Bed and Breakfasts, “B&Bs”, are called by that name almost everywhere in the world, especially if you’re looking on the internet. But if you’re driving or walking around in a non-English speaking country, what should you be on the lookout for?
You can go into a tourist office almost anywhere and ask for a B&B, and they will know what you’re talking about, but what if you’re in a car searching for a room?
If you’re driving down the autobahn in Germany you should be looking for a sign that says “Zimmer” or “Zimmer Frei”. OK, maybe you’ll be going too fast on the autobahn to see anything, but this is the term you should be looking for in Germany, and Austria and Switzerland as well, anyway. And don’t be fooled by geography. In some parts of northern Italy, where there is a heavy Tyrollean influence, you may also be looking for zimmers.
One last thought about those “Zimmer Frei” signs: it does not mean a free room but that there is a room available. And if you see a sign that says “besetzt”, it means no vacancies.
In France, if you want a Bed and Breakfast, you will most often be looking for a “Chambre d’hote,” though you could also be looking for a “pension” or a “gite.” A gite is generally a rural place; it could even be a whole farmhouse. The owners like to rent gites by the week, but you can always stop and ask if you can rent a room for a night or two.
In Italy, look for “affittacamere”, especially in the Cinque Terre.
In Portugal, Bed and Breakfasts are “pensao”. You can also look for “dormidas,” the more common name for them near the seaside. Or you might just see “quarto,” which means room.
Looking for the word “room” in the local language is a good idea. As we said, it’s “quarto” in Portugal. In Spain it’s “cuarto” or “habitacion”. In Italy it’s “camere”. In Croatia and Slovenia it’s “soba”.
In Spain, B&Bs are known as “casa rural.” They are generally situated in the countryside and smaller towns more than in cities. They may also be called “casa particular,” though that term seems to be more commonly used in Cuba.
Scandinavia has wonderful Bed and Breakfasts. They’re incredibly cheap considering prices in Scandinavia, but they can’t advertise. Visit a tourist information office in Sweden and Norway and ask for a “rom” or “hus rum.” In Denmark the term is “vaerelse”.
Out in the countryside of England, you might find “farmhouse B&Bs.” In Italy, the same type of places are called “agriturismos.”
You should check the language dictionary or lodging section of a good guidebook and see what they tell you about what Bed and Breakfasts are called in the country you’re visiting.
Other names you can be looking for are (are you ready?):
In French speaking countries: gites du passant or gites d’hote or hebergement chez l’habitant
In German speaking countries: Gastzimmer or Gastezimmer
In Dutch speaking countries: gastenkamer or kamers met ontbijt or logies met ontbijt
In Spanish speaking countries: camera presso l’abitante or camere in case private
The list really does go on and on, but if you have an idea what words might be on the signs in the window, you will have no problems finding a bed and breakfast. If all else fails, just say you’re looking for a B&B because the term has gone global. You can wander into a tourist office and ask for a Bed and Breakfast, and you will probably find just what you’re looking for.