Since I can remember I have loved to travel and explore the world. My parents already took me to many different countries when I was a child, however the destinations were mainly located in Europe.
The best and probably farthest trip we went on was a road trip through the Western United States. This was the starting point for me to go travelling on my own.
So, after I finished school I stayed 10 months in Australia doing work&travel. Having traveled basically the whole continent, I made many experiences I wouldn’t want to miss.
When I came back to Germany, I started having “Wanderlust” quite immediately, so whenever there was time, I traveled the world. I went to New York, Canada, Europe (Norway, Spain, France, Italy, … just to name a few countries) and my next destination is Asia.
Are you also interested in traveling? Then you know that there are many different ways how to explore a foreign country and the most basic question is usually: “Where to sleep?!”
During my travels I have experienced a lot of different possibilities of how to spend the night and in this article I would like to discuss them, giving Pros and Cons and then subsequently get to know your opinion.
When travelling with my parents or boyfriend I used to stay in hotels or motels because it’s just the most comfortable way of travelling. But at the same time it’s also the most expensive.
The benefits of a hotel are clearly the privacy, the cleaning service, and most of the time also the food. But the standards of hotels vary greatly in quality and service.
When choosing the hotel, one could consider the classification by stars, representing the quality standard. The problem is that the standards vary remarkably between different countries and there is no standardized rating system.
Only in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland the hotel associations created the so called Hotelstars Union, which is a classification system (from 1 star = basic/normal to 5 stars = luxury/excellent).
So keep in mind that 4 Stars in Egypt may not be equal to 4 Stars in Germany!
For further information about the Hotelstars Union, you can find more under the following link: http://www.hotelstars.eu/index.php?id=6
What comes to your mind when thinking about a motel? Well, I can tell that the clichés are not always fulfilled. When I traveled through Western US with my family, we only stayed in hotels in the big cities like LA, San Francisco or Las Vegas, but as soon as we arrived at the national parks and more rural areas, the typical accommodation was a motel.
I must admit that some of them were a little shabby, but most of the nights we spent there were even more relaxing than they would have been in a hotel.
You feel like having your own little house and you also have the feeling of security because your car is parked directly in front of the door.
This is also very convenient because you don’t have to carry your bags to the 27th floor or if you forgot something in the car it’s easily reachable. Of course you have to see to food yourself.
But I hereby want to adjust your image of motels and maybe, one day (or rather one night) you will be also considering staying in one of those.
My hostel room in Adelaide – what a mess! In 2008 I was travelling through Australia and New Zealand for 10 months. There, I only stayed in hostels because it was the cheapest accommodation to get and it was the best way of meeting fellow travelers and making new friends.
In New Zealand where I did a guided tour with “Kiwi Experience” the hostels were already booked in advance, so I didn’t even have any other possibility than to stay there.
In Canada we just booked a car and then stayed at hostels during the night because it was already too cold to sleep outside in a tent (although we first had to experience sleeping in a tent with temperatures of below 0 degree – wasn’t much fun).
A problem with hostels can be that they are fully booked and then you have to be spontaneous and sometimes very creative to find a place to sleep. The best way is to always book in advance when you already know about your travel plans.
Regarding the standards of hostels you can be lucky and get a bed in an actually clean, modern hostel with comfortable beds – which maybe only happened twice during my whole trip.
And then you can be – as most of the time – confronted with dirty rooms, mold in the bathroom, a badly-equipped kitchen and neighbors that turn the music volume up instead of down when you want to sleep.
Mostly I stayed in mixed dorms hosting up to 8 people in bunk beds because it’s the cheapest place you can get in a hostel. There is absolutely no privacy and you always have to look for your valuables.
Not only once was my food stolen, despite having name tags on it or having stored it in an extra bag.
So when choosing the option of staying in a hostel, you have to get used to the circumstances but then it can be really fun to meet new people, find fellow travelers and have a good time.
3. Rent a cabin
When I was travelling through Canada with 3 friends, we decided once to rent a cabin because it was as cheap as a room in the hostel.
The cabin was in this case a wooden hut right next to the hostel. We had a lot of space, our own bathroom, everybody had his/her own room to sleep, a kitchen with clean cooking utensils and a living room where we could spend the evening in privacy.
The good thing was that we could still use the internet access in the hostel as well as the jacuzzi. 🙂 I must admid that we were only so lucky to get such a good price for the cabin because it was off-season.
So renting a cabin is actually a good opportunity when you are a group of people and want to have some privacy but nevertheless you can use the facilities of the hostel and get to know people if you want to. I would consider doing that again, but only if it’s also as cheap as a normal dormitory bed.
Have you heard about WWOOFing? The abbreviation stands for “willing workers on organic farms” or (the more modern version) “working opportunities on organic farms”.
It’s a concept that comes from England and goes back to the year 1971. Sue Coppard was a secretary living in the city but wanted to support the organic movement.
She didn’t have the opportunity to go to the countryside, so she developed contracts with local farmers and opened the ways for people to work there in return for food and accommodation.
This movement developed and spread so fast that it is now known in many countries worldwide.
If you are interested in the topic, you can find more information under the following link: http://www.wwoofinternational.org/history-of-wwoof/
I have done WWOOFing twice in Australia and it was a wonderful experience. The first couple I stayed with were really friendly and the house offered a lot of space, so that I had my own big bedroom.
Concerning the work, it was quite hard to weed the garden every day for so many hours in the searing heat but I also learned a lot.
I got to know the famous cane toads (“Don’t lick their back, they are poisonous!”), held a bearded dragon (see picture), learned how to plant lettuce and when to pick bananas.
As they lived in a very remote area, we played board games in the evening, read a book or just went to bed early.
This was actually a nice change from the vibrant nightlife in the hostels and the big cities. The second farm I stayed at was a horse farm.
I went there with a friend and we had to train and feed the horses, do the household and gardening and as well as smaller works like painting the fence and clean up the shed.
If you get the chance, I can strongly recommend taking this opportunity.
The Couchsurfing project was founded in 2004 by a group of students in Iceland. They had the idea of offering your couch to strangers or – as they say – friends you haven’t met yet.
Now “Couchsurfing is a global community of 6 million people in more than 100,000 cities who share their life, their world, their journey.
Couchsurfing connects travelers with a global network of people willing to share in profound and meaningful ways, making travel a truly social experience.”
Source: https://www.couchsurfing.org/n/about. Last access: 29.06.2013)
I started Couchsurfing after my stay abroad in Australia. When I was there, I was too young and still too anxious about strange people hosting me or even talking to me – I couldn’t imagine staying at another persons’ house whom I knew nothing about.
Especially as a girl you are always warned about strangers that want to harm you in any possible way.
In the beginning I took those warnings seriously, but then, after I gained some travel experience and knew that people are actually really friendly,
I noticed that when people are travelling themselves it’s kind of a community that evolves; a travel community with the principle “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”, where people help each other, where people want to make new friends, connect with others on a global level and learn about different cultures.
When I noticed the opportunities this concept actually offers, I decided to become part of it and created a profile. Now I use Couchsurfing on a regular basis.
I’ve had only positive experiences so far being in Naples (Italy), Bergen and Stavanger (Norway) or even one weekend in Paderborn when searching for an apartment.
I personally haven’t slept in a campervan yet. But I heard it’s the common way of travelling when going to Canada or the US.
Some rental companies even offers special deals that you can transport the campervan from one coast to the other free of charge.
I could imagine that travelling in a campervan is a unique and special experience because you are very flexible when it comes to the decision where to stay overnight.
Especially when driving through national parks, remote areas or covering long distances without big cities so that there are no hotels or hostels available, it is very convenient to stop wherever there is a space and just go to bed.
When stopping at a proper campsite you even have the luxury of running water, a kitchen, power to cook and electric light. Also if it’s raining during the night there is no need to worry getting wet, which is definitely more comfortable than sleeping in a tent.
Thereby I come to my next point:
7. In a tent / Under the stars
The cheapest type of accommodation is probably sleeping in a tent or under the stars.
In order to go camping you only need a tent, a sleeping mat and a sleeping bag – and preferably warm weather.
But still there is another factor which you should consider before putting up your tent in the wilderness: the law or legal rights in the region where you want to stay overnight!
When I travelled the Australian West Coast, we had a lot of trouble because we put up our tent in a national park without knowing it. It was already dark when we arrived so we just took a spot that looked convenient.
We built up the tent, made a small campfire and started cooking. Suddenly we saw a moving light at the sky a few hundred meters away…the torch of the park ranger!
At that point we knew that we had to be in a national park where staying overnight was forbidden, so if caught we would have to pay a penalty.
First, we decided to extinguish the fire and wait if the light was coming closer or going to another direction. One of us went to the next hilltop to see where the ranger is heading to and he was coming directly towards us!
So we had to quickly fold the tents without properly taking them down, just throw everything in the back of the car and drive as fast as we could. We were lucky and got away with it although the ranger might have found our still warm fireplace…
Another option – only recommendable if it’s not cold or rainy – is to just sleep on the ground under the stars. The only conditions for a comfortable night are a beach or another place with rather soft ground where to put your sleeping bag.
Preferably you should use a camping mat to isolate yourself from most of the cold from the ground.
The negative side is that I only made use of this option twice in Australia because I was so afraid of all the nocturnal animals.
But the positive side is that you are rewarded with a beautiful sky showing so many stars there is hardly any dark spot left! An unforgettable experience!
8. In the car
And the final possibility of how to spend the night is in the car. This is actually the least expensive (if you have a car) but also least comfortable way of sleeping.
You should consider this only if there is no other way…like you are surrounded by dingoes and can’t get out of the car without being attacked,
or – like in our case – if your friend has to stay the night in hospital in a really small town without hostel/hotel
or similar facilities, camping is forbidden on the hospital ground, there is no campsite near the hospital and the neighbors scream and shout at you and send their dogs after you when you ask for a place where you could put up our tent.
And that’s all
So now that you’ve read about my adventures, what are your experiences with accommodation while travelling?
Have you had good/bad ones?
What was the most shocking thing that ever happened to you while travelling regarding accommodation?
I am looking forward to your comments! 🙂