photo by Matt Power and his Holga
Ah yes, traveling on a budget. Sometimes it comes down to money and when that happens, finding the best value accommodation is very important. Here’s our top tips for finding the best sleeping ground you can afford and how to know what you’re in for!
1. Be prepared
Take the time before you go to suss out where you’ll stay. If you are on a tight budget or traveling during high season, you can often get the best price by booking in advance. If you’re a free-spirited traveler, going where the wind takes you, a list of possible accommodations is a handy tool.
2. Learn from others
In the Internet age, there are plenty of resources available online to help you find the best accommodation. You can find traveler reviews of hostels and cheap hotels on a number of sites (we use Hostel World, Expedia, Trip Advisor, and Gomio). They’re definitely not the be all and end all but they give a good overall indication of where you should and should not go.
Sleeping With the Enemy in Sydney, and Hostel Celica in Ljubljana
3. Avoid unnecessary booking fees
Accommodation booking sites have the convenience of a lot of information in one place, but they sometimes also add the inconvenience of extra booking fees. For this reason, book accommodation directly with the hostel/hotel wherever possible. Make sure you also print confirmation of booking and any deposit you have paid to ensure fewer hassles when you check in.
4. Learn to share
The very cheapest accommodation sometimes comes in the form of multi-bed dorms (the largest I’ve stayed in was a 40-bed hall in Stockholm). If you’re willing to forego privacy in exchange for a bargain, pack your earplugs and eyemask, make sure you padlock your backpack, and sleep with your valuables on you.
Hostel 5 Terre in Cinque Terre, Villa Saint Exupéry Hostel in Nice, and Långholmen’s Hostel in Stockholm
5. Sometimes cheap means nasty
“Cheap and nasty” is a cliched term for a reason, sometimes it is very, very true. Keep this in mind when searching for cheap places to stay. If a review of a hotel says it is “a filthy hole”, “the WORST hotel I’ve ever stayed in”, and “a complete disgrace” (real comment from Trip Advisor and Hostel World) then it probably is. In the end, it’s worth splashing out a little bit more to stay in a place that won’t ruin your travel experience.
Other factors to consider when booking accommodation: distance from attractions, the money saved on a cheap hostel may be negated by more bus rides into town; added extras, like free breakfast or internet; whether the hostel has inconvenient check-in and check-out times, or a daily lock-out period.