If you want to find the cheapest accommodation world wide, then searching hotel comparison websites like Agoda, Expedia and many others are not going to get you the right results!
Aside from most of those sites taking a commission, they won’t represent the cheapest hostels because a) They don’t make much commission, b) The quality might not be high enough, (but not necessarily some cheap places are great), c) The smaller (and remote) places don’t have the reach to be easily found on the internet or included on such sites.
In this article I present our top tips for finding the cheapest accommodation and then present a table of estimated prices by region for the average cheap room and the super cheapest room.
Quick tips for sleeping cheap:
1. Pre-booking. For westernised countries I would probably start with something like Hostelbookers.com or HostelWorld. Most hostels will be registered on the internet these days, so just turning up in London without looking online first may end up with a lot of walking around and hassle and won’t cost any less than pre-booking. Checking the personal website of the hostel once you find one that looks good is often worthwhile, you often get more of a feel for the place than just looking at it on a search website. Avoid the big hotel sites like expedia, they rarely feature the cheapest places anyway and have higher prices when they do.
2. Just turn up. For less-developed countries it can be a little trickier to find the cheapest rooms online! The best prices are often going to be the ones you get when you turn up and walk around a few places, often you can barter, especially if it is low season. Additionally, you can go in and see the room, which is good if it turns out to be horrible – don’t pay until you have looked at the room! Still, it makes sense to have general idea of what the room prices should be so you can barter for a good price, so take some time to do some research, and read our price table below!
3. Traveller websites. For less touristy destinations wikitravel is often a good starting point to find some of the cheapest places that have contact details so you can contact them directly – just do a search for the town/city and then take a look at the budget sleep section. These are places that have been visited by travellers, some of which may be hard to find an internet presence for, some have websites and email, some will only have a phone number. I still find Hostelbookers.com and HostelWorld can be a decent starting point too. They are far from being exhaustive lists of all the possibilities, but I have found dorms and rooms for under $5 per person in many undeveloped countries. They represent some of the same hostels, but also some variation so worth looking at both.
4. Trawling through Blogs and forums can also yield some good up-to-date results, but this can take a while if you are trying to pre-book an entire multi-location trip. Always check the date the blog was posted to make sure the prices are recent. With some very out of the way locations, blogs/forums and google maps are about the only sources that will yield any results. Budget accommodation in Myanmar is still poorly represented online, for example.
5. Ask other travellers. Meeting new people is part of the reason for travelling, and most people love to be asked for advice. You are bound to meet people who have recently come from destinations you will soon be visiting, ask them where they stayed and if it was good value – keep notes, after a few beers you find yourself saying the next day “where was it they recommended?”
6. Book one night ONLY in advance. If you prefer not to take too many risks in just turning up then do a little internet research, choose somewhere that looks ok and cheap and book your night of arrival only, by the next evening you should have been able to find somewhere else cheaper locally but without trying to do so at 11pm carrying all your backpacks around.
7. Couchsurfing. Obviously couchsurfing is free and a great travel experience. If you haven’t tried this before, have concerns, or have been getting a lot of negative replies to your requests then you need our :
$free Guide to being successful at CouchSurfing
This is a very rough guide, by region. It’s general and by no means a gold standard for planning your trip budget, but in the initial phase before you have done more research this should help you get a ball park figure to aim for. Then head over and use our Travel Budget Calculator to start working out your budget for your next adventure!
I’ve included a number of regions and prices for a private double (per room price) and a hostel bed in a dorm room (per person). The “Low” price is an estimate of just how low you could get if you shop around, turn up, or stay out of the main tourist areas rather than booking through popular places that have shiny websites. The “average” price is based solely on an average of the many cheapest prices for accommodation that advertise online, based on my research and experience – its an average CHEAP price, not an average price for all types of accommodation.
If you have found prices lower than my “Low” price, please leave a comment (be specific: Hostel name, location, price) so I can make changes, and if the “Low” price is unrealistic due to recent inflation (like in Burma 2012/13!) then please put that in the comments too.