This is post number five in my Thrifty Travel Tips Series! These posts aim to give you tips on how to save your money, when travelling abroad, based upon my own personal experiences of working with a shoe-string budget.
This week, I’m handing out advice on keeping down those pesky accommodation costs. You always need somewhere to sleep abroad, so how can you stop some mega-hotel-chain from emptying your bank account? Without further ado, here are my top five value-for-money accommodation options abroad!
Hostels are a timeless classic!
There are definite positives and negatives to living in a hostel so let’s weigh them up!
On the plus side, hostels are pretty cheap. I’ve stayed in hostels across Europe and have never paid more than £50 for a room, even in notoriously expensive cities like Stockholm. I usually pay around £20-£30 for a bed in a group dormitory and you can’t really turn your nose up at that unless, like me, you go away with a budget of almost £0.
Drinking water (usually), hot water (sometimes), good company (also sometimes), and an onsite bar (pretty much always actually), add up to give you, as a tourist, most of the things you’d want from basic accommodation!
Those are the upsides.
Here are some of the negatives. You will always end up with the people who come in at 3am and turn the light on. This just seems to be a given for me.
Moreover, the people fornicating in the next bunk, or the guys who want to play poker on the floor, just seem to love sharing a room with me. I actually don’t mind the noise but, if you’re less accommodating to such circumstances than me, maybe book a smaller room or go for one of the other options!
Perhaps surprisingly, although cheap, this is the most expensive option on the list so hostels aren’t ‘out and out’ thrifty. If you want some ultimate money savers, there are better options.
Also, if you choose the wrong hostel, as I have; dirty sheets, unclean bathrooms, and doors that don’t lock, are all possibilities. If you are going to get a room at a hostel, do your research. Check the online reviews because not all websites have a minimum quality threshold for listings!
That term, Couchsurfing, refers to a specific website as well as a practice.
So, what is Couchsurfing? Couch surfing is the act of spending a night’s sleep on someone’s sofa. Couchsurfing, the website, is a service that connects travellers across the world so that they can… Couch surf… So, it does exactly what it says on the tin!
Couch surfing is… Drumroll please… Completely free! (Sorry if I went a little ellipsis crazy at this point guys). Free! That means its always under consideration for me!
Stay with locals and gain their invaluable experience on the area in which you are staying. You may also very well find fantastic locations in which to stay and make brilliant friends.
There are only two negatives in my eyes really, and both can be mitigated somewhat by doing your research. The first is that you might not get the best nights sleep, so check out what you’re going to be sleeping on, and in which room. If you are to be sleeping on a wooden table in a room with a hamster cage, the noise and lack of comfortability may do you no favours (I had a similar situation in London once). On the plus side, you may also get a double bed overlooking the town square so find out beforehand to make sure you arrange the best possible experience!
The second negative is the possibility of risking your personal safety. There are undoubtedly plenty of negative, and potentially even dangerous, experiences which go along with these practices so do be careful. Scour Couchsurfing for those hosts with full profiles and reviews left by other travellers. Make sure everything is in order and you feel comfortable before making any decisions. If you arrive and something is wrong, ensure you have an alternative just in case!
I’ve used Airbnb a lot, particularly in countries where the market is still really cheap. In Novisad, Serbia, myself and two friends paid a combined £30 for a swanky penthouse apartment overlooking the main square. It was even fitted with marble floors and a chandelier!
In spite of this incredible deal, Airbnb is generally the most expensive option on the list! You are paying to live in somebody’s personal property and that can come with a hefty price tag!
Generally, the quality of living quarters is high if you know what you’re looking for but, as with Couchsurfing, please read reviews to ensure you’ve got a good deal and a safe place to stay.
As you’ve come here for money saving tips, I wouldn’t generally recommend Airbnb, particularly in tourist hot spots; however, I love the site and, if you’re willing to spend a little more money than on a hostel, there are fantastic bargains to be had!
This is my preferred option on the entire list.
Camping definitely isn’t for everyone. A bad back, rain seeping through your canvas at night, and an ice cold shower to wake up to. Those used to be the standard. These days, no longer!
Buy an inflatable mattress for £10 in Decathlon, and a half-decent tent for £100, and you’ve solved the bad back and the rain! You can get a good 10 years out of both and then the money is really a pittance.
Then pay £10-£15 for a tent pitch, if you need one, check the site online to make sure it’s got great facilities, and you’ve got a place to stay for the night! It does usually require you to be road tripping, because lugging a tent around is not ideal but, in sunnier climes, a hammock will slot nicely into most bags and offer you a choice of accommodation!
Check out one of my favourite campsites, Montaioncino Azienda Agricola, near Empoli in Tuscany, for a wonderful trip away.
Of course, location wise, you aren’t going to be in the center of town with most camp sites but, if countryside beauty spots are your ballpark, you can pick a campsite slap bang in the middle of one!
- Sleep in the car
I’ll admit, this is usually a last resort, but I’ve done it way too many times.
When my mates are snoring, rain is pouring into a poorly constructed tent, or I just can’t find any accommodation, sleeping on the back seats of the car is an option. Its free and you can park where you want (within reason)!
Of course, there are a number of downsides. Its really hard to get a good kip in your car; sat bolt upright, with no heating, and lots going on outside. Its also not entirely safe if somebody happens upon you slumped in your car.
If, however, you are comfortable with the area and you have a car that’s big enough, it’s not a terrible option!
I hope this has given you some ideas for cheap lodgings abroad! Of course, I want to remind you guys to stay safe so please do your research and remember that your welfare is more important than how little money you spend. Ciao!