/ Shopping, Travel & Leisure

Trust in the stars – do you have faith in hotel ratings?

Cartoon of hotel star ratings

Do you trust hotel star ratings? I gave up long ago, and now make my own judgements based on photos, videos and reviews online. Are hotels really as good as their stars make out?

It seems many people have reason to doubt the value of such ratings. Our latest Which? Travel survey found that 46% of UK travellers had stayed in a hotel that they felt didn’t live up to its star rating.

Our survey also found that many people don’t understand what hotel ratings mean abroad – only 29% said they knew what to expect from a star rating.

What do hotel star ratings really mean?

Part of the problem is that different countries have different systems for grading hotels, so a four-star in one place will be different to a four-star in another.

To counter this, many of the large UK tour operators use their own rating systems using stars or other symbols. These are designed to give international consistency so that their customers know what they’re getting wherever they go.

But it’s not always clear how these ratings are arrived at or what customers can expect from the different levels. Some have clear criteria showing what you can expect for each rating, others are more vague.

And this can cause problems – a colleague who went to Greece on holiday this summer chose two hotels that were graded the equivalent of a three-star (though the tour operator used a different symbol).

She and her friends thought the first hotel was terrible and then moved on to the second, with the same star rating from the same company. But in their view the facilities were incomparable. So how can the two hotels get the same rating?

Star signs online

Online retailers also use star ratings to give you a guide when you’re surfing for a holiday hotel, but it can be unclear what they mean or who sets them.

Some use star ratings provided by the hotels themselves. Booking.com, for example, said it gets its ratings from the hotels, but that these are then checked by its staff, customer feedback and against other online sources. Travel Republic also uses ratings from hotels. It doesn’t check these with local tourist offices because it has more than 150,000 on offer, but it did tell us that it believed the ratings were accurate as hoteliers knew exaggerating them would lead to complaints.

So do you have any faith in star ratings? Or have you stayed in a hotel that didn’t live up to the rating it was given? And who do you most trust to give you an accurate guide to hotel standards?


I’m with those surveyed – I do tend to find the ratings useless in terms of compatibility. I’ve stayed in some places rated 3 or 4 stars and the difference in quality between some of them is massive.

It isn’t so much to do with quality as to facilities and service levels. For example if a place doesn’t offer 24 hour room service despite being perfect in many other respects it won’t get four stars in the UK.

It is perfectly clear what the ratings mean.


Really? That’s quite bizarre. I’d much prefer the star rating to be reflecting cleanliness and standard of decor etc.

I don’t blindly trust any star rating, but as a knowingly (on my part) imperfect guide it’s always worked for me.

No I don’t usually check hotel ratings, I think I can tell if they are good or no by what others have said. I do like the place to be nice & clean, not just that can I have wi -fi or a mobile signal that helps too. I am struggling at present with The Premier Inn we had noticed that Which gave it a good review?

I normally focus on TripAdvisor reviews for my holidays, but my partner will only book 4* or higher. This is quite interesting though – I’ve never stayed in a Britannia hotel but I have stayed in a Premier Inn and definitely agree with the score they’ve been given. Was nicer than expected. https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/10/britannia-finishes-bottom-of-hotel-chains-survey-for-fifth-consecutive-year/

Avoid Booking.com. I did refer a friend to get reward £15 each from booking.com. After made 5 booking via booking.com, This is what they sent to me for 2 bookings: This booking is not eligible – check our terms and conditions for more info. They are more expensive then other websites as agoda.com,,, I will not get £30 in reward as well as my friend. They allow to book but they know they will not pay you reward for that. You will know from them when you come back from holiday. Avoid Booking.com.

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