A room to call your own in Europe: Rental rooms

Stay in someone's spare bedroom to get a taste of European daily life—and pay only $15–$30 per person for the priviledge (that's a good 50% less than at a hotel)

These days it seems everybody's renting rooms and hanging out B&B shingles in some Irish towns, like these along the waterfront in Galway
These days it seems everybody's renting rooms and hanging out B&B shingles in some Irish towns, like these along the waterfront in Galway.

Each time I've been adopted, I've had the time of my life. That night I stayed with an Irish woman in her Roscommon farmhouse, she excitedly helped me leaf through her dusty regional history tomes looking for the name of my great-grandmother, who had been a local schoolteacher.

That time in Prague when I bunked in a Czech student's spare bedroom, he spent all evening detailing, in broken English, exactly what was wrong with modern capitalism while the two of us slowly drained his fridge of beer.

But the cultural adventure of feeling like you've been adopted by a European family for a few days isn't the only reason to rent a room in a private home. It also costs about half what you would pay at the impersonal hotel down the street.

Rates for two generally start around $50 in Europe's big cities—though $60 to $90 is more common. In smaller cities and towns, prices can drop to $30. (Just don't expect to pay these mom-and-pop operations with your credit card; for the most part, these transactions are cash-only.)

The Rental Room Hunt

The three most effective ways to find a private room in Europe are:

Becoming Part of the Family

There's no guarantee you'll be staying in that prototypical B&B: a huge Victorian mansion full of chintz and doilies. These days, just as many rental rooms are in modern city apartments or isolated farmhouses, but a friendly, homey atmosphere tends to prevail.

Sometimes they'll ask, "Why don't you join us for dinner?" Other times, they'll just hand you the keys and ask you to try to be home by midnight. Still, in most cases you'll have more interaction with the owner and her family than with the desk clerk at a hotel.

During a visit to Sicily's Egadi Islands, where the tuna industry is such an integral and ancient part of the culture that there are 10,000-year-old cave paintings of men hunting tuna, I rented a room from the widow of the man who had once managed the processing plant.

My hostess regaled me with surprisingly interesting tuna-related facts that turned out to be relevant to the current state of affairs on the island, the ecology of the surrounding seas, and the future of Italy's economy.

I also got a lesson in practical Italian economics: I was instructed to tell anyone I met that I was a friend of hers, just visiting, not a guest. Guests, you see, pay money while friends stay for free—at least as far as the tax man knows.

I stayed two nights with my new friend. I never paid a bill, but to thank her for her "hospitality," I gave her a gift—which happened to be the local equivalent of about $25.

She gave me a tin of tuna.

Finding a Room to Rent in Europe

Here's a quickie list of the local words for private rooms in each language (though keep in mind that many just use the English terms "rooms" and "B&B"), plus links to the official tourist offices and, in cases where either the T.O. lets us down or there are excellent private agencies or local offices, independent resources. I'll even throw in typical price ranges for 2007 for a rental room sleeping two.

(Privatzimmer) $45-$120
Tourism authority: www.austria.info.
www.venere.com, www.privatzimmer.at (German only)

BELGIUM (gastenkamers, kamers) $70–$90
Tourism authority: www.visitbelgium.com.
www.venere.com, www.taxistop.be/4/4benb.htm, www.bnb-brussels.be, www.brugge.be/verblijf/en/gastencat.htm , www.bedandbreakfast-gent.be, www.bedandbreakfast-antwerp.com/public/en/index.html

DENMARK (Værelser) $35-$70
Tourism authority: www.visitdenmark.com.
Independent/Local: www.venere.com, www.bbdk.dk, www.useit.dk, www.meetthedanes.dk, www.woco.dk.

FRANCE (chambres, chambres d'hôte) $40-$120
Tourism authority: www.franceguide.com.
www.venere.com, www.gites-de-france.fr, www.bedbreak.com, www.fleurs-soleil.tm.fr, www.parisbandb.com.

GERMANY (Zimmer) $25-$95
Tourism authority: www.germany-tourism.de.
www.venere.com, www.bed-and-breakfast.de, www.berlin-tourist-information.de.

GREECE (dhomatia) $15-$40
Tourism authority: www.greektourism.com.

ICELAND (gistihus) $56-$128
Tourism authority: www.icelandtouristboard.com.

IRELAND (B&B) $65-$180
Tourism authority: www.ireland.ie.
Independent/Local: www.venere.com, www.townandcountry.ie, www.hiddenireland.com, www.irishfarmholidays.com, www.nischa.com.

ITALY (affittacamere, camere) $45-$150
Tourism authority: www.italiantourism.com.
www.venere.com, www.bbitalia.it, www.romaturismo.it, www.b-b.rm.it, www.turismo.toscana.it, www.firenzeturismo.it, www.turismovenezia.it.

THE NETHERLANDS (kamers) $65–$110
Tourism authority: www.holland.com.
www.venere.com, www.sbkbb.nl, bedandbreakfast.bbnl.nl, www.immerloo.freeler.nl/pensions.html.

NORWAY (rom til leie or husrom) $55–$110
Tourism authority: www.visitnorway.com.
www.venere.com, www.bbnorway.com.

PORTUGAL (quartos) $60–$150
Tourism authority: www.visitportugal.pt.
www.venere.com, www.manorhouses.com, www.solaresdeportugal.pt.

SPAIN (camas, habitaciones, casas particular) $40–$70
Tourism authority: www.tourspain.es.
www.venere.com, www.ibbp.com/europe/spain.html, raar.es.

SWEDEN (rum) $40–$115
Tourism authority: www.visit-sweden.com.
www.venere.com, www.bedbreakfast.se, www.stockholmguesthouse.com, www.stockholmuptown.net, www.bbob.se, www.bed-and-breakfast.se.

SWIZTERLAND (Zimmer, chambres, camere) $60-$100
Tourism authority: www.myswitzerland.com.
www.venere.com, www.bnb.ch.

Tourism authority: www.visitbritain.com.
www.venere.com, www.bedbreak.com.


This article was last updated in January 2008 . All information was accurate at the time.

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