Depending on your budget, you can usually choose from variety of hotels, hostels, b&b, camps... Finding a hotel is usually easy, just use any form of online booking, or your trusty Lonely Planet guide. But there are also some websites, that can help you find a bit more affordable accommodation. Let’s have a look at them, shall we :)
Ok, this one might be well known, but hostel is the first option that comes to my mind when talking about cheap accommodation. Many offer singles, twins and doubles besides dorm bunks. There are some that might be a bit dirty, but many are very nice, clean and friendly, and if you really look around, you can find some truly unique ones. Don’t forget to check reviews before booking, though.
Hostels usually have a bar or a big common area, a place for travelers to hang out and socialise with each other, so it might be good if you’re a solo traveller - you connect with like minded people. When choosing a hostel, you have to take into account that you would be sharing space with others. You have to respect them, keep quiet during night, especially when you are returning from a party. Unfortunately not everybody might be so considerate so do not forget your earplugs. :)
If your budget is really tight, or you just want to stay longer at one place, you could usually work at the hostel as well - just check with the owners of the hostel, but it’s very common. Do not expect a big salary though - lets just say that you’ll be able to stay there “for free”. :)
To sum it up - If you have slightly lower budget and do not mind people, it is excellent value/money.
Couchsurfing, as described on their website, started in 2004 as a small passion project. An email to a group of students in Iceland gave birth to the idea that people anywhere would want to share their homes with strangers (or, as they like to call them, friends you haven't met yet). It is a global network of 10 million travelers in over 200,000 cities in the world, that connects travelers across the globe who share experiences ranging from hosting one another in their homes to having a beer to becoming close friends and travel companions. With couchsurfing, you can:
- Stay with locals for free
- Join a community of couchsurfers, in most cities they have a weekly event that is usually held at a bar or coffee shop
- Open your home to travelers, and learn about new cultures or practice a language
Before you send a CouchRequest (request that you want to stay at someone's place or meet in the city) it is worth to invest your time to the community. For example, attend meetings, so you can meet more experienced Couchsurfers to have an idea what kind of people you might meet and what to expect; host somebody at your place or if you do not have the possibility, you can still offer to meet with Couchsurfers and show them your city. This way you will acquire references and it will be easier to find a host. There aren’t many people who’d like to host a complete stranger, so having a nice, filled profile with a few references can make a huge difference.
Finding a place to stay is just part of the Couchsurfing experience. When you write a request, personalize your messages and let hosts know why you want to meet and why you think you’d enjoy each other’s company. When you’re there, get to know your host and their way of life.
To sum it up, Couchsurfing is definitely not for everybody - if you do not like socializing and meeting with new people, or you prefer anonymity/security of hotels and walking through the city with on your own, don’t worry - you are completely all right and there is nothing wrong with you :) But if you want to meet locals, understand more their culture, learn something new and you are open to share, then it is the perfect way.
If you want to know more, write us - especially Ivan has a lot of experience with Couchsurfing, we’ve hosted around 80 people so far and would be happy to share anything you want to know. But most importantly - if you are at least a bit careful and read the references, the chances of having a bad experience are close to 0. In fact, I’ve met probably the kindest people in my life on CS.
Airbnb is a new startup, that was recently founded in California and can be shortly described as a community marketplace for people to list, discover and book accommodation around the world. Anybody can earn some extra money (or use it for his business) by renting their extra place and meet people from all over the world. Types of accommodation vary from a spare room, an apartment or even a villa.
Depending on your host, he can suggest you where to go, what places to visit, or even show you his favorite places. The website is really easy to use and you can quickly find a place to stay on a map, which can be very helpful - we’ve booked an apartment in centre of Budapest this way and didn’t need to use subway (almost) at all.
Airbnb is suitable for people who are looking for more privacy, comfort and calmness than in hostels, but also want to meet locals. I would call it a paid, slightly more luxurious Couchsurfing. It is also great for groups, because they can share a whole appartment for better price than separate rooms in hostels or hotels. So far, we’ve had only good experience and can definitely recommend it.
House Sitting, as described on MindMyHouse, is a practice where a homeowner, leaving their house for a period of time, entrusts it to one or more "house sitters", who by a mutual agreement are entitled to live there rent-free in exchange for some responsibilities such as taking care of the homeowner's pets, performing general maintenance etc. After signing up for one of these services, most of them have a sign-up fee, you get access to the database of available houses. Then you just find a place, contact the homeowner, work out an arrangement and sign documents (it’s important to ensure everyone is legally protected with clearly stated responsibilities). House-sitting is suitable for people who can stay in a destination for at least a couple of weeks.
WWOOF - World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, as explained on their website, is a program, that will let you stay on a farm and trade your labor for free accommodation. It is expected from you to help with the day to day activities. In most countries the exchange is based on 4-6 hours help-fair exchange for a full day’s food and accommodation. You may be asked to help with a variety of tasks like sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing, making mud-bricks, wine making, cheese making and bread making. It let’s you do something while you are traveling, give back to the community and save money. You can use this option even if you have no farm experience. If you are interested in alternative ways of living and want to meet interesting people then WWOOFing is for you.
iOverlander is a website, that lists camping spots on a map, with information about them. Anybody can add a new camping spot / point of interest, or various information. To keep it simple while travelling, there are also iOS / Android apps. Right now it might be a bit empty in Europe, however many overlanders started using it, especially in South & Central America - so it looks very promising and the information is very fresh. We’ll definitely test some of them in near future. :)
Resources: Because so far we’re not that experienced in long-term travelling, we’ve been mostly gathering information from more experienced travellers. Janka was mostly looking at blog Nomadic Mat, where you can read more about less traditional means of accommodation and his experiences. As for me-Ivan, overlanding and couchsurfing, that’s my turf. :)