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Bed setting in a five star hotel room.

Hotel Star Rating Explained

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Hotel star rating systems seek to assess hotel quality and systematical rank establishments so that customers know what to expect at the time of booking. Star rating systems are intended to serve as guidelines for guests who are making hotel reservations and can be quite helpful, it’s important to realize that these are loose ratings and there is actually no standardized star rating system in place. In the United States, hotels are generally ranked on a scale from one to five stars, sometimes using half star increments. Here’s a look at how the rating system works and what you can expect from each type of rating.

Where Do the Ratings Come From?

In the United States, there is no uniform measure that determines a hotel’s star rating. Each hotel is rated based on details that often don’t matter to consumers, such as the amount of tax a hotel pays annually. Similarly, star ratings are conferred upon hotels by several organizations. National consumer travel organizations and guidebooks assign star ratings to hotels, as do travel websites and reservations services, but each one uses its own set of criteria to determine the rating. Most U.S. websites and organizations that rate hotels provide an explanation of their rating system so that consumers can decode the rating.

A Closer Look at the Hotel Star Rating System

Here’s a breakdown on what you can expect from hotels that carry a specific rating.

  • 5-Star Rating: Luxurious hotels, offering the highest degree of personal service. Elegance and style abound, the rooms are equipped with quality linens, VCR, CD stereo, jacuzzi tubs, and in-room video. There are multiple restaurants on site with extensive gourmet menus, and room-service is also available 24-7. A fitness center, valet parking, and concierge service round out the experience.
  • 4-Star Rating: Formal, large hotels, with top-notch service. There will usually be other hotels of the same caliber clustered nearby, as well as shopping, dining, and entertainment. Above-average service, beautifully furnished rooms, restaurants, room service, valet parking, a fitness center, and a concierge are some amenities to expect.
  • 3-Star Rating: Usually located near a major expressway, business center, and/or shopping area, these hotels offer nice, spacious rooms and decorative lobbies. On-site restaurants may be average in size but will offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Valet and room service, a small fitness center, and a pool are often available.
  • 2-Star Rating: These hotels are generally part of a chain that offers consistent quality and limited amenities. They are small or medium in size and rooms will have a phone and TV. While you will not have the convenience of room service, there should be a small restaurant on site.
  • 1-Star Rating: Expect a small hotel managed and operated by the owner. The atmosphere will be more personal and the accommodations basic. Restaurants should be within walking distance, as well as nearby public transportation and entertainment that is reasonable in price.

Using the Hotel Star Rating System

Even though star ratings can seem arbitrary, they can still be beneficial and can help to inform you about a hotel. For instance, a four- or five-star hotel is always going to be more luxurious than a one- or two-star hotel. Likewise, a one-star hotel is going to be an economy motel and a two-star hotel will be a higher-end motel or budget hotel. But even one- and two-star hotels will usually have all of the amenities you require for a night’s sleep. However, if you’re seeking higher end amenities such as room service, Internet access, movies, plush linens, fitness center access, and the like, you’ll probably want to look at hotels that are rated three stars and above. Three-star hotels are moderately priced hotels that are comfortable, but they may lack some of the luxury of four-star hotels. A five-star rating is reserved exclusively for the country’s highest-end chain and boutique hotels. Expect to pay a premium for five-star luxuries.


It’s important to note that hotel star ratings differ from country to country, so it’s important to do your research ahead of time so you know what to expect. While in the U.S. a five-star hotel will offer turndown service and personalized wake-up calls, and feature luxurious rooms and sophisticated surroundings, in many European countries a five-star hotel room must include a personalized greeting with flowers or a gift and a one-hour ironing service.

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