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Is there a difference between words отель and гостиница? Can I always use either of them for some given estate?

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Well, they are interchangeable but oтель has subtle connotations of something more if not luxurious but at least of higher class, so one can hardly name something very shitty отель ( unless it is actually has отель in it's name)

But actually гостиница is widely used in all contexts as well. You can say in a luxury hotel and Russian native-speaker will have no troubles calling it just гостиница.

Also, those two words a easily used together, just not to sound too repetitive:

Отель «Премьер» расположен в центре рабочего поселка Кантемировка. ... Здание гостиницы оборудовано пожарной сигнализацией

So, answering your question, гостиница is applicable whenever отель can be used, almost in all cases it works the other way around as well. I'd rather stick to гостиница.

As a sidenote, actually отель was more popular word but then it lost to гостиница.

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  • I'm native Russian and I always say гостиница. – SovereignSun Dec 7 '16 at 17:32
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    "As a sidenote, actually отель was more popular word but then it lost to гостиница." - probably western hotels were called отель, while Russian hotels were called постоялый двор or трактир. – user31264 Dec 8 '16 at 1:52
  • @user31264 насчёт трактира я не уверен, но про постоялый двор - да, похоже - imgur.com/a/6YAUn – shabunc Dec 8 '16 at 1:57
  • Трактир вполне мог служить гостиницей: books.google.com/ngrams/… – user31264 Dec 8 '16 at 3:49
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    PS: Корпус нашёл фразу "Я ночевал в трактире на Rigi-Staffel и на другой день всходил на самую вершину горы (Rigi-Kulm), чтоб видеть первую минуту солнечного восхождения." (Жуковский, 1821) В ходе дальнейших поисков обнаружилось в "Станционном смотрителе": "Вскоре узнал он, что ротмистр Минский в Петербурге и живет в Демутовом трактире." – user31264 Dec 8 '16 at 4:21

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