Though we travel the world, Americans tend to stay at home when cyber-surfing to find low-cost hotels overseas, using U.S. services such as Hotels.com, Orbitz or Travelocity.
But many U.S. websites offer relatively few hotel choices overseas. Some that do list few hotels outside London and Paris; some list hotels in upscale categories only.
To use the Internet for specially discounted hotel bargains in cities scattered all over Europe, a European website is often more helpful, making familiarity with discount European sites more important than ever.
Here are a few you might want to try:
* Venere, www.venere.com, is operated by Italian entrepreneurs. The name means Venus, and its symbol is the head of Botticelli's immortal painting of the goddess. It represents thousands of hotels in all price ranges in scores of European cities. The rates it quotes -- you can access the site in English -- are often special offers good for a limited time, at levels below those published.
* Octopustravel, www.octopustravel.com, is a giant. The British hotel-booking site was recently acquired by America's Cendant Corp. but is still under day-to-day British management and lists properties all over the world. It is offering rooms for $23 a night in Bangkok, Thailand; $40 in Beijing, $57 in London and $93.50 in Paris.
* Opodo, www.opodo.com, is owned by several major European airlines. Its hotel search engine will ferret out properties as modestly priced as the Locanda Salieri in Venice, which offers doubles for less than $100 a night in one of Europe's costliest cities.
* Eurocheapo, www.eurocheapo.com, is another site worth checking. Its primary function is to locate budget-priced hotels in scores of European cities. Calling itself "the opinionated guide to sleeping cheap," Eurocheapo reviews low-priced hotels in an effort to find "the best bed for your buck."
Many foreign hotel booking engines are designed to search out apartments too; some experienced travelers say that apartments, rented for a minimum of one or two weeks, nearly always provide savings. The strength of the euro might lead Americans to reduce the number of European cities they visit in favor of longer apartment stays in each city. Be sure to check all the sites offering apartment listings to find the best bargains.
A final note: It's smart to use a foreign website for foreign accommodations, but confirm the location, category and quality of the hotel with other sources, such as U.S. guidebooks.