Good questions. The truth of the matter is that what you'll find varies in different parts of the world.
In general a B-and-B is most often in a private home... that's part of their charm.
And they always provide breakfast... so...
Then they start to get different.... And it's not just in how you say it...
You may see it spelled out... sometimes you'll see the letters... and sometimes it's not even in English.
We did share bathrooms and showers back then... but we've mostly outgrown that... and most Bed and Breakfasts have too. You can still find a few where you have to share, so it helps to know what to look for.
Are B&Bs for Budget Travelers?
Yes and No.... love that, don't you?
So yes, you'll probably save money.
We stayed in a funky little Panzio in Hungary... "Panzio" roughly translates to "pension" or "B&B".
Many U.S. B-and-Bs are in renovated historic properties... sort of changing the concept. They've become luxury destinations really.
Their owner/proprietors have furnished them with antiques and luxurious bathrooms. Others tend to be in scenic locations popular with vacationers. They may come with wine tasting in the evenings and a gourmet breakfast. They're great fun to stay in, and well worth the cost most times, but they're not generally for budget travelers.
In other parts of the world, there are Bed and Breakfasts, but they vary... both in price and in quality. It's a good idea to check with the local tourist board to see what the regulations are and what you can expect.
Do You Have To Share A Bathroom?
The answer again is Yes and No...
And to answer this question a little more fully, there are some terms you need to know.
Actually, more and more... if not most now have "ensuite" facilities with toilets and showers in the room... not down the hall.
Sometimes these have been shoehorned into the room... with a small bathroom build into one corner... Other times homes have been remodeled with guest's privacy in mind.
Of course... sometimes they've been remodeled in creative colors like this one!
Be careful of this term.... You may be the only one who can use it, but that bathroom may be down the hall... and you're the only one who has a key. We've run into this a few times, and it's not so bad... as long as you know what you're getting into.
Just remember, even though that bathroom is all yours, you still have to run out into the hall in your PJs at night!
Standard rooms in hotels mean one thing... but that generally means something else for B&Bs. If you see a Bed and Breakfast that says it has standard rooms, it probably means they have just the sink in the room, and you'll take a trip down the hall for everything else.
If you're not speaking your native language, make sure you are talking about the same thing.
Ask To See The Room
We often look for those "Vacancy" or "Zimmer Frei" signs as we're driving around. If you are inquiring in person, ask to see the room. We've never found a proprietor who will object to that.
You can make sure if you will share the bathroom or not... and you can also check out other things like...
...does the bed sag or...
...do you have a view or...
...does it only have a tub or a shower or...
...whatever you're concerned with.
How Big Are They?
Bed and Breakfasts are usually small... sometimes only a room or two in a home... and you may be the only guests.
Some have several rooms to let. They have grown in size in recent years as people have turned historic buildings onto B&Bs all over the world.
Whatever the size, the ones you want to look for are those which have friendly hosts and a good location. Part of the charm of a B&B is that friendly host who will give you directions and tell you about their favorite restaurant.
Here's a story we love from our early travel days...
We had the bathroom down the hall, we even had to play for heat in the room... so why do we remember it so fondly?
Because it was cheap... it fit our early travel budget.... And because our host and hostess were very friendly.
And then there's this... They had a great collie dog, and there was a bagpipe teacher downstairs....
(OK... this is an old photo and not all that good, but you CAN see the horse cart, can't you?)
You WILL Get Breakfast -- But What's for Breakfast?
Another plus to B-and-Bs is that you WILL get that breakfast... take advantage of it. What's for breakfast?
In England and Ireland it will be a substantial one. That "Full English Breakfast" can almost be too much to eat it all.... cereal, juice, toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled mushrooms, grilled tomato and baked beans. Tell them if you only want a little... they're happy to serve only what you want.
In France you may just get croissants, butter and jam... In the Nordic and Germanic countries, they'll add cheese and meats, and in southern Europe look for more yogurt and olives... but that's part of the fun too.
Be sure to ask when breakfast is served... this isn't a hotel. Your host and hostess are probably making breakfast for you, though some of the larger places may have cooking staff to help. Breakfast is usually only served for an hour or two, and you don't want to sleep through it and miss out.
Bed and Breakfasts can be like having a home away from home when you travel...
Your host or hostess gives you a friend in that new country you're visiting.
We use them all the time...
And we love the bed and breakfasts we've stayed in whether they were luxurious or just basic.
Just make sure you know what you're getting.
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