This is the best accommodation if you are a social Gap Mapper that wants to make new friends. Staying in a dorm room is usually the cheapest option especially for solo travellers and you have the opportunity to chat to people sharing the room with you.
Hostels often have their own bars with happy hours for cheap drinks. This gives another social aspect to the experience. Good hostels can also provide free pub crawls, walking tours and other activities so you can head out exploring the city with your new room mates. Look for hostels with good common areas, kitchen, laundry and bike hire.
People staying in twos or threes can sometimes find it more economical to split the price of a private hotel room. If you’re after a good nights sleep, dorm rooms are not for you. At party hostels there is usually loud music and people walking in and out of the room, turning the lights on at all hours if of the night.
• Pick a bed next to a power point to charge your devices over night. Always keep your valuables locked up. You never know who you can trust when sharing a room with strangers.
• Bring a padlock as many lockers will require your own lock. Try a number combination lock to save you from losing a key.
Bring earplugs and an eye mask for better sleeping.
• Sarongs or towels can be hung over a bottom bunk for privacy.
• The quickest way to make friends when staying in a hostel is to always try to be a good roomie. Be considerate of others. Don’t turn on the light after it gets late and people are sleeping. Use the torch on your phone if you have one.
• Don’t be too messy and don’t eat anything in the room that will smell bad for others.
Sites such as booking.com can be useful when booking hotel rooms particularly at last minute when you can often find big discounts. When travelling as a couple or in a group, budget hotel rooms can sometimes be cheaper than individual dorm beds. This is because you are splitting the room price between you to share the costs.
You have the privacy of your own room. You don’t have to worry about locking up your belongings. If you are staying for a few days you can even unpack some of your clothes! Having your own room can make it easier to do washing in the bathroom sink and you can treat yourself to a decent nights sleep.
Hotels don’t give you much of an opportunity to meet people meaning you are less likely to get destination tips from other travellers.
• Give yourself time to do your research. Being rushed makes it harder to find a good deal.
• Look at as many hotel booking engines as possible. You never know what discounts you might find.
• Always sort your search results by price-lowest to highest so you can see the most affordable options and either print or screen shot your booking for reference at times when you are out of wifi service. This will mean you always have the contact details and payment proof on hand.
The Airbnb site allows you to book a bedroom within someones apartment or a whole house to yourself through individual owners. This can be economical particularly when travelling in groups.
This form of accommodation means that you are able to meet locals who are willing to share tips and local knowledge with you that aren’t based on touristy hostel deals etc. Often you can find really cool apartments that make you feel like you have a home away from home. If there is a kitchen available you can save money by cooking. Usually there is also a chance to do some much needed laundry!
You normally don’t have the opportunity to meet other people as you would in a hostel. You wont have the services of organised groups to clubs and pub crawls like you would in some hostels.
• Do your research! Take the time to search the area where the apartment is. Make sure there’s decent transport and even better, a supermarket so you can use the kitchen.
• Always choose the ‘msg owner’ option to make contact with the owner before using the ‘book’ option. Ask questions about security and whether the apartment is shared because often you are only renting out one bedroom of the apartment not the whole place! When sharing you want to make sure it is possible to lock your belongings somewhere.
• Confirm check-in and check-out times. Sometimes you can be charged extra for arriving within certain hours if it’s early in the morning or late at night.
• If an owner asks you to pick up the key from a neighbour or anybody other than the owner himself be sure to get their contact details and message them before arrival. This is crucial because I was once left without a key to the apartment for a whole night due to miss-communication between the owner and the neighbour/key holder.
• Lastly, read the reviews. They are almost always very accurate. If a place is really cheap there’s probably a reason for it. Read what other people say and if the downsides are worth the bargain in your eyes… book it!
The couchsurfing website is a way to find FREE accommodation all around the world. No joke it really is free. It works sort of like Facebook. You create a profile with your personal information. Add a few profile pictures. Then you can begin to search the location you are going to and view the profiles of hosts that live there. You message hosts that you would like to stay with and if your lucky they agree to welcome you into their home without being payed.
So what’s in it for them? You will find that the Couchsurfing community is very unique. Most users who are genuine to the guidelines and rules of the site are really not in it for money or material exchanges of any kind. However, you will find that the hosts don’t want to be used just as a source of free accommodation either. Most people participate in Couchsurfing as a way to meet people. Hosts want to learn about other cultures, maybe practice their language skills, want to meet new people, make friends, and share their city with foreigners. This means that often you wont feel able to go about your site seeing schedule as usual. You will spend time with your host, get to know them, and take the time to share something with them as an exchange for the roof over your head. This can be a truly positive experience when done the right way.
• Couchsurfing is a unique way to make genuine friendships with locals when you travel.
• Hosts are usually very keen to share with you their invaluable local tips for visiting the area where they live.
• Some hosts are willing to take you personally around the area while others will be at work and allow you to do your own thing.
• Generous hosts often provide food and use of their whole house.
• You may be invited to family events or outings with friends of your host. Who knows what you may end up doing?!
• Meeting up with a stranger in a foreign country will always have it’s risks. There is a chance that your Couchsurfing experiences may not always be positive because there is the potential for certain things to go wrong.
• You may find yourself in awkward or uncomfortable situations if you don’t get along with your host.
• You may feel forced to adjust to your hosts plans if they organised to do something with you.
• The most important thing when Couchsurfing is to read the reviews of your hosts before you contact them. If a host has all positive reviews from other couchsurfers it is likely that you will have the same experience. If a host has no reviews or even some negative reviews it is really not worth the risk.
• Couchsurfing is done best when traveling with two people. Being alone makes you vulnerable if something were to go wrong. If you do happen to try Couchsurfing as a solo traveller make sure to let friends or family know the details of your host and their location for safety. If you are travelling in a big group it will usually be hard to find hosts who have room for you.
• When making your Couchsurfing profile put as much genuine information about yourself as possible. It makes you more approachable to hosts and tells them something about you. It may even make for a topic of conversation when you arrive.
• When contacting hosts try to make your message personal and not just a copied and pasted message that you send in bulk to all the hosts. At the least include the hosts name when you say hello. You are more likely to be accepted if you include something about your trip in the message. It never hurts to refer to something in their profile so that you can show you actually read their information and want to meet them. For example, “I saw that you play football and I do too! Maybe we can go to a pub and watch the game together when I arrive,” or “I saw that you have traveled to Antarctica, I would love to hear about your experience there.” These things help to start a conversation with your potential hosts.
• Don’t overstay your welcome. In your request always indicate how long you plan on staying. You can always leave earlier than planned if you need to and if you hit it off with your host you may be able to stay longer but always be polite and don’t abuse the system. Usually the average stay on Couchsurfing is for around 3 nights.
• It never hurts to leave a small gesture for your host when you leave. Maybe some chocolates or buy them a beer one night as a farewell. It’s always nice to offer for them to stay with you if they ever travel to your home town.