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When my family went to Maui, we rented a room at a local __. I have no idea what to call it. It was like a hotel room, but it wasn't in a hotel building, it was only one story.

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You are faced with this question because you have this preconceived idea that hotels are multi-storied. It's wrong. Hotels could be in any shapes!!! :D –  John Oct 2 '11 at 13:42

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I disagree with whoever contributed the distinction between hotel and motel to answers.com. Hotels are not inherently multi-storied.

Merriam-Webster defines hotel as

an establishment that provides lodging and usually meals, entertainment, and various personal services for the public

The Cambridge Advanced Learners' Dictionary defines it as

a building where you pay to have a room to sleep in, and where you can eat meals

Dictionary.com says

a commercial establishment offering lodging to travelers and sometimes to permanent residents, and often having restaurants, meeting rooms, stores, etc., that are available to the general public.

And if you want examples in actual usage of "hotel" for a single-storey building, just Google single-storey hotel.

In short, on the basis of the details you've provided there's no reason not to call the place where you stayed a hotel.

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The key distinction of a motel is that the room doors open directly to the outside, and typically you can park your car very close to that door. In a hotel, the room doors open into a corridor. There are certainly one story hotels and there isn't a special word for them. If the building you went to had an internal hallway or corridor, it was just a hotel. But if it did not, you could call it a motel if you wanted to give people a clearer mental picture of your accommodations.

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It sounds like it was just a motel:

A motel, was derived as a combination of the words "motor hotel," is best described as a one or two story structure with rooms that open to the exterior of the building, usually surrounded by a common balcony or patio.

A hotel has rooms that open to the interior of the building, along a hallway, and is multi-storied.

From wiki answers.

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You might call such a place a pension, a hostel or a lodge. They aren't by definition one-story, but they're smaller, cheaper and often house many people in one room. –  onomatomaniak Oct 2 '11 at 6:45
    
Any building of no more than a storey or two can be described as 'low-rise'. I have limited experience of motels, but I imagine them to be indeed low-rise. –  Barrie England Oct 2 '11 at 7:11
    
@BarrieEngland limited experience with motels? you're missing out! –  onomatomaniak Oct 2 '11 at 7:27
    
Quite possibly. –  Barrie England Oct 2 '11 at 8:07

If you rent a fully detached, or perhaps semi-detached ground level structure, then you are staying in a "cottage" or "cabin"; that type of thing. A word for a "low-rise" detached house is "bungalow".

"When we went to Maui, we rented a {cottage | cabin | bungalow | ...}".

You do not need to call the business anything; it is clear from the context that this was rented from some sort of accomodation business, which has some kind of office in some kind of building.

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