UK Travel 101: How to Behave in a British Bed and Breakfast – Yes, This Mean YOU

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One of the best travel experiences you can have as you explore Great Britain is to stay in a Bed & Breakfast. B&B’s are usually small, family run affairs where you can get a nice room for the night and a hearty breakfast in the morning. It’s a great way to get to know locals as you travel and make new friends.

That being said, many people go to a B&B expecting it to be like a hotel – it’s not. We’ve stayed in quite a few B&B’s in our time and we’ve heard owners lament that some of their guests are sometimes the worst part of running a B&B.

So, in an effort to bridge cultural understanding, here’s a code of standards of sort for people planning on staying in a Bed & Breakfast in the UK (or even Europe). Some of these tips may sound like something any child should know, but all of these are things that B&B owners have brought up with us, so they are real problems.

1. You Are Staying in Someone’s Home

Most B&B’s are family run businesses and more than often, the family actually lives there. While it’s a business, it is also someone’s home. So, provide respect accordingly as if you were a guest in someone else’s home.

2. This is often a part-time job

Many people run B&B’s on the side in addition to having full-time jobs or other businesses. So, don’t expect them to always be around to cater to your every whim.

3. It’s not a hotel. Don’t expect Hotel level service.

I will probably end up saying this several times in this article: B&B’s are not a hotel, so don’t expect to be treated like you’re in one. And certainly don’t treat the B&B’s owners like hotel clerk.

4. Respect Check-in/ Check out times

B&B owners usually operate on a tight schedule. They have to serve breakfast at set times in the mornings, facilitate checkouts and then turn the rooms over for the next evening. This means that if they’ve set a time for you to arrive, you would do well to arrive after that time or else they won’t be ready to receive you. If you’re going to be later than the time you’ve agreed on, call ahead to let them know so they’re not waiting around for you.

5. Eating and Drinking

I’ll leave a B&B owner to give this advice:

“Tea is at 4pm. Supper at a pub or restaurant generally between 7-9pm and breakfast 8 or 9 am. Seems obvious to us Brits but I frequently get bemused guests from across the pond who come back from the village pub at 5.30 complaining that it is shut and they aren’t serving food. Or when offered a cup of tea on arrival say “no thanks I’d rather have a beer” !”

6. No outside food

Bringing outside hot food into your B&B room is a bit of a slap in the face for B&B owners (especially if you bring in your own breakfast!). Most rooms are not equipped to handle food waste, which can lead to smells that permeate the whole place. Most B&B’s have a no outside food rule and that applies to everyone, including you.

7. Don’t stay out too late

To reiterate my first point, this is someone’s home. Do not stay out too late at night as you’re bound to make noise when you come in for the evening and wake up the owners or other guests. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been woken up in the night by drunken revelers coming in a little too late. You have a key to a person’s home, don’t abuse it.

8. Breakfast is great time to socialize with other guests but not always

Staying in a B&B is a great way to meet people from other countries and learn about other cultures. However, some people just want to eat their breakfast and be left alone. So, if it’s clear that someone doesn’t want to small talk, leave the poor patron alone.

9. Don’t talk politics

If you do get friendly with your fellow guests, don’t ever fall into the comfortable trap of talking about politics, especially if you’re chatting with foreigners. It’s just not worth bringing up. You’re wrong, they’re wrong, let’s just leave it at that. Also, don’t feel like you need to apologize for America (which some foreigners try to corner you into doing, including Brits).

10. Be Quiet

Silence is golden, especially in a charming bed and breakfast. People come to these places to relax. Try to always use your ‘inside’ voice. Keep the volume on your TV as a reasonable level. Don’t stomp around late at night. If you’re being… intimate… keep in mind there are other guests you have to face at breakfast.

11. Leave the Young Kids at Home

We stayed in two B&B’s last year with our young toddler and Mrs. Anglotopia and I agreed on one thing: we would never stay at one again with young children (we’re talking under 5). It was a nightmare. Most rooms only have one bed, ours provided cots, but our toddler refused to sleep in them. We had problems with… screaming at all hours of the day. At the end of the day climbing the stairs to the top of the B&B with all our baby gear was just exhausting. We felt so bad for the B&B owners where we stayed even though they put on a brave face. We won’t stay in B&B’s again with our kids until they’re older. If you have very young children, stick to self-catering or hotels. The owners and your fellow guests will thank you (rather than look at you with derision).

12. Don’t overuse resources

Again, it’s not a hotel. Don’t just take and take because it’s not a bottomless resource. Don’t overuse the towels and ask for more. Don’t hog all the breakfast or ask for seconds.

13. Get dressed for Breakfast

This really bothers us when we stay in a B&B. When you come down for breakfast, show some respect for your fellow guests and the owners by putting on some clothes. Despite staying in someone’s home, you’re not at home. Put some effort into your appearance and don’t look sloppy in your pajamas (or worse, lingerie!).

14. Leave Muddy Boots Outside!

I learned this lesson the hard way – if you go for a hike in the countryside, take your muddy boots off before you come in. Check to see if they have an outside hose where you can wash off the mud. Nothing will annoy the owner more than having to call the carpet cleaners as soon as you leave. One B&B owner we know recommends carrying a towel (not one of theirs!) in your pocket to wipe off mud before you return.

15. Check for rules

This isn’t an exhaustive list for all B&B’s, so be sure to check the info book in your room for any special rules that your B&B may have. This will help ensure your stay goes smoothly.

16. Be Careful with Provided Appliances

Many rooms will have a kettle for tea – resist the urge to put it on a wooden surface, this is people’s furniture, sometimes they’re heirlooms. Also, watch out for your curling iron, don’t put it on the carpet – same goes for irons too. Use these tools as if you were at home – carefully!

17. Don’t Abuse the Towels with Make-up

Another B&B owner we know kindly asks that you remove your makeup with your own special make-up removal towels – please don’t stain up their crisp white towels with your make-up!

18. Don’t Re-arrange the Furniture

According to a good friend of ours, they’ve had guests actually re-arrange the furniture in the room! Madness! And then they didn’t bother to move it back when they left.

19. Wedding Revelers

If you’ve been out to a wedding very late and REALLY enjoyed yourself, perhaps it’s best to skip the breakfast part of your stay if you’re still drunk in the morning. But at least check out on time.

20. It’s OK To Ask For Advice

B&B owners are a very useful resource for how to spend your time while you’re staying there. They will be happy to answer your questions and provide guidance. Most will have maps and brochures for local attraction. More critically, they’ll honestly tell you whats worth visiting and what is not. Don’t be afraid to ask but do it at a convenient time for them – after breakfast or when you check-in.

21. Clean up After Yourself

Don’t leave your room a dumpster when you check-out. Do the B&B owner a favor and keep things tidy. They will appreciate it when it comes time for them to turn over your room and ensures you get treated well if you return (they’ll never forget a bad guest).

Have you stayed in a British B&B? Do you have any advice you would like to share? Let us know in the comments!

All the B&B owners we have talked to have been kept anonymous for their own protection.

Comments

  1. avatar says

    This B & B is owned by some of the kindest and most thoughtful hosts yet! And Grassington is a beautiful, off-the-beaten-path place with lovely walks and culturally rich fairs. I have to confess we are London addicts, but Grassington/Yorkshire are wonderful side trips!

  2. avatar says

    Thank you, Mr Anglotopia (aka Jonathan). A GREAT summary of “DON’TS” for the UK B&B visitor (and I shall be pinching some of them for our room booklet). As a proud British B&B owner, I’d just like to add a few “DOs”.

    DO interact with your hosts; they want you to be there and want you to enjoy your stay, and may have all sorts of gems of information and advice that can help. So, don’t be shy: ask away!

    DO point out (nicely) if there’s anything wrong at any point. We often simply can’t tell and it helps hugely if we know.

    DO luxuriate in the unique facilities and character of each place you stay. More, perhaps than any other area, B&Bs reflect the personality and style of the owners – and they are all different, almost always fun, always interesting.

    DO fail to skimp yourselves. We lay on the facilities we do because we, well, want to. It is a little disheartening when carefully thought out facilities AREN’T used. Ours is the guest sitting room. Although I say so myself, it’s pretty good (and our recent Quality in Tourism inspector went further and said it was GREAT) so many people just don’t use it. That’s what it’s there for.

    I’ve a few thoughts of my own about the place of British B&Bs in the panoply of accommodation offerings to the travelling public. Take a look at: http://bedandbreakfastindurham.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/when-is-b-not-b.html

  3. avatar says

    As a B&B owner – guests have their own keys so they can come and go any time, we frequently have wedding guests, people at charity functions etc who will come back in the wee hours – we simply ask that guests are considerate of each other when they come in, which is why we don’t prefer hotels when we travel as you always end up with a large drunk stag party running up and down the halls when you are trying to sleep – you won’t get that at a B&B! As regards early and late check in – we are happy to help as long as we are told on point of booking so we can organise our schedule. We allow food in our rooms, though many do not as people try and sneek it in anyway so you might as well be prepared. We do try and make people aware we are not a hotel – which in many ways is an advantage – free parking, free wifi, owners who know the area and happy to advise, freshly cooked to order breakfast with high quality ingredients – and on site owners who can deal with any issue right away. http://www.betterwaytostay.com/videos/ check out the better way to stay.

  4. avatarTabitha says

    It’s my understanding that B&B owners expect you to be gone during the day. Maybe that’s no longer true, but we wouldn’t stay at a B&B and just hang out all or much of the day as you might in a hotel. Also, I always eat all of the breakfast I’ve been served (also if it’s more of a help yourself situation I may choose not to take something, but if I do take it I eat it all). It just seems rude not to. I know now to ask for no sausage, please.

    I’d totally stay in B&B’s in the UK – 95% of the time we have had wonderful experiences. The other 5% weren’t awful, just a little disappointing.

  5. avatarKaren says

    This is really excellent advice — thank you! I have enjoyed staying in B&Bs around the U.K., but the first time was quite awkward. We didn’t know what to expect, and we’d never been to England. Luckily, our hostess was kind to the gauche Yanks …

  6. avatar says

    Some years ago my husband and I traveled to England in April. Because it was not a heavy travel month we didn’t make all of our reservations and decided to look for B&Bs along the way. What a wonderful trip! We have always said the best way to get to know the natives is to get lost. First we had trouble finding our reserved B&B in Bath. We went to a pub and had a wonderful experience meeting the locals who were so very friendly and helpful. Our best memory was of getting lost when traveling to Kent to see some castles. We found ourselves in Maidstone. We parked near a real estate office because it was the only parking spot we found. We asked for directions. The people there were so kind! They picked out a B&B for us, and a restaurant. They called and made all the reservations for us and gave directions. We found the restaurant and the people in the restaurant cheered when we stepped in and said, “The Americans have arrived!”. Brian, the owner called the B&B and let them know we had arrived and when to expect us. I believe the B&B was in Linton. I know the owner’s name was Mrs. Horrick. We had wonderful conversations with her and she helped us decide where to visit. Perhaps because traveling to places where our ancestors left, I felt a presence of our ancestors. I ended up having quite personal conversations with Mrs. Horrick about family known and unknown. Just a wonderful experience. It seems that letting yourself be a little vulnerable, not wanting things to be the way they are at home makes for a wonderful time. And the B&B can bring the best rewards.

  7. avatarCath says

    Great advice. Kinda sad you have to spell it all out, since it seems like we should all have the common sense to act this way. We stayed in a B&B in Edinburgh and loved it. We arrived in the afternoon and felt obligated to get out and do some site seeing immediately, but we were too exhausted to move. The owner suggested tea and homemade scones. Nothing tasted so good, or felt so good, as that classic British tea, sitting in some overstuffed chairs in their living room. If we’d been served tea at Holyrood Palace, we would not have felt any happier. It was just what we needed, a little TLC. We found the Scots some of the kindest, most thoughtful people of any country we’ve visited. Can’t understand them, but ever so kind.
    I feel for you, traveling with the kid. We traveled to Montreal when our son was 18 months. It was long before the days of interwebs booking, so we booked a B&B on the phone. Much to our dismay, the place we thought we’d booked was not available when we arrived. At least the owner called around for us and found another B&B nearby. We walked there, knocked on the door and the owner let us in. One look at the gorgeously decorated house and I knew there was no way we could stay there. I would have had to keep my son in a harness every minute to keep him from destroying her home. She also took one look at our son and knew there was no way she would let us stay. She called around for us and found a third B&B. It was perfect. An old house that had been carved into apartments, then turned into a B&B. Not elegant, actually rather shabby. But the owner didn’t care that we had a toddler; she even pulled out a box of toys to keep him entertained. We had a private bath. The bed was actually a twin and queen pushed together, so we slept with our son in the middle to keep him from falling out of bed. It worked out perfectly. So, don’t give up hope, B&B’s can still work with a toddler. Sometimes.

  8. avatarSeema Alwi says

    I’m English now living in USA, had many trips at home. Always stayed in B &B’s, you can be sure of a clean comfortable bed and room, and a decent breakfast to start your day. Done all over UK , wish they would do the same here in USA there is so much potential for it on the long journeys. Hotels are not always what you need.

  9. avatarAndrea says

    The big problem with British B&Bs is that once I check in, I absolutely can’t bear to leave. But that’s true of all of the UK.

  10. avatarChatoyant says

    I suppose I am being oversensitive but this article makes me feel like I never want to stay in a UK B&B. I would feel like I have to creep about the place, making myself as unobtrusive as possible and trying not to annoy the owners. Don’t get me wrong, I would abide by nearly all of these rules anyway but after reading through this rather long list, I kind of wonder why I would choose a B&B.

    Really – they expect you to be out of the house most of the day? I rather enjoy an afternoon nap, especially if I am recovering from jet lag. It would bother me to have to ask permission to use the room for which I am paying.

    As for eating times, I certainly don’t expect the B&B to accommodate my schedule but as another poster asked: if I want something to eat or have a gin and tonic at 5:30 pm, are there any other options? The impression I get from this article is that this is an unreasonable expectation…?

    Anyway, the main thing is this list doesn’t sound very welcoming at all. It sounds rather like staying with family who are not that fond of you and don’t really want you there. I think I’ll stick to small inns, if this is typical of UK B&Bs.

  11. avatarMelody Hawks says

    A b&b sounds lovely! I desperately want to visit the UK some day. It would be fun to learn the “proper” way to do things and to rember what its like to watch my manners. Yes! I’m convinced. I must make my way there! Thanks for sharing!

  12. avatarSeth says

    I would say this list is good for the B&Bs in the States as well as the UK. I would say to the people who want to know what’s wrong with staying in the B&B during the day: A B&B is a place to get a bed and breakfast (obviously). I don’t travel to stay in a room 18 hours of the day; the whole point in visiting a place away from home (wherever that may be) is to explore the area and find what makes it a unique place. Every region or state you go is different from the others; if you want to hang around somewhere all day, stay home and save your money.