It should come as no surprise that accommodation will drain your bank account quickly while travelling.
I learned this the hard way, as most of us do. Sure, I did some research, but I was no where near prepared for the reality of how expensive it is to hostel hop and splurge on the occasional hotel.
Through trial and error, last minute camping (because my poor bank account was looking grim), spending way too much money on hostels, and even sleeping in cars; I’ve distilled the best ways to save money on accommodation while travelling – whether it be long term like me, or for a couple of days.
Let’s get started!
If you’re anything like me, then maybe you like staying in a private room for a day or two after landing in a new place. Air BnB is by far the cheapest way to get a private space for yourself for a few days before hostel hopping (if that’s your jam).
It’s important to note that you may be outside of the city centre to get a bit of a cheaper rate, and you will be staying in someone’s home; but the payoff is a private room with your own bed for rates as cheap as $25.00/night at times.
Much cheaper than staying in a private room at a hostel, and especially cheaper than a hotel.
Download the Air Bnb app and create a profile before you leave home, and book something a week or so in advance!
Hostels are always the go to choice for accommodation because, well, they’re cheap. They can be cheaper, though!
If you go anywhere during high season expect higher than normal hostel rates in the area, and remember that the city central ones will usually be heavily booked, and much more expensive. So to avoid frustration and higher rates consider travelling during the off season and shoulder seasons (usually spring and autumn), or stay outside of the city centers. I’ve found that even a few blocks away from the hustle and bustle saved me $10 per night at times.
Typically ‘all female’ dorm rooms are a bit more expensive than co-ed dorms, and the more beds in a room, the cheaper it is. It may be stinkier in a 12 bed, co-ed dorm but sometimes you can save upwards of $5 dollars a night which may not seem like much, but that’s $35 over the week!
I’ve found that third party websites like hostelworld have cheaper rates if you book online versus in person at the hostel. The YHA hostel I stayed at in Auckland actually let me show them the rates and honored that price when I paid in person. There’s always ways to save a few bucks!
If you have a working holiday visa, and are willing to stick around in an area for at least 4-6 weeks, ask your hostel about working for accommodation! Most commercial hostels like Base and Nomads are always looking for short term staff.
WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)
This option takes a bit of extra work, both to get set up and once you’re there, but in a nutshell you volunteer 4-6 hrs of your time per day at a farm and get free accommodation and (sometimes) food!
I highly recommend WWOOFing if you are staying in a country for over 2 months. You pay a subscription fee of about $80 (depending on which country you’re going to), but you’ll make your investment back within 3 days of having free accommodation. You’re also investing in community, learning different skills, and seeing the country you’re visiting in a unique way.
If you only have a limited amount of time in a country (1-3 months) I suggest setting yourself up with a farm before you go so that you have something in place.
Make sure you check the visa requirements in order to WWOOF in each country, as it differs everywhere.
If you’re staying in National Parks or Department of Conservation sites, camping can be a super cheap and exciting adventure! Commercial and privately owned campgrounds tend to be in the same price range as hostels.
But be warned; it is one of the more difficult options if you don’t have transportation, proper gear, and a friend.
If you’re without gear, try asking around at hostels to see if anyone left any gear behind. Who knows, maybe someone is looking to get rid of their gear for a good price as well!
Invest in a warm, durable sleeping bag, and a pillow. Trust me.
Check in on different backpacker Facebook groups to see if anyone is looking for a camping buddy, or selling cheap gear. If you’re super sold on camping during your travels, you could bring your own gear from home. Just make sure it’s not super big and bulky, otherwise it will be a pain.
Make some money back by selling your camping stuff at the end of your trip.
Some hostels have camping spots on site for much lower rates than staying in a bed for the night.
If you really want to camp, but you’re alone, don’t stress. Consider staying in populated, well lit sites. Always be aware of your surroundings and trust your gut. If you don’t feel safe, leave and go to a hostel.
Absolutely free! Couchsurfing is an online community of people looking for couches to crash on, and people offering their spaces. You can become a part of it, too! It takes a bit of ground work to get the ball rolling, but in return you get free accommodation, new friends, and some crazy stories to tell.
If you want to get accepted from a host, make sure you have a few profile pictures, a bit about yourself, and hook your account to Facebook so that you can become friends with them on Couchsurfing. Trust me, it looks better to the host.
If I Couchsurf I always make sure that the host has profile pictures, reviews from people who have stayed, and information about themselves and their space.
Don’t be discouraged if no one wants to take you in at first! Some hosts are weary of newcomers. Just keep trying! Vamp up your profile, connect with other travellers, and before you know it you’ll be a Couchsurfing master.
Any tips on cheap accommodation? Like you, I’m always looking for new ways to save money while travelling. Leave your tips in the comments below!
What will you do once you land?
*I am not paid to promote any of the brands, websites, or hostels listed above. All opinions are my own.