Ages ago when I just graduated from high school, my parents sponsored me to join 2 package tours with my friends, going to Thailand and South Korea. At the age of 17, it was already such a fun to be away from home and travel to other countries with friends, but we had no ideas of what traveling actually means. Now I have traveled for more than 3 years, for me, traveling is not a vacation, it is a LIFE STYLE. It has no time limit, and you can stay or go wherever you want (not following those dump tourist guides!). In order to do that, you gotta accept the truth that you are actually a vagabond or a nomad in this world.
Nowhere is your home, and EVERYWHERE IS YOUR HOME!
Thanks to the modern technology nowadays, there are so many websites and platforms which make traveling much easier and more approachable. The biggest issue of “Where am I going to sleep tonight?” is no longer a problem, as you can find costly, budget and free accommodation almost everywhere. Here I am going to list out all the options, along with their pros and cons, so that you could match whatever you want.
Pros: Privacy, clean, good service, various facilities to be used
Cons: Expensive, isolated
Glamorous hotels all around the world still accommodate a vast amount of tourists everyday, and according to statistics, the hotel business is still one of the most prosperous industry in all ages, even though there are economic crisis, rich people still spend their pocket money in luxury vacations. The hotels in Greece and Italy are great examples!
Undoubtedly, the quality of service you receive in hotels is according to how much you pay to stay the nights. Buffet breakfast, swimming pool, spa and sauna are all time favorite for most people. If your main goal of taking vacations is to relax and get away from your stressful work, staying in hotels is the best option as you don’t have to worry about anything, those well-trained staff will take care of everything.
The boat house resort I stayed with my mum in Port Dickson, Malaysia was one of the most unforgettable experience in my life!
Pros: Connect with other travelers, more affordable
Cons: No privacy, noisy, sanitation is questionable sometimes
Since the promotion of individual traveling in the late 90s, you could see more and more backpackers walk around cities and villages with their huge rucksacks. This kind of budget traveling provides you a lot more flexibility than joining package tours, and you could understand the local cultures in a deeper sense when you open yourselves to meet random local people, or get lost in streets and allies.
Youth Hostels were developed to meet the needs of backpackers, their prices are quite affordable (from US$2 to US$20 according to the countries you go). The services of hostels are very basic: clean linens, hot water showers, communal kitchen, shared toilets and free Wifi are very common to be included. Hostel is a hub of backpackers, you won’t find yourselves being alone when you are willing to swap travel stories with other fellow backpackers.
However, if you are staying in a dormitory with usually 6-8 bunk beds (the 66 beds mixed dorm in City Public Hostel in the Danish capital Copenhagen is an exception!), get ready for a sleepless night if other fellows party or snore all night long! Besides, you should not leave your passport and money unattended, not even in your backpack when you go out. I have heard quite of few stories of having their belongings stolen in the dormitories.
Last but not least, some hostels are not aware of the level of sanitation, especially the cleanliness of linen and blankets when there are too many guests coming everyday, they may only change once a week. Quite a number of backpackers reported they got bed bugs staying in a hostel in Mumbai, India, I was one of the victim! Therefore, read the reviews from other travelers about the hostels before you decide to stay there, there are a lot of websites that you can check the information, like Hostelworld, Hihostels, and Hostels.
Pros: Privacy, affordable if you go with a group, stay in local houses
Cons: Follow house rules, pay service charge to Airbnb
Air B&B is a network for vacation rentals that connects users with property to rent with users looking to rent the space in a temporary state. This concept is suitable for people who want to have a weekend holiday away from home, but yet to find a “home” where they can relax and do whatever they like in a different environment. However, temporary tenants are still submitted to the house rules of the owners.
This idea mutually benefit both owners and short term tenants, as for owners they could earn a bit whenever they have guests come over (rather leaving their house empty when they are looking for long term tenants), and for tenants it is a cheap option to spend a holiday.
Airbnb charge around 5% of each rental as their operation cost, but if you have connected with the owner that you want to go there again, I suppose you can skip that.
Couchsurfing and Bewelcome
Pros: Free, connect with local people, learn local cultures
Cons: No privacy
The Couchsurfing network is just amazing! It is an ideal concept of traveling, people share and treat everyone as friends or even family. We give and we receive! It is totally free, travelers just sign up to either open their home to host other travelers, or request to stay with local couchsurfers when they travel to a new place.
A very authentic way to exchange stories about traveling and life, I met so many Couchsurfers from all walks of life, that inspire me there are numerous way to live our lives!
I hosted when I was working in Hongkong, which allowed me to daydream about wandering around listening to stories from my guests.
I surf whenever I am on the road, to share my experience with my hosts, including my profession, my cuisine, my favorite movies and songs, etc.
If you haven’t heard about Couchsurfing, why not give it a try? There is another website called Bewelcome, serving similar functions.
One general tips: read references!! Especially for female travelers, you can choose female or family hosts instead of male hosts to avoid any inconvenience.
Warmshowers (specially for touring cyclists)
Pros: Free, connect with local touring cyclists
Cons: No Privacy
An online network which has longer history than Couchsurfing, but remain a bit hidden because it is specially designed for touring cyclists. My Warmshower host in New Zealand and Germany were so nice to help me repair my bike, and I learnt bit by bit from them to maintain my bike in a good condition.
If you are planning for a bike tour, why not have it a try?
Helpx, workaway or WWOOFing
Pros: Free except membership, food is included, meet local people, learn local culture, learn new skills
Cons: Work 4-6 hours a day mostly labour intensive job
Many people have heard about WWOOFing, which is a network for traveler to work temporarily in a farm as voluntary work, in exchange of lodging and 3 meals. First of all, you apply and pay for a membership for 1 or 2 years (around 20-30 euros per 2 years), then you are free to contact any hosts around the world. You can stay a couple of weeks to months according to the agreement with the hosts, and everyday you are required to contribute 4-6 hours of work to them.
There are many similar websites which provide similar function. I joined Workaway and Helpx because they offer a better variety of works than just farming, you can choose construction, babysitting, work on boat…all different kinds of interesting jobs. Here are the websites you can have a look:
I learnt how to plaster a wall, build a room with glass bottles, practice different gardening techniques, make a bamboo hut…etc, which not only expend my horizon of knowledge, but also create a deep connection with people around the world after staying a relatively long time with them during my travels.
Voluntary working tour
Pros: Learn different skills, connect with other good souls around the world
If you want to be a global-do-gooder, who are passionate of giving a hand in various NGO (charity organizations) in less fortunate countries, there are plenty of ways you can contribute your profession.
I always see myself as the lucky one, as I have the privilege to travel around the world, to see the reality behind all those luxury resorts and expensive shops, to discover the true side of poverty and how unfair this world truly is.
One of my friend in Hong Kong found this organization Voltra, which allows people from all around the world search and participate in various volunteer works.
And there are also some NGOs who can provide allowance to their volunteers when they have specific talents, however this requires a longer period of commitment such as a year, check VSO International for more details.
Pros: Free, close to nature
Cons: Insect bites, wild animals attack
Wild camping is a fun thing to do for many people, but maybe only for a weekend vacation. Have you ever thought about living in a tent becomes your life style? Pinching your tent in a field and put it down when sun comes up is a pretty good way to save up your travel budget. Remember to choose somewhere a bit further from city center, some good spots including cemeteries, schools, church gardens are recommended as there are less people bothering you.
Bring your cookset and make your dinner, be careful of not putting the stove right on top of grasses. Some places for example beaches, you start a small bonfire to cook and keep you warm.
I always find camping an amazing experience, because I enjoy the sound of nature. Birds calling, insect buzzing, waves of the sea, wind blowing, even raining, all make me feel that I am actually part of the nature!
When I was camping in the west coast of New Zealand, I just couldn’t avoid sandflies bites, it is just too many! Another night while I was asleep inside my tent in Sweden, 2 foxes came close searching for food. These are the downside of camping, so it is better to send your love ones the locations everytime you put up your tent, just in case…
There is an interesting website called Camping in my garden which allows travelers to camping in people’s garden.
Sleeping in airports or train stations
Pros: Free, Easy for your next journey, Meeting other travelers
Cons: Uncomfortable, Noise
If you are catching an early flight or train, some travelers would choose to arrive the airport or train station the night before, to make sure he would not miss his flight or train. Sleeping in airport is actually not an awkward thing, but you can find many people doing it everyday.
Usually you are not alone in this situation, fix your eyes on other backpackers, you may find a friend or two to pass your time and watch out for you (when you go to toilet).
It might not be the most comfortable experience, especially when there are arm-rests installed on the benches, to avoid people lying down. Besides, you have to bare the frequent announcement broadcast every 5 mins. And also the bright light shinning 24 hours. Bring a pair of earplugs and an eye cover!
Sleeping on the street
Cons: Uncomfortable, Dangerous, Noise
This is a once-a-lifetime experience, if you haven’t try it before, do you have the guts to do it once? Sleeping in a park, or beach, or just outside a library without a shelter, you will understand how could those street tramps survive. It is totally free, but you have to make yourself as messy as you could, in order not to attract attention from anyone.
Once I was kicked out from the airport in Urumqi, and I just opened my sleeping bag and slept. Another time I was carrying a social experience to sleep on the street in Sydney with homeless people, I couldn’t believe the spots outside the library is so popular for sleeping overnight.
Of course you have to take care of all your belongings, and never leave anything unattended, even it looks like rubbish, people still take it.
Alright, I think I include more or less all the possibilities to find a place to sleep when we travel, which ways do you prefer??
Do you have any interesting stories to share when you sleep in some unexpected locations?? Share with us!