On our travels, we have stayed in a variety of different accommodations, each for various reasons and for different types of trips including hostels, AirBNB, hotels, and couchsurfing. When you’re booking your trip, you’ll need to consider what you want from your accommodation, your budget and the amount of time that will be spent in one place. We’re lucky enough to be travelling in a time of increased options, so we’re here to help you choose which is best for your next trip.
Cost, comfort and privacy are what really set apart the following options, so depending on your preferences, we’ve gone into more detail about what to expect from each accommodation type.
Option 1: Hostels
First up, the backpacker’s best friend: hostels. They are extremely popular amongst young backpackers looking to save some cash and meet their future travel buddies. Hostels consist of shared dorms, with anything from 4 to 20-odd beds in each dorm. The more beds in a dorm, the cheaper it’ll be, and you can choose between same-sex or mixed at most hostels. Hostels are the cheapest form of paid-for accommodation with fairly basic facilities, and are great for meeting people. Privacy is very limited, although some provide bed curtains for when you need some me-time. Hostels are often slap-bang in the centre of your destination, and always have a reception desk with information on things to do in the area, tour packages and transport information, as well as often having discounts for attractions, which is another great money-saver. Some even provide a basic breakfast, so you can save money there, too! Many travellers extend their stay when in hostels as it’s really easy to do at the front desk and it’s only during very busy times that you’re unable to do it last minute.
Example: When travelling around South East Asia on our backpacking trip, we stayed at Signature Inn in Hanoi, Vietnam, for £3 a night! Breakfast was included, 2 hours of FREE BEER was included and they had a free walking tour. The common rooms were spacious, and they had gaming facilities such as pool, darts, and foosball, plus a cinema room on the top floor with beanbags! We booked 3 different tours here and were able to book our night bus to Laos from the reception desk. Hostels really can be a dream!
Where to book:
1. Hostelworld.com; charges a small fee per booking, has a great selection of Hostels, easy to search and add filters such as price, facilities, and preferences. You can also check the map view to find one in your desired location.
2. Hostelbookers; free to use, has a smaller selection, has similar search options but isn’t as widely used as hostelworld.
3. Booking.com; free to use, similar selection to hostelworld, has lots of types of accommodation so harder to spot the hostels.
4. You can also book via each hostel’s own website.
Hostel Geeks has a blog all about finding the perfect hostel here.
The mother of cheap apartments comes next: AirBNB, which is very popular amongst groups and families wishing to travel together. It’s a cheaper alternative to hotels and guesthouses and if you’re looking for privacy and comfort, and not particularly interested in meeting other travellers, AirBNB allows you to have either a room in a house or an entire place to yourself - some as large as 20 beds! This means you often have kitchen facilities to cook your own meals, which saves you money. As there’s no front desk, it does mean you’ll need to do all research about your destination yourself regarding sightseeing and booking attractions, but some hosts will give you some information and sometimes provide a guide book. It’s fairly easy to extend your stay on the app if you need to - just check with your host first.
Example: We went on a group holiday to Prague and got an 8 bed AirBNB right in the Centre for £13pp per night. We cooked our own meals and had more than enough space to hang out during our down time. The place itself was beautiful and easily accessible, which was certainly a bonus.
Where to book:
Airbnb.com - easy to search, has a map view to help choose a good location (but won’t show exact location until booked), has an easy to access app, and a good amount of filters to set your preferences. Discounts are available if referred from a friend, so use our link to get £25 off your first stay!
Nomadic Matt has a guide on renting apartments here.
Option 3: Camping
Now onto the nature-filled accommodation: Camping. Although camping often makes you think of small family holidays in your own country, it’s also really popular amongst road-trippers, couples and small groups of friends. Camping is very cheap if you only need the basic pitch, and is great for Countryside and Beach trips as there are plenty of pitches around. Being surrounded by nature with only a thin piece of material between you can result in noisy nights, but all you need are some earplugs. You’re often able to cook bbqs and make fires, as well as bringing a load of ball and board games to play. As electricity is often non-existent, camping is usually only good for 1 or 2 nights unless you find somewhere to charge your electricals elsewhere. Facilities on site can vary, so make sure you check before booking; peeing in a field is all well and good until you need to poo behind a bush!
Example: Ye Olde Swan Tipi Village, Oxfordshire, UK: £5pp per night, regardless of how many pitches. BBQs were allowed and we had several, with facilities not far away and a pub nearby for food. We played games on the grass until late and had a lot of space to ourselves because of the low season.
How to Book:
1. Google - many camping sites have basic internet skills so haven’t joined any camping group sites yet!
2. Campmate - it’s basic but easy to use, has a map view and is free. Sometimes prices aren’t listed so you will need to call them.
National Geographic have written an article on finding the best campsites, which you can read here.
Option 4: Couchsurfing
Time for the best friend of any sociable backpacker: Couchsurfing. It may sound terrifying but with the modern Couchsurfing App, you’re able to search for hosts with 5* reviews, positive feedback and verified accounts. Apart from a small sign-up fee, hosts provide their couches for free in exchange for maybe a meal from your own country or just a general cultural exchange. Hosts sign up to meet cool people from around the world and are often travelers themselves, so it’s a great way to meet people and make new friends.
Couchsurfing works better for City trips and for short periods of time;you’ll often be expected to leave the house when the host isn’t in, so be sure to have a full day planned in the city you’re visiting. Due to it being a couch in most cases, privacy is a no-no, but if it’s only for a couple of days, it really isn’t a big deal.
Example: In Zurich, Switzerland, we stayed with our friend Theo who completely exceeded our expectations by giving us our own room (rare!). We left his place when he went to work each day, spent our evenings with him when he got back from work and cooked him dinner as a thank-you. We stayed in contact, and he recently came to visit in London!
Where to book:
Couchsurfing.com - easy to use, just make sure you check reviews. It won’t show the exact location until you’ve booked. You apply to stay with them by writing them a thoughtful message explaining why you’re looking to stay with them - hosts know when it’s a copy and paste job though!
Nomadic Matt has written a blog about how to get the best out of Couchsurfing, which you can read here.
Option 5: Workaway
The next option is the champion of exchanges: Workaway. Workaway is a website dedicated to matching travellers with cool hosts who exchange a bed and meal for some volunteer work, which includes anything from hostels to childcare, from gardening to TEFL. Other than the yearly subscription, Workaway finds you free accommodation which is great for meeting new people. You get to learn some cool new skills, meet local families, eat local food and have free accommodation for a prolonged amount of time. The exchange agreement varies depending on the host, including the type of accommodation available to you and how many hours you would need to volunteer for. Similar to Couchsurfing, you apply to stay with them by writing them a message explaining why you’re looking to Workaway with them.
Example: In Lapland, Finland, you could volunteer to look after someone’s 70 Siberian huskies and reindeer. In return, you get your own pod and food in exchange for working 5 hours 5 days a week with the dogs. You would pay extortionate prices if staying as a guest! Check it out here.
Where to book:
Workaway.info - You would need to sign up for a yearly subscription, either as a solo traveller (€32) or a couple/two friends (€42). You then type in the location you’re looking for and any keywords. Hosts have reviews by other Workawayers. You can also see how often they reply or are active on the site. Once you have your own subscription, you can keep it going for free by inviting friends to get it too! You can help us extend ours by using this link or this link and we’d love you forever!
Rucksack Ramblings have written tips on how to find the perfect Workaway experience here.
Option 6: Night Trains and Buses
Now for the best of both world: night transport! It’s the most underrated and underappreciated type of accommodation, as not only do you have a place to sleep, you also have more time in both destinations! It’s actually pretty cheap depending on the country, especially as you’re fitting in transport, accommodation, and extra time to explore. We slept like babies on every journey we’ve taken, usually from start to finish, and it is especially great for people who get sleepy with motion. You’ll need to book this in advance as prices go up just like flights do. This option is perfect if you’re travelling long distance city to city, but you just need to remember to pack food and toilet roll, just in case. It can be pretty noisy too, so it’s worth getting earplugs. Bear in mind this type of accommodation is good for one night only so you’ll need to seek other accommodation upon arrival at your next destination. When given an option, it’s worth reserving a couchette instead of a reclining chair as they’re 10 times more comfortable.
Example: We used an overnight train from Zagreb to Split, which was an 8 hour journey. We brought food with us, slept for the whole time, were very comfortable and managed to bag a whole carriage to ourselves. We went with the couchette instead of a reclining chair which cost £33. A day ticket would have been £24, so it cost £9 extra for overnight accommodation, which is actually cheaper than many hostels! We arrived at 7am for breakfast and had a full day in Split.
How to book:
You’ll need to book at each individual train company’s website, but search using Seat61 and Interrail. Both those websites go through night trains in more detail and show connections. The easiest way is to just type in ‘zagreb to split overnight train’ on Google to get specific results.
The man in Seat 61 (the God of transport) wrote an article on travelling by night train here.
Option 7: Glamping and Camping Pods
The new craze amongst camping-complainers: Glamping and Pods! These are a much more comfortable (and cleaner) version of camping that don’t cost as much as you may think. This is a great option for countryside and beach retreats without the cost of a hotel, and is cheaper the more people you can fit in! Glamping and Pods give you the privacy that a tent zip just can’t provide, with the same cool options such as BBQs, fires and games. It often means you don’t need to bring anything more than your pillow and sleeping bag too.
Example: After a quick phone around, we found Pound Farm in Lake District who had pods for £40 per night between the 3 of us, where we had access to electricity and lights. It was quieter than camping because we had actual doors, and as our pod was basic, we just brought out blow up beds. A heater was included (and very welcomed late at night!)
How to Book:
1. campsites.co.uk for UK.
2. campaglam.com for worldwide. Best to search on these sites and then make the bookings yourself on their own sites.
3. Google - a Godsend and a search engine that actually finds what you need!
To take a look at some awesome pods in the UK, check out Cool Camping’s awesome list here.
Option 8: Hotels
Our final option is the most famous, and most popular: Hotels! We’re hoping that by this point you’ve found something just as good as a hotel but cheaper, but if you’re still not sold on the cheaper options, or if you fancy something a little more luxurious, hotels are definitely for you. Hotels can be extremely expensive, but the expense is matched by its comfort! Everything is at your fingertips and breakfast is sometimes included in the deal. The facilities will almost always be best at good hotels, with reception desks for all the information you need and privacy in your own room. To make it just a little bit cheaper, you can get family rooms of up to 4 people to share between you and your travel buddies.
Example: We stayed at Ao Nang Viva in Krabi, Thailand, which had 2 beautiful pools, lovely rooms with balconies, breakfast included and a cafe on site for £40 a night. Please note that the low price is because it was in Thailand!
How to book:
Booking.com, Hotels.com, Trivago, Expedia. Each one has access to a variety of hotels like a comparison site. Map view, filters, maximum price limit. Expedia currently have 12% off on selected dates. Click here for more.
Hotels.com have 10% off selected dates right now too. Click here for more.
Check out Travel Made Simple’s tips on choosing the best hotel here.
Thank you for reading, if you have any tips or tricks please let us know!