Hotel Star Rating: What Tourists Should Know

If you’re planning a trip, you’ll likely need to evaluate the available accommodations in your destination. However, you may encounter a hotel star rating system that needs to be clarified and more accurate because travel websites, locations, or hotels have no consistent scoring system. As a result, the same property may have a different star rating on various websites, and comparing ratings of hotels in Europe and those in the United States is impossible.

Although hotel star ratings may not accurately represent every aspect of a hotel, they still offer significant value as a fundamental reference point for what you can expect from a particular hotel. Therefore, understand the rating system well to ensure you can make an informed decision about your accommodations.

History of the Hotel Star Rating System

It’s not surprising that the five-star rating system used in the U.S. needs to be more consistent around the world. Interestingly, no hospitality industry member created this system. Instead, Mobil, an oil and gas company, developed it. Mobil employees who traveled extensively for work began using the system to rate hotels and create travel guides. As a result, the five-star system gained popularity rapidly, but it remains unregulated even today.

Difference of Rating Systems: U.S. vs. Europe

In the U.S., the hotel star rating system uses popular opinion. In contrast, European hotels use a four-star rating system to indicate hotel quality instead of the American five-star system. However, each country has regulations and criteria for determining hotel star ratings. Therefore, comparing ratings across different regions and countries is difficult.

For instance, three stars in England may not be equivalent to three in Spain. Additionally, three stars in one city or region of Spain may have different standards compared to another.

Why the Need for a Rating

A hotel’s star rating is an unbiased and dependable evaluation that assists guests in comprehending what they can anticipate while lodging. It also simplifies the comparison of hotels before guests book their stay. With the star information provided, guests can easily compare the cost and quality of different hotels and decide which one to choose.

For instance, using a hotel booking app, guests can determine which five-star hotel is more economical or whether spending extra for a five-star hotel is worth it compared to a three-star hotel.

Meaning of the Hotel Rating

In the U.S., independent organizations such as AAA rate hotels using the five-star system. The ratings range from one star, the lowest, to five stars, the highest. While knowing the best and worst ratings is helpful, understanding what each star rating means is even more valuable.

1-Star Hotel Rating

Holiday Motel in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A. (Source: Alex Begin/Unsplash)

A one-star hotel provides basic lodging for a night’s stay, typically managed by a single owner. These hotels offer simple rooms with a bed and bathroom. While no restaurants are onsite, guests should easily find one within walking distance. These hotels do not provide additional luxuries or personalized services, such as nightly turndown service with chocolates, but they provide access to affordable meals and entertainment options nearby. Access to public transportation is also available.


  • Hallway or lobby vending machine
  • Limited to bedroom and bathroom


  • Affordable
  • Provides basic needs
  • Comfortable bed

2-Star Hotel Rating

Boulevard Hotel in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. (Source: Tuan Nguyen/Unsplash)

A two-star hotel is often a member of a larger chain or franchise, unlike a one-star hotel that is usually independently owned. Although the accommodations are essential, they include a television and a phone. Additionally, two-star hotels offer an onsite dining area and daily housekeeping service. The two-star hotel front desk is typically open 24 hours a day.


  • 24-hour reception
  • Daily housekeeping
  • Self-serve snacks and dining
  • Closet or clothing rack
  • Billed Wi-Fi
  • In-room phone and T.V.


  • Access to highways
  • Loyalty programs
  • Dining alternatives
  • Recognized hotel brand
  • Comfortable room and bed
  • Inexpensive

3-Star Hotel Rating

Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein, South Africa. (Source: Adriaan Venner Scheepers/Unsplash)

Three-star hotels are usually part of larger chains like Marriott, Radisson, and DoubleTree. Compared to one and two-star hotels, they are typically more comfortable and stylish and provide a more comprehensive array of services and amenities such as fitness centers, pools, restaurants, conference rooms, and valet services.

The rooms in three-star hotels are generally more spacious and come with better quality, modern furnishings, and often feature luxurious extras like flat-screen T.V.s with extended cable. In addition, these hotels are conveniently near significant expressways and local attractions, and business travelers frequent them. 


  • Shower with bathtub
  • Spacious room
  • Comfortable couch or chair
  • Hotel-provided toiletries
  • Alarm clock, phone, and TV
  • Dresser and closet
  • Desk
  • Fitness center
  • Pool
  • Business services


  • Mid-range pricing with quality service
  • Comfortable and stylish rooms
  • Access to tourist attractions
  • Exercise alternatives

4-Star Hotel Rating

Hotel Della Conciliazione in Rome, Italy (Source: Martin Pechy/Pexels)

Four-star hotels, referred to as superior hotels, are luxurious establishments that provide an upscale experience. These hotels are fully staffed and equipped with various extras to ensure your stay is unforgettable. The beautifully designed and spacious rooms have premium furnishings, luxurious bedding, and fine bath products.

Also, four-star hotels offer many unique amenities and services for a more enjoyable stay. It includes concierge services, fine dining options, multiple pools and hot tubs, high-class fitness centers, bellhops, room service, valet parking, day spas, limousine services, and various unique suites.


  • Room safe
  • Premium bedding with large beds
  • Spacious rooms
  • Separate whirlpool tub and shower
  • Room service and onsite restaurants
  • Onsite entertainment and activities (live music, exercise classes, and movie nights0
  • Outdoor and indoor pools
  • Tennis court, basketball court, fitness center
  • Spas
  • Hot tubs
  • Staff services


  • Dining and entertainment alternatives
  • Excellent relaxation experience
  • 24-hour staff services
  • Full upscale adventure

5-Star Hotel Rating

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic (Source: Christian Lambert/Unsplash)

Five-star hotels are the epitome of luxury living. These magnificent establishments feature grand lobbies, exceptional service, and unparalleled comfort. In addition, they are a work of art, showcasing cutting-edge interior design and lavish furnishings.

As a guest in a five-star hotel, you’re like royalty. From a personal butler to a designated concierge, everything is taken care of for you. The guest rooms are wealthy and sophisticated, with premium linens, a private Jacuzzi tub, a large-screen Plasma T.V. with high-definition cable, a DVD player, high-speed Internet access, fresh flowers, great bath products, and speedy, around-the-clock room service.

Five-star hotels typically provide a range of luxurious amenities such as high-end dining options, various forms of entertainment, modern fitness facilities, multiple heated pools and hot tubs, valet parking services, spa treatments, access to tennis courts, and golf courses. It’s truly a life of luxury!


  • Elegant rooms with patios, kitchens, and living rooms
  • Golf courses
  • Designer bathrobes and linens
  • In-room Jacuzzi tub
  • Saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, and pools
  • Spas with facials, massage, and hair and nail salons
  • High-end exercise coaches and fitness centers
  • Premium staff service
  • Several entertainment alternatives
  • Onsite bars and gourmet restaurants


  • Full-service pampering and attention
  • A glamourous and luxurious experience
  • Highest standard of relaxation and comfort

Final Thoughts

The hotel star rating system can be unclear, perplexing, and inconsistent. Nonetheless, you can discover the ideal hotel that matches your specific requirements and budget with some investigation. Additionally, it is advisable to review guest ratings on travel websites to gain insight from other consumers. Of course, considering personal bias and peculiarities is essential, but these reviews are typically straightforward and appropriate.

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