You can’t always find a host on couchsurfing
Unless you’re a dope fiend or have a gambling problem, about half of your traveling budget is likely to go on accommodation. Whether you’re trying to steal sheets from the airport hotel, trying to out-cool the other backpackers or getting eaten by bedbugs in a backstreet guesthouse, you’ve got to sleep somewhere. (Unless you want to sleep outside)
But if you’re smart you can save yourself money on accommodation and then you get to travel for longer. A no brainer really.
Hostels are the cheapest accommodation in many parts of the world and are a culture unto themselves. They can either be a great place to meet other travelers and exchange tips and info, or else be claustrophobic islands of backpackers too scared to venture out of the cosy confines of the bunk beds, pool table and hostel bar.
Still, in much of Europe hostels are your cheapest bet, often a better deal even than campsites. The cheapest way we’ve found to book a hostel is via Travellerspoint – hard as is it for us to admit, they do a better job on aggregating prices and reviews than we do. There’s also a social bookings feature which means you can get in touch with other travelers who have stayed at the hostel to ask their opinion or just meet up.
You can get a price per bed or per room and in places too small for hostels they also list Bed & Breakfasts and cheap hotels.
Most road junkies don’t even think of staying in hotels as they assume it’ll be way out of their budget. But especially if you’re traveling with two a hotel can be a option. Hotels hate to have empty rooms and while they have their prices up on the board, you can always negotiate. An empty room brings them no revenue at all so if they’re fairly empty you can argue anywhere up to 60% off depending on your haggling skills.
And if you load up on enough free soap and towels you should be back on budget in no time.
Carrying a tent with you is a pain in the ass most of the time. It’s heavy, it takes up space in your backpack – but particularly when traveling around Europe, it can be the cheapest option, especially if you’re traveling with others. Campsites can be pretty social places, you get some privacy inside your Chinese-made nylon tent and sometimes you can pitch your tent close to the campsite and just nonchalantly stroll in and use the shower in the morning.
Sleeping outside in nature or in cities is covered in our “how to travel with no money” guide and only traveling monks haven’t heard of couchsurfing
A last option is to set up an successful travel site and then tell the best hotel in town that you’ll write a review about them if they give you star treatment… but it doesn’t inspire confidence if you turn up with a stained rucksack and holes in your shoes…