8 TYPES OF CHEAP ACCOMMODATION FOR YOUR TRIP (INCLUDING MY 6 TIPS TO REMEMBER)
When you have travel plans, one of the most important things to tick off the list is accommodation --- Where are you going to sleep?
This is an important question to ask for obvious reasons but also because where you choose to stay will take a chunk from your daily budget ---- the less you pay for a bed, the more money you have for the rest of the day. This is why finding cheap accommodation is a must for backpacking. Staying in expensive hotels will only absorb your savings.
But don't worry! Cheap accommodation doesn't mean unsafe, unwelcoming or dirty ---- there are tons of budget rooms available around the world, meaning they have competition to be the best! You will be surprised how beautiful, clean and comfortable affordable accommodation can be. It's shocking how much you can get for your money in parts of the world and how many options of budget accommodation there are.
Lets look at the different options you have while backpacking.
Tropical Oasis Hostel, Caye Calker, Belize
Hostels should play a large part of your long term travel plan. This is one of the cheapest ways to sleep and travel around the world. Everyone should experience hostel life at least once!
HOW DO HOSTELS WORK?
Depending on where you are in the world, a bed in a dorm can range from £1 per night per person to £40 or more but will still be one of the more affordable options in that city. They range from extremely basic (& dire) to bloody beautiful to high-end and modern. They are built for backpackers so they will help you by making your new journey in a new city that bit easier.
So let's break it down a bit.
Hostels mostly consist of Dorm Rooms which are filled with a number of bunk beds or single beds. Dorms are separated by how many beds there are in each of them and the price for a bed decreases the more beds there are in the room. So a bed in a 16-bed dorm will be cheaper than a bed in a 4-bed dorm.
There is usually an option of staying in a Mixed Dorm or Female Only/Male Only Dorm and some hostels even have Private Rooms with Private Bathrooms available. So don't worry, with the amount of competition there is now, there will always be somewhere that's right for you!
Remember you're always priced per person for a dorm bed --- perfect for solo travellers but as a group or a couple you might be cheaper splitting the costs of a private room so always compare.
Casa De Grether Hostel, Flores, Guatemala
WHAT DO HOSTELS HAVE TO OFFER?
Hostels really do have lots of helpful facilities that are made for backpackers and solo travellers --- other types of accommodation just don't have the same social settings and activities. Of course what each hostel has available differs from place to place but you should find most of the following during your trip.
These are usually always fun, comfortable and social. It could be in the form of a large living area with hammocks, bean bags or sofas; a bar (with special deals and sometimes ladies nights) a small library, a rooftop chill out area or even a swimming pool. A common area could include, T'V's, computers, books, board games or even play-stations.
An essential for long term travel! Some places in the world charge pennies to buy already made fresh street food but others it's a lot cheaper to cook for yourself. Hostel kitchens should come with cooking utensils, plates and cutlery but you must buy the food yourself and label everything that's yours! There is sometimes a 'Free Food' drawer or cupboard that you will find food and snacks travellers have left behind that anyone can use. Kitchens are always a great place to start chatting to people!
Most of the time the person working behind the desk is friendly, helpful, young and sometimes even a backpacker themselves. Hostels offer a lot of information about the city/country you're staying in and know all the cheapest places to eat and things worth doing. Some even offer guided tours and excursions.
ORGANISED SOCIAL GATHERINGS
Like I said, hostels are made for backpackers and solo travellers so you can rely on them to organise city tours, activities or evening fun. Basically they will advertise on the notice board or around the hostel and you can book on or just turn up. This could be segway, bicycle or walking tours, quizzes, theme nights, pub crawls, movie nights and team games.
Rooftop Terrace at our hostel in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
PROS + CONS OF STAYING IN A HOSTEL
So, what's the best and worst things about staying in a hostel?
MEETING NEW FRIENDS
Hostels can be a little intimidating at first because of the close environment and everyone seems to be an experienced globe trotter, a self discovered nomad, know what they're doing and where they're going but you will, without a doubt, make friends.
Share travel stories, advice and tips with each other and have a laugh. Meeting new people as an adult is so rewarding and has taught me many life lessons like to never judge someone or make a decision about a person until I've got to know them. People are fascinating and we are all there for the same reason near enough, so always be kind and open to chat to someone if they're trying to make friends.
BEST ADVICE, TIPS + INFORMATION
The information and tips you get by talking to other travellers of different nationalities and walks of life who have been to or are from places you want to visit --- is invaluable. They can tell you things you just can't get from a guidebook. Hostel staff themselves also provide free advice and help as much as they can during your trip.
Although lockers are usually provided in the rooms, there is sometimes not enough of them for everyone or they are only big enough to hold some of your stuff. This means the majority of your possessions are visible in a room full of strangers. It is unlikely for other backpackers to touch or take any of your things but don't let it be a possibility. Never leave valuables unattended! Use a secure locker while you sleep or on a night out, or ask the front desk fit there is a safety deposit box you can use.
LACK OF PRIVACY + PERSONAL SPACE
Sharing a dorm and bathroom means you will be sharing your personal space with people you might not necessarily click with or approve of their way of living. I hate getting the last bed in a dorm because it usually means people have claimed most of the floor space and there's little room left for my stuff. Be considerate of others by keeping your belongings under the bed or tucked away elsewhere. I like to use a sarong to create a privacy curtain while I sleep.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF HOSTELS
Every single hostel is unique and designed differently but they all fall under a certain category. Before booking you should know what sort of environment you will be paying for. I've written about my favourites below!
CHILL OUT / HOMELY HOSTELS
These tend to be cosy, quieter and hard to leave. Filled with hammocks or comfy seating areas perfect for lounging around. You may find pretty gardens or hostel pets as well as extra lovely staff.
The name speaks for itself, these hostels are catered for young travellers who are looking to fill their stay with never ending nights out, drinking games and sleeping most of the day. The hostel will organise pub crawls and alcohol fuelled events almost nightly. They can be a nightmare for noise if you're looking for a decent nights sleep but can be so much fun if you're in need of a laugh and night out.
These should not be confused with party hostels because even though they organise and encourage very social events (some involve boozing) they have more rules and standards that they do hereby. I find social hostels extremely friendly, comfortable and are the hardest to move on from. You will more than likely find movie nights, game nights and 'family dinners'.
At my favourite social hostel! Dreamboat, Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
These are beautifully designed, very clean, modern and come with a more upscale way of living. They usually have special facilities such as swimming pools or quirky cafe's and are more personally equipped for an extra comfortable stay. Boutique or 'luxury' hostels are much more convenient when it comes to privacy and personal space. Dorms may come with bed curtains, you own shelf, charging station and a locker big enough to keep your whole backpack.
#2 GUESTHOUSES + INNS
A Guesthouse on the beach at Bingin, South of Bali, Indonesia
Guesthouses and Inns are a step up from hostels but are still a lot cheaper than hotels. They are in abundance in South East Asia where they usually work out cheaper than a hostel if you're travelling as a couple or a group.
Budget Guesthouses are incredible value for money and they are where my boyfriend and I spend most of our nights while travelling Asia!
WHAT'S SO GOOD ABOUT GUESTHOUSES?
Unlike hostels, they charge per room instead of per bed so when you have a travel buddy, that cost is split in half or even more if you book a triple or quadruple room while travelling as a group.
Guesthouses provide private rooms and bathrooms that usually come with your own free towel, power outlets, balcony, T.V, fridge, fans / air-conditioning, safety deposit box for valuables and drinking water. You have your own space at a fraction of the price of a hotel. Guesthouse rooms are surprisingly comfortable and provide a much better nights sleep than a noisy hostel.
Your morning routine could include waking up to the sight of a glistening ocean or peaceful rural life all the while not breaking the bank. Guesthouses can be found on the beach, amongst rain-forests or surrounded by pretty rice fields. You will be positively shocked at the beautiful places you will find yourself waking up in.
Views from a Guesthouse amongst the Bukit Peninsula, Bali, Indonesia
MOTORBIKE / BICYCLE RENTAL
You can obtain bikes easily at guesthouses because they usually rent out their own or they put you into contact with someone who can and sometimes you may be able to work out a deal if you're staying as a guest. Bicycles can be rented for a £1 a day or less and Motorbikes are usually £3-£6 per day in South East Asia. Remember to get an International Drivers Permit (IDP) to avoid unnecessary fines.
Some guesthouses are simply beautiful and have laid back environments that are hard to leave. Chill out on a hammock or bean bag, relax at the pool or in the garden, munch your way through their exotic menu or sample the freshest smoothies. All of this plus your own room to go back to :)
A lot of the time you can book tours, activities, transport and food tours through your guesthouse. They are run by knowledgeable locals so their advice can be very valuable to your trip.
On paradise islands, private rooms at guesthouses turn into private beach huts! I've stayed in beach huts for £5 per night and there is no better place in the world to wake up.
#3 A CAMPER-VAN OR CAMPING
Van life in Western Australia
In very vast places where there's so much to see and a lot of land to cover, like North America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Canada, the easiest way to get around is by road-tripping!
Not only is it the most convenient way to get from coast to coast and state to state but it means you're not paying anything to sleep every night or you're paying very little. Accommodation in most of these areas are expensive.
You're also not moving your stuff every night or so and can refrain from living out of a bag. What better way to explore a new destination than by living completely nomad at your own pace ---- having everything you need around you in a content environment you've created yourself?
It's something that's highlighted on my bucket list for sure.
Head to Gumtree, Ebay and Craigslist to find a second hand van or car and camping gear. There's loads of rental sites too if you would prefer to rent a car or camper-van, these companies would cover break downs and include insurance.
MUST HAVE ITEMS FOR A LONG TERM ROAD TRIP
A DECENT APP FOR ROAD-TRIPPING + CAMPING
Different countries and continents means different maps and apps so you need to do your research and find one or more that suits your road-trip needs. Find an app that shows you where to camp for free, where to find petrol stations, rest stops and national parks. My favourites are CamperMate NZ, CamperMate AUS and Oh Ranger! Parkfinder for the US.
MAP + MAPS.ME + GPS
Offline maps are needed in case there is limited connection and no internet. When you are connected, use the app Maps.Me to download fantastic maps of different areas and countries, then once downloaded, use them freely offline. Also make sure you bring a detailed map and / or a Sat Nav system that you can use when there's no internet or power on your phone.
Bucket List Goals
TRAVEL LINE + PEGS
It's surprisingly easy for your clothes to get even dirtier than before you washed them while camping if there is no where to dry them properly. Bring a clothesline to hang up around the campsite, it doesn't use up much room and you will thank yourself later.
HEAD TORCH + LED LIGHTS
Finding your way around in the dark can be tricky so better to use a head torch for toilet breaks, van checks, tidying up outside in the dark. LED Lights are excellent for inside your van as additional lighting. There are stick on ones available especially for van life!
PICNIC EQUIPMENT + COOL BOX
It will be more than likely that a lot of the eating will take place outside. So remember to take supplies perfect for picnics and munching outdoors. Camping chairs, blanket/table, water flask, reusable cups, cutlery and plates and tupperware boxes. Remember to take a cool box and ice with you for beers and cold snacks while you're relaxing in the outdoors.
This is to hold litres of fuel for your vehicle in case you run out in the middle of nowhere! Especially recommended for Australia.
This Airbnb rental was only £30 in the beautiful rice fields of Ubud, Indonesia
This website lets you book alternative accommodation options for a great price! Not only is it cost-effective but you can also find somewhere to stay that's really unique and traditional. I always find it's amazing value for money!
Browse through thousands of listings all across the world of private rooms, trendy apartments, RV camper-vans, or entire homes you can rent nightly privately from the owner.
It works out cheaper than a hotel plus you have access to a kitchen where you can cook meals to save money on food costs. Also decent showers, privacy, comfy beds, homely touches and unique designs come hand in hand with Airbnb's!
For budget solo travellers, shared or private rooms in shared houses are available to rent. Whereas for holidays or weekend breaks, entire homes or apartments might be more suitable. Or try something different like an Eco lodge or tree-house for an unforgettable experience.
WHY I LOVE USING AIRBNB
Whatever you're looking for, there will be something for you. From stunning, modern apartments to beach side villas, tree-houses and more. I've found beautiful homes in Croatia, Bangkok and Bali that have truly took my breath away and what you get for your money is unreal.
Quirky designs, modern features, special characteristics -- every Airbnb is different and wonderfully unique. You may never stay somewhere like that again so enjoy someone else's creation.
Personal touches at this Airbnb in Cambodia
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Usually the person renting out their home is hosting just one or two properties or actually lives in the home themselves when its not rented out. This means the living space in incredibly homely and filled with personal touches that really can't be found anywhere else. Like my Airbnb in Margaret River, Western Australia --- our kind host gave us fresh milk, homemade bread and jam for our stay!
Airbnb hosts know all the best tips on the area you will be staying in, where is cheapest to eat and fun things to make sure to check out. Take advantage of this inside knowledge!
EARN GOOD REVIEWS
With other accommodation sites we're all used to leaving reviews on our stay. However, with Airbnb, we can build a positive profile and earn good reviews as guests. If you hereby the house rules, keep noise to a minimum and leave the home tidy then enjoy the credit you deserve.
Who wouldn't want to house sit here in Scotland?
House-sitting someones home while they're away working or on holiday is a fantastic way to save money and explore a new place. It lets you touch base, slow down, catch up on work in your own space, indulge in some more travel inspiration and enjoy home comforts.
Being adventurous, sleeping in a different environment every couple of nights, living out of a bag and being constantly on the move is tiring. Although I love living life that way, it does eventually catch up on you. During a long term trip it's a good idea to settle somewhere and chill for a while to catch your breath and refocus.
You may want to binge on Netflix, concentrate on improving a language you're learning, edit videos or research the next part of your journey. Whatever the reason, house-sitting provides a personal space for you to do that ---- all the while you're not paying for it!
HOW DOES HOUSE-SITTING WORK?
#1 SIGN UP TO A HOUSE-SITTER WEBSITE
Do a little research and find a company that's right for you. Looking after someones home may include looking after their pets, which could be something you would love to do!
Next, create an approachable and positive profile --- there's usually a one off or annual payment to sign up. Choose the country you would like to house sit in and browse the listings.
#2 CONTACT YOUR CHOSEN HOUSE OWNER(S)
After you have applied to house-sit at your chosen property, the reply may include a request to interview you by Skype or phone call. You shouldn't emphasise the fact you will be getting a free holiday, it's important to put across that you understand the responsibility of looking after that person's home.
#3 ASK FOR INSTRUCTIONS
If your application is successful, it needs to be made clear what the house owner is asking of you. Do they need you to take care of their house and nothing else? Feed their cats? Take their dog for a walk everyday? Maintain their swimming pool? Whatever the tasks are, they need to be clear, along with any house rules or restrictions.
#4 ARRIVE AT YOUR NEW TEMPORARY HOME
You may have to arrive a couple days beforehand to connect with the home owners and go over the responsibilities that lie ahead. Then, it's time for you to enjoy, relax and experience living somewhere new.
#6 WORKAWAY + WWOOFING
Why not help build an Eco Lodge or help out at an Organic Farm?
WWOOFING stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. This organisation gives you the opportunity to connect with farmers in order to work and live on organic farms around the world. Sign up, create a profile, browse the listings and apply for the farm work advertised. You don't necessarily need farming experience, but be willing to learn and help out. WWOOFING gives you the chance to learn something new, meet new people and discover another way of life.
A Workaway however, could be a variety of different types of labour. Some jobs may suit your personality and skills more than others. I've heard of people staying months at some Workaways for the experience or sometimes a couple weeks to tide themselves over until their next destination.
You may find yourself helping with construction on a deserted island, building a new Eco home, house-sitting, working with animals or volunteering in schools. After signing up, you should create a profile showcasing your own individual skills, interests and experience. You should try to sell yourself because your profile should be able to fit a number of positions.
There is an annual signing up / membership fee for both websites but it's a small price to pay in regards of what you're actually getting out of the experience. Most importantly, it gives you the chance to save hundreds or thousands from your travel fund and it could increase the length of your trip by far.
Enjoy the gesture of a free place to chill
Couchsurfing is a global network that connects open-minded locals to wandering travellers. Kindhearted people open up their homes and offer their spare bed or couch for FREE. It's a perfect opportunity to meet interesting people, experience a new city from their perspective and save money.
This makes Couchsurfing perfect for solo travellers who are on a budget and arriving somewhere new. There's no better way to learn about a new country or city and unique activities than hearing about it from someone who actually lives there. Plus you have the chance to make friends with people of similar interests you may never of had the opportunity to meet otherwise.
I've met travellers along the way who now only ever 'couchsurf' their way around the world. You will more than likely hear stories about this popular community throughout your backpacking trip.
I've often heard of nice gestures surfers have done for their hosts, such as, offering a free place to crash whenever they come to their home country.
IS COUCHSURFING SAFE?
I believe there's a lot more good people out there than bad, but like with anything your safety should be top priority. Here are some tips to remember when you're looking for a friendly host and secure place to crash.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Check out your hosts account and read their references from other surfers. Make sure they have plenty of information available about themselves and photos to back up their profiles.
STAY WITH SAME SEX HOSTS
Until you're comfortable with the concept of Couchsurfing and have experienced it for yourself, I would advise female travellers to stay with female hosts.
BEFORE CONFIRMING, MAKE SURE THE ACCOMMODATION SUITS YOUR NEEDS
You want to be comfortable there and feel safe. Some people are happy to sleep on a mattress on the floor but others would rather stay elsewhere. It's your choice and responsibility to either accept or decline what a host is offering.
Also, is the neighbourhood somewhere you would be happy to arrive to on your own? If the answers are unclear from a profile, you should contact the host and start chatting.
ONCE YOU'RE THERE, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO LEAVE ANYTIME IF THINGS ARE NOT WHAT YOU EXPECTED
If at any point during your stay, you feel uncomfortable with their behaviour or threatened in anyway, you should leave and report your host and the incident!
Stay with local families
A homestay is where you stay with welcoming hosts, usually local families of different ages for a cheap weekly or nightly rate. In exchange you will learn about their lives, be fed homemade local meals or be given language lessons.
It's popular with students studying abroad or backpackers hoping to learn more about the culture of the country or town they're visiting. It's an excellent way to start your trip if you expect to be in that particular area or country for a while.
Farm life in rural South East Asia
I've heard of backpackers living in homestays in rural parts of South East Asia learning about life on the farm and spending time with local families. It's especially popular in Central and South America where learning at least basic Spanish is a must for getting off the beaten path. Therefore many families offer their homes for cheap prices and free Spanish lessons or Spanish schools offer free accommodation with families to those who enrol as students.
It's healthy for the budget and what better way to learn a new language but with a kind and warm local family. It's best to reserve a space while you're in the actual country, in order to ask other travellers if they have any good recommendations.
Finally, to finish off this lengthy Blog Post, please remember the following tips while planning your long term trip.
MY 6 TIPS TO REMEMBER
New cities are wonderful, but can be daunting
#1 Never book accommodation for more than a few days when arriving somewhere new.
There's no need to begin your long awaited travels by planning out each day and booking ahead. As long as you have somewhere to sleep when you first arrive --- that's all you need! I never book more than a couple days because budget accommodation is plentiful and there is no better way to hear about a great hostel or guesthouse than from fellow travellers. Also, plans and routes can change. Don't limit yourself.
#2 Have the address, phone number, directions of your booked accommodation written on paper as well as on your phone.
When arriving at a new airport, train or bus station --- you should have prepared clear instructions of how you're going to get to your hostel or guesthouse. This is loads quicker, feels a lot safer than just winging it and saves money. You should have ready, a clear address, a correct phone number (for your taxi driver or someone to call if you have trouble finding it) and the best mode of transport to get there --- can you walk? Do you have to take a bus, train or taxi? Always have it written out on paper in case you're phone has died or in worse cases has broken on the way there. (This has happened to me more than once)
#3 Look up on a map, how to get to your accommodation or how far it is, before your arrival.
This is so your kind of familiar with the route. If you're able to walk there, have the directions planned out -- wouldn't you rather look confident leaving the bus or train station than confused and worried? Think about how this would come across if you're a solo traveller. If you're taking a taxi to your booked accommodation, it helps to be familiar with the route so you know the driver is taking you to the correct place. Plus if you know how far it is, this stops you getting ripped off by the taxi driver.
#4 Pin point the location of where you're staying on MAPS.ME
MAPS.ME is a fantastic travel app that lets you use downloaded maps without internet. Find your hostel or guesthouse on the map and easily pin the location. Then once you have arrived you know exactly where you should be heading.
#5 Especially for solo female travellers -- never arrive alone at night.
Plan out your time of arrival. When travelling to a new place on your own, you shouldn't be looking for your hostel or guesthouse late at night or in the dark. Think ahead and book your transportation responsibly in order to arrive in daytime hours. It's worth paying a little extra to feel safe!
#6 For comfort -- if I'm heading for a long term trip, I book somewhere fancy for my very first or two.
This is because I know I'm going to spend months in cheap rooms and busy dorms! It's a great way to unwind and get my bearings after a long flight. When I know it's going to be my last bit of luxury for a while, I appreciate a comfy bed and powerful shower so much more!
To round up this post, comment below where you prefer staying while backpacking. Is there a type of budget accommodation I've missed?