Welcome to Part 2 of How To Plan Your Europe/Round-The-World Trip On A Budget Guide: The Budget Traveller’s Guide to Accommodation! If you haven’t read Part 1 where we touched on flights, do take a look.
Travelling on a budget doesn’t necessarily mean you have to compromise on the quality and range of accommodation options. Sure, you won’t be living in luxury – sipping champagne and eating caviar while a butler is on call 24/7 ready to attend to your every need and fancy. If that’s your idea of travelling or a holiday then this post is not for you.
The rise in budget conscious traveller numbers together with the economic situation in recent times has created a niche accommodation market. Forget global brand name chain hotels. Instead, think quaint owner-run guesthouses and quirky hostels. Good news for you and me! This translates to more variety and quality accommodation options at lower prices!
*The following guide isn’t solely specific to Europe but pretty much anywhere you intend to travel actually*
Now let’s examine the various accommodation options available to the budget conscious traveller:
Hostels have been in existence long before the whole backpacking craze took off in the hippie 60s and is the preferred choice for backpackers.
Initially, a hostel simply meant a roof over your head with a hard uncomfortable possibly bug-ridden bed. This remained the case more or less until the turn of the millennium.
The hostel scene today has evolved leaps and bounds from its humble beginnings. Recently, with the introduction of a more discerning and demanding modern customer (backpackers or the more recently coined flashpackers) , hostels have ramped up their offerings.
Modern tastefully designed spaces, the latest technology available, in-house bars and lush lounges are some of the many features you can expect in hostels these days.
Hostels are also a great place to meet new people. Socialize and connect with like-minded people from all around the globe. Who knows? You’ll check-out with a new friend or even a romantic partner!
If you’re looking to sleep cheap or travelling alone, stay in a hostel. You won’t regret it! Don’t worry, these days you won’t have to put up with bedbugs just to save those extra bucks!
$2 – $60 (depending on a range of factors such as season, quality, room type, length of stay, location etc)
$13 – $30 on average for Europe. Prices tend to be lower in Asia.
How to book?
There’s marginal differences between the two websites especially after HOSTELWORLD purchased Hostelbookers last year.
HOSTELWORLD seems to have more hostels to choose from while Hostelbookers offers the occasional lower price.
Both sites require a 12% downpayment on bookings. The remainder is collected upon check-in at the hostel. You also have the option of making your booking flexible by placing a slightly higher downpayment amount. Compare hostels, prices and reviews before deciding for yourself!
If you’re inundated by the sheer number of hostels available or still undecided after glossing through multiple reviews, fret not. HOSTELWORLD organizes a yearly award programme in the likeness of the OSCARS aptly titled….HOSCARS!
HOSCARS recognizes the best hostels throughout the globe. Award recipients are chosen by hostel guests themselves lending some credibility to the programme. There’s a range of award categories each focusing on a specific aspect. Check out HOSCARS 2014 to get a better idea!
Travelling in a group of 2 or more? You might want to consider staying in a guesthouse or apartment. From an economical standpoint, it makes perfect sense. Privacy and comfort albeit a slightly higher price than a hostel. It might even be cheaper if you’re lucky!
Staying in a guesthouse or apartment can make for a fantastic travel experience. Many guesthouses today are refurbished properties with strong cultural and historical backgrounds. Modern amenities together with a strong dose of culture and history all under one roof? I don’t know about you but count me in!
For a truly authentic experience, stay in an apartment. Live like a local and immerse yourself in the daily grind of the city! Irregardless guesthouse or apartment, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the range of novelty listings on offer. From medieval castles to boat cabins, there’s something to suit your fancy.
$13 onwards (depending on a range of factors such as season, quality, room type, length of stay, location etc)
How to book?
Primarily for guesthouses. After your first few bookings, you’ll be upgraded to a Genius Member. Being a Genius entitles you to special member-only discounts.
Booking.com also has the ” Book now, pay later ” feature. You can make a booking and pay nothing till you check in! What’s even better is you can cancel or change the booking at no charge up to 48 hours before check-in.
Here’s $33 off your first booking to get you started (For new signups). If the link doesn’t work you can manually enter www.airbnb.com.sg/c/ndesilva15?s=8 or visit The Solo Traveller on Facebook for the discount code.
Though I would strongly advise against hotels, staying in hostels and apartments can get quite boring for some. You’re on a holiday after all and craving for some luxury every now and then is perfectly fine! Here’s how to stay luxuriously at the lowest prices:
If you’re travelling within Asia, Agoda offers a wide range of hotels at competitive prices for you to choose from. Don’t be mistaken, they do offer hotel rooms all round the globe but not at the same breadth as their Asian catalogue.
For my Singaporean readers, Starhub customers get to accrue 2X the points for every dollar spent on Agoda.
Sign up and subscribe to Agoda’s newsletter. You’ll get to enjoy the weekly Half-Price Friday promotions. TGIF indeed!
Catering to capricious travellers, Blink offers last-minute hotel reservations at the best rates. Lower than the best online rate and sometimes even cheaper than booking in advance. The above claim is backed up by their best price guarantee. Find a similar booking at a lower price? Blink will refund you the difference! Don’t blink an eye and book with confidence!
4) Alternative Accommodation – Sleep for ” free “
Yes it’s possible to sleep for free and by free I’m not referring to train stations or park benches. Can’t afford or rather not spend on accommodation? Here are your options:
What is it?
Like the name suggests, you sleep on a stranger’s couch or mattress/bed if you’re lucky. Couchsurfing works based on a community of travellers. People open up their couches to fellow travellers in the hopes that others will reciprocate when they themselves travel.
How does it work?
You’ll need to set up a detailed profile. This helps potential hosts get to know you better and ultimately decide if they fancy you on their couch (Ok that turned out wrong but you get it right?!).
To boost your chances of finding a host, get verified for 25 USD and connect with fellow Couchsurfers at regularly organised local events. Write references for each other to prove that you’re legitimate and not a serial killer/rapist.
Who is it for?
If you’re travelling in a group of more than 2 people, forget Couchsurfing. Hosts usually only have room for 1-2 surfers. A couch is only that big right? Hosts usually can only confirm availability 2-3 weeks beforehand. There’s also a chance that they might cancel due to the unforseen circumstances. It’s advisable to have a back-up plan.
Sounds like too much work? I think so too. Couchsurfing is a gamble. It can either pay off well or end in disaster. The best case scenario is you make a friend who’ll show you a good time. The worst is you find yourself frantically searching for somewhere to sleep in a foreign city or end up with a serial killer/rapist/molester as a host. It’s free but uncertainty is the price you must be prepared to pay.
What is it?
Nope… that’s not a dog barking! WWOOF is an acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Basically you get free food and lodging in exchange for work. Some places even throw in an allowance and sightseeing tours/trips.
WWOOF organizations are not limited solely to farms so not to worry if you don’t have green fingers. It also extends to guesthouses and other institutions. Essentially, it’s volunteering with a few perks thrown in!
How does it work?
You’ll have to become a WWOOF member of the country you intend to volunteer in. Membership costs between 25USD- 35USD depending on the country and lasts for a year.
WWOOF organizations will state their requirements in the listings such as number and type of volunteers required, preferred periods amongst other details.
Similar to Couchsurfing, you’ll have to sell yourselves to host organizations, explaining in detail your purpose and interest in volunteering for them. It’s akin to an interview for a Community Involvement Project (CIP) in school. The final decision ultimately lies with the host organization.
Who is it for?
Volunteer stints typically range from a minimum of 1 week to a couple months so WWOOF-ing is more suited for long term travel. Most WWOOF organizations are farms so you’ll be in the countryside instead of cities.
It’s more suited for travellers who enjoy the outdoors and relish getting their hands dirty. It allows you to experience the very essence of the country. If tending to vineyards, olive groves and livestock or building stuff ground up in a bucolic setting is your thing then WWOOF-ing is for you!
As mentioned in my previous post, always compare prices across multiple websites to find the best deal. I hope this guide proves to be useful in helping you plan the accommodation aspect of your trip. If you have any suggestions that you’d like me to include or feedback please do comment below.
Next up in Part 3 of How To Plan Your Europe/Round-The-World-Trip On A Budget Guide we examine another key aspect of travel planning – Getting Around Domestically. Stay tuned!
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Featured image taken from http://www.designofsignage.com/application/symbol/building/largesymbols/accommodation-enquiry.html
Hostel Pictures taken from http://ryans-air-adventures.com/tag/party-hostels/
Eiffel Tower View Apartment taken from http://www.parisperfect.com/apartments-for-rent-in-paris/cote-rotie.php
Couchsurfer Cartoon taken from http://reallifeglobal.com/how-to-meet-native-english-speakers-in-your-city/
Vineyard WWOOF taken from http://www.thelastthingsfirst.com/blog/2014/5/18/wwoof-lux
HOSTELWORLD, Hostelbookers, Airbnb, Agoda, Booking.com, WWOOF & Blink photos & logos belong to their respective websites
All copyright belong to the respective owners and are used purely for illustration purposes
***All prices displayed are in Singapore Dollars (SGD)***