Whether you’re using your gap year to see the world, or finally having the holiday of your dreams, cheap accommodation is the best choice. Because nobody wants to stay in a hotel for a shorter period only to spend all the travel budget on a room.
If you were able to find budget accommodation, you’d be ready to stay longer and have more spending money into the bargain. But where would you find such a thing? After all, you’re far from home and don’t have the local knowledge.
Good news! You don’t need local information to get cheap accommodation. All you need is a few guidelines as to how to find the best deal.
In this guide...
There’s an app for that
There’s an app for everything these days, and many of the travel apps can help you find cheaper hotel rooms. Among these are well-known apps like Skyscanner, but there are a few useful apps we’ve haven’t mentioned yet, and HotelTonight is one of them. This is a great app for last-minute bookings because it shows vacancies that hotels are offering at reduced rates.
Desti is another free app that comes in handy because it specializes in accommodation and you can enter a broad range of parameters and see what’s available. But why stay in a hotel? There are many fun and adventurous ways to get cheap accommodation and have much more fun than you’d have a regular hotel.
Depending on the country and the hostel, you will either only have the option of sleeping in a dormitory or have the possibility of a private room. Dorms are obviously the cheapest, but even a private room at a hostel is cheaper than most hotels and the friendly atmosphere is the perfect trigger to meet people from around the world.
Most hostels also offer cheap meals, and many provide free coffee as long as you’re willing to serve yourself. Although most visitors are young, many older people are also using them these days. As an extra bonus, a lot of hostels also organize parties and events to keep travelers’ spirits up.
You’ll also be able to find out about local tourist activities, and the staff will often handle any bookings for you. Although most hostels are clean and well-run, there are always exceptions, but booking sites such as hostels.com and hostelworld.com will offer reviews from previous visitors to help you see if the hostel will measure up to your standards.
Have you heard of couch surfing? You may or may not end up quite literally sleeping on someone’s couch (some hosts will have a spare bedroom). The big plus about couch surfing is that it’s not just cheap, but absolutely free! That’s right. There are people out there who will open their homes to travelers at absolutely no cost.
There are other benefits too. Your local host will be able to give you tips on what to see, how to get around, and may become a friend for a lifetime. Of course, security is a concern. You don’t want to end up lodging with a mass murderer!
You can minimize risk by using couchsurfing.com to see reviews from previous travelers and to read about the person and their home. The site also verifies details, and to be extra safe, its best to handle your couch surfing through the website choosing a person whose identity has been verified.
Although couch surfing may sound a little bit dicey, there are very few people who have had genuinely bad experiences. Most hosts are friendly and outgoing and will even take you out to parties and local events or invite friends round to meet you. They’re under no obligation to do so, but as many of them have a history of being couch surfers themselves, they’re generally keen to give you a positive experience.
Couchsurfing.com is the pioneer, but you can also hunt for free accommodation from:
Have you heard about a cause you really care about in a country you’d like to visit? Many organizations will offer free accommodation to international volunteers in exchange for a set number of hours doing voluntary work. If you’d like to find out about causes that do this, you can search them by country at helpstay.com.
Although you’ll have to do some work, you’ll make friends and be able to feel you’re making a difference by helping others. And there will be free time in which you can explore the area just like any other tourist. This is a great way to work your way around the world!
Do you remember the movie “Changing Places”? That’s more or less what you do with a home exchange. The only difference is that you won’t actually have to pretend to be the person whose house you’re occupying! To explain in simple terms, you make your home available to a family from a different country, and they do the same for you. When it’s time for your holiday, you simply change places.
Many people are still uncomfortable with letting another family take over their home, but since it’s mutual, and you’ll be using their home, the chances of a bad experience are actually pretty slim. Also, you can chat on the phone or online and get to know each other before deciding whether you want to take the plunge.
Find a home exchange partner at:
We’ve talked about free accommodation, but what about actually being paid to stay somewhere? It can be a reality! If you have a track record as a good house sitter in your local area, you may even land something pretty plush! Of course, you will have to be responsible and clean up after yourself, and you may have a few extra duties such as feeding pets or taking care of the pool, but the rest of the time is your own.
To find house sitting opportunities look for:
Couch surfing and house sitting would be best suited to singles, but families can still get a good deal on their accommodation with a short term rental. Airbnb comes to mind immediately, and there are other sites such as HomeAway and Wimdu.
You don’t have to sign a lease for a whole month. You can get a few days or a week, and as long as you don’t mind self-catering options (making your own food saves you, even more, money), you can end up with something really nice for a song. It’s certainly cheaper than hotels. Many travelers rely solely on short-term rentals for this reason.
Do you like being off the beaten track? Fancy a bit of fresh air and the healthy farm lifestyle? There are various options available to you. Some farms will let you stay for free if you lend a hand with the harvest, but there are also those that cater to holidaymakers, offering camping or cottages and a taste of the country life. Naturally, you’ll pay for a stay that’s just for fun, but it’s still a lot cheaper than getting a room at a country hotel.
You might even get to know the family and decide to make it a regular holiday option for years to come. Try these sites to find out more, but feel free to spread your search even wider.
If you don’t mind pretty strict house rules and Spartan living conditions, a monastery stay could give you cheap accommodation with a difference. Some monasteries use visitors’ housing as an extra income stream and offer paid rooms for couples and families. Others will accommodate singles in dorms for a much lower price, and there are even those who don’t set a price at all but ask you if you can afford a donation instead.
There aren’t any international booking sites for monasteries (yet) as far as we can see, but you can find more information by searching “monastery stays” and reading the articles that come up. You can also try searching for monasteries in the areas you hope to visit. There’s nothing wrong with contacting them and asking about accommodation.
Hotels? Who needs them?
By getting creative with your accommodation choices, you can save on costs, stay for free or even end up earning a little extra money. You’ll also have far more adventures, meet more interesting people and discover things you’d never have known about the places you’re visiting. Break out of the routine and try one of these alternatives next time you go on holiday!
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