‘I would love to go travelling but I have no money, the accommodation is so expensive.’
Really?! You still think that travelling is just for rich people? I will give you some examples of what I do on my travels; in this way I can save money and, if I want, make a longer journey.
– Wild Camping
Is there any better accommodation than a tent in the middle of nature? Maybe there is, but not that many!
I love camping, whenever I go to places with lots of nature this is the way that I choose to spend the night. The only problem is that in some countries it is not allowed to do wild camping, so, because of this we should be careful and see that we don’t break any laws. If you are in isolated places and respect nature (leave everything as it was before our arrival, without trash, without anything spoiled, etc.), you won’t have any problems.
Couchsurfing is an online community with millions of users around the world hosting in their homes, without any cost, people who are travelling.
The original concept, as the name suggests, is to let someone sleep on our couch, but it depends on what conditions each person has to offer.
To date I have slept on couches, but also on the floor, in shared rooms, private rooms, etc.
More than just free accommodation, couchsurfing provides a cultural experience, sharing history, language, traditions and more. I always cook for those who are hosting me; it is a way to show some Portuguese cuisine and also to thank them for having me to stay.
Another great thing about this community is that you have, almost certainly, the best guides in the world, in person, and not a book that only shows the commercial part of the city, where it doesn’t always show the reality. In this way we visit the city as a local and not as a tourist. Isn’t it great to go and try the best meal at half the price in a little hidden restaurant where only locals are?! Isn’t it awesome to go and see small galleries and watch live music by local artists that otherwise we wouldn’t have got to know?! Of course it is!
And now you ask:
– But is it really like that?!
– We go and stay in someone’s house without even knowing them?!
– For free?!
– Is it safe?!
And I answer:
– Yes! It is really like that;
– Yes! You go and stay at someone’s house without knowing them;
– Yes! It is free;
– Yes! It is safe. But, as with everything, things can go wrong and because of that you should always be careful.
I did it for the first time in 2012 in Austria, and after that in Slovenia, Germany, Norway, Netherlands, France, Turkey, Iran, India, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Australia, Indonesia and Estonia*. I’ve stayed in women’s houses, men’s houses, with couples and also with families. To date nothing bad has ever happened to me, I’ve never had any problem, maybe just one or two persons that were not so friendly, but that is normal.
Do you feel like you want to give it a try?
Go for it!
– Go to couchsurfing.org and register.
– Fill in your profile: I advise you to add as much information as possible, as well as some pictures of you, because people with poor profiles often cannot find accommodation.
– In your profile you can choose whether you are available to receive people at home; if you are available to show your city or if you cannot do either of those options. To my way of thinking, it is nice and fair to receive people in our home, as we also want to stay in other people’s homes. There is no excuse for not having room, as I wrote before, I have already stayed on the floor, and it was not just once. You fill in the form and say where the guest will sleep, and then if someone contacts you it is because they aren’t worried about sleeping on the floor.
– Choose your travel destination and find a host. I always advise you to send a request for accommodation to someone who has many references, if possible also with verified data, which is in their profile; you can choose to stay with families, with men/women only. In this way, you will almost certainly have a great time.
– If you don’t feel comfortable sleeping at strangers’ houses; you can sleep somewhere else and use the couchsurfing community to get to know the best places in the city.
* Here I wrote where I have done couchsurfing through the site, but on other occasions I have stayed at friends’ homes who I met while travelling. This means travelling and meeting people will also give you free nights’ accommodation! 😉
– Public places
Maybe it isn’t the easiest or most comfortable way, but it saves money. Whenever I have to travel in the middle of the night, or even in the early morning, I sleep that night at the airport, train station (in India I did that many times), bus/coach terminal, etc. I lean into a corner with my backpack under my head, and stay there, the same as many other people. You have to be careful with your belongings, especially your passport and money, but it’s an excellent way to avoid paying for accommodation when you have to get up in the middle of the night anyway.
– Public transport
Following on from the previous idea, often your next destination is several/many hours by bus / train from where you are. The best way to save money is to buy a night ticket. By doing this, you won’t miss a day spent on a bus or train without being able to do anything, and you also won’t have to pay for a night in a hotel. In most countries there are trains and buses with beds, some more comfortable than others, depending on what you want to pay.
A hostel is a place with shared accommodation where you don’t pay per room, but per bed. You can find rooms with 4 to 20 beds (I think that was the most I have experienced, in Berlin). Usually they are mixed rooms where each person has a bed and a locker to keep their stuff.
I have been in hostels in Europe, Asia, Oceania and Africa. Some of them cost less than €2 per night, but for this price don’t expect much comfort, I was in my bed in Chiang Mai, Thailand, when the maid came in, swept the floor, and then the bed with the same broom, before telling the girl who had just arrived which was her bed. They change the sheets once in a while!
There are prices for all tastes, and most of them have a fitted kitchen. You can buy food and keep it in the fridge, inside a container with your name on it, and cook instead of going to restaurants. In St. Petersburg, Russia, I paid € 10 in a very clean hostel, and there I met several people including these two French men, who appear in the video below, with whom I made pancakes in the kitchen of the hostel.
– Guest Houses/Hotels
These are the traditional forms of accommodation, which are usually more expensive than the ones I mentioned earlier, but not always, and sometimes if you do some research you can find good deals. Without doubt, the greatest benefit here is privacy.
Whenever I stay in a hostel, pension or hotel I use Booking.com to make the reservation, as this platform has millions of lodgings all over the world. If you make reservations through this link I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
In this article I have only talked about the methods I have used, but there are many others, some of which work in the same way as couchsurfing, and also house swaps, private room rentals, etc. Whenever I use a new method I will update the article.
And now? Are you still making excuses for not going travelling? If you have an open mind and are unprejudiced, travelling will not work out to be that expensive! 😉
Please write below in the comments if you already travelled in any of these ways. Which one did you like most? Do you have a different method? Please let me know.
*Picture: Wild camping in the south of Portugal, September 2016
Happy and safe travels!