Comparing Two Budget Hotels In Germany

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When we hike in Germany, we generally make it a point to stay in small, family-run B&B-style hotels. This is Germany as in “countryside”, mind you, where B&B-style hotels are plentiful and good value for money (cheap and cheerful) and where you generally don’t have much of an alternative anyway.

Cities, however, are a different story: for every good family-run hotel, there is a rotten one, too, so your best choice is often a chain hotel: cheap-ish if not particularly cheerful, but at least you know what to expect.

Comparing Budget Hotels in Germany

The two largest budget hotel chains in Germany are Ibis (with about 80 hotels) and MotelOne (with about 40).

If you are travelling to any large town or city in Germany and are looking for a none-too-costly roof over your head for the night, chances are you will find at least one of those on your list of options.

"MotelOne in Saarbruecken  one of the many budget hotels in Germany"

I myself have been to Ibis hotels quite often in the past, if rarely in Germany, while my experiences with MotelOne are limited but good.

I found, however, that MotelOne have the hotel business upside down in a way, providing their customers with stuff that they did not ask for: designer-this and fancy-schmancy that, while denying them more essential items – a room which is big enough to swing a cat, for example.

But why take my word for it? For an objective assessment, let us go to WiSo, a weekly consumer magazine on the ZDF, Germany’s second largest public service TV station. They put both budget hotels to the test, and this is what they found out.

Their test (of one hotel from either chain in Berlin) found MotelOne to be clearly ahead of Ibis on two counts: the hotel was better designed (particularly with a stylish and elegantly furnished lobby) and cheaper, although WiSo admitted clear-cut comparisons were difficult because of the different pricing policies of both chains. (MotelOne offer their rooms at fixed prices whereas Ibis charge differently for different days of the week.)

"Ibis Koeln City Messe one of the budget hotels in Germany"

MotelOne were very slightly ahead in terms of customer satisfaction, and a comparison of the breakfast offerings from the two chains ended in a score draw (with good results for both).

The category “room quality” also went MotelOne’s way, but mainly because their room was found to have a slightly smaller number of bacteria on light switches and door knobs, which seems to me – no offence, WiSo people – an exaggeratedly German perspective on things.

(If you are confident about your German, you can watch the whole 10-minute clip here about the duel between two budget hotels in Germany.)

A few years ago, the print magazine Test – published by the Stiftung Warentest, a non-profit consumer organization – arrived at similar, but slightly different results. Similar in the sense that they, too, found Ibis and MotelOne to be the most competitive providers of budget accommodation in Germany (alongside the far smaller Express chain, a subsidiary of Holiday Inn with app. 20 hotels ), and slightly different in the sense that they, in contrast to WiSo, saw Ibis ahead of MotelOne, if only by a whisker.

In this test – a much wider-angled affair that included several budget chains and even youth hostels – the “hard discounters” of the hotel market, Etap and Formule1, were hammered pretty hard. (The comparison table with a full overview of the results is here) .

Again, this is in German, but you don’t need to be a linguist to catch the gist of it. “Frühstück” is “breakfast”, “Zimmer” is room, and “öffentliche Räume” are “public spaces“. The lower the figure in the final column, the better.)

Ultimately, I think it is fair to say that both Ibis and MotelOne provide a safe option: if you stay in one of those, your holiday will not be ruined because of the poor quality of your accommodation, and this is really all you can and should expect from a budget hotel.

Ibis was the uncontested market leader in this segment for a while, but there is a tough new competitor in town, and Ibis have their work cut out if they want to fend him off.

Not being able to match MotelOne on the “stylish design front”, they will, probably, need to fine-tune their pricing policy – for the benefit of travellers with an eye for a good bargain.

Let’s keep this eye open!

 

15 comments to Comparing Two Budget Hotels In Germany

  • Daniel Ford

    Ibis hotels

  • Great post that affects a lot of travelers. I also usually opt for smaller, indy places, but I have stayed in a few Ibis when I kind of wanted a ‘break’ – I recall one in Bratislava, one in Australia, and most recently one in Yarslavl, Russia. All had a similar clean-lined feel and after staying in more hostels, etc…they were a step up for me when I just wanted a no-brainer, clean place. I don’t think I’ve stayed in MotelOne yet…

  • Good information to know! I too haven’t stayed in either and do prefer B&B’s even when staying in cities but sometimes that is just not an option. I will keep these in mind.

  • Like Leigh, I usually stay at B&Bs but will keep these in mind.

  • I’ve been wondering about these hotel chains. I haven’t stayed in them yet, but have seen them in German cities. They always seem to be in convenient locations. I’ll give them some consideration next time.

  • Good to know for future trips to Europe. I usually opt for the B&B route for the local flavour.

  • This is a great resource to keep on file my friends! I think I prefer Ibis like Jeremy above but both are worthy of attention. Thanks!

  • Haha, I can imagine it wasn’t, Jools.

  • I’ve stayed in a MotelOne in Berlin and an Ibis in the UK. Both do the job well enough, but I agree that MotelOne’s rooms have more style about them, if that’s a concern for some. But the beds in their twin room, which I shared with a male friend, was set up a little too close to comfort for my liking!

  • Ibis hotels can be very cheap, depending on the town or city you’ll be staying in. We once paid 36 euros for 2 people but can’t remember in what small town it was in France. And it was on a week-end, so we did get the special price. I’m now at that age when seedy motels or hotels will only be considered if convenient and if not traveling with family. Having said that, some of the more memorable hotel stays have been in cheap seedy ones, with or without family.

  • Hi Michael, sorry I’m not able to comment regarding the comparison of an Etap Hotel room to a prison room as I haven’t stayed in the latter. Etap rooms are nowhere near the most basic available in the SuperBudget hotel sector. Coming from a mining background claustrophobia is not an issue and I would never be so cruel as to swing a cat in a room. ;)
    Sadly, I don’t usually have the financial resources to stay in Ibis and MotelOne on most of my travels, but do so occasionally.
    The toilets, and showers work and the beds are comfortable and most superbudget chains have free WiFi in the room. They are perfectly adequate for my needs, but each to his / her own.

  • Actually, we like both, Jeremy. When we go anywhere in France, Ibis is the first hotel we check out. Unfortunately, MotelOne is not yet available in many other cities in Germany. Hopefully, soon, though.

  • Jeremy Branham

    I haven’t stayed at either one but I think I prefer Ibis from the description of the two.

  • You are, of course, absolutely right about hotel critiques, John. However, I digress about Etap. We’ve stayed in one and that was the first and last. We may be budget travellers, but we don’t really want to feel sorry for ourselves. The one we stayed in was lamentable and had the basics alright, but really felt like the basics in any decent prison. I don’t think it can be compared with MotelOne nor with Ibis for that matter.

  • I have stayed at MotelOne and totally agree on their style. I was impressed. I did manage to get locked out of my hotel while staying outside Munich as I’d forgotten my entry code and was staying at one of the few MotelOne’s that doesn’t have 24 hour reception.
    Not sure why Etap wasn’t considered as another competitor to MotelOne. They meet the budget criteria well as they are cheaper than Ibis and have 74 hotels in Germany. They don’t have the same quality feel as MotelOne, but the new room specification is perfectly adequate. But, having just typed all that I am aware that Etap is being rebadged as Ibis Budget in the near future.
    As for comparing chain hotels it is not an exact science. The specifications of hotel rooms tend to be homogeneous across the chain but as the hotels are managed and serviced by human beings there are bound to be (hopefully) small differences between hotels and even rooms within the same hotel. I stay well away from reviewing hotel rooms for that very reason. I just write about what the room specifications and services on offer. If someone is really interested, then a hotel review site that is written by paying customers is the best way to get a feel for that particular hotel. A one off review is a snapshot in time and might not be representative of what a future guest could expect.
    Personally, I just stay and if I’m not happy with any aspect of the room, I tell the management who normally react positively to any concerns.

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