Today, we are going to look at an IELTS speaking part 2 cue card that asks you to describe a hotel you have stayed in. This is a pretty interesting task and so we will look at some useful vocabulary and ideas to help you describe hotels effectively.

The Cue Card

First of all, let’s look at the cue card.

Describe a hotel you have stayed in.

You should say:

– where the hotel was

– why you stayed at that particular hotel

– give details of the hotel and the view from it

and how you felt about the hotel.

Please note that this is just a single reported cue card and it is unlikely that you would encounter the same exact one again. Therefore, you must always read it carefully.

It is also reported that you might be asked to “Describe a hotel that you know” or “Describe a hotel that you would like to stay in.” These would require somewhat different answers.

Analysing the Cue Card

When you look at the cue card, you will have one minute to think about it. You should not dwell too long on analysis, but it is important to ensure that you understand the cue card.

In this case, there are only really two important facts:

  1. It is a hotel that you describe (ie not a guesthouse, caravan, campsite, or Airbnb)
  2. You have stayed there (ie not somewhere that you have heard about or want to stay in)

As for the bullet points, as we have discussed before these are not strictly necessary. There is nothing in the marking rubric to say that you must talk about them. However, the question does always say “you should” and so I strongly suggest you deal with the bullet points. Therefore, you should talk about:

  • where it was
  • why you stayed there
  • the important details of the hotel (a description)
  • and how you felt about it

You do not need to talk about these in any particular order and of course some may just require a brief mention of the key facts while others may warrant extended discussion.

Vocabulary for Describing Hotels

Several years ago, when I was teaching in China, I put together this PPT of useful vocabulary for describing hotels. It contains some example sentences for reference.

Now let’s put some of those words and phrases into a quiz to test your knowledge:

  1. I never use the _____ in a hotel room because all the prices are marked up to a ridiculous extent.
  2. If you get hungry, you can just call ____ and they’ll bring your meal up.
  3. When I arrived, the _____ was quite rude and so I complained to her manager.
  4. The hotel has a beautiful _____, which even attracts tourists who come in to take photos.
  5. Don’t _____ late or else you might be charged for an extra day.
  6. _____ staff will come around at about midday, so leave a “do not disturb” sign if you don’t want them coming into your room.
  7. Many hotels have a ______ but I don’t like being too hot so I never use them.

(You can check your answers at the bottom of the page.)

Here is a video that I made after this article was originally written. It contains few more items of hotel-related vocabulary:

Planning your Answer

how to describe a hotel

For IELTS speaking part 2, you only have one minute to think about your answer and so you cannot take too long. It is usually best to just go with your first thought, even if it is not ideal. If your English skills are good enough, you will be able to fill the time and give a decent response. The examiner does not expect you to present a perfect answer because you should not have memorised anything in advance.

I would probably structure my answer like this:

  • Introduce the hotel by name and location
  • Say when and why I went there
  • Describe it in detail, highlighting key features
  • Give some of my opinions about it

However, I might also invert those two first options by stating the date and reason for my trip. This might improve narrative flow, depending on the situation.

In either case, these are natural and reasonable structures to follow. They are logical and will help me to speak without running out of ideas in less than one minute.

I would also make some notes, but I would be careful not to write too much or else this approach could backfire. Writing full sentences will leave you with no real plan because your preparation time would expire before you’d even finished a single sentence.

Instead, aim to write a few important words to remind you of vocabulary, ideas, or structure. Fundamentally, this would serve to give you confidence and a gentle reminder of important things to mention.

Sample Band 9 Answer

Pegaebong Hotel in North Korea

In 2015, I travelled to North Korea to run a marathon, and whilst in the country I visited the remote northern regions, close to the border with China. Here, I stayed at a place called Pegaebong Hotel, not far from the foot of Mount Paekdu.

The hotel was fascinating to me for various reasons. Firstly, it is a big, old hotel in a traditional style that you don’t normally see nowadays. It had grand staircases and winding hallways, with a large dining room. However, what was most interesting was the fact that it had no running water or electricity most of the time. North Korea is a very poor country and so there are many problems there. In this hotel, my room had a bathtub full of ice-cold water if I wanted to wash, but it was freezing cold outside, so this was not an appealing option. The lights seldom worked but sometimes the electricity would come on and shock you if you touched a metallic surface. The food was awful and we were given a single potato for dinner.

All in all, the hotel would probably have been unbearable for most people but I really liked it. The surrounding regions were beautiful and the hotel’s bizarre design and features made me really enjoy it in spite of its total lack of comfort, and whilst I was there I even met one of my heroes – a famous movie director. I will not forget my stay at the Pegaebong Hotel.

Notes on my Answer

As always, I have tried to give an interesting and natural answer to this cue card. I have avoided clichéd language like “Today I will talk about…” Instead, I focused on creating a narrative, as I mentioned with my summary of the structure above. My beginning and ending were pretty natural. I have highlighted key features to provide concrete details and I think that this answer would be interesting for the examiner, which is quite important. Although you are not doing IELTS to entertain someone, it can help you build a rapport and engage the listener enough to make them view your performance favourably.

Key vocabulary from my answer:

  • not far from the foot of ____
  • in a traditional style
  • grand staircases
  • winding hallways
  • no running water
  • not an appealing option
  • would have been unbearable
  • bizarre design

As always, do not try to dazzle the examiner with weird words and complex vocabulary. Just speak naturally and offer a realistic and straightforward description. If you do this, you will get a good score.


  1. mini bar
  2. room service
  3. receptionist
  4. lobby
  5. check out
  6. Housekeeping
  7. sauna