29 Sep

Three Ways To Sleep Around The World

No, not that kind of sleeping around! I’m talking about regular, old fashioned, lay-your-head-on-a-pillow kind of sleeping. Those of you that thought this would be some kind of salacious, really-get-to-know-Gillian posts will be disappointed ;-)

Sila Resort, Sukhothai, Thailand

One of the things I was really worried about before leaving was sleeping in so many different places. I imagined all kinds of sketchy scenarios that included creepy crawly critters, stained bed sheets, foul smells, and paper thin walls. And, while we did encounter each of those, it was never as bad as it had been in my imagination.

Turns out that one of the most difficult parts of traveling around the world is actually finding a place to stay for the night. Oh, there are plenty of rooms for rent, but I seemed to have trouble finding a reliable way to filter through them all and find the best one for us.

I think that searching for a place to stay was one of the biggest tasks I had. I never seemed to find the ‘sweet spot’ of balancing research and finding the perfect place. I tried researching many, many places and then choosing…and I tried only researching one or two places and neither method changed the result. I spent hours cross referencing all the places on TripAdvisor but, even then, still wasn’t confident that I’d made the best choice. It always seemed to be a crap shoot as to whether the place would be good or not.

Bed at Hostel Verona, Arequipa Peru The three best ways I found are:

1. Check The Guidebook

Use a guidebook that caters to the type of travel you’re doing. No point checking Lonely Planet if you’re expecting luxury any more than it’s worth checking Frommers if you’re expecting budget.

We used LP and usually looked at the midrange price options – we may be budget travelers but we don’t need bottom-of-the-barrel. I’ll be honest, it was hit and miss. The descriptions of hotels/hostels seemed to be all over the map. What one writer described as ‘clean, cute and cozy’ was definitely not what I would call any of that. Yet, other times, we found some real gems.

Rating: imageimageimage

2. Surf Accommodation Sites

We used the internet a lot in researching where to stay. There were a few regular accommodation sites that I would search but, just like the guidebook, I found a lot of variation within and across sites not only with descriptions but also with price.

Here are some of the sites I used:

Rating: imageimageimage

3. Get Real Traveler Recommendations

This was, by far, the best way to find a place to stay. Speaking directly with other travelers , or connecting with them by email, provided the best information regarding what a place was like and whether we would like it.

After meeting someone, or reading their blog, or chatting by email, we would know a little bit about what they were like. Did they travel in the same style as us or did they flop in dorms all the time? Was their budget twice ours? Or half? Then, when I asked their advice I would know where that advice fit within our travel style.

This was my absolute favorite way of finding a place because all the research had been done for me. I didn’t have to check it out online, or look for user reviews, or worry that we wouldn’t like it. I would just book a night, or just show up, based entirely on the recommendation.

Thank you so much to all that I contacted for advice. I really appreciate that you took the time to get back to me. I always pay it forward and am more than happy to help anyone who contacts me.

Rating:  imageimageimageimageimage

Bonus: Get An Apartment If Possible

Many times, if staying longer than 3 or 4 nights, getting an apartment is totally worth it. We had apartments in Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Berlin, Germany. Each time, the nightly cost was a little more than our usual budget for a night but it was worth it to be in a neighborhood and have a kitchen and living room for a few days. We would be able to relax, cook a meal or two, explore a real neighborhood and enjoy quiet evening cocktails. We could really pretend that we lived there and, in each case, we really wished we did!

There are plenty of ways to find apartments – Craigslist probably being the most popular – but we always used an agency. I just felt more comfortable having the buffer of the agency to guard against scams (not that an agency couldn’t scam you either). I found some of the agencies I checked out in the Lonely Planet and sometimes I just googled looking for them.

Rating: imageimageimageimageimage

11 thoughts on “Three Ways To Sleep Around The World

  1. Another resource I would add is to ask the hotel/hostel you are leaving to refer another hotel/hostel at your destination. This doesn’t always work, but we found it especially helpful in Vietnam and China. You just have to accept that the referring hotel will likely get a fee, but not having to do all the research to find a comparable place was worth it to me. And the fee is usually subtracted off the price you would have paid if you found the place on your own, so it shouldn’t cost you anymore.

    I love the pictures for this post. Another good thing to try and remember to do is ask to see the room when you arrive, but before paying. That way if it resembles the 2nd room you can walk away, or ask to see another, nicer room.

    • Thanks Keith for reminding me of this one! I remember you gave us this advice, and we used it successfully too.

      Interestingly, the first picture is from a place we stayed at in Sukothai, Thailand and was recommended to us by a fellow traveler. The second picture is from Arequipa, Peru – we were early in our travels and still trying to figure out a good method.

  2. once again….flying at full throttle with just the intro and WHAM! …shot down :)

    Good advice for the next journey. Thanks G!

  3. We found hostelbookers and wikitravel to have the best outcome for us. On hostelbookers we always made sure to stay at a place with a 80% rating or higher. And when hostel bookers had nothing, the accommodation listings on wikitravel were always really good and bang on with their descriptions.

    You are correct the guidebooks choice of words are something to ponder on most locations. Makes me wonder if they are “oh come stay at my place for free, you do review in your book so they end up writing something “nice”

    Also apartments do end up being really great. We scored on one in Barcelona! But we did bombed on one in Budapest…

  4. Good tips…we usually use some combination of the above. We also like booking.com. We’ve found great deals there – we are currently staying in a Japanese business hotel that normally would be well over $100 for just $51. We’ve also found our best apartments on there – like the super sweet apartment we found in Budapest for $45 a night that had a great location, full kitchen, washing machine, free fast wifi, hairdryer, and satellite tv with English channels. Booking.com doesn’t always churn out great results, but it often provides a nice budget alternative to hostels.

    Gillian, I’m curious, did you guys normally book in advance, even just a day or so, or just show up? We’ve done everything from showing up without any research, showing up having done research, and booking ahead a day or so in advance. Our best value places have been the result of doing research, but it is all too easy to get sucked into the internet vortex in an attempt to find The Perfect Place.

    • Thanks, Amy, for the booking.com recommendation. Sounds like it can be a good investment of time.
      We tried booking well ahead, booking just ahead, booking only one night, and just showing up…I’m not sure that booking ahead gave us any advantage as far as getting a better place but it reduced our stress and let us just accept what it was once we got there – don’t discount what that can mean in a day!

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention One Giant Step…Is All It Takes » Three Ways To Sleep Around The World -- Topsy.com

  6. Dear Gillian,
    These are really good tips. Thanks for your list. I usually check tripadvisor and consult guidebooks, but I’ve gotten some fantastic recommendations by asking travelers who’ve been there before. I also really like the idea of asking your current hostel for a rec for the next place.

  7. When my wife and I were in Bali I let her do all the accommodation arrangements because she spoke the local language. She worked with a local travel agent who got us incredible “local” deals. Plus we paid in local currency and not dollars.

Comments are closed.