Hotel Scams

Hotel bills can hold surprising and unexpected charges unless you think twice before taking advantage of a hotel’s convenient services.

The room rate hotel’s charge you is often not the only charge you’ll see on your final bill. These are additional charges you might find if you’re not careful. Taking advantage of any one of these hotel services could add significantly to the cost of your next hotel stay.

  • The Minibar
    Late at night, after the bar other amenities are closed, the thought of raiding minibar can be tempting. Think twice before you do. Do you seriously want to spend $7 for a soda? How about $12 for a shot of cheap vodka? Then there’s that tray of candy bars and other snacks the hotel has generously provided. A candy bar could cost you $4 or more. Do you still want it that badly? Go ahead, it’s up to you. But be aware that you will pay through the nose for each and every item you decide to consume. Make sure you scan your hotel bill for unexpected minibar charges. It’s a common error hotels make that can cost you a fortune.
  • The Phone
    If you think the minibar is a rip-off consider what hotels charge for the use of their phones. A simple phone call can cost you 4 times what it costs and that sometimes includes local calls. It may not even matter if you’re using a calling card. You’ll be charged for simply picking up the phone and using it any way unless it’s an internal call. All I can say is thank God for cell phones. Do whatever you can to avoid using the hotel’s phone.
  • Parking
    The hotel has you by the “you know what’s” here. Where else are you going to park? It’s going to hurt ($20 – $30 – $50 a day!) but your car will be safe and you won’t have to travel a great distance between your car and the hotel. If you’re on vacation you don’t want to waste it walking between the car and hotel. Sometimes the only option available is to park on the street. Be sure to inform the hotel which car is yours. They should be able to assist you with advice, a word of warning, or even a special permit.
  • Breakfast
    Occasionally, hotels will tender a reduction in your room rate if you decline their “complementary” breakfast. We suggest this option be taken whenever possible. “Why not take advantage of the breakfast”, you ask? It will most likely consist of muffins, cereal, fruit and a cup of coffee. The reduction in room rate should leave you enough to enjoy a much more substantial meal somewhere else. If you’re stuck with the “free” continental breakfast, load up and take some back to your room for a snack later.
  • Laundry
    If you felt the minibar and phone were expensive you won’t believe this. Beware the laundry bill. Some hotels charge as much for cleaning your clothes as you did to purchase them. Most of the time, they do include a per piece price for laundry service. Review these prices and think long and hard about whether you really need laundry service. If you’re in a country where pricing is done in their currency, the actual cost could be uncertain. You might be paying $1.00 or more to have your socks washed. Drying them might incur an additional fee! We suggest locating a nearby Laundromat or packing detergent and a travel laundry line with you. You can launder key clothing items, such as underwear and socks, and line dry them in your room. Keep in mind that a few moments of convenience may wind up as large added fees on your final hotel invoice.
  • Taxes
    Be aware that some listed hotels prices include taxes and others do not. Many European hotel rates include a national VAT (Value Added Tax) or national sales tax for all intents and purposes. This is not always the case. Hotels in some countries advertise rates that don’t include taxes. They want their rates to be as attractive as possible to attract sales. It isn’t illegal, but it is often done to obfuscate a room’s true rate. In addition, the tax could be as much as 17% as it is in Britain or 22% in the Czech Republic. Those may be extreme examples but illustrate how much more you might find on your hotel bill than you expected.

A hotel will, in almost all cases, let you know up front what they’ll charge you for taking advantage of the services we’ve identified as rip-offs. We still think these charges can be excessive and that travelers should be aware of them. These are almost always optional services that can be accepted or declined.

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