Perhaps I’m imagining things, but it feels like there are a lot more accommodation options available now than there were when we first started travelling. This means that even the most budget traveller has many factors to consider when choosing where to stay — and it’s not always easy.
Consider your travel accommodation options
Where you stay can make or break your experience of a place, so it’s worth doing a little research before you go — don’t just book into a local branch of your favourite hotel chain! You could try Couchsurfing, or stay in a B&B, rent an apartment or stay in a luxury hostel.
Depending on your destination, you might want to consider camping or hiring a camper van — the options are endless! Check out this post for a list of options.
Price isn’t everything, but it is important
When searching online, feel free to order results by price. But, whatever you do, don’t choose the cheapest option just because it’s the cheapest — it might end up being more expensive when you take other factors into consideration.
Check location and if you can get to it
Location is very important. A central location can save you a lot of time and effort, as you’ll be closer to the action and won’t need to spend time travelling to and from your accommodation. Some budget hotels are located right on the edge of town and are very difficult to get to by public transport — though they could be a good choice if you have a car.
Before booking, check that you can easily get to the accommodation. Also, find out how much this transport costs and how long it takes, as these factors might make a more-expensive but more centrally located option seem more appealing.
That said, sometimes staying in a strange part of town can be an experience in itself.
Read travel accommodation reviews/ratings/references
Many hotel and hostel websites use a rating system based on reviews by previous customers, so it’s easy to get a quick idea of the quality of the accommodation you’re looking at. We don’t usually stay anywhere with a rating of less than 60% or 3/5 stars.
It’s also worth reading the reviews to see if there are any potential problems not addressed by the rating — if the hotel is located in a noisy part of town, for example. Once, Craig and I booked into a “two-bed dorm” in Kuala Lumpur, thinking we’d got a great deal; a private room for the price of two dorm beds. But the “dorm” wasn’t a room at all — the management had set up some bunks in a secondary lobby and surrounded them with room dividers. There was a lock on the door but anyone could have jumped over the “wall”. When I went back to the website where I’d booked the room, I noticed that several customers had complained about this very issue, and if I’d read the reviews I could have avoided a sub-standard night’s stay.
If you’re planning on Couchsurfing or using AirBnB, read the references. The host’s profile will give you some idea of what to expect, but the references will tell you what the experience of staying with them is like. If there are any negative references, think very carefully before sending a request.
What facilities are there?
If you don’t like swimming, don’t let the fact that a hotel has a pool persuade you to stay there. But if it’s the height of summer and blisteringly hot, this could be a deciding factor. Some facilities that might be worth looking for are a laundry, a kitchen, a bar or restaurant, an in-room safe. Consider what’s important for you and look out for it.
What extras do you get?
Is breakfast included in the price? In a hotel you might get free toiletries, while some hostels offer a free beer on arrival. With Couchsurfing, the free extra is contact with a local person, which in my opinion is priceless.
What isn’t included?
You’d be surprised at what sometimes isn’t included in the price of a room. Apart from breakfast, you might have to pay extra for sheets or a shower if staying at a basic hostel, and many hotels still charge for wifi (we tend to not stay in places like that). You might also be charged a per-night tax or a security deposit, especially if you’re renting an apartment. You can usually find out this information in the listing on accommodation booking pages, and by reading the reviews.