanish about whether a hotel has a private bath, ask if it's an habitación con baño. Although a single room (habitación sencilla) is usually available, singles are often on the small side. Solo travelers might prefer to pay a bit extra for single occupancy of a double room (habitación doble uso individual). Make sure you request a double bed (matrimonial) if you want one—if you don't ask, you may end up with two singles.
There's a growing trend in Spain toward small country hotels and agritourism. Estancias de España is an association of more than 40 independently owned hotels in restored palaces, monasteries, mills, and estates, generally in rural Spain. Similar associations serve individual regions, and tourist offices also provide lists of establishments. In Galicia, pozos are beautiful, old, often stately homes converted into small luxury hotels; Pozos de Galicia is the main organization for them. In Cantabria, casonas are small to large country houses, but as they don't have individual Web sites, it is necessary to check the regional tourist office Web sites.
A number of casas rurales (country houses similar to B&Bs) offer pastoral lodging either in guest rooms or in self-catering cottages. You may also come across the term finca, for country estate house. Many agroturismo accommodations are fincas converted to upscale B&Bs.
The Spanish government runs almost 100 paradors—upscale hotels in historic buildings or near significant sites. Rates are reasonable, considering that most paradors have four- or five-star amenities, and the premises are invariably immaculate and tastefully furnished, often with antiques or reproductions. Each parador has a restaurant serving regional specialties, and you can stop in for a meal without spending the night. Paradors are popular with foreigners and Spaniards alike, so make reservations well in advance.
Paradores de España (www.parador.es.)
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