See that guy? He’s a famous singer. Really. If he can get stuck at the airport without a hotel… well… you’re screwed.
Well. Probably not. And it doesn’t mean that you’re at the mercy of the major hotel chains or hostels? Nope. And that’s great news!
Let me just say, staying at a chain hotel or a big, shiny, glitzy hotel while on vacation can be a wonderful, necessary, healing thing. Lovely large beds and spacious bathrooms will do wonders to revive a weary body and soul after too long in rickety singles and train seats. (Yes, that’s the voice of experience.) And it’s even possible on a budget. If you’re careful.
Take Portugal, for example. Pre-recession, pre-Euro, my stay in Portugal was made all the better by a wonderfully large hotel room. At the time the exchange was 19/1 in my favor! Arriving in Lisbon from London, this was a welcome change.
If you’re up for a bit of adventure, the train stations in every major European city have been in are repleat with resources to make your stay the best possible. Inside the station, you can find a very helpful, English-speaking, attendant at the Hotel office. This office, so aptly named, will find you a hotel. For free. (Well, the service is free, the hotel costs what it costs.) You tell them what part of town you want to stay, how long you’re staying, and your rough budget, and minutes later, you have a map with a circled location and directions. Boom! You’re off to drop your bags and begin your journey.
On my five city tour of Europe, in the pre-smartphone days of 1999, the hotels in four cities were acquired with this service. And when we had to switch hotels after the first night in Lisbon, the departing hotel found us the new place. Again, free service. Two nights in the museum section of Barcelona? Done. Three nights in the shopping district of Paris? Sure.
Asking questions is free, so before you run off and assume you understand how things work in a city or country you’ve never been to, ask some questions.