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When is a hotel not a hotel? A guide for the perplexed.

When you're booking accommodation for your trip to Australia, you may find some of the terminology a little confusing. While most Australian travel terms are similar to their counterparts from elsewhere in the world, the word "hotel" has a unique meaning in Australia; some establishments called hotels aren't what a visitor would think of as hotels, and some establishments a foreigner would consider hotels go by other names. 


If you're looking for accommodation, especially outside a large city, don't assume that a place has the amenities you'd expect from a modern hotel just because it has "hotel" in its name. Traditionally, pubs or bars also offered bare-bones accommodation to customers; as a result, many of them are called hotels. You'll often find older pubs with this name; some of these are beautiful historic buildings. However, rooms in these hotels can be quite basic, with shared facilities and few luxuries. In addition, because they're also pubs, hotels can be quite busy and noisy, especially on weekend evenings. If you're looking for a quiet evening, therefore, a hotel won't be the best choice; on the other hand, if you want a lively place to have a beer, you won't have far to go. Some hotels don't offer accommodation at all; they're simply pubs that have kept an old-fashioned name. 


Motels (from "motor hotels"), such as Ashfield's Philip Lodge Motel, provide affordable accommodation for travellers.. You can often find these modern buildings along major roads or on the outskirts of towns. Clean, comfortable and practical, motels are the most common destination for travellers on Australia's roads. Luxuries vary; some are quite bare-bones, but others provide pools, free WiFi, satellite television and more. Large motel chains are common, but you'll also find local family-run establishments. 

Private hotels

If you're looking through hotel listings in a larger city, you may see some destinations describing themselves as private hotels. This indicates a traditional European-style hotel as opposed to a pub, although the term isn't universal; larger hotels typically just call themselves hotels, relying on guests to know that they're not rural bars. Smaller private hotels can vary in quality; you'll also see the term "boutique hotel" used to describe smaller high-end private hotels. "Resort" is a catch-all term that can include everything from luxurious all-inclusive beachfront complexes to ordinary motels. 

If you're ever in doubt about what kind of establishment you're booking, the easiest thing to do is simply to ask. Australians know that the terminology can be confusing to visitors and are happy to explain it.