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.