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Revision as of 18:23, 12 March 2013 by 118dot93dot73dot30 (talk | contribs) (South America)
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Star Lite Motel, Dilworth, Minnesota, USA.

Motels (a contraction of motor hotels dating from 1925) are self-contained accommodation establishments for people who are typically travelling using their own vehicles. Often there is a parking space very close to the entry to the motel guest's bedroom and, typically, there are no public or common reception rooms to entertain guests or a lobby.

Typically, rooms have a private WC, wash handbasin and shower/bath with direct access from the bedroom ("en suite") but see France below.

Motels are generally thought to have first spread with the highway expansion of the 1950s but the very earliest motels pre-date this period by more than 30 years in the United States!

Formule 1 hotel next to E4 motorway in Jönköping (Huskvarna), Sweden


Has pioneered the use, in budget chains of motels, of common ablutions that are cleaned automatically by built-in machinery after each use.

In these budget motels, the rooms are typically very basic and small with a small desk, a television (with cable and international channels dependent on location), a double bed (or a double bed with a single bunk above), and a sink. There is no toilet or shower in the room; facilities are provided by single-person showers and toilets accessible from the common hallways which are automatically self-cleaned after every use.


Most motels in Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji and New Zealand include a kitchenette equipped with cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery together with a table and at least two chairs, a microwave, cooking rings, toaster and fridge.

In North America these type of motel rooms which offer opportunities for self-catering are called "efficiencies".

South America

Tucumcari blueswallowmotel.jpg

In Central America and South America, a "Motel" (in Mexico, Motel de paso) is often associated with extramarital encounters and rented typically for a short time (15 min to 12 hr depending on the participants' stamina). In Ecuador and Brazil, for example, any establishments including "Motel" in the title are probably specialising in extramarital encounters.

Major brands

  • Best Western
  • Comfort Inn
  • Econo Lodge
  • Holiday Inn
  • Hotel Formule 1
  • Marriott
  • Super 8
  • Travelodge

Unbranded motels

Seligman SupaiMotel.JPG

An unbranded motel is not part of a chain. In most countries, unbranded motels can be found in rural, semi-rural, suburban, and urban areas alike. Many are family owned, and some are owned, managed, and cared for by a single person, who in many cases, lives on the premises.

If you travel to enough places, you may find more than one such motel that share a name (e.g. Village Motel). If this is the case, they are probably not under common ownership and have no affiliation with one another. There are some names that simply are generic and very common.

There are many stereotypes of unbranded motels. They are commonly viewed as dirty, dilapidated, frequented by lowlifes, and altogether undesirable. There are even some neologisms that have come into our language to describe these conditions, such as "roach motel" or "rent-by-the-hour." For these reasons, many travellers want to avoid them.

But not all unbranded motels fit these descriptions. Some are actually of a very high quality and are extremely comfortable. Many are well cared for and attract the very best.

Each unbranded motel is quite individual. Its quality depends on its management, upkeep, clientèle, and those to whom it is marketed.

So how do I know?

When you stay at a chain, you have a reasonable degree of trust that you will have a decent stay. But an unbranded motel is not part of a family of franchises that can carry its reputation. Nevertheless, by reading reviews, you can learn about the experiences of other customers of a motel with a single location, and if they sound positive, you can feel pretty confident about staying there.

On the contrary, don't always be fooled by a brand name. Many names are simply licensed to numerous franchises that have common ownership, and not all locations live up to par. All the things you would want contained to a bad dream or horror film could be found at a property hat shares a name with numerous others.

In an area where lodging services are not heavily in demand, you may be able to drop into an unbranded motel (or a branded one) without a reservation. If you do this, you can ask the clerk on duty to see a room. Depending on who this person is, they may or may not be amenable to such a request. Then, upon seeing the room, if you are satisfied, you can pay and stay. If not, you can politely decline, thank the clerk, and move on.

Also keep in mind, if you drop in, make sure you get a fair price, because some unscrupulous owners may jack up the price a few extra bucks if they see you haven't done your homework. Be prepared with the price that is shown in an ad, and if you can get ahold of a coupon (these are often available at rest areas), that is even better.


Because unbranded motels do not have to pay franchise fees, their operating costs may be reduced. Therefore, there are some bargains to be had.

There is a saying: "you get what you pay for." This is partially true in the accommodation industry. But if you are looking for simply a roof over your head for the night in tolerable conditions, you may be able to get exactly what a Marriott can provide for a lot less.


Many (but not all) unbranded motels provide quite a lot of extras that may come in handy for you, including a refrigerator, microwave oven, coffeemaker, internet access, swimming pool, and more. Read the description of what is offered. Some of these amenities may be offered in some rooms but not others, and you may or may not be able to get such a room. In some cases, these rooms come at a higher cost.


Safety may be an issue with some unbranded motels, as with some branded ones. Many but not all unbranded motels attract an undesirable crowd that may include those who drink excessively, take illicit drugs, engage in prostitution, are on the run from the law, or are simply a nuisance. This can be but is not always the case.

Before checking into a motel, observe your surroundings. Use your instinct. Don't judge people by their race, nationality, the language they speak, or other cultural elements, as these do not factor into safety, and such prejudices are generally misplaced. Judge by actual behaviours, the condition of the property, the surrounding area, and the attitude of the employees.

Dated appearances

Many but not all unbranded motels are older properties built much longer ago than chain locations, and are of an older style. To some who are used to a modern way of life, this may be bothersome. To others, this may not be so bad.

Some travellers may find nostalgia in the older styles. It could be the architecture, the neon lights found in some locations, the facilities, the furniture, or something else.