Chalets, hotels, guest houses, apart hotels, hostels… this article will make your choice of accommodation in Bansko much easier.
Bansko, from a small lovely town of craftsmen and herders, quickly evolved into today’s premier ski resort on the Balkans. The center of the city preserved its authentic ambiance and 19th century houses, while the rest of the city was quickly constructed in a variety of architectural styles. There is a maze of holiday accommodation options. There is a more complicated choice than the simple dilemma: hotel versus self-catered apartment. What kind of ski accommodation is right for you? I did a genuine research for you and hopefully it will guide you to a decision that will meet your vacation requirements. Keep in mind that a leading criteria in a ski holiday is the location of the property.
Until quite recently this kind of accommodation concept was not known to the area of Bansko. The first to offer it in the region were young Brits, which used the working business model from the Alps and implemented in Bansko. Now there are quite a few chalets in Bansko. Almost all of them are fully catered (transfers included) and are run by British families and their well trained staff. They have a reputation of being highly committed to cooking delicious food, great hospitality and restless will to show the local day and night life attractions. These places are for people who feel very sociable, don’t mind losing their privacy over the advantages of the closed community life (groups normally book the whole chalet for the duration of their stay). Keep in mind that the chalets are usually already fully booked 6 months before the start of the season. The February mid term may be fully booked even a year in advance.
Suitable for: group of friends and families; beginners or generally people who like to socialize and don’t want to bothered with the hassle of figuring out the logistics on spot. Chalets are for skiers who like to plan and book their holiday much in advance.
Unsuitable for: anyone who favours their privacy; families with small kids;
Apartments (Apart Hotels)
Renting an apartment in Bansko can be a very tricky business if not a little daunting as well. Most of the constructions in the past 10 years were of apartment complexes – from super luxury to very basic. The majority of them were built in a hurry and with a lot of compromises to their quality. Lack of proper sound and moisture isolation, inadequate heating and poor furnishing are not uncommon. Some of the apartment hotels do not have a reception and do not provide English-speaking assistance. That is why you always need to take note in advance on where you should go to pick up the key for the apartment. Things can get as brutal as you being stranded in the middle of the night in front of the building without access to the apartment you have rented. There are also a lot of Pro’s for booking an apartment for your ski holiday. A sensible advice is to spend a good deal of time on thorough internet research before you make your final booking. A good place to start is TripAdvisor and booking.com. Check the ratings and carefully read the reviews. Apartments give you the flexibility to organize your ski holiday according to your rhythm of life. You can save on restaurants and cook your own food, a good option for families with fussy eaters. In Bansko the competition among apartment owners is fierce and you can find very affordable deals even for luxury properties in high season. Most of the complexes offer luxury amenities, which you can use for free. Mind that sometimes the quality of the facilities (and especially the SPA facilities within the complex) is highly exaggerated (swimming pools may be cold or not clean, saunas may be closed or only open for advance bookings, WiFi may not be accessible from the upper floors etc.). Details about these issues you’d better explore in advance on TripAdvisor or other travel forums.
Suitable for: self-guided persons and self-sufficient families; small groups of friends traveling on a budget;
Unsuitable for: people who would like to forget the household work at home and leave the cooking and the dish washing to somebody else while on a holiday; parents who need time for themselves away from the constant children’s chorus.
Hotels should be predictable, right?! They should offer a controlled environment, a service package including a dependable person at the reception to help, maid service (it is nice to have your bed made up daily), fresh towels, cable TV, Wi-Fi, wet bar, telephone, tasty breakfast and hair dryer. Depending on the hotel in Bansko you will have other amenities such as a sauna, swimming pool, fitness… Some more distant hotels also offer a shuttle bus service to the lower Gondola lift station, free of charge. If these services are promised by the hotel, it seems imperative that the hotel should provide them. After all, visitors should get what they pay for, right? However, most hotel managers in Bansko aren’t striving to provide them. Finding a decent and professional staff is getting harder every year. According to TripAdvisor, Bansko is the cheapest and most affordable ski resort in Europe. This “award” comes with a price. Capable young people go to Western Europe to receive better salaries, since the monthly cheques in Bansko and in Bulgaria as a whole are with symbolic value. Hotel management saves on heating, breakfast and other services just to keep the prices as low as possible. I don’t want to sound discouraging, but it is vital for your own happy travel to invest time in research. Again a good starting point proves to be TripAdvisor and booking.com.
Suitable for: people with reasonable budget, for whom hotel amenities and comfort are important
Unsuitable for: people who like it more sociable and are on tight budget
Guest houses and small family hotels
Two primary reasons: authenticity and cost. These are my favorite types of accommodation in Bansko, but I’m Bulgarian and I look at this type of hotel from a different perspective.
Guest house and small family hotel owners provide a personal touch, local food cooked according a recipeе passed from mother-to-daughter, honor traditions and live a different way of life. I find these things amazing, memorable and sometimes the contacts with the locals are life changing. The food has features, which are difficult to manage in the cities – it is not only tasty, but also healthy. I should mention some of the Con’s as well. Most of the guest houses and family hotels in Bansko do not have an English-speaking staff. A few of the things they may be doing can be strange and even unacceptable to foreigners. The accommodation is basic. Some of the family hotels main business is not the hotel, but the located in the same building “mehana” (tavern). This may mean an annoying music, while you are trying to relax. Sleeping at a guest house run by locals is a good investment in the local economy and support that goes to sustainable tourism. Definitely it is the best way to experience the authentic local culture while sacrificing the luxury amenities of larger hotels.
Suitable for: people, who like to sample different food and experience different cultures.
Unsuitable for: all those who do like the comfort and don’t want to experience something out of the ordinary.
There was a point in my life when I believed that if I had a place to sleep and the rest will take care by itself. It worked for a period of time. I loved to obey the impulsive decisions to chat and make friends with strangers. Hostels are usually associated with young, flexible and adventurous travelers and are not considered suitable for families. Sharing almost everything (the room, the bathroom, the kitchenette) may be toо much for a lot of people. There are only a few hostels in Bansko and your choice is very limited, These are the places to spend a little cash and have a great sociable holiday in Bulgaria’s most famous ski resort. Do not like it so sociable? Than book a B&B. It may be on a similar budget if not cheaper.
Suitable for: people who do not mind sharing and like to make friends.
Unsuitable for: privacy is the major concern with hostels.
Don’t forget that using the internet for comparing prices and services will help you a lot. The life outside the slopes can also be fun. While searching for your accommodation keep in mind the first lesson of adulthood – you can’t have it all, and even on vacation, one has to give up things to get things.