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Legal Eye: Deciphering the stars

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When planning a trip in Poland this summer, you may want to take a longer look at practical matters. It may not be enough to glance at the long-term weather forecasts for the seacoast or the mountains. The savvy traveler should review whether work on roads or train tracks will create delays. This, in turn, may lead to pondering that age-old question: How far can we travel before the chorus of “are there yet?” from the backseat become unbearable?

If you’ve done this much planning, you’ve likely also given thought to your accommodations. Perhaps you’ve even looked to see how many stars a hotel or bed and breakfast has. As to this last issue, the classification of accommodations and the number of stars is more than just a promotional stunt, it’s regulated by law. Different standards apply to hotels, boardinghouses (pensjonaty) and other types of accommodations, and the stars do make a difference. While your author can’t do anything about the noise from the backseat, I can tell you a little about what to expect at your chosen standard of hotel or boardinghouse.

Public registers

Before holding the grand opening, premises offering accommodations must be classified and categorized. A “hotel” must have at least 10 rooms, most of which must be singles or doubles, and offer a “wide range of services” connected with a guest’s stay. Unlike the literal meaning of “bed and breakfast” (that other translation of “pensjonat”), a Polish boardinghouse must offer all-day dining services. Hotels and boardinghouses each can have up to five stars.

Once categorized and classified, the information goes into registers. The local voivodship marshal both makes the initial assessment of the premises and maintains a register of accommodations in the area. This information is then put into a central, public register maintained by the Ministry of Sport and Tourism. The Ministry also has the right to conduct spot checks on premises to make sure that they satisfy all requirements for their classification and categorization.

Bare necessities

Every room in every hotel or boardinghouse must have certain basic furniture. This includes a bed, table, bed-side lamp, mirror, and hook or stand for coats. Beyond these basic furnishings, you need to look to the stars to ensure other necessities.

If in-room air-conditioning is a must in summer, you will need five stars (four only guarantees airconditioning in common areas). For an elevator from the ground floor to the first floor, again only five stars ensure that you won’t be dragging your suitcase up stairs.

Sheets and towels are a standard feature of all rooms. However, with three stars or less, they only need to be changed every three days (unless you request more frequent service).

Creature comforts

Polish law does not say anything about 300-count sheets, slippers, chocolates on your pillow, or designer shampoo. The stars do indicate some amenities, though.

As examples, three stars guarantee a porter, payment by credit card, an in-room television, a mini sewing kit, shoe shine equipment, and at least 12 hours of room service. For all hotels and those boardinghouses in recreational areas or other non-urban vacation spots, some basic spa services must be offered from at least three stars. With four, you get additional comforts, such as a hair dryer, 24-hour room service, and a comfortable chair. Five stars ensure you a bathrobe. If you are in a five-star hotel, you can be certain of finding a safe and a mini-bar in your room.

Regardless of where you are staying, you can get a wake-up call and breakfast. Of course, hotels and boardinghouses can offer more than the legal minimum. You just need to do more planning to make sure that you will get those creature comforts that are vacation necessities for you.

Source: Judith Gliniecki, Warsaw Business Journal, 13th June 2011

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