I have many years experience of staying in hotels on business trips. From the posh and swanky to the basic budget hotels I thought I’d virtually seen them all. Then more recently I began making some trips to Norway. I’ve soon learnt that Norwegian hotels, or more specifically Norwegian hotel rooms are quite different to those I see elsewhere in the world.
I’ve now stayed in 4 different Norwegian hotels, all in different cities and by different hotel chains. If truth be told it is quite difficult to find the more familiar global name chains such as Marriott, Hilton or Holiday Inn in the various Norwegian cities.
I even wrote about my first ever stay in a hotel in Norway. At that time I found the experience quite quirky, unique or can I even say, kitsch.
Now that I’m in my 4th hotel the room format and experience is becoming at best basic or more likely tedious. Whilst full of Norwegian charm and character, probably befitting of any Scandinavian country, I would dread an extended stay in a hotel that this wonderful nation offers.
As an example I’ll talk about my most recent stay. I found a great deal on hotels.com for a location which is part of the smarthotel chain. I was staying in Sandnes which is close to Stavanger. In fact it was a relatively short drive away from the airport and located beside a shopping centre which is a bonus.
Now the Smart Hotel chain prides itself saying they offer fixed low prices for all. In fact when you read their promotional material they have lots of selling points:-
– high quality DUX bed
– flat screen television in each room
– work desk
– reading lamp
– private bathroom
– 24 hour manned reception
– cashless operation, all payments by card (credit or debit)
– free wifi
– smartcars available for hire (I’d quite fancy to try this one day)
– free bicycle rental for guests
– housekeeping Monday to Friday (- that’s right none on Saturday or Sunday)
Throw in a pay as you go buffet breakfast and a hot meal set menu/buffet on some evenings then you start to see how this place prides itself on being what it is.
Yet if we take a closer look we will see resemblances of a Scandinavian style hotel which is only really befitting of short stays.
Firstly just head down the corridor to your Norwegian hotel bedroom. It has a very distinct and somewhat uninspiring design. They are bland, basic, and the doors look like cupboard doors. Flat, wooden and bereft of character. Such corridors are typical of every Norwegian hotel that I’ve stayed in. You just hope that beyond this most basic of appearances lies nice hotel rooms.
With swipe key card at the ready I hear the electronic whirring sound as my card registers on the lock above the door handle.
Swinging open this solid wooden door reveals a short, narrow corridor to an equally small main area of my Norway hotel room.
Compact and bijou are words which immediately spring to mind.
For a start the bed is a single bed. I appreciate I booked a single room but how many times now do you get a single bed when you book a room for one? Undoubtedly not only is this typical of Stavanger hotels but this is irrespective of your choice of where to stay in Norway. I’ve yet to see anywhere different.
There is a light duvet on the bed and one at best, average comfort pillow. Admittedly the mattress felt comfortable enough but overall on my first evening, without jet lag, I struggled to get a decent night’s sleep.
There is a phrase of not enough room to swing a cat, well it is fitting here. Customary to my prior experiences of Norwegian hotel rooms it was a bit tight, pokey even. In fact I guess many a jail cell would offer more room. You might struggle to do your morning stretches in this room.
As advertised there is a desk and chair there, not ones to grab the eye though. They look more like a set from a school classroom. The chair was at best uncomfortable. There was a cushion (of sorts) to go on it but that would often slide, as I would too if I wasn’t careful.
Desk space wasn’t at a premium either. A fairly basic table light took up a corner whilst my 11” Macbook Air and notepad virtually filled the rest of the space. There wasn’t even a complimentary hotel pen and notepad. So don’t get many ideas about writing a letter home.
On the positive side the complimentary wifi was a real positive. Very reliable and fast. I think many places around the world can learn from Norwegian hotels in this respect.
The flat screen TV was a nice feature. Not awash with a wide choice of TV channels but at least they had the BBC News channel which I would choose 100 times out of 100 over the low brow CNN which seems to dominate worldwide hotels.
There was a radiator in the room. It was relatively small in size, it had to be really to just fit in. The thermostat controller was hidden away on the wall just below the tv however when used it was effective.
A reasonable size double glazed window allowed in a trickle of natural light. There would have been more if it wasn’t for the office block a few yards away. As a result the main room light, bedside and table light had to be used, often all 3, for a tolerable level of lighting.
A bedside table was present and even had a plug socket underneath. You might be surprised that I mention that but I am often frustrated when I stay in nice hotel rooms to find the number or location of plug sockets to be inadequate. At least here I could use the great wifi and the tunein radio app in the evenings.
The bedside table also had to double up as a clothing shelf. The simple reason being that if I didn’t then there was no shelf available.
Luggage storage space was also lacking. Even though my stay was for only a few days, my mediocre size luggage could often get in the way. I had to innovatively find storage space such as under the desk (no that doesn’t work well, it gets in the way of my feet) or under the low level bed if the luggage fitted.
Then what of the wardrobe? Oh yes, that’s right there isn’t one. This is Scandinavian style hotel rooms so you get a few hangers and leave your clothing on open display in the room. I’d hate to imagine what it is like when you are sharing a double room.
On a positive note there was a good size mirror so I could lose hours grooming my hair (if I had some).
Now how’s this for a real treat. Yes I’m talking of the en-suite bathroom. If you think Norwegian hotel rooms are small then this is really in keeping with that theme.
It is great to have a walk in shower cubicle with the type of shower head I like but it was pretty darn tight. I had to manoeuvre myself around carefully in the cubicle just to open and close the waterproof door. If you are wider in size than your average Norwegian I’m not sure how you’d be able to wash yourself.
Not to worry though. You can take a seat on the toilet with your right hand touching the shower cubicle whilst at the same time your left can operate the taps on the sink. On the positive side there are also lots of mirrors inside the bathroom so at least it gives an impression of being bigger than it really is.
So as I get a pain in my back from typing whilst sat on the terrible wooden desk chair in this Norwegian hotel room let me talk about some of the things this place is missing.
What I struggle to find in Norwegian hotels
That’s right, as mentioned I need somewhere to hang and place my clothing. Then I can shut the door and they are out of sight. The room will then look a lot more respectable.
Even a small chest of drawers to hide my undies and socks would be a big help. But hold on, the room is so small that wouldn’t fit would it?
- Suitcase stand
Or indeed anywhere to put my luggage out of the way. It would be great to be able to unpack without having to throw my case onto the narrow bed but you can’t have everything. Even just an area to keep my cases and even shoes out of the way would be good.
- Fancy a cuppa?
Thirsty? Well you are not going to get much satisfaction no matter where you stay in Norway. I’ve yet to find a hotel room with a kettle and tea/coffee making facilities. You can head down to the Reception area and help yourself to a brewed cup of coffee. Not only is it the inconvenience of having to leave your room and head downstairs but it will also set you back 19 NOK a time (that’s close to £2 at the time of writing for a cup of coffee).
- Fridge/Mini bar
Whilst I love staying in apartment hotels they are not always an option. So to find a room with a fridge or a mini bar fridge is a blessing. I can often stock up with maybe some milk, snacks and salads so I can provide my own provisions during the evening. With a supermarket in walking distance this would be a great option. Well let’s face it when you are on the road as often as I am the idea of eating out every single night and being waited upon is not a good one.
For me, having access to an iron and ironing board in the room is really crucial as a business traveller. Even with taking care on packing and using packing cubes shirts can still come out creased. Nothing looks more unprofessional than visiting a workplace with a creased shirt. Time for the old shower steam trick I think since you won’t find an ironing board in any of these Norway hotel rooms.
- Alarm clock radio
I’ve already mentioned the benefit of the bedside table and accessible plug socket. I’m going to need it since my mobile phone will have to act as my alarm. I have a habit of listening to the radio when going asleep so my free tunein radio app is now essential. I’m not going to get any radio otherwise.
- Hair dryer
Okay I’m not going to miss this much, I haven’t used one in years. However for those of you who do then it is bad news I’m afraid. Just like the hotel pens, you won’t find these in your hotel room.
- Sink plug
It seems that a workable plug in a bathroom sink is no longer a given in hotel rooms. For me such an item is not an optional extra, the very presence of a plug should be a given. At the very least I would like to be able to have a wet shave with just one sink bowl of water rather than a running tap. Even to counter what is in my mind a reasonable request, there wasn’t even an electrical socket in the bathroom to power my electrical shaver. Thank goodness I arrived with it already being fully charged.
Whilst food is available there is a buffet breakfast 7 days a week. As for evening meals well a buffet menu (limited options) is offered each evening Sunday to Thursday. Well I say that on the Sunday I arrived it was one large pizza and a little salad. Admittedly I tried the buffet later in the week and the food was nice. However the food range was so limited that if you didn’t like it or were vegetarian then you would struggle. There is also a kind of honour system where you should pay in advance for your meal at a little card reader machine by the reception desk. I’d prepaid for my breakfasts all week, yet I was surprised that no one ever challenged me during the week to confirm that I’d paid for breakfast.
I appreciate that for many a hotel room is just a place to sleep and fair enough. Sometimes though it becomes a home from home. I’ve had more than one trip over the years where I’ve stayed in the same hotel for a month or more during one trip. I’d really dread such an experience at a hotel in Norway.
Whilst my stay was at the cost effective Smart Hotel it is not untypical of more expensive places that I’ve stayed.
On the positive side I’ve always found the staff at Norwegian hotels to be very welcoming, genuine and friendly. Maybe this is fitting with their quirky, Ikea-esque style design. I do love my visits to Norway in spite of the shock on the price of everything. It is just such a shame that Norwegian hotel rooms are lacking in the comfort I see in cheaper hotels across the world.