When choosing to go travelling, everyone has a different image of what that entails. For some, getting away is a chance to experience a bit of luxury, to laze by the pool and collapse in plush hotel beds. Others see it as a chance to experience adventure, pitching tents on mountainsides or curling up in a hammock hung between two trees. In truth, travelling can be whatever you want it to be, and finding a place to rest your head can cost anything from absolutely nothing, to thousands. In this article, we take a look at the different accommodation options out there, and which one works best for you.
Hotels can mean anything from a small guesthouse, to a 5-star all-inclusive luxury experience. To put it another way, the cost and quality of hotels can be extremely varied. It can be quite stressful booking accommodation on hotel booking websites like booking.com or Trivago, since you are inundated with options and often given pressuring incentives to book, such as "1 room left, and 10 people are looking at this room right now!"
Instead of booking the first one you see, take some time to consider your budget, and what you want for that. In hot countries, it is often ideal to get a room advertised with ‘air-con’ (always better than ‘fan’), and/ora mosquito net. In cold countries, you also want to be sure of heating, and warm sheets. Never be afraid to ask for an upgrade if you are unhappy, and if in low season, it is often standard practice for hotels to offer a better room at no extra cost.
Finally, make sure you pay attention to distance from the city. Big hotel chains, particularly international brands, often build their hotels far outside of the city, making the journey in each day long and tiring.Sometimes paying an extra €10 for a hotel inside the city is worth it, especially if transport in each day would cost you the same amount.
Check out this list of the most unusual hotels in the world!
Loved by young backpackers, and generally a cheaper option than hotels, hostels are not what they once were. They once had a reputation for being a little grotty, but hostels come in all shapes and sizes these days and often give hotels a run for their money in terms of luxury. Hostels differ from hotels in that they generally aim to provide more than just a bed for the night. In addition to comfy dorm-style beds, they also serve as social hubs for other likeminded backpackers to meet each other and take part inactivities.
The mark of a good hostel is usually how well they foster a social atmosphere, and this can be achieved in all sorts of inventive ways: from ‘family-dinner’ style evening meals, to group tours, to fun activities and cosy social spaces with cards, board games and guitars (for the inevitable rendition of ‘Wonderwall’). A little too hippy for some peoples tastes, and maybe offering not enough privacy for those who want their own room (although most offer private room options), a hostel is not just a cheap option, it is also an experience in its own right.
Check out this ‘Hoscars’ list from Hostelworld of the best hostels in the world!
Nowadays, travellers are increasingly using Airbnb instead of hotels. Offering an opportunity to ‘live like a local’ and stay in a real house or apartment in a city, visitors can enjoy all the benefits of their own kitchen and living space whilst on holiday. Particularly popular for those travelling with friends or family, Airbnbs can often wind up the cheapest option, especially in expensive cities, when the cost of dining out and stricter regulation on number of guests to a room add up. If travelling on a strict budget with a group of friends, rooms that advertise sofa beds or simply the floor space for your own air mattress can help massively share out the total cost.
Check out this list of the quirkiest properties in Europe!
Another option often overlooked is CouchSurfing. With over 12 million users, this online platform works as a homestay network, matching up people with a spare couch or bed to those that need somewhere to crash for a night or two. Working with a strict ‘no payments’ policy, CouchSurfing is all about passing on and paying back favours, and meeting interesting people. Hosts offer up their beds and sofas for various reasons: to meet interesting people and swap stories, to enjoy the experience of showing someone their town, and finally, so as to be able to crash on someone else’s sofa when they themselves wish to travel.
The service understandably needs to be used carefully. Check the safety guidelines and verification systems before booking. Solo travellers, and especially women, know to be careful when entering a stranger’s home. If used sensibly however, such as only staying with people who have at least 10 reviews, or only female hosts – CouchSurfing can be an extremely cheap way of seeing the world and making meaningful and powerful global connections.