Where do you stay when you're travelling?
It's a question I am asked all the time, and one that doesn't always have a simple answer. Some want to know if I have a secret spot somewhere that they can try out. Some ask because they want a deal and are hoping that I know of one, and some have never really travelled before, and can't fathom not staying in a name-brand hotel, so are just curious.
But, there is no one answer to that question, as where I stay changes every trip I take. It is based on how long I am travelling for, where I am going, how much money I have to spend, whether I am alone or with friends, and many, many more factors.
For example, on a recent adventure, I stayed in a hostel, a hotel, a riad, a tent and a guest house — all over only 10 days!
I flew into London and knew that I wanted to stay in the city centre so I could easily walk, or take the tube, to the sights that I wanted to see. I also knew that because it was the middle of July and the most expensive time of year to travel in Europe, a hotel was not an option for me. I was travelling alone, and only spending one night in the city, so knew I would be fine with just crashing in a hostel.
I managed to get a bed in a four person female dorm (not usually my first choice) in the Piccadilly Backpackers (see image above) — located less than a block from the Piccadilly tube station and square of the same name — for 35 GBP (approx. 70 CAD). Not cheap when you look at the conversion, but still cheap for central London. The room was simple and clean. The communal showers had hot water, decent water pressure, and there was free wi-fi in the common area. It was safe, central and easy to find. The perfect crash pad.
The next night, I needed a place to stay near Gatwick Airport, as I had a really early flight the following day. I ended up staying at the Ibis Hotel near the airport for 35GBP (approx. 70 CAD) — the same price as my centrally located hostel. What I got here, however, was a modern, clean hotel with all the amenities, my own room, TV, wi-fi, and room service. It's amazing the difference being 20 minutes out of the city will make!
Since I started travelling when I was really young and on a shoestring budget, my first instinct is to always look for the cheapest place to sleep. But when I decided to spend a week in Morocco solo, I knew that throwing out a few extra dollars every night would get me a stunning room in a historic riad. (Plus, I am a Flashpacker now. I don't have to travel on a shoestring budget anymore!)
I found an incredible place to stay through my Lonely Planet guide (it comes in handy when booking from afar!), and made the Hotel du Tresor (highly recommended — message me if you want more info.) in Marrakesh my home base.
A traditional riad, the hotel was a series of whitewashed rooms draped in Moroccan carpets, pillows, lanterns, and art, that surrounded an internal courtyard with a plunge pool. The pool was what sold me on the place when I looked at it online because it was private, secluded and would be a must-have on +45 days. My room was 35 Euros (approx. 50 CAD) a night which included an impeccably decorated space with AC, a private bathroom, use of the pool, free breakfast, and an incredibly kind group of staffers who helped me navigate the country.
After a few nights in the riad, I spent one night in a Bedouin tent in the desert.
Something to note: The desert does NOT cool off at night in the heat of summer.
It was like sleeping in a sauna. There was no breeze, no AC, and the walls, floors and ceiling of the tent were draped in thick carpets making it pretty stifling. There were four of us that slept on small mattresses on the ground. The shared facilities were a three minute walk from camp and as basic as it gets (aka, a hole in the ground and a bucket with some water in it).
The night was part of a mini-tour I was on, and included dinner and breakfast. The meals and sleeping part of the tour probably works out to being about 40 CAD.
After the desert, I spent two nights in a guesthouse in a beach town called Agadir. The place I stayed was called the Hotel La Petite Suede and cost me 110 Dh a night (approx. 14 CAD). This got me a large, safe room with my own bathroom, and a simple breakfast of baguettes, jam and coffee in the morning. There was no AC, but there was a large window, and it was only a five minute walk to the beach.
(NOTE: I was in Morocco in the offseason and the prices I paid could be doubled, or even tripled in the high season.)
Here are a few things to consider when you are trying to figure out where to stay:
- Proximity. Do you want to be able to walk to all the tourist sights? Public transportation, or renting a car is not always cheap, and sometimes paying a few extra dollars to stay in the centre of a city will save you money in the long run.
- Do you want to meet people? Then DON'T stay in a hotel. You need a hostel, or a guest house with a common area.
- How long are you really going to spend in your room? What's the point of dropping a bunch of cash on a room you are only going to sleep in? If you aren't planning on spending much time at your hotel, then maybe you should be looking for a more standard, cheaper option.
- What do you really need to feel safe/comfortable? Is having a TV, AC, free WiFi, or even a bathroom to yourself must haves, or are they things that you can do without? The price of rooms is often cut in half if you are willing to go with a fan instead of AC.