Traveling on a budget is not impossible. Sometimes you just have to get creative with where you sleep! Budget accommodation options abound, if you know where to look for them.
Hotel and hostel costs are likely some of your highest expenses while backpacking. But did you know there are several other options available to you?
Don’t let costly accommodation options put a crimp in your travels! Explore the options outside the (white-walled) box.
1. Convents or monasteries
Since the time of Saint Benedict, monks and nuns have practiced hospitality. Staying in a monastery might not be your first thought, but some convents and monasteries offer basic hotel-like accommodations. Others offer a bed in a special guest quarters within the monastic order.
Expect no-frill accommodations, crucifixes over the beds (see pic) and, in some cases, communal bathrooms. Meals may or may not be included.
Some universities rent out unoccupied dorm rooms, especially during summer and winter breaks. Depending on the school and city, you might stay in a medieval residence hall, a skyscraper or an ivy-covered brick hall.
Expect a private room, a single-sized bed and a shared bathroom.
Popular with backpackers and college students, hostels run the gamut from multi-bunk rooms and shared facilities to private rooms with en suite baths. Rates are typically low and commensurate to level of privacy.
Expect lockers, curfews, and lockouts (hours when guests are not allowed inside). Book well in advance, especially in the summer months. This is a particularly appealing option for solo travelers as it’s a great way to meet fellow adventurers!
4. House swapping
Although Cameron and Kate made it look like a breeze in The Holiday, house swapping is not for the faint of heart. This option works best if you’re able to plan in advance and be flexible with dates and locations.
Also, you have to be fine with strangers living in your home and using your stuff.
Research the many online services and find a reputable one to join. List your home, identify a swap and reach out!
Try to get a feel for the other homeowner through email exchanges or phone calls.
Clarify everything in writing including household tasks such as mail and pet care and parameters such as use of vehicles. Take a careful look at the reviews, maps, street views, etc.
And remember: a romance with a Jude Law-like stranger is not guaranteed!
5. Vacation rentals/self-catering
This is handy if you don’t want to offer up your home to a stranger but want to stay in someone else’s. Here again, research, research, research!
Read reviews, look carefully at the photos, maps and street views. Ask questions.
Make sure you understand the deposit terms, cleaning responsibilities, additional fees, expectations and what is included.
Lastly, do some online research to see if there has been recent noise about the legality of vacation rentals in certain cities (in particular, Paris and New York City have cracked down).
6. Rent a room
Be a temporary roommate and move into an occupied apartment or home. Oftentimes people who offer up their spare bedrooms need some extra cash and are appreciative of renters.
This is a great way to see how the locals live and make new friends. Again, read reviews, ask questions and get a full understanding of the rules and the space.
7. Try Couchsurfing
If you’re more adventurous and not picky about where you rest your head, be a couchsurfer or provide room and board in exchange for labor. These options are great for low-maintenance travelers who are open to new experiences.