Here are some tips that will help you land a bed in Paris every night no matter how close you cut it

How to find hotels in Paris

Use a booking engine

Amazingly, the best booking engines can often undersell the rates the hotel itself charges by a good 5% to 15%.

Notice I was "the best booking engines." This rarely means the big three (Orbitz.com, Expedia.com, Travelocity.com) or the major hotel sites (like Hotels.com).

You need to use a true independent hotel specialist booking engine like Venere.com, Booking.com, or a budget specialist like GetARoom.comGetARoom or Hostelworld.com (which actually lists more inexpensive hotels than it does hostels). I'm serious. That's why I've partnered with these sites.

Lately on nearly all my trips I amd finding—and booking—nearly every hotel through either Booking.com or Venere.com because they have a better selection and lower prices than any other source.

Use your guidebooks

Hey, you shelled out $10 to $30 bucks for the things. Use 'em.

Read the reviews of hotels thoroughly and figure out which ones best fit your taste and budget. Then prioritize your top half-dozen or so choices by scribbling 1, 2, 3, etc. in the page margins. (I do this on the train or plane ride into town to save time once I get there.)

If your first choice is already booked, this saves you the time and hassle of huddling around a pay phone in the train station with your companions saying, "Well, how does this one sound, then?" while another traveler is busy booking that free room in what would have been your second choice if only you had found it sooner.

Call when you get to town

When you get to the station, buy a phonecard from a newsstand—or, if you have a cellphone, start calling just before you arrive—and begin calling hotels immediately. This way, you get the drop on the many people who march out of the station with their bags and walk to the nearest hotel to see if there's room.

I rarely have trouble finding a place by booking each night between around noon and 3pm that afternoon—which is usually the time by which I've decided in which town I'll want to be for the night.

Use a local booking service

If you didn't use an online booking service and don't want to do the telephone legwork when you get to town yourself, a desk at the train station or tourist office usually runs a reservations service for a small fee (about $3 to $10).

You tell them your price range, where you'd like to be in the city, and sometimes even the style of hotel and they'll use a computer database to find you a room.

On the plus side, they always speak English (so do most hoteliers, but these folks often have a surer command and that helps), and they can almost always finds you something when everything in your guidebooks seems to be booked.

On the minus side, the desk staff offer no opinion on the hotels, just locations and prices, so it's a crap shoot—plus hotels often charge higher rates to people booking through such a service—it's cheapest to contact hotels directly.

That said, I can assure you I've found wonderful little B&Bs (albeit in Ireland) through the glossy promo catalogue the tourism bureau sent me. But I've also had a Prague hotel agency stick me in what appeared to be a communist-era high school and/or hospital that took almost an hour (one metro and two tram rides) to reach from the city center and where the room made my freshman dorm in college look like a suite at the Ritz.

Just learn to read between the lines to cut through the promotional fluff, and ask tough, pointed questions when you call around. It seems silly to say so, but do remember this: if you don't like a room, you don't have to take it.

In a pinch...

If you can't find room, either use a booking service or wander the streets checking each hotel you pass (the areas around the train stations are usually glutted with cheap hotels; so is Montmartre).

Widen the scope of your search. Hotels outside the center will often have more rooms free and will usually be cheaper.

Ignore hotel touts
As soon as you step off the train, hotel touts will swarm you in a feeding frenzy. Some are legitimately drumming up business, others are out to fleece you. I'd avoid them (decent hotels—in any price range—don't need to resort to using touts), but if you chose to use theri service, here's what to know.

Make sure they point to the exact location of their hotel on a map, and get the price set firmly in writing before you go off with them.

Look at the photos they show you, but remember that a fisheye lens in the room's upper corner and a sneaky collage of the inn's best furnishings all in one room can make a dismal cell look like a palatial suite (well, almost).

 

Testing out different hotels

Check different hotels

Many people don't want to bother with this method, but if you have an abundance of time but not of budget, try it. Don't assume the first hotel you visit is the best.

If you've called around and housing seems tight in town, take a room when you get it. But if there seems to be plenty of room in a city, tell the first hotel you'll think about it and head to another one nearby.

If you hotel hunt with your luggage left at the train station lockers, you will feel (and appear) more able to bargain and hunt effectively. Return to the hotel you liked best and ask what the best price they can offer is. They'll often come down if they think you have another option waiting around the corner.

Ask to see different rooms

When you get to the hotel, don't take the first room they show you. Ask to see different ones.

Open and close windows to see how well they shut out noise.

Peek at the rates posted on the room door (usually there by law) to make sure they agree with the rate you're quoted and that's posted in the lobby.

Ask about heating.

Ask if some rooms are cheaper than others.

Bargain

Room prices are rarely set, especially in chambres d'hôte and mom-and-pop joints.

If you're staying one night in high season (summer, except July), you'll have to pay the going rate.

Off-season (winter) and for stays of longer than three nights, always ask if you can get a discount.

Many places offer weekend discounts.

Double rooms with one large bed are often cheaper than ones with two single beds.

A triple with a cot for a family of four is much cheaper than two double rooms.

Rooms that share a bath down the hall are cheaper.

The more rooms a hotels has left to fill for the night, the lower they'll go.

» More money-saving tips

Settle all hotel charges at the outset

You needn't pay in advance, but do agree on the rates and what they include—whether breakfast and taxes are included, what phone rates are (remember, never call long distance from the hotel), etc.

Also be sure the price they quote you is per room, not per person.

Ask for rates without breakfast

This will usually shave $7-$20 off the price. Hotel breakfasts are always overpriced, usually just a roll and coffee or tea.

You can get the same thing much more cheaply at any corner café.

Grab the hotel's card as you check in

You'll be surprised by how easy it is to forget your hotel's name or precise locations after a long day of sightseeing.

Some cards have a little map on the back; if you at a total loss, hop in a taxi cab and show the driver the card. He'll get you home.

A caveat: Festivals and trade fairs
Look into whether your plans happen to land you in a town on a festival, in which case you're probably in for the highlight of your trip, but should reserve rooms immediately, from your home country, as far in advance as possible.

BOOK

» Hotels in Paris: Booking.com, Venere.com, Bedandbreakfast.com, Getaroom.com

 

 

 



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