Welcome to the next instalment of my journey into the different types of accommodation you might encounter on your upcoming trip of a lifetime. Part Two is all about staying in hostels and hotels, how to find them, what are the pros and cons of each one, and how to make the most of them when you get there.
But if you’re looking for something a little more basic (or if you missed it first time around) then have no fear! Why not check out Part One to read all about how to make the most of the outdoors and how to get started wild camping.
If you’ve already read Part One and have decided that wild camping isn’t the option for you, or perhaps you simply prefer your accommodation to be a little more permanent, then there are still plenty of other cool and quirky accommodation options for you to consider, and the following will hopefully give you an overview about what to look for – let’s dive in shall we?
The absolute staple of pretty much every backpacking trip, the humble hostel comes in many shapes and sizes, and can boast a collection of facilities/features/services ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Despite the breadth of hostel variation, they all share a common theme, and are usually the go-to accommodation option for those on a bit more of a budget, or those looking to meet like-minded people whilst out adventuring.
Anywhere with even a hint of a tourist trail is almost guaranteed to have a network of hostels which can provide simple, no frills accommodation on a budget. Usually set up with a number of dorm-style rooms set around a central communal area, hostels aren’t the bleak, dirty, insect riddled proposition from the films (although I’m sure there are still some dubious ones out there!) Being such a competitive market, most hostels now are clean, fun, and well managed institutions which provide alongside the classic dorm room, options for private rooms or single sex dormitories, and take pride in their own individual style and ethos, often creating a memorable and unique accommodation experience.
The social nature of hostels is one of their biggest plus points – being able to meet people from all over the world who are undertaking their own trips is an invaluable source of information and inspiration. Not only that, but hostels often run their own trips and activities, meaning if you were struggling for ideas of what to do next on your trip, you’ll never be short of something to do, or people to do it with – some of the people you meet whilst travelling may well become life long friends, or you might even end up marrying one of them! (These are both actual true stories!)
One hostel does not fit all, so it’s definitely worth doing a little research into which hostel you want to stay at. It’s really tempting to just pick the top hostel from the recommended list in a guide book, but by doing so you might be missing out on an awesome option just around the corner. Hostelworld isn’t the worst place to start, but it has its limitations, so be sure to also check out other travel blogs and websites to get a range of ideas and opinions before you decide, and think about what you want from your hostel, do you want to be in the middle of the all-night pool party, or would you prefer the more chilled out vibe of the eco-packers down the road?
Final thing to consider before you book your hostel are the additional services it might have to offer: for example, don’t underestimate how useful a hostel kitchen can be if you’re trying to keep the cost of your trip down, or how awesome a free airport pickup can be after a long-haul flight to the other side of the world when you find yourself in an unfamiliar city in the middle of the night (especially as a taxi from the airport to the hostel can easily cost as much as a night’s accommodation!)
If you are sold on the hostel option and want to know how to make the most of it, or what potential pitfalls to avoid, then why not check out my 7 tips to survive your hostel experience post (Coming Soon).
I wasn’t exactly sure what to call this section, it sits somewhere between budget hostel and high-end hotel, but includes pretty much everything else in between! This mid-range section might include more basic hotels or motels with private rooms, or maybe some more luxe hostels (sometimes referred to as poshtels or flashpacking).
If you’re looking for a no-frills basic hotel, or want something a little more private than a hostel dorm room but aren’t too worried about the décor or extras, then this is your zone. Websites such as Booking.com or Trivago.com are usually the first port of call to find these sort of accommodation options, but before you punch in your credit-card details, it’s always worth looking at the accommodation’s own website first, or contacting the accommodation directly (if possible) to see if they have any deals or offers, as often these websites can quote inflated prices, or take a cut of what you eventually pay. There’s lots to be said about a well-placed phone call or a face to face chat with the owners of a hotel – you never know what might happen – by taking a chance and wandering into a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, I managed to get a private hotel room for the same price as a bed in a pretty grimy hostel dorm, just by speaking to the hotel owners and asking if they could do me a deal.
It’s worth mentioning smaller boutique hotels in the section as well; almost always having more character than their five star or luxury counterparts, boutique hotels can be a great place to stay if you’ve got a little more of a budget behind you, and are looking for somewhere a little different to stay. With a bit of research, you can often find quirky hotel options (fancy staying in an old radar station or the converted cockpit of a plane) again make sure you contact the owners of the hotel in the first instance to see if they have any offers or deals which you can take advantage of.
Full disclosure, this definitely isn’t my area of expertise as more often than not I will have taken the wild camping or hostel option, however, if you’re planning a trip of a lifetime, or you just fancy injecting a bit of sporadic luxury into your adventure, then a high-end hotel might be the accommodation choice you opt for. If you are going to invest to stay at a high-end hotel, then do a bit of research first, and keep your eyes open for offers. Often if you are travelling out of season or outside peak times, hotels will be able to offer you the same excellent rooms for a cheaper price as they don’t have as many guests, and won’t want to have empty rooms. Another way to get yourself an amazing room without breaking the bank is to consider a location slightly away from the main hub of where you’re staying; for example, by heading a couple of hours down the Tanzanian coast from Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar’s expensive accommodation options, I was able to stay in a beautiful hotel in the relatively unheard of town of Kilwa Mosoko which boasted the the same white sands and beautifully blue Indian Ocean waters for a fraction of the price, with the added benefits of being able to explore somewhere different, and get away from the rest of the crowds.
All of the above are fairly traditional travelling accommodation options, however travellers are increasingly looking into different places to stay whilst on the road which step away from the traditional hostel or hotel setup.
Airbnb is hardly a secret, but I think it is often overlooked as an accommodation option when travelling, especially longer term. In my opinion it’s always worth checking out what Airbnb has to offer, especially if you’re planning on visiting a city, as for the price of a city centre hotel or hostel you might be able to get your very own apartment; plus most Airbnb hosts are more than happy to provide you with extra information about their city or neighbourhood giving you access to those little gems which make a trip special. When I stayed in Budapest, my Airbnb came with free coffee and breakfast at the local café down the road – a perfect way to chat to people from the neighbourhood and work out a plan for exploring the city every morning.
If you own your own property, and you are looking for a different accommodation option whilst travelling, then you could look into home swapping. Websites such as Love Home Swap allow you to browse people’s homes from all over the world and arrange swaps depending on what you’re after. Definitely something to look into if you’re planning on spending lots of time in one place and are looking for an awesome base camp for your adventures.
So, which one is it going to be for your trip? Indulging in luxury at a high-end hotel, making friends and partying all night at a hostel, or spending a night out under the stars? I would love to know which one you prefer, or maybe you’ve got a great recommendation for a hostel you’ve stayed at? Either way I’d love to know your thoughts – please leave a comment below, or send me a message!
Did you find this post useful and want to know more about planning an adventure? Then why not check out my A to Z of Adventure post with an outline on where to start planning your next big adventure.