Hostel. Hotel. Guesthouse. Lodging. Accommodation. Room. No matter what you call the place you sleep, you probably don’t want to blow your whole budget on it – especially if you’re out exploring for most of the day! That being said, even the most budget of us budget backpackers don’t really want to stay in 10 bed mixed dorms every night for months on end. Yet spending a lot on accommodations while traveling always feels like a waste.
Whether you’re looking for a bit of privacy, a good night’s sleep, to get more for your bang for your accommodations buck, or simply a way to cut down on lodging costs throughout your trip, this guide is for you! Here’s how to save money on hostels (and other forms of lodging) while traveling.
How To Save Money On Hostels & Lodging
Book Directly Through the Hostel Site
Hostelworld Is so convenient – it has all the best spots, it saves your credit card so you can book with a single click, and, of course everyone else is using it. So it must be the best way to book, right? Wrong. While wonderful in many ways, Hostelworld is not so wonderful in that it charges a deposit fee with each booking, increasing the overall cost of your room. This also becomes problematic if you cancel, as you lose your deposit unless you selected the “flexible booking” option which is an additional $1USD per booking. [When your room is only $4 a night, that’s a ton. It also adds up over time]. Many hostels will even tell you in person NOT to book on Hostelworld as it’s more expensive.
⭐Do This | Use Hostelworld to find where you want to stay – I agree it’s easy, has great options, and is a good way to read reviews. But then, before booking, check out the hostel’s site directly and see if rates are lower. If so, just book there. Savings add up over time, and if you need to cancel you won’t lose your deposit!
Choose A Chain Hostel
Part of the fun of travel is finding cool new places to stay and discovering hostels. But it’s part of the annoyance, too, when you leave an amazing spot with fresh eggs and immaculate bathrooms for one crawling with ants and hair in the drain. While I sometimes feel like I should avoid “chains” and stay at as many unique places as possible, time has proven it’s sometimes best – and cheapest – to stick with something if you like it.
⭐Do This | If you like a hostel and they have multiple locations, book with them in your next city. But be sure to make your booking at the desk. Most hostels offer a discount of about 10% for booking at another location, so you can save a lot especially for longer stays. Some hostel chains with especially great multiple location discounts I’ve stayed at include: Kokopelli (Peru), Selina (South/Central America), Onderz (Cambodia), Generator (Europe).
Book At the Last – and I Mean Last – Minute
Sometimes last minute bookings are a bad idea. But sometimes they are not. If you’re flexible and OK with not getting your #1 choice – which many backpackers are, as we often don’t even make a booking until we arrive at our destination city – this is a great method.
⭐Do This | Some sites offer amazing last-minute deals. Agoda.com in particular is great for this. I recently secured a $260 private beach bungalow for only $26 (that’s 90% off, for those not partial to math) when I booked three hours before arrival. This is not a unique experience; I’ve gotten other similar values simply be waiting til the last second. Of course this can backfire, but if you’re flexible it’s certainly worth a shot. *Please note, this method works better for hotels/private rooms than hostels.
Pay in the Local Currency
It’s all the same as it’s converted, right? Not right. You get the best value when you avoid conversions and pay in the local currency (this applies for any transaction, not just lodging).
⭐Do This | Pay for your lodging in the local currency in cash when you arrive. Or, if using a credit card, select the local currency rather than that associated with your card – the machine will prompt you or the hostel should ask (if they don’t, you can aggressively specify). It may be tempting or second nature to say “USD!” (or whatever your home currency is), but resist the urge! Your budget will thank you.
Check Your Receipt
If you pre-book online, you get a confirmation email. If you used Hostelworld you paid a deposit, so when you arrive you owe only some portion of the total. Sometimes (a lot of times), hostels forget this.
⭐Do This | Compare what they charge you at the hostel to the confirmation email. May times I’ve had them attempt to re-charge me the portion I already paid online. Other times they’ve asked for some random amount that varied slightly from what I owed. While in 99% of cases I believe this is a genuine accident, you should always check to avoid wasting money. Even if it’s a small difference, it adds up over time!
Don’t Automatically Overlook the [Glorious] Private Room
The general assumption is a mixed dorm bed is always the cheapest option. This sometimes untrue sentiment may also be reinforced through the slightly judgmental stares given when you reveal you are, in fact, staying in a private room despite a strict budget. But don’t be fooled or embarrassed! If you’re not traveling alone a shared room isn’t always cheaper.
⭐Do This | If you are traveling in a pair or group also check out the prices of the private room. Even if it’s not cheaper, it may be the same price as 2+ dorm beds and you’ll stretch your dollar by getting a better (and quieter) room for the same amount.
Use Rewards and Stay For Free
What better way to save money than to pay nothing at all? Staying for free is amazing — especially if staying for free means staying in a hotel or a nice private room that’s typically out of budget. While many travelers/bloggers dream of becoming famous enough to get those illusive comped stays in return for our reviews, for most of us this isn’t reality (at least not yet!).
⭐Do This | Create an account on any and all booking sites you use, and try to use the same site(s) repeatedly. This way you will accrue points/nights/credits at a faster rate. I could go into a lot more detail on the ins and outs of this, but it isn’t my area of expertise so I suggest checking out another site (will update with some good links soon). But here are the two things I do most often.
- Hotels.com | Get 1 free night for every 10 you book. It takes a while, but that free hotel night is glorious when it arrives. To accrue faster, I kindly offer to book hotel stays for my family/friends (using my account login, of course).
- Booking.com | Offers a $15 credit for referrals. Share the link with your friend and you both get $15 off. With all the people you meet on the road, surely someone doesn’t have an account yet and you can both benefit.
Follow these tips and you’ll be sure to save money on hostels and lodging, and/or get more for the money you do spend.