Hotels, Hostels & BNBs,  Budget Travel

Alternatives to hotels | Budget Travel Tips

If you haven’t ever stayed anywhere but a hotel, you might not know about the wide, amazing world of travel accommodation. There’s FANTASTIC, unusual places to stay out there, and they’re often way cheaper than staying at a normal hotel.

For example: a budget hotel room in a major city can cost upwards of $150 USD per night. Some of the places on this list might be closer to $60 USD/night! Not only is booking places other than hotels a fun way to travel the world and see new places, but you’ll be able to save some money while doing it, too.

Here’s some alternative accommodation options to hotels, including examples of some of the places I’ve stayed myself.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and buy something, I get a small percentage of that at no extra cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.

Hostels

Typical hostel bunk bed

The OG for hotel alternatives: hostels, aka shared accommodation.

Hostels have big dorm rooms with bunk beds where anywhere from 4-20+ people sleep, shared toilet/shower facilities, common areas like cozy living room spaces, and (usually) kitchens with space to cook food. Hostels also often have group events for guests, such as free or cheap walking tours, pub crawls, and more.

Not only are they a great price, but you can meet other travelers as well and make new friends. While hostel guest ages trend towards young 20s, I’ve also met people from 30s-70s staying in hostels. Hostels are for everyone!

Don’t want to share a room? No problem! Hostels often have private rooms available as well. They typically cost a good chunk more than the dorm rooms, but they’re still cheaper than hotel rooms.

Here’s some of my favorite hostels I’ve stayed at:

Yeha Guesthouse on Jeju Island, South Korea. The common spaces here were perfectly set up so guests could meet each other and hang out, and that’s exactly what we did! I made friends with a group of other travelers and we stuck together for a few days while traveling around the island.

HI Chicago, The J. Ira & Nicki Harris Family Hostel in Chicago, Illinois, USA. A huge hostel with really nice common areas, a massive kitchen, and several hosted events. I splurged and got a private room here, which was in a block of 4 rooms like a dorm apartment. Super nice location for sightseeing as well!

Holy Sheet Hostel in Bangkok, Thailand. I’ve actually stayed here twice because I liked it so much! Well-located near a metro station and surrounded by great restaurants, with really nice staff (who take guests on nights out!) and a good free breakfast.

Bed & Breakfasts (B&Bs)

Typical B&B breakfast (in England, anyway).

B&Bs are like privately-run hotels where guests are provided a breakfast! You may have to share toilet/shower space with other guests, depending on the size of the B&B– most of them are renovated houses, which makes for a charming room to stay in.

The benefit of staying in B&Bs is not only the breakfast (which in my experience has always been HUGE) but also access to the owners, who have good local information and tips for sightseeing. You can also chitchat with other guests, who tend to be older folks (35+). Bed and breakfasts are most popular in Europe, especially western Europe.

Many B&Bs aren’t listed on the big OTA websites like Booking.com, because they don’t want to pay the booking fee. You may have to call them to book, or go directly to their website.

Here’s some websites to search for B&Bs in Europe:

InnSite.com is probably the most comprehensive, and has listings for Europe as well as the United States.

B&B Directory is great for United Kingdom stays.

Finally, check the tourism website for whatever town you’re interested in, as they may have B&Bs listed for tourists.

Guesthouses (Pensions)

These are very similar to bed and breakfasts, but they typically offer more than just breakfast to guests. The ones I’ve stayed at also tend to have more private ensuite rooms available– they may be built in houses, but they’ve been renovated to be closer to typical hotel style rooms.

Like B&Bs, you’ll usually get a very friendly owner who knows all the info about local spots and activities. They may also offer tours or transit around town (for an extra price).

Usually you’ll see these places called “pensions” in some parts of Europe, but guesthouses everywhere else.

Some of my favorite guesthouses are:

Pukyo Belgian-Lao Bed & Breakfast in Phonsavan, Laos is run by a Belgian expat and his Laos family. They offer free breakfast and paid dinners, and the host will drive guests into town, book tours, and so on. Really comfortable rooms and friendly people!

Indy House in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia is run by a local family and located IN the family compound. The rooms are comfortable and air conditioned, and the breakfast (banana pancakes with fruit and tea/coffee) is delicious! The owner does private motorcycle tours of the area as well.

Homestays

Room in a homestay in Edinburgh!

Another one similar to B&Bs, but even more informal. Homestays are where you rent a room in someone’s house (while they’re still living there). You’ll be sharing space with the family and other guests, and it’s a very cozy way to travel if you enjoy meeting locals and hanging out with them.

They usually offer breakfast, and you may be able to order other meals if you want. Like guesthouses, they might be able to hook you up with tours or other activities.

Homestays are very popular in Southeast Asia, but you can find them all around the world. Using AirBNB to search for rooms is a good way to do it.

I don’t often stay in homestays, but one of my favorites was one that I booked through AirBNB. I stayed for a few nights on the outskirts of Edinburgh in a room in a local’s house, and it was really nice!

Temple Stays/Monastery Stays

In certain countries, you can actually go to a temple and stay the night with nuns or monks. Usually you’ll get a private room, perhaps with an ensuite, breakfast and maybe an activity with the monks. This is a very different experience from other stays, as the goal isn’t necessarily sightseeing but to EXPERIENCE something new. As you’re staying in a religious setting, the activities typically are religious in nature, e.g. meditation in a temple or prayer in a monastery.

I don’t have any experience with this myself yet, but I do have some links to places to find temples to stay at! They often aren’t listed on the normal OTA websites, so finding them can be tricky.

MonasteryStays.com has a good directory of places to stay in Italy, Austria and Slovenia in particular.

TempleStay.com is for finding temples in South Korea and is run by the Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism.

Temple stays in Japan are called “shukubo” and the Japan National Tourism Organization has a list of websites to book them here.

Dorm Rooms

You might get access to student amenities, too!

When university students aren’t in session, what happens to their dorm rooms?

They get rented out!

Yes, you can get a dorm room in a university for a VERY good price– and often you’ll get an ensuite bathroom and perhaps even a kitchenette. The only downside is that you’re restricted to booking during breaks, which is mostly summer and winter.

I have some experience booking dorm rooms in the United Kingdom in particular, which I’ve written about here before. Finding them can be a little tricky, as they aren’t listed year-round, but if you can plan about two months ahead of when the student breaks are, you can find something.


Thanks for reading! I hope this gave you some ideas for places to stay during your travels that aren’t just regular hotels. Go out and explore!

Save to Pinterest

Explore More

More budget travel tips & tricks!

Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

Leave a Reply