A new breed of B&Bs are popping up in Ireland, especially on the West coast and in areas where tourism has been sluggish… it’s the budget B&B.
While €35 per person per night seems to be the going rate for a standard B&B in most parts, bargain-basement cousins are posting signs on the road for €25 or €20 per night. For Americans, that’s a savings of $12-18 per person per night, but the question has to be asked, “Do you get what you pay for?”
This summer I tested a few of these reduced rate operations and can honestly say they “get the job done,” but they are definitely offering a pared-down service.
Here are a few points that describe many of the places I visited:
- Signs often included tell-tale phrases such as “Budget Accommodation,” “Hostel with Private Rooms,” the rate is often posted on the sign, and some displayed a “bed only” rate.
- Many homes were sparsely decorated… in most cases that was because the owners didn’t live in the house, although they were, for the most part, owner-operated.
- The beds were a bit harder and the pillows a bit thinner.
- The cleanliness of these places was good… especially the sheets and bathrooms, but the furnishing and finishes were “worn around the edges.”
- Breakfasts did not include hot options (although one host was making hard boiled eggs upon request). Instead, there was serve-your-self cereal, granola, juice, tea, toast, coffee, and fruit (sometimes canned, sometimes fresh)… some places even included a tray of meats, cheeses, and yogurt (which ended up being a very filling breakfast).
- The Dutch and the Germans seem to know how to find these places better than any other nationality… each place I visited said they made up well over half their bookings.
- Lawns tended to be less landscaped; the emphasis was on strategically placed gravel for convenient parking.
- All offered tea or coffee in the breakfast room at check-in (no in-room hot beverage facilities).
- Heat was turned off in rooms, and I had to turn the knob myself.
- All places had modern, standard showers, so hot water and water pressure were never an issue.
- All rooms included a private bathroom (en suite)… there were no shared toilet or shower facilities.
- Linens, towels, and soap were provided.
- Hosts were friendly and knowledgeable about their area.
- These were cash-only operations (which is the case with many B&Bs).
- Some of the B&Bs seemed to be built during Ireland’s boom time, which seemed to translate to a lot of pine… pine trim, pine doors, pine spindles, pine headboards, pine cabinets… hey, I’m just calling it as a I see it.
So after spending every evening last month scouring TripAdvisor, should you ditch that multi-starred B&B you so carefully selected? The answer is no. If you’re tempted by the sumptuous 4-star descriptions, you’re setting yourself up for major disappointment at a 2-star B&B. Meanwhile, if you’d actually settle for the top bunk of a dormitory-style hostel, these places will seem like castles.
Budget B&Bs are there to give you a place to sleep and a light meal (unless of course you book bed-only), so don’t expect more… and if you do get extra, count it as a bonus. If you decide to leave a review on a forum like TripAdvisor, be sure to put your experience in context to help others know exactly what they’re getting and what the tradeoff might be.