Often when people ask about my few highlighted budget travel trips, they point out the cost of accommodation and say it’s simply not possible. “You did a road trip to Spiti Valley, for 9 days, in under 5000 rupees? Where the hell did you sleep, man? Under the stars?” – Yes, that’s where I slept. Inside my tent. And under the stars.
I save most of my money on travelling because of two reasons: I eat anything, and I sleep anywhere. Though don’t take it literally, but what I am trying to convey here is that I always look for the best, and a budget deal, and that’s how I achieve my long-term travel goals. I avoid hotels and say no to luxury resorts (unless the trip is sponsored, of course). Moreover, when you barely stay in a hotel for most of the day – there is no point in paying a 10,000 Rupee bill and bleed unnecessary money. So I stick to the other side of the spectrum: I stay in hostels, dormitories, and do a hell lot of research before I book anything.
Here, a few tips on how to save money on travel accommodation:
Stay In A Hostel
Hostels are popular among budget travellers. You can find a bed in a hostel pretty much anywhere in Asia in between 100 to 500 Rupees (1.5 to 8 US dollars) per night. In Europe and other developed countries like Australia, they cost a little more, around 1200 to 1800 Rupees (or 15 to 22 US dollars).
In addition to being cheap, hostels provide a highly social atmosphere. If ever you wondered how solo backpacker travel places, for months, and not get bored – this is how. We stay in hostels and meet new and interesting people on the way. I cannot imagine travelling abroad for months without making friends in hostel dorms.
- Avoid hostels that do not have a locker.
- I personally use Booking.com and Agoda.com to find hostels.
Skip The Hotel & Find A Guest House
A guest house provides a simple, affordable room, without the perks of a hotel. No room service, no VIP treatment. But they are ideal for those looking for a cheap deal while compromising on personal space and privacy. Rooms in the majority of the guest houses accommodate two people and offer a poor social atmosphere. Guest houses are more popular among Asian countries, and in some countries (including India), they replace hostels.
- Use your own padlock to lock the door, when going out. Just like hostel dorms, security is often an issue in guesthouses.
- I generally use Tripadvisor to find guest houses after reading personal reviews left by other travellers.
Rent A Holiday Apartment
If you’re staying at a place for a week or 10 days, the best way to save the maximum money is by renting a local property. Major benefits include getting a bigger, better and a home-like space – all at a fairly cheaper price.
Renting a property has several benefits, for example, you get access to a full kitchen which saves you money by not eating out every night, you get a separate living room and bedrooms making it easier for families to manage things, and lastly, you have your own laundry. These extra facilities on a long stay can make your trip so much more enjoyable.
- Make sure you check the location and transport options from the place because unlike guesthouses or hotels, holiday apartments are sometimes located far away from a town (which, sometimes, can be a good thing).
- Use booking.com’s apartment page to find one of the biggest online inventory of holiday apartments across the world.
- Other than booking.com, I personally prefer and have tried, a couple of cool Airbnb in India. Use this link for an exclusive FootlooseDev discount on your first booking.
Stay With Locals
One of the best and most pocket-friendly ways to save 100% of your accommodation budget is by not paying for it at all. Hospitality networks like Couchsurfing, and others, not only help you get a friend in a foreign land but also provide you local knowledge.
To use these platforms, you may (or may not) need to pay a little signup fee, but trust me, if you keep travelling abroad and do not mind sharing someone’s couch, it’s worth it. I’ve personally used Couchsurfing a few times and totally loved the experience. Here’s a good article on whether or not Couchsurfing a safe travel option.
- Make sure you read reviews about the host, left by other travellers before you agree upon staying with them.
- There are dozens of websites you can use for this, but some of the most popular ones include Couchsurfing, HospitalityClub, BeWelcome and Stay4Free.
From working in a horse farm to teaching English in a school to working as hotel staff – volunteering options are unlimited and readily available across the world. Where the deal often includes free food and free stay against your time, some places also pay a little. What’s better is volunteering teaches you a new skill, provides an insightful experience about a foreign culture, and make your journeys so much different and useful.
I’ve personally tried volunteering in Germany, Italy and in Australia, using a platform called workaway.info and every experience was memorable, forget about all the money I saved in accommodation, as well as on food.
- Before signing up for a program, check how many hours you’re required to work every day because ultimately you’re there to travel, not work.
- WWOOF and Workaway are two popular and trustworthy sites to search for volunteer options. I’ve personally only used workaway.
Camping is another useful way to cut down on your cost of accommodation. It moreover allows you to get close to nature and make your journey more real and adventurous. Where camping is generally free – provided you own a tent and a sleeping bag – sometimes you may end up paying a little money if you’re camping in a popular tourist location or inside someone’s private property.
Most people think of camping as an outdoor adventure activity, but if you ask a traveller, it can be another accommodation option.
- It’s by camping (and saving 10% on my accommodation) throughout the journey, how I completed a motorbike ride in Spiti Valley in under 5k Rupees.
Journeys that last 10 hours or more can best be used for overnight transportation. This saves you one day, as well as 100% money on your previous night’s accommodation. Though it might be tough to sleep in trains and buses for some people, initially, with practice the trick can definitely be mastered.
- Choose a bus with comfortable seats or a sleeper bed. Bring your earphones and an eye-mask. Ask the driver (or the helper) to wake you up, if you’re not going to the last stop. And let the journey passed in a blink of an eye.
Other Options To Consider
If you’re open to trying something a little different, you can find a lot many other options to stay for free or at a cheap price. For example, if you’re travelling by car, doze off in the car; if you have a flight or a train to catch, use the airport or the train station for the night. If you’re hitchhiking in a lorry, perhaps ask the driver to sleep in the lorry; drivers do it all the time, why can’t you. The idea here is not only about saving money but also experiencing something a bit more interesting and fun.
And then ultimately, just realise that you do not need to spend thousands of Rupees or hundreds of dollars on expensive hotels to see the world. There are much cheaper, interesting and smart accommodation options to take advantage of.
So try something unusual and stop saying that travelling is expensive!
- Also, check this website called Loveholidays.com that offer relatively cheaper all-inclusive group holidays packages.