Well, my Bali trip is approaching with huuuge steps, so it is also time to think about where to stay. I usually only book the first night and maybe the night afterwards, because in most cases, and especially in Asia or the US, it is really easy to find nice places to stay. It is good to listen to local recommendations and if you don’t pre-book, you also stay flexible concerning your travel plans. As a solo traveler, you usually have to calculate the price of a double room just for you, which might not be that expensive in Asia, but definitely in one of the European capitols or bigger cities.
In Bali, I also booked a lovely 4 day stay at a yoga retreat in Ubud, so I’m not in a hurry to book.
But – what is the best choice as a solo traveler?
When you are backpacking or road tripping and prefer cheaper accommodations most of the time, you might also want to spoil yourself with one or the other awesome deluxe beds to sleep in. This is absolutely ok, but I in general would not recommend to stick too much to those big castles. First of all, you hardly will get in touch with the real local atmosphere and people. Second, this is usually the place were couples and families stay, which means that it might be a bit hard to get in contact with other travelers. It’s absolutely not nice to eat alone or always sit alone at the bar, believe me. If you want to book trips or cars or transport at those places, usually they are more expensive. Be aware of these facts, enjoy the one or another night in such hotels and you will be fine. By the way, whenever I visit a cool city workwise and want to prolong the stay to have some days there, I usually stay at the hotel I was booked in from work. Usually we have good rates and I just don’t want to move around too much.
They come in various ways, might it be as Asian bungalows, little houses or lodges. The prices vary from very cheap to rather high, but they are always a more personal than big hotels. Very often they have lovely gardens or little restaurants with them and you can get in contact with other travelers or the owners easily. When I book local guest houses, I also try to avoid big booking platforms, in order to avoid the fees they have to pay them. Sometimes you also get a nice bargain, if you just ask friendly or attempt to walk away after a first check ;-) The owners often have good connections to travel agents, can arrange a guide for trips or have the contact of good taxi drivers. So you probably get a great value for money deal in a professional way.
Homestays/Bed and Breakfasts
These are absolutely awesome to meet up with locals, but since many of the houses are really small, not necessarily with too many other travelers. Those guys who are offering rooms in their buildings or houses often spoil you with great breakfasts consisting of real local ingredients and food (oooh I remember my first breakfast in Sri Lanka as the only guest in that homestay), it feels a bit like being part of a family especially when you stay longer, and you really get a look on the local life. In Austria for example, a lot of the farmers are offering rooms on their farms, which is a great way to dive into the countryside life. But: in some cases, it also might a bit too personal or a little clash of cultures. Since the rooms are like they live, it sometimes it is a bit too much local culture in a nutshell (oooooh I remember my first impression during the first night in Sri Lanka too ;-)). And you should double check, if they speak English and if their driver really will find the place, if you get a transport service (ooooh I remember that hell of a ride in Sri Lanka…). They can be cheap, but the bigger ones (or more famous ones) are often as expensive as guest houses or smaller hotels.
In expensive countries, hostels are a good way to get an affordable bed as a solo traveler too. In Israel for example, I paid about 40 EUR for a bed in a 6 person dorm (incl. breakfast and towel service) in Tel Aviv. That’s the amount you pay for a nice little guest house room or small hotel in Austria and Germany!
Hostels will definitely help you to find new friends. Wherever I stayed in hostels (whether I had a smaller room or a bed in a dorm), I always found new friends and guys to make a day trip, have some beers, go out for dinner etc. There is always some kind of (rooftop) bar and there is always a program, where the team also wants to bring people together. There are really crappy ones, but nowadays also a lot of really cool and sophisticated places with great design and amenities. You usually can book good and affordable day trips and get loads of tips for cheap drinks and food (and often vouchers too!). And: they are in great locations most of the time, right in the middle of the cities or at the beaches. Which is definitely a plus.
When sleeping in a hostel, be sure to bring flip flops (shared showers are an awesome place for all kinds of bacteria and stuff), your lock (for the locker) and one of these cotton bed inlays might also be a good idea. You have to be aware, that the nights might be noisy, always someone getting up early or coming home late (often drunk). So if you have a light sleep – good luck.
To be honest, I try to avoid sleeping in hostels and especially dorms (after a really not so funny experience in Amsterdam), but if I really want to save money, I look for the ones that have mixed target groups concerning the age of their guests. They sometimes also offer single or double rooms for a good price, and you will meet people over 22 ;-), have your own room, but the place still offers the mentioned advantages. And they are always a lot cheaper than hotels around.
In many countries and especially big cities, Air Bnb accommodations are a an awesome way to discover the area. The hosts are used to share their flats and houses and as long as you have not problem in somehow living with a stranger in his private place, you will love it. Sometimes they offer whole flats, but I personally have no problem to share. You will meet a lot of interesting people with incredible life stories, you will find definitely also great friends. I remember for example the place I stayed in Tel Aviv for the last two nights: 2 mins from the beach, I had my own terrace above the roofs of Tel Aviv and the great host Omri had loads of food and party recommendations and even borrowed me a bike. The flat was lovely and very stylish. I still have the little message he wrote me before I left and those are the very special souvenirs you bring from a trip. All this for the price of a hostel! I really love the way you meet people that way and feel more at home than in a impersonal hotel room. And since I travel much for business reasons, I already have seen so many neutral hotel rooms, so I enjoy those personal and cosy places (like the lovely flat in Hamburg this summer).
Good for groups and families, not so good when traveling alone ;-) But yes, if you find some new friends on the road and you decide to go a bit of the way together, an apartment might be a good money for value accommodation.
So yes, all of these have pro’s and con’s. When on a trip, I try to find a mix from all of them and since it is my holiday, I really love to get in contact with the local life and people. I experienced so many unforgettable crazy, wild, unexpected and lovely moments with those people and other travelers, so yes, even though I love to spoil myself with a great hotel, I prefer the other types. Because traveling is also about the people you meet :-)