Finding Cheap Accommodation Abroad

Vacation rental, $41 a night, Berlin, Germany
Vacation rental, $41 a night, Berlin, Germany | Source

© Nicole Paschal, All Rights Reserved

As Americans are forced to budget and cut costs more than in recent history, visiting other countries is often considered a luxury. One of the major hurdles can be the act of finding low-cost accommodation. We can trigger alerts, exchange flight miles, or search months ahead for that perfect flight fare, but finding budget accommodation is not so easy. Hotels, especially in major tourist areas, can be quite expensive and once taxes and fees are added, the costs can be overwhelming. Using alternative lodging, however, can minimize the price of a vacation considerably. Read below for a list of less expensive accommodation options to consider when planning your next vacation.


A condo I rented in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. View from Balcony. Cost averaged $78 a night ($39 per person).
A condo I rented in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. View from Balcony. Cost averaged $78 a night ($39 per person).

Vacation Rentals
Before I gained much experience traveling abroad, I used to think that vacation rentals were something for the rich. I pictured affluent vacationers dressed in white sitting on the terrace of exquisite private villas overlooking the sea at the expense of $2000 a night. Although it sounds ridiculous now, a vacation rental was something I thought a person like me could never afford. However, in recent years I’ve learned that vacation rentals can be some of the most cost-efficient options when traveling, especially if going abroad. Although some rentals come with maid service, usually at an extra fee, it is a great option for those that don’t mind cleaning up and cooking for themselves.

On sites like homeaway.com and flipkey.com, one can find many cost-efficient vacation options in the most coveted locations. Property owners list their homes on such website as a way to elicit a return on their investment. The key to finding a budget property in the perfect far-away destination is to search early and preferably travel in the off season. Since many owners require at least a deposit before the renter makes their trip, it is important to find a trustworthy proprietor. Although it may be easier to gain some restitution from a fraudulent property owner in the United States, one’s chances of recouping money sent to a foreign owner are greatly diminished. For such reasons, websites like those mentioned above allow vacationers to give the landlord and his vacation property reviews and ratings. If choosing to stay in a vacation rental, it is extremely important to look at the reviews of other travelers before engaging in a transaction with any owner.


Bedroom of Ocho Rios Condo rental.
Bedroom of Ocho Rios Condo rental.

For example, I rented a condo for my last vacation Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Discovering the seaside condo on homeaway.com, I was still a bit nervous after sending the deposit via Western Union. Despite my apprehensiveness, I relied on the fact that the owner had a plethora of pictures and excellent detailed reviews from previous renters. In the end, the condo was an excellent value and true to its description. The one bedroom seaside condo with security, a plush green landscape, and balcony to watch the water crash upon the rocks cost us only 550 for 7 days. For anyone willing to do their research and make their own bed, a vacation rental can be an excellent value.


Exquisite view left of balcony for less than $100 a night!
Exquisite view left of balcony for less than $100 a night!

Couch Surfing
Perhaps best for traveling alone, couch surfing might be a budget-conscious option for the bold at heart. Members of couchsurfing.com are a community of travelers and hosts who allow others to stay in their home while visiting a foreign region. Although many hosts exist in the United States, a multitude of them can be found abroad. A search for hosts in Budapest, for example, reveals over 14,000 results. The premise is easy. When one wants to visit a foreign country, he searches the website to find those living in the region with a couch or a spare room available. Although hosts typically ask you to clean up after yourself and be respectful, they do not ask for money. However, they may ask that you teach them a foreign language or chat with them about your travels. Naturally, when considering such endeavors, safety comes to mind. Although I’ve had friends that used the site and traveled to distant lands without incident, safety should still be the greatest concern for the sole traveler. Couchsurfing.com has implemented a referral system where other travelers or hosts can provide a reference about the party in question. Hosts can’t delete negative references, but they can reply and offer their own account. Couch surfing is indeed an adventure, and one that can be accomplished on a budget.


Italian couch surfing hosts.
Italian couch surfing hosts. | Source
Pics from Home Sweet Home Hostel in Siem Reap Cambodia. Pictured room is $8.00 per night.
Pics from Home Sweet Home Hostel in Siem Reap Cambodia. Pictured room is $8.00 per night.

Hostels
Hostels have long been a major source of accommodation for the traveling student, but few people know that adults can also take full advantage of hostel lodging. Although some hostels do have age restrictions, usually ending 35 years old, the majority are open for any traveler looking to sleep on a budget. Varying from dorm style rooms with a shared bathroom to singles and private bath, hostels can be an excellent option if willing to compromise a bit on privacy. Also, many hostels have cafes with native fare for purchase. Others may even have a bar serving alcohol. Sites like hostels.com and hostelbookers.com offer a wide assortment of hostel locations throughout the world. More importantly, depending on the location, one can find amazing deals. Some double rooms, like those in Home Sweet Home Hostel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, can rent for as low as $4.00 per person a night. The key to searching for a quality hostel at a low price is to book early and avoid traveling on popular student vacation dates such as Spring Break.

Would you ever couch surf?

  • No, too dangerous!
  • Yes, life is an adventure!
  • Maybe, after looking at other traveler's references.
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Which of these options do you find most appealing?

  • Couch Surfing
  • Vacation Rental
  • Hostels
  • None of them.
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