How to Choose the Right Accomodations

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The view from the villa I spend a couple of night at in Taormina, Sicily.

Discovering new and foreign places and cultures can be exhausting.  Not only can it be tiring for your mind to take in all the new surroundings, but it can be a lot on your body as well.  So, at the end of the day, having a nice, clean, comfortable place to come back to is necessary, and it doesn’t have to break your bank account either.

I have spent quite a few nights in “shit holes.”  Really, there is no other way to describe some of the hostel/guest houses I’ve stayed at.  But hey, it’s all part of the adventure, right?  Of course!  On the other hand, you don’t always need to torture yourself just to save a dollar or two.  After all, if you’re cranky and exhausted from not getting a good sleep, you won’t enjoy your travels.  Therefore, choosing the right hostel/guest for a good price is important, especially as a budget traveler.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

Shop Around

It’s very tempting to stay at the first hostel/guesthouse you come across when you arrive in a new place; especially if you have been traveling on a hot stinky bus for countless hours.   All you want to do is to drop your bags, take a shower and collapse on your bed and let out a sigh of relief.  However, I would highly recommend taking a look around at a few hostels/guesthouses before settling on a place.  This will allow you to get an idea of how much a room should cost in the area you are staying in.  You will also get a feel of the atmosphere of different places, and decide which one best suits you.

Don’t Always Follow Guide Books

It is comforting and easy to pull out your guide book and pick one of the recommended hostels/guesthouses listed under the city you’re staying in; especially if the place you are visiting is new and you are feeling overwhelmed.  However, while the places of accommodation recommended in guide books can sometimes be fairly good and cheap, it’s not always the best choice.  I have stayed in hostels/guesthouses recommended guide books, and they have not been very good.  Usually the places listed are in hot zones.  This means, you will be surrounded by other tourists, and you could be paying more than you would be paying at a place just down the street.  I also like to discover places to stay on my own.  You never know, you could find a real gem if you just go out and look.  In Rishikesh, India, I discovered a guesthouse called Hotel Om.  The family who owns the place are very nice.  The rooms are very large and clean.  It’s located on a safe and very interesting street.  The room comes with an attached washroom with hot water, clean bed sheets, a television with many channels, a balcony and a large closet.  It cost me $80 to stay there for 36 days.  Pretty great deal if you ask me.

Talk to Other Travellers

The best way to find out about great places to stay, is by talking with other travellers.  During a boat ride from Koh Tao to Koh Phangan in Thailand, Siya and I sat beside this really nice lady who ended up being from Canada but had lived on Koh Phangan, Thailand for the past four years.  After talking about our plans in Thailand, she suggested that while we are staying on Koh Phangan, we should stay at a place called Mac Backpacker owned by her friend.  It ended up being a really great little beach front bungalow resort , owned by a great family and cost only $5 (split between the both of us) per night.  What we thought would only be a one week stay on the island, ended up being three, just because we liked the place we were staying at so much.

If you are someone who likes to arrange your accommodations ahead of time, you can use websites like Hostel World to not just book but also read honest reviews from other travellers. You can see what other travellers have rated each place based on a star system as well as a detailed description of what they liked and/or dislikes about the place and whether it’s worth the money. It’s always nice to get first hand advice from other travellers. It gives you confidence that the place you are looking to stay at is a good choice.

Scope Out the Place

After the incident, Siya and I had in India, we become extra wary about the places we stay at.  We make sure we scope out a place before deciding on it to make sure it is not only clean and welcoming but safe too.   We make sure all windows have bars or locks on them, that the bed is comfortable, the toilet and shower are working, there are outlets to plug stuff in, there is a place to hang a bug net if necessary and there is at least one window in the room (I don’t like to feel like I’m in prison).  It’s also good to ask about extra services such as wireless internet, laundry service and included meals.  I also like to be able to use my own lock on the door to the room.  Most importantly, make sure you feel comfortable and safe in both your room and the surrounding area.  Even if the place you are looking at has lots of amenities, and is affordable, if you don’t feel right about it, then don’t stay.  Follow your instinct.  It’s always there to protect you.

Cheap places can sometimes be the most beautiful places to stay in.  Two of the most beautiful places I ever stayed in in my life were very cheap.  In Taormina, Sicily, Siya, my mom and I, spent a couple of night in a villa built into a cave high up in the mountains.   It cost us 20 Euros total a night.  The view from the villa was spectacular.  Check out the photo at the top of this post and see for yourself.  Another amazing place I’ve stayed in, was a beautiful wooden loft on the beach in Ahmed, Bali that cost $21 CAD a night (split between three people).   So the next time your choosing your accommodations in a new place remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to stay in a nice place.

Resort I stayed at in Ahmed, Bali.

Come on in! The mainn entrance to our loft in Ahmed, Bali.

The lower level of the loft.

The second level of the loft.

View from our balcony in Ahmed, Bali

The garden at our place in Ahmed, Bali

The villa I stayed at in Taormina, Sicily

The bedrooms built into a cave inside the villa.

The villa dining area.

What are your tips for choosing the right accommodations while travelling?


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  1. BigBen
    July 20, 2015 / 7:28 am

    Article’s like yours inspire me to travel! Also helps me save money:)
    Have you been to Eastern Europe or Russia? I’m planning to go there but have a doubt about cheap places, you wrote that it might be the most beautiful places, but in this case Im concerned about security… In Travel all Russia agency’s guide it says to stay in known places to be sure of your safety. Do you have any advices? I think it’s less safe than in most European countries, but safer than in South America.

  2. May 14, 2011 / 7:48 am

     good post — sending you an email about a similar one I did. Thanks!

  3. Mama_mia_244
    May 10, 2011 / 6:01 pm

    Kristen I loved your write, it was interesting and insightful. Good job.