Many people believe that travel is expensive. Between paying for airfare, reserving a hotel room, and paying for the overpriced food, it can all add up.
Although travel can be infinitely expensive, it can also be very inexpensive – if you know where to look. We’ve already talked about how to find inexpensive flights, but what about cheap accommodations?
Are we left to the mercy of hotels? If we don’t pay the hotels rates, are we going to be sleeping on the streets? Of course not. There are plenty of options when it comes to finding cheap places to stay around the world. Some of them are free, some require a bit of work, and others are just cheaper.
As you may have guessed with inexpensive options, you will have to make some sacrifices. Don’t expect the place you’re staying at to have a Jacuzzi in your room – or any Jacuzzi for that matter.
You may find yourself sharing a room with 10+ strangers you have never met before. You might end up sleeping on a couch. You may have to look after someone’s pet dog named Fluffball.
If cheap is what you want, you can get it. In this article, we’ll explore the various options you have when it comes to finding places to stay that don’t waste your travel budget.
Stay With a Local
If you’re traveling alone, what better way to meet someone who knows the city than to stay with a local at their house? People around the world have opened up their homes to fellow travelers for free.
Sure it’s nice to bring them a gift, help clean up around the house, and maybe buy them dinner as a thank you, but it’s nowhere near as expensive as a hotel.
The common phrase for this type of accommodation is couchsurfing, made popular by the website Couchsurfing.com.
There are entire communities built around this idea of providing people with a place to stay. The basic idea is that when you’re traveling, someone will open up their house to you. When you’re at home, it’s nice of you to open up your home to fellow travelers as well.
It is a bit strange to sleep on some random person’s couch. The key to finding these opportunities, and getting accepted for them, is creating a great profile. In order to stay at any of these houses, you first need to create a profile on one of the relevant websites. Things like a friendly picture, information about yourself, and links to your social media profiles go a long way to show these hosts that you’re not a weirdo.
If you’d like to learn more about creating great profiles for these pages [insert website] has a great article about doing just that.
On the flip side, you should thoroughly read through the available hosts’ profiles and reviews to make sure you’ll be a good match. Most people on these sites are great people, but you don’t want to find yourself staying with someone you don’t get along with. Read the reviews and if any red flags stand out to you, don’t request to stay with that person.
If you find yourself in a city and for some reason your host doesn’t pull through for you, you might start to panic, but don’t worry. Join some large travel related Facebook groups before you leave. If you ever find yourself in a sticky situation, post something on one of these groups and many times you’ll be surprised to find someone that can help you.
- Global Freeloaders
- Hospitality Club
- Large travel related Facebook groups
Work in Exchange for a Place to Stay
If you have some spare time and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, this could be a great option for you. In exchange for your help, the host will compensate you with a place to stay, and sometimes food as well.
There is a need for cheap labor all over the world, and if you need a place to stay, this is a win-win for both of you. Depending on your skill set and interests, you will surely find something that peeks your curiosity.
If you have a desire to learn about organic farming, you can work on an organic farm. If you have a passion for teaching, you can teach someone English. If you are a great nanny, you can watch a family’s children. If you want to be around other travelers, you can go work at a hostel.
The opportunities are limitless and there are plenty of websites that will help you find them. Once again, having a nice profile is key to attracting great opportunities. This time, your previous work experience can play a bit of a role in helping you find great opportunities.
If you don’t want to work, don’t want to sleep on a couch, and don’t mind paying a little bit of money, hostels are your best bet.
There are apps like HostelWorld and HostelBookers that allow you to sort through all of the available hostels to help you find the best one for you. There are plenty of amazing hostels in the world that would love to have you as a guest.
Just like a hotel, you make a reservation, check in at the designated time, and are given a room number. Unlike a hotel, you’ll be sleeping in a room full of strangers.
The earlier you book your hostel, the better chance you have a finding a great one. If you wait until the last minute, you’ll be stuck with whatever is available. Here are some things to consider when booking a hostel:
Location – As a rule of thumb, the closer to the action the hostel is, the more expensive it will be. However, you won’t have to pay for transportation – you can walk out your door and enjoy the city. Read the reviews to see which hostels are in good locations and which ones aren’t.
Utilities – Do you need internet access? Most quality hostels come with WiFi. Check the information on the hostel before booking it so that you don’t show up disappointed.
Atmosphere – Are you looking for a party hostel? Or a place to relax? Or something in between? Hostels can range from wild parties to zen gardens, so find something that makes you happy.
The key to having a great stay at a hostel is reading through the reviews and seeing what other travelers have to say about it. At all hostels, you’ll find people that loved it and people that hated it. I like to read 2-star – 4-star reviews to get an idea of some of the benefits and drawbacks.
If you love animals, or just want to watch someone’s house while they’re away, consider becoming a house sitter. As with the other options, there are plenty of websites that will connect you to these opportunities.
When people go on vacation, they want to make sure their homes and pets are looked after with care. They visit these websites to find potential people that would be a great fit. Once again, a great profile is key. Also, the better job you do, the higher ratings you’ll receive. As you can guess, the better your rating is the more opportunities that can come your way.
Instead of paying for a place to stay, these people will let you stay for free in exchange for looking after their place. They will probably want to speak to you on the phone or via Skype before they hand over the keys. Also, they may have friends or family check on you while they’re away, just to make sure everything is okay.
Ultimate house sitting guide: http://ultimatehousesittingguide.com
- Luxury House Sitting
- Trusted House Sitters
Short Term Rentals
If you don’t want to work and don’t want to sleep in the same room as a bunch of strangers, you can consider renting someone’s house or apartment. Sites like AirBnB and VRBO have made this model increasingly popular recently.
The idea is simple: while the homeowner is away, they want to make some extra money so they rent out their home to travelers like you that need a place to stay. It’s a win-win for both of you, especially since it is likely to be cheaper than a hotel.
An added benefit is you get to feel like a local since you’re living in someone’s home. And, as you’ve probably guessed by now, you’ll need an excellent profile and great reviews before someone rents their house to you. Having a superb reputation and treating other people’s places with utmost respect will open up a lot of doors for you – literally.
Besides AirBnB and VRBO, there are plenty of other websites to choose from to help you find the perfect place to stay.
- Tripping.com – Aggregator
Stay at a Monastery
Staying a monastery appears to be very popular in Italy, but it’s also available in other places in the world. You don’t have to be of the same religion, or religious at all, to stay at a monastery. Just expect there to be more rules than your average hostel.
Some monasteries will let you stay for free while others will be about the same price as hostels in the area. If you get annoyed by partying backpackers while staying at hostels, staying a monastery might be the change of pace you’re looking for.
There aren’t as many online resources for finding these opportunities as there are for other accommodations on the list, but there are a few. If you can’t find what you’re looking for through one of these links, simply Google the city name and ‘monastery stay’ and see what turns up.
Although there are many opportunities to work on farms through WWOOF and WorkAway, maybe you don’t want to work. If you like the idea of staying out in the countryside without having to roll up your sleeves, staying a farm is a great option. If you do want to work, I’m sure the farm owners would be happy to have your help.
Farm stays are popular around the world but are definitely a newer concept in the US. However, the concept has been growing and it’s an excellent way for the farm owners to bring in additional income. You can think of these like bed and breakfast’s, and expect to pay similar prices.
As with all accommodations, each farm is a little bit different. You might be staying in a room in the barn or you might be staying in a bedroom in the house. It all depends on how the farm owners decide to set it up. This is definitely one way to get away from a typical hotel if you’re looking for a bit of an adventure.
If you want to get away from technology for awhile, consider staying at an Amish farm, where you certainly won’t get any WiFi.
Although hotels are still popular, these newer and cheaper accommodations are challenging the old hotel model. Instead of having to stay in some big building with a bunch of other tourists, you can understand the soul of a city by staying at a local’s home.
As long as you are willing to get a bit out of your comfort zone and try something new, saving money on accommodations isn’t too much of a stretch.
Have you tried any of these types of accommodations?