As travelers, we often think about how we can help out and improve things in the countries we visit through volunteering and sustainable, responsible travel. Something we tend to hear less about, however, is how to help with issues happening back home while we are traveling or living abroad. Whether they are natural disasters, political or social upheavals, or a million other things, turmoil back home still effects us even when we’re on the other side of the world. Some people will say that you should just ignore everything and not let it ruin your good time, but most of us want to do what we can to aid those back home in times of need. So I’ve made a short, simple list of things you can do today to provide support to your home city or country when needed. (This was of course brought on by the current dumpster fire that is the United States, but these tips are all applicable to any country or situation.)
If you’re a budget backpacker planning a long-term trip, you’ve no doubt come across the idea of working for accommodation in hostels. You work for a couple of hours a day and in exchange don’t have to pay for your bed. It’s truly a great trade off: you get a bed for a little bit of work and still have plenty of time to explore the place you’re staying in (or find a part time job to help save up some more cash.) But working for accommodation isn’t just some bippity-boppity-free-bed situation. So here are some things you need to know before you sign up:
Trying to book a hostel while traveling can be a doozy. Sometimes there aren’t a lot of options. Sometimes there are so many you have no idea what to go with. Can you trust the reviews? This one is rated lower but it’s also way cheaper, is the trade off worth it? What amenities do I really need? Last week I wrote about some of the different kinds of hostels you might encounter. This week I want to talk about how you can go about figuring out which hostel you should book.
Accommodation takes up a large part of any traveler’s budget, so if you’re trying to travel as cheaply as possible you will likely end up staying in a lot of hostels. But not all hostels are created equally. They run the gamut from near hotel status to terrifying holes in the wall barely fit for human inhabitation. Below I’ve covered a few of the different types of hostels you might encounter on your travels.
Traveling around Europe can be pretty expensive, even when you try your best to budget and penny (or rather, Euro) pinch. Next to transportation, accommodation eats up one of the largest chunks of your budget. But there are some ways to keep some of that money in your wallet (for food!) There are obvious things like picking cheap hostels and booking in large shared rooms, but something a lot of people might not think about is where they’re spending the different parts of their week.
Weekend rates (at hostels, hotels and even AirBnbs) skyrocket in every major city. And if you are really looking to party in a big city and want to stay right in the action, then paying extra might be worth it for you. But if you are looking to save some money, you can plan to spend you weekends in smaller cities and then go to the big cities during the week (or even just stay in the smaller city and take the train/bus to the larger city on the weekend days, which is sometimes still cheaper than staying in the big cities.)
For example, on a recent weekend I had planned to go straight to Amsterdam from Antwerp. Looking at hostels, almost everything was booked out, and what was left was super expensive. No surprise there, Amsterdam is a huge party city so of course it will be packed on the weekends. Now, if you know everywhere you will be going well in advance, you may be able to get a good weekend rate on a room if you book early enough. If you are like me, however, and have no idea where you are going until a few days before, things get a little trickier.
Weekday Amsterdam, still just as beautiful and interesting
I’m not a huge partier, so instead of paying crazy prices to stay the weekend in Amsterdam, I decided to look around at nearby cities and see what I could find. I ended up in Rotterdam at a lovely hostel (Ani & Haaiken) for only about 19 Euro per night, about 1/2 of the prices I found in Amsterdam (note: those prices were at non-shady hostels, there were about two left that were $15 a night, but they were obviously still free for a reason.) I spent the weekend exploring Rotterdam and then went on to Amsterdam on Monday, when I could find a room at a good hostel for a decent rate. So I got to see an awesome city and save money: win/win! And it’s not like Rotterdam is some little town in the middle of nowhere, so don’t think you have to leave civilization to get a good deal. Just look for cities that aren’t tourist central and you’ll have a much better chance at finding a decent rate on accommodation.
The hostel in Rotterdam (Ani & Haakien) even came with a cat!
So when you are planning your own trip, take a look at what cities you have planned for you weekends and see what the prices are. You might realize that there is a nearby city you’d also like to visit that would be a perfect cheap weekend city. Who would have thought adding a city to your itinerary could save you money?