Where to stay
You are now in a new city so your first concern is finding a
place to sleep and store your pack. With a wide range of
choices, what works best for a backpacker on a budget? If I
had a choice between a couple of places, what should I look
for? Here is a list of the possibilities starting with the least
On the night train/bus: Save the cost of a night’s
accommodation and go to sleep on the night train or bus while
you are going to your next destination. There were many times
when I opted for the cheaper night bus or train so I could wake
up at my new destination. Sleeping on trains is usually easier
than sleeping on the bus. There is more leg room, you are not
in the middle of traffic, and sometimes you have your own
compartment. Just make sure that your gear is secured
Friend’s place: This is definitely the best accommodation that
you can receive. Not only is it free and comes equipped with
all the living needs, you have a local person who can show
you were to go and what to do. Since this is their home, they
want to show you the best of it.
Free accommodations: There are such things in this world.
There are online services that allow backpackers to freeload
with other people around the world. There is no monetary,
sexual or any other obligation. However, everything is not
guaranteed and just use your common sense before you decide
to stay at someone’s place.
Internet Search Directories:
Google Travel directory and Hospitality Clubs
Camping: Nearly every destination has camping facilities that
are located on the outskirts of town. You get your plot of land
to set up your tent and a place to cook (usually a fire pit).
Showers and stores are usually located on the grounds and are
available for a fee. You are away from most of the hustle and
bustle of the city. These are great places to unwind and relax.
Some of the bigger campgrounds have common rooms for
lounging and socializing. You are going to need your own
camping supplies such as a tent, ground rest, sleeping bag,
cooking stove, pots and pans, etc.
Hostels: Contrary to popular belief, hostels are not dirty
places to stay and are not full of hobos and derelicts. Hostels
provide inexpensive basic accommodations to budget
travellers. They offer varying sizes of dormitory rooms (same
or mixed sexes) to private rooms. The majority provides
common rooms to hang out and relax, and kitchens for
cooking. This is probably the best mix of convenience and
cost, and is the preferred place for backpackers to stay.
Hostels can be found nearly anywhere in the world. I have
stayed in castles that had hostels inside of them to hostels that
were actually permanently docked boats along the water front,
or even small hostels hidden in the mountain range. Each had
their own charm about them and offered a variety of amenities
such as Internet, kitchens, common rooms, etc.
There are two distinct types of hostels: member or private. A
member hostel is affiliated with an international hostelling
group such as: Hostelling International (HI). HI is a huge
network of over 4800 hostels in 60 countries offering clean
and affordable places to stay for budget travellers. You will
need to buy a membership at your local outdoor shop to get
into these hostels (members only). Many of them can reserve
(book-a-bed-ahead service) for free to other HI hostels on your
route. They tend to uphold a higher standard and be slightly
cleaner, but they are more sterile and institutional than private
hostels. They enforce a lot of rules that must be followed.
Some HIs have strict hours of operation like being closed
between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. It is advisable to inquire
ahead of time.
Private hostels have all the amenities as member hostels, but
tend to be more social and definitely have more character.
Some have bars and discos in them, special event days, BBQs,
outings, etc. They are usually more social and “hip” than
member hostels and the price is nearly identical. My
preference is staying in private hostels.
The seasons also play a big factor on the type of hostels I use.
During the low season there are fewer tourists, prices tend to
be lower, and hostels are not as booked. You can move about
with a lot less stress about getting a room for the night. On the
flip side, as the seasons start to warm up, more people are
moving and travelling. This fills up the cheap hostels and
sometimes you are forced to find other accommodations off
the beaten path and usually pay more. I tend to go to HI
hostels since you can easily have the staff phone and book a
bed ahead. They deal with figuring out the phone system and
Guest houses: These are private houses whose owners rent
out rooms to travellers. Depending where you are, they greatly
vary in price and amenities. Most of the guest houses that I
stayed in were located in South East Asia. Usually you get a
single or double room and either a shared or private bathroom.
It is a wise idea to ask if the room comes with hot water and
insist on checking out the room ahead of time before
committing to staying there.
Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs): These are more expensive than
hostels and cheaper than hotels. They offer you more of the
homey type of atmosphere and a breakfast in the morning.
B&Bs are usually located outside of the business district and
more into the residential areas or city limits.
Hotels: When everything else is booked up and you don’t
wish to sleep in the train station, you can always check into a
hotel. I have stayed in many one-star hotels that offer you the
basic bed, sink, and closet with a shared bathroom down the
hall. The price is comparable to, if not a little bit more
expensive, than a hostel. Even though you have the room
totally to yourself and the key, keep all of your valuables
locked up in your pack. The hotel cleaning staff still has
access to your room. Of course, the higher the star of hotel, the
better quality and higher the cost for the room.
Train and bus stations: In my travels I have been lucky
enough to have a roof over my head every night. I have heard
of other backpackers ending up sleeping in the open for the
night and if you’re lucky, you could get a couple hours of
needed sleep. I do not recommend this, but when you are out
of options this is one that you could choose. Use your
common sense when sleeping in an open area and be careful.