At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks


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Finding cheap accommodation is a crucial part of planning any trip, and it can have an enormous impact on your budget if not chosen correctly.

Besides airfare, accommodation costs are one of the most significant expenses of any travel budget. So, finding ways to reduce your accommodation expenses can lead to substantial savings, which is always a bonus when you’re planning a cheap holiday!

Whether you’re a backpacker hopping between hostels or a business traveler staying at a boutique hotel, you want to get the best room possible without spending too much for it.

I’ve already shown you how to find the cheapest airfare, so now I’ll show you how to find cheap accommodation. Mastering these two simple but crucial aspects of your holiday planning will ensure you have the best vacation possible – without breaking the bank!

Say goodbye to Googling “cheap accommodation near me” and hello to savvy savings.

Hotel Sign at Night

9 Tips on How to Find Cheap Accommodation

1. Decide what type of place you want to stay in

Deciding on where you spend the night largely depends on the type of trip you want to have. While it may seem simple, determining the accommodation you’re looking for is the first place to start your planning.

To get you started, I’d suggest asking yourself a couple of these questions:

  • What do I want out of my cheap accommodation?
  • What kind of experience do I want to have during my stay?
  • What type of trip am I planning?

For example, when I want some alone time, I may get a hotel room. When I feel like meeting other travelers, I may book to stay in a hostel dorm room.

When I feel like meeting locals, I may couchsurf or rent a room through Vrbo or Airbnb. And when I want to pamper myself, I may use my points or miles to get a premium hotel room for a fraction of the price.

Norbert in a capsule hotel
At a capsule hotel in Tokyo.

You also don’t just need to choose one type of accommodation. Opt for stays at different places to help spread out your budget. For example, you could stay at a hotel for a couple of nights and then move over to a hostel.

To help you decide, I’ll go into more detail on the different types of accommodation options shortly. Remember, the type of place you choose to stay in will be the biggest determining factor of your budget!

2. Don’t be afraid of hostels

YES, hostels are safe! Ignore that bad reputation they got after that one Quentin Tarantino movie.

In my almost nine years of long-term travel, hostels have usually been my go-to choice when looking for a place to stay. Some of the best hostels not only have the same amenities as hotels, but they’re also a fraction of the price.

When it comes to meeting new people, a hostel provides the perfect environment. From getting to know the city together on a walking tour to bar-hopping with your new mates, hostels are great at encouraging social interactions.

As a bonus, many hostels also have kitchens for you to cook your own meals and a laundry room to freshen up your clothes, which can help you save money while traveling.

Budapest, Hungary
Drinking at the hostel in Budapest with new friends I met there!

Hostels generally offer both private and dorm rooms, so you can choose how private or social you want to be. And, of course, dorm rooms are much cheaper if you’re on a very tight budget!

Now that I’m in my 30s, I tend to pick private rooms, but every now and then, I’ll switch it up to stay in a dorm room just for fun.

To find the best hostels, I recommend using Hostelworld – it’s super easy to use, and you can even connect with a couple of travelers staying in the same hostel as you!

3. Choose your location wisely

Usually, the more centric your accommodation, the more expensive it is. But, before you go and book the cheapest accommodation on the outskirts of the city, you need to keep a couple of things in mind.

I always recommend doing a bit of value engineering to see whether staying outside a city is actually the best way for you to save money. Here’s how I would go about doing it:

  1. Ask yourself how much time will you spend traveling from your hotel to the city center. Do you plan on going into the city every day to do some sightseeing or are you happy with just one or two city trips?
  2. Factor in how much it would cost to use a taxi or public transportation for these trips.
  3. Multiple the transportation costs (both ways) with the number of times you plan on making these trips.
  4. Compare it to the price and convenience of having a centric room.
Pool at a Polynesian Resort

You may find that staying in a central location where you can walk everywhere may actually be cheaper than staying outside the city and having to travel every day.

Also, bear in mind that more popular destinations also typically have more expensive accommodation options. It’s crucial that you fully understand the cost of destinations before deciding where to go.

Lastly, always check the transportation options from your accommodation to see how well-connected you are.

4. Plan ahead when traveling during the high season

It’s rare for a city to sell out every room. Even during high season, you’ll still find a place to stay. But, if you want to stay somewhere that is clean, in a good location, and still offers great value for money, then you really need to start planning well in advance.

High-season trips should be planned at least a few months ahead, especially to places like Iceland, which currently has more tourism than the accommodation infrastructure available.

Also, if you’re traveling during popular events – like New Year’s in New York City, Koh Phangan during the full moon party, and Rio de Janeiro during Carnival – you should book your room several months ahead to get the best value.

Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Now, during the low season, you can wing it. Often, you can get great last-minute deals. Sometimes, I even book my accommodation the night before or the same day I travel during the low season!

To find cheap hotels offering last-minute deals, I use Booking.com. Many accommodations offer lower prices for their available rooms for the same day or next day booking. And, since I’m a frequent user, I also get additional “Genius” discounts on many of their listings.

Hotels.com is my second go-to site when looking for last-minute deals on hotels.

5. Avoid paying full price for hotel rooms

Hotel booking sites like Priceline and Hotwire offer great discounts on brand-name hotels. Forget the cheap hotel chains in dodgy areas; these are the real deal. However, the catch is that you may not always know the exact name of the hotel until after you book it.

Save Money

What you will know, though, is how many stars it has, its quality, amenities, approximate location, and other general information to help you choose. It’s a great option to find hotels that are pretty inexpensive. Plus, I love that it adds a bit of fun and mystery to the booking process!

Alternatively, check out Hotel Tonight for discounts on rooms available the same night as your booking.

6. Mid-week and Sunday stays are the cheapest

When planning your trip, booking accommodation over a Sunday or in the middle of the week is generally the cheapest.

Fridays and Saturdays are infamously known as being the most expensive days to book accommodation. Prices generally shoot up over these days, which can seriously impact your budget if your stay falls over the weekend.

However, keep in mind that Sundays don’t fall apart of this rule. Generally, local travelers tend to book over a Friday to Saturday, which means accommodation usually empties out on a Sunday. In order to entice people to stay for longer, Sunday rates are usually a bit cheaper.

If your travel days are a bit more flexible, I highly suggest you book your stay over a Sunday to Thursday. Your budget will thank you!

7. Use your points and miles for free accommodation

Securing a deal on a hotel is great, but nothing quite beats free accommodation!

If you have a preferred hotel brand, join their rewards program and try to be a frequent guest to accrue miles and earn reward points with them. You could then redeem these points for free stays.

Alternatively, look into getting a credit card that offers certain perks or rewards. These work on the same principle as joining a hotel reward program, except for the fact that you’re not limited to one hotel brand. The more money you spend, the more you’ll save in the long run!

This technique is commonly known as Travel Hacking.

Typical Hotel Room

8. Book for more than one night

Quite a few accommodation platforms or providers usually offer better rates when you book for longer than a one-night stay.

For example, you may find that when you book for three nights, you get the fourth for free, or when you book for a week, you get a discount on the overall price.

You may also find that you get added perks when you book for a longer stay. This could include the likes of a free cleaning service when booking vacation rentals.

I suggest using a booking platform and playing around with different dates and durations of your stay to find a great deal that suits both your needs and budget.

9. Look beyond hotels and hostels

There are many budget accommodation options out there that go beyond cheap hotels and hostels.

From guesthouses and apartments on Vrbo or Airbnb to house-sitting and even couchsurfing, it’s easy to find cheap accommodation.

Next, we’ll take a look at the most common and popular accommodation options out there to help streamline your decision-making.

12 Types of Accommodation for Your Trip

There are many reasons why we want a particular type of accommodation, be it the nightly rates, location, amenities, ease of booking, or even the type of facilities on offer. To ensure you make the best choice when choosing your accommodation, you need to really understand how they differ.

Plus, one of the best ways to fit expensive destinations into your budget is by choosing suitable accommodation that fits your needs at the best price possible, or even for free!

Here are 12 of the most common accommodations types you can choose from for your next trip. These are arranged from the (usually) most expensive to the cheapest.

Bed in a Hotel Room

1. Hotels

This is the most well-known type of accommodation. While it is commonly accepted that hotels are expensive, the truth is that cheap hotels can still be an option.

During your hotel search, it’s vital to use and compare different search engines, hotel booking platforms, and agencies. By doing this, you’ll quickly realize that finding different rates for the same hotel is very common!

Even though many hotels tend to be above the typical backpacker’s budget, it’s still possible to find cheap hotels that won’t break the bank. You could also secure a hotel discount if you know where to look.

Sometimes, hotels could also be the cheaper option when you travel in a group and can share the accommodation costs between all the travelers.

However, just remember to do your research. While a hotel might be cheap, it could also be really far out of the city or not have the best amenities.

Zhiwa Ling, Bhutan
The Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Paro, Bhutan. Designed with Bhutanese traditional architecture. One of the most beautiful hotels I’ve stayed at.

Tripadvisor is a great resource to find unbiased reviews by previous travelers. Verified reviews will give you a great insight into what to expect from certain hotels. You could also use these reviews to make sure you’re getting the best hotel deals.

To find a hotel price that suits your needs and budget, check out popular sites like Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Booking.com, and Agoda.com. Many even offer free breakfast options when you book hotels through them – talk about a bonus!

2. Apartment rentals

If you’re staying in a city for a long time, looking for a rental is a good choice. This option ensures you have most (if not all) of the amenities of an apartment for less than the price of a hotel.

You can either rent from well-established rental companies or from the owners directly.

It’s a way for the owner to generate some extra income while budget travelers save money by only paying a portion of the rent as agreed upon.

While you may not have the luxury of included meals as you would by staying at certain hotels, you would still be able to use the kitchen (if there is one) to cook your own meals. This is a great way to save money as it means you don’t have to pay to eat out every day.

Today, the go-to booking sites for great rental accommodation deals are Vrbo and Airbnb. I use both of these regularly and have never had any issues!

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.”

Friends in Easter Island
My friends and I in front of our Airbnb rental on Easter Island. We rented the entire house.

3. Timeshare rentals

Weekly timeshare rentals are typically available at luxury resorts. The best part about these is that you get all the perks of living in luxury while still sticking to your budget, especially when traveling in a group.

Timeshare units are much like hotel suites, except the bedroom is separated from the living room by a door.

They’re also often set up with a full kitchen that includes a refrigerator, stove, cookware, cutlery, and crockery. As with the apartment rental option, this is a great way to save money by not eating out all the time. You could also use your vacation as a chance to brush up on your cooking skills!

4. Bed & breakfast

B&Bs are generally cheaper than hotels, but more expensive than hostels. This is a good option for couples and families.

B&Bs come in all forms, from traditional homes and apartments to bigger accommodations offering their “hotel” and breakfast services to a larger number of travelers.

Sharing with hosts in Japan
With my hosts and friends in Japan.

B&Bs offer more privacy than most hostels, and the feel and quality tend to be “warm and cozy.” You could also get the chance to interact with the family running the business, especially in smaller homely ones.

Again, Vrbo is an excellent platform for finding the best deals on B&Bs.

5. Hostels

Hostels are the most accessible and cheap accommodation type for solo and budget travelers. You generally have a choice of a variety of rooms, from private to 30+ bed dorm rooms.

The bigger the room, the more people you’ll most likely be sharing with and the cheaper the cost. There are even places where you can find a bed for $5.00 a night. 

Bunk Beds at a Nice Hostel

Even though hostels are quite affordable, they are still safe and secure. In shared spaces, you’ll also have access to a designated locker to secure all your stuff.

Usually, the restrooms and showers are shared. If you’re uncomfortable using a shared bathroom, you can still rent private rooms with private bathrooms, but those are a bit more expensive.

Wombats City Hostel at Naschmarkt in Vienna, Austria
My private room with a private bathroom at the Wombats Hostel in Vienna. This can easily be a hotel!

Thanks to their laid-back atmosphere, you’ll find quite a few young travelers staying in these accommodations. While some hostels can have an age limit, big chains like Hostelling International generally accept any age. So, if you’re a young, solo traveler, this is a great place to make a bunch of new friends.

Most hostels have common areas with a kitchen, TV, games, WiFi, and sitting area – basically, all the facilities you’d need during your stay. You could even find ones with an included breakfast in your rate.

To book a hostel, check out sites like HostelWorld, Booking.com, and Hi Hostel.

Wombats City Hostel at Naschmarkt in Vienna, Austria
The bar at the Wombats Hostel. Great place to meet other likeminded travelers!

6. Sleeper trains

Sleeper trains are an excellent option for spending a night or a few while traveling. The best thing about sleeper trains is that you are traveling from one place to another while saving time and money.

Why, you may ask?

Firstly, you’re not paying for a night at a hostel or hotel. Secondly, you’re also saving some of your precious daytime by traveling at night.

Sleeper trains provide different levels of accommodations, ranging from private rooms and semi-private couchettes to reclinable seats.

TrenHotel second class cabin
My second-class cabin at the TrenHotel sleeper train from Madrid to Lisbon.

Although this is an excellent choice for traveling on the cheap, it’s best to use just when needed. Many trains don’t have showers, and the restrooms are not too desirable, to say the least (unless you are in first class).

Check this Eurail Train Guide to learn everything about traveling Europe by train.

7. Camping

If you’re traveling into the “wild” or are looking for a more sustainable approach to travel, then camping is a great option. You can spend your nights in nature, enjoying the sounds of the animals.

In fact, some popular destinations around the world, like Patagonia, Iceland, and the Himalayas, are best explored when hiking and camping.

Camping in Turkey
Camping in Turkey during the Mongol Rally.

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. However, you also get “wild camping”, which is when you camp for free wherever the night takes you, as long as it’s legal to camp there.

Also, camping doesn’t have to be that “raw” experience in the middle of nowhere. There are also “mid-budget” and “high-end” camping or “glamping” options out there.

While these are more expensive than traditional camping, they offer a great camping gateway experience for people who aren’t really too keen on wild camping. You can find some decent options at reasonable prices, though, so it’s still a cheap accommodation option.

Camping at the Darvaza Crater, Gates of Hell
A yurt-like tent in Turkmenistan.

This is an excellent way to spend some time out of the hustle and bustle of the city and feel relaxed and surrounded by nature.

8. Home exchange

Another good cheap accommodation option is to participate in a home exchange. The name says it all; you switch places with another person or family in another country. It’s a great way to experience another country on a budget.

This is common among older solo travelers because they are most likely to own a home.

One of the biggest fears of a home exchange is the security of the home you’re planning on staying in. But, think about it this way: the other family is entrusting their home to you, the same way you’re entrusting yours with them.

Also, sites that facilitate a home exchange have various levels of security and verification that let you know you’re dealing with someone real. Head over to HomeExchange to find out more about this cheap accommodation option.

9. House sitting

Similar to a home exchange, this option allows you to stay at someone’s home for free, but without necessarily switching homes. You’re just staying at someone’s home on the condition that you will take care of it, feed and walk their pets (should they have any), water their plants, and take care of any other house-related jobs.

Dog Sleeping in Bed

Before committing to house-sitting or pet-sitting, you and the homeowner first need to discuss the conditions of your stay. In some cases, you may even be paid to do the work required while staying at their place for free. Win!

Two good sites to find these house-sitting opportunities are TrustedHousesitters and HouseSitter.com. Like with Airbnb and HomeExchange, you must first create an account and verify your profile.

10. Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing, apart from being free, is one of the most culturally rich methods of staying in a country. This works by contacting someone in the country you’re visiting and asking if they can host you.

Depending on your host, they could offer you a room with a bed, shared room, air mattress, or couch for you to stay on for a couple of nights. 

One of the best things about Couchsurfing is the direct exposure to the local culture thanks to the opportunity of staying with your host.

Many hosts spend their time with their guests, showing them around the city and pointing out good and not-so-touristy places to go.

These people who welcome you into their homes are also open-minded and often travelers themselves. They are in for a cultural exchange and the enjoyment of good company.

You’re probably wondering how safe it is to stay at a stranger’s house in another country. While nothing is guaranteed, I can say that it is pretty safe, having done it several times myself.

Couchsurfing in Berlin
With my Couchsurfing hosts in Berlin.

The safest way to go about doing this is by visiting CouchSurfing and setting up a profile. All you need to do is fill in a bit of information about yourself (like your interests, hobbies, a little bit about yourself, etc.). While this may seem a bit personal, your host just wants to know a little bit about you before committing to hosting you.

At the same time, you’ll want to see your prospect host’s information to get an idea of who they are. It’s even more desirable if the person is verified, with an address, credit card, or by other travelers.

The site also shows reviews of your host from previous travelers. These can give you an idea of whether this person would be a good fit to stay with.

Again, primarily young people do couchsurfing, although you can find couchsurfers of all ages all around the world.

If you want to know a bit more about this type of accommodation, check out my tips for using CouchSurfing to travel the world cheaply.

11. Staying with friends and family

Planning a trip abroad is the perfect 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.

After all, they’re doing you a big favor, so it’s only courteous to send a thank you note from another place on your trip or after you finish your journey.

12. Being a vagrant

Although it’s not recommended for many reasons (and, of course, isn’t the safest option), many laid-back travelers choose to spend a night or two as a vagrant around a city. It’s the only option for totally free accommodation.

Some of the “safest” places to stay are airports, train stations, and bus stations. But you can sleep on benches, parks, beaches, wherever…

Throughout my years of travel, I’ve slept in buses, airports, bus stations, in the car, and even on the sidewalk in front of a gas station (just once in Greece).

Sleeping on the Sidewalk
Sleeping on the sidewalk with some friends I met that day.

Most of the time, I did this to save a few dollars on a night I knew I wouldn’t be using a hotel or hostel, whether it was because I got there too late or I had to leave too early for the airport or bus terminal.

Although it is highly improbable, there is a slight chance of getting fined or arrested for doing this (especially if it’s against the law in that country).

So far, I haven’t heard of anyone going through that unfortunate ordeal, but it’s good to be aware. Again, this is NOT recommended regularly, but it saves money if you’re particularly short on cash since it is free accommodation.

Final Thoughts on Cheap Accommodation

There you have it, my tips on how to find cheap accommodation! Remember, cheap doesn’t have to mean gross and dinghy. There are plenty of ways you can still secure a comfortable stay without blowing your budget. 

I also threw in a couple of accommodation options to help you find one that best suits your needs and budget.

What do you think is the best one for your trip style and budget? And while you’re busy creating your perfect travel itinerary, remember to avoid these common travel mistakes.

Booking Cheap Accommodation - How to Get the Best Lodging
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9 Comments

  1. I definitely agree with the part where you mentioned that I want to get the best accommodation there is without spending a lot of money on it. My husband had been too stressed out recently and I proposed that we take a short vacation just to help him relax. We’ll keep your tips in mind as we look for cozy but affordable cabins near the place where we want to spend a peaceful weekend.

  2. That’s a good idea to take things like public transportation into account when choosing something outside of the city. My fiance and I want to go on a beach vacation next month to celebrate our fifth anniversary, but we aren’t sure where to stay. It may be nice to get something on the oceanfront since it is so accessible to the beach.

  3. Some of your suggestions like sleeping on the street is just ridiculous. Where do you go to the bathroom, clean yourself,wash,brush your teeth? This is not good for any country or city or town . How can u enjoy a trip when u smell? Oh yeah you r that guy who stinks up the elevator in the CN tower In Toronto or Eifffe tower in Paris . Thanks my advice if u cannot afford to Pay to find a place to sleep, even a hostel, clean yourself and eat , stay home till u can .

    1. As you might have read, I started that paragraph by saying that sleeping on the street is not recommended, but hey, for anyone really short on money and with an adventurous spirit, it’s not out of the question. Yes, I’ve done it once or twice, and no, I haven’t stunk up “the elevator.” Sleeping one night outside does not equate to bad hygiene. There are plenty of ways to keep good hygiene even without a hotel room.

      Second, “stay home till you can” is not as simple as you make it sound. For example, a bus ride might have taken longer than expected and you arrived at the small town and there was nowhere available to book and check-in. You arrived late into town (at 2:00 am, for whatever reason) and have to leave again at 6:00 am and all the available hotels are just not worth the expensive rate for just a few hours. Your reservation got canceled at the last minute and there’s no other viable option that works for you and your budget… Among others.

      All of these happened to me. I figured it out just fine. None of those times I was the stinker. All of those times I COULD have paid for a room (if available) but CHOSE not to because it was not worth it in my opinion.

  4. Thanks for reminding me that we can spend a lot on accommodation if we’re not sure how to look for good bookings. I’m actually looking to spend three nights in an oceanfront hotel but I have an idea that it might cost us a lot. Maybe it’s a good idea to call several hotels and see if they offer family discounts.

  5. I would love to go on a vacation sometime next spring. Thanks for the suggestion that I look into bed and breakfasts. It is awesome to know that they are cheaper than a traditional hotel. Also, it does seem like food would be included in the price. Which would take care of another huge expense of traveling.

  6. Great post! Thank you for all this helpful r for travelers! I usually do a quick search and book the one that’s the cheapest.

  7. I agree with what you said that when looking for hotel accommodations, it’s wise to compare various search engines and agencies to find the best one. My husband and I plan to go on a trip soon to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. I’ll take note of your advice since I’m the one in charge of looking for accommodations. Thanks!

  8. Thanks for the tip about how I should look for deals when trying to find the best hotel accommodations. I’m interested in looking for a place to stay soon because I will be visiting my best friend in a different state. Since I don’t want to bother him by seeing if I could crash in his place, I’d try to just find a hotel for the two nights I will be there.