Hotels gain cache with their history or celebrity-studded guest list, but star ratings show potential guests what hotels offer besides glamorous fellow visitors. Forbes Travel Guide issues hotel star ratings, also known as Mobil Stars, according to a thorough, independent inspection of hundreds of details. To gain a four- or five-star rating, hotels must exhibit an exacting array of high-end characteristics.


According to the Mobil Star lodging criteria, both four-star and five-star hotels provide a luxury environment for their guest. The differences in the physical environment, particularly the guest rooms, lie in the details. Four-star rooms offer pampering basics such as triple-sheeted beds, no less than 10 types of hangers, and live plants. Meanwhile, five-star rooms also include thoughtful touches that create an experience, such as fresh flowers, high-quality glass drink-mixing materials and glasses and a stereo system.


One of the key differences between four-star and five-star locations is the comprehensiveness of services provided and graciousness of the service personnel. Four-star hotels offer polite, respectful and personal service, bringing complimentary drinks, tidying up during turn-down service, personal service and using guest names where appropriate. In a five-star hotel, no guest request is too outlandish, or even met with shock or reticence. At the Lanesborough Hotel ( in London, requests for rare Japanese apples, zebra milk or a last minute call for a five-course private dinner for eight are just an average day's work for the staff of on-call butlers.


At either four- or five-star, you can expect your every whim to be attended to, if not already thought of before your arrival. Guest rooms feature premium cable and two -- or three, in the case of five-star hotels -- phone lines. Fitness rooms include personal headphones or televisions and the latest magazines. But these are really just the bare-minimum requirements for these high star ratings. In four-star locations, expect premium modern amenities like iPod docking alarm clocks and iPad room service ordering systems, while five-star hotels pull out all the stops with amenities like pet room service, personally monogrammed robes and baby butlers.

Location and Environment

Five-star hotels must provide a distinctive experience, standing out as one of the best lodging options in their country. Consequently, many of the world's most well-known accommodations carry the five-star hotel ranking: the Hôtel Plaza Athénée ( in Paris, the Ritz Carlton ( in New York City and the Savoy Hotel ( in London. Apart from superlative service and truly plush accommodations, these hotels share a historical pedigree that sets them apart from their four-star counterparts.