Some tips on choosing accommodation
Finding a suitable accommodation is a crucial part of your trip, and it can have an enormous impact on your spending if not chosen correctly. There are many reasons as to why we want a certain accommodation; be it by price, location, amenities, ease of booking, type of facility, etc. One of the best ways to cut your trip expenses is by choosing the right accommodation that fits your needs at the lowest cost possible, or even for free!
Here are some of the most common types of accommodations. These are arranged from the most expensive to the cheapest.
This is the most commonly known type of accommodation. While it is commonly accepted that hotels are expensive, the truth is that hotels can be a cheap option. When looking for a hotel, it is important to use and compare different search engines and agencies. You will see that it is very common to find different rates for the same hotel at each search engine.
Even though hotels tend to be above the typical backpacker’s budget, it’s still possible to find a cheap hotel that won’t break your pocket. But be careful, because it is possible that either they are far from the city center or they have undesirable conditions. Sometimes hotels can be a cheap option when you travel in a group because costs can be shared between all the travelers. You can search for hotels on some of the most popular search engines like Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Booking.com, and Agoda.com, among others.
One of the best websites (and highly recommended) to find good hotel deals and unbiased reviews by previous travelers is tripadvisor.com
If you’re staying in a city for a long time, looking for a rental is a good choice. At a rental you have most or all the amenities of an apartment for less than the price of a hotel. You can rent from well-established rental companies as well from people who have a place available to rent. People usually sublet their apartments when they are not using them. It is a way for the owner to generate some income while the traveler saves money because he is paying just a portion of the rent as agreed.
Today, the go-to site for rooms or apartment rentals anywhere in the world is Airbnb. I’ve used it several times, and I highly recommend it. With this link, you get $35 off your first booking with Airbnb.
Alternatively, you can find rentals anywhere in the world by searching on Google or Craigslist. You just have to search for a “sublet” or a “short-term apartment”.
These properties are typically available by the week at luxury resorts, but they can be a very cost-effective option, especially for those traveling in a group. Timeshare units are very much like hotel suites, except the bedroom is separated from the living room by a door. They’re also set up with full kitchens that include refrigerator, stove, cookware, and plates/glasses/utensils, which can make for a great way to save money by not eating out all the time.
Bed & Breakfast
B&Bs are generally cheaper than hotels, but not as cheap as hostels. This is a good option for couples and families. B&Bs offer more privacy than most hostels and the feel and quality tends to be “warm and cozy”. Again, Airbnb is an excellent choice to find b&bs.
Hostels are the cheapest and most accessible accommodation for budget travelers. Hostels have a variety of rooms that go from private to 30+ mixed bed bunks. The bigger the room, the more people you sleep with, the cheaper the cost. There are places where you can find a bed for $3.00 a night. Even though hostels are very cheap, they are well known to be safe and secure.
Usually, the restrooms and showers are shared. If you are not comfortable using a shared bathroom, you can rent private rooms, but those are a bit more expensive. You pay less when you stay in a shared or mixed room, but obviously, you won’t have much privacy. But don’t worry, in shared rooms you have a locker to secure your stuff. It is common to see a lot of young travelers because it is a really “laid back” environment where you can meet new travelers. Most hostels have common areas with kitchen, tv, games, wi-fi, sitting area, etc.; and many of them even include breakfast in your rate.
Some hostels can have an age limit; but most hostels, like the big chain Hostelling International, accept any age. One of the best qualities of hostelling is that it is easy to interact with people, find friendly company to walk around the city and even travel companions for part or the rest of your trip. Some of the best hostel booking sites are Hostel World, HostelBookers, and Hi Hostel.
Sleeper trains are a good option to spend a night or couple nights while you travel. The best thing about sleeper trains is that you are traveling from one place to another while saving time and money. Why? First, you’re not paying for a night at a hostel, hotel, etc. Second, you are saving some of your precious daytime by traveling during the night. Sleeper Trains provide you different levels of accommodations that range from private rooms, semi-private couchettes, to reclinable seats. Although this is an excellent choice for travel and accommodation, it is best to use just when needed because many trains don’t count with showers and the restrooms are not too desirable, to say the least (unless you are in first class). Check the trains section for more information.
If you’re traveling into the “wild” or are looking for a more sustainable approach to travel, then camping is an option for you. Camping is usually done in pre-established camping areas. Some of them require a small “camping” fee to allow you to set your tent for an established amount of days. This is a good way to spend some time out of the hustle and bustle of the city and feel relaxed surrounded by nature.
Another good cheap accommodation option is Home Exchange. The name says it all; you switch places with another person or family at another country. This is common among older travelers doing home exchange because they are most likely to own a home. Also, this is a great way to live cheaply in another country.
One of the biggest fears of Home Exchange is the security of their home, but think about this, the other family is entrusting you their home the same way you are entrusting yours. Also, sites that facilitate home exchange have various levels of security and verification that let you know that you are dealing with someone real. You can go to homeexchange.com and find more information about this accommodation option.
Couchsurfing, apart from being free, is one of the most culturally rich methods of staying in a country. This works by contacting someone on the country you are visiting and asking if they can host you. Depending on your host, they can offer you a room with a bed, or share a room with them, or an air mattress, or couch, etc. One of the best things about Couchsurfing is the direct exposure to the local culture with the aid of your host. Many hosts spend their time with their guests showing them around the city and pointing good and not so touristy places to go.
It is commonly asked how safe it is to stay at a stranger’s house in another country. While nothing is guaranteed, I can say (having done it myself a couple of times), that it is pretty safe. People who welcome you to their home are pretty open-minded and are travelers as well. They are in for the cultural exchange and the enjoyment of good company.
The safest way to do this is by going to couchsurfing.org and setting up a profile. It is imperative you fill all the information about yourself (like interest, hobbies, a little bit about yourself, etc.) because your host will want to know a little bit about you before committing to hosting you. At the same time, you will want to see your prospect host’s information to get an idea of who he/she is. It is even more desirable if the person is verified using an address, credit card or by other travelers. The site also shows reviews of your host from previous travelers. Those reviews can give you an idea if this person can be an option to stay with.
Again, mostly young people do Couchsurfing although you can find couchsurfers from all ages all around the world. In this other post, I share more tips to use Couchsurfing to travel the world cheaply.
Staying with friends and family
Well, now it’s a good time to get in touch with your distant family and friends to find that desired free stay. Just be sure to contact them ahead of time, be grateful while staying with them, and keep in touch after you leave. They are doing you a big favor, so it is courteous to send a thank you note from another place on your trip or after you finish your trip.
Being a Vagrant
Although it is not recommended for many reasons (and on top of the list is security), many laid-back travelers choose to pass a night or two as vagrant around the city. Some of the “safest” places to stay are airports, train stations, and bus stations. But you can sleep on benches, parks, beaches, wherever… Although it is improbable, there is a slight chance of getting fined or arrested for doing this (if it is against the law). And again, this is NOT recommended but saves money nonetheless.