One of the biggest areas to save money when traveling is considering where to spend the night.
Spending every night in a hotel is not conducive to long-term travel or the bank account.
For me, I either couchsurf, camp outside, stay in hostels and depending on the trip, take overnight trains, bus rides or flights. There are a lot of other options out there as well. Here’s a list of resources and ideas that I use or have looked into myself.
Couchsurfing is an amazing community of generous people offering up their, “couch” and sometimes extra bed for free. There is no catch, you don’t have to pay any membership fees and you don’t owe anybody anything. The idea is more of what goes around comes around. If people are open and kind to you then hopefully you pass it on or perhaps host a surfer of your own at some point!
Now I know that people freak out with this one. Staying at a stranger’s house does not sound like a good idea. Surprisingly, with close to 6 million members, couchsurfing is fairly safe.
It’s like a Facebook and Yelp hybrid. Everybody has their own profile with information about who they are and what they’re into. On top of that, when one surfer meets another, they can write a sort of review about the person. This allows you to get the opinions of others to get a better feel for the person.
There is also the option to be verified as a member. Anybody with a green check mark on their profile has made a small donation and verified who they are and where they live.
I’m not going to say everybody on the site is nice and safe. Of course there have been and will be problems. The cool thing though, is that whenever there is a bad experience with somebody, the individual is put on blast by the local community. Unruly people do not last on couchsurfing.
I’ve surfed a couple of times with no problems. One time I was given a spare key to the house and was told to come and go as I please. This shows the trust and the people in the community.
Of course, if you find yourself checking this out, it’s always nice to bring something to the table. Maybe consider buying or making dinner. Depending on the host maybe bring a six pack of their favorite beer.
Staying at a hostel tends to be my go to option about 90% of the time.
Hostels are a budget form of accommodation. Imagine a hotel room, but stuff it with a few to several bunk beds. Instead of paying more for a room by yourself, you split the room with sometimes up to 20 people.
Hostels tend to be super inexpensive. Hostels in Central America average probably around $5 a night and often include a pancake breakfast. The most I’ve spent was $13 a night for a hostel in Nicaragua. That got me a view overlooking the ocean, pancakes for breakfast plus an infinity pool to swim in. A splurge when it comes to hostel but well worth it in my book.
Contrary to belief, there are hostels in Unites States as well. There aren’t as many but most of the major cities have them. From what I’ve seen I would say they average between $20 – $30 a night which isn’t too bad.
I will warn you though, hostels are not for everybody, many times they can be kind of grimy. If you think about it though, generally it’s backpackers who have been traveling for who knows how long with the same pack of stuff. Also, some don’t come with air conditioning or hot water (at least in Central America). If that’s a must, perhaps consider another option.
When looking for hostels I check out a couple of different options. Hostel World and Hostel Bookers tend to be the better sites. Hostel World I believe has at the moment the largest selection of hostels. Check both though as they sometimes have different selections and different prices.
If I find a hostel I like I’ll check it out on both sites, read the reviews and see if one has a better price.
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
This is for curious people looking to learn and help out. In exchange for volunteering on organic farmstays you get free housing.
I’ve looked into this several times, but have never tried it out before. It’s been around for a while and only continues to build momentum.
If you’re looking for a real local experience I would imagine this would be a great way to go. You essentially stay with a family, help out with chores around the farm then experience the local culture after work. It would be a great way to get a view as a local.
The WWOOF site is like a central hub that directs you to other sites. Many countries around the world have their own WWOOF organization that are listed in the main site.
If you consider looking into this, know that you will be working. You don’t get paid, but you will have a place to stay and sometimes some food as well.
To find some more ways to save on accommodations and extend your travels check out the rest of the post HERE. Happy Travels!