TRAVEL TIPS: HOTEL ALTERNATIVES- CASTLES, TREE HOUSES, PRISONS, TIME SHARES, CAVES
Last week I began my new travel tips series documenting all the different types of accommodation around the world, from free to budget to mid-range to luxury. Starting with great alternatives to standard luxury hotels and resorts, I discovered so many unique, interesting types of accommodation, that I actually need to write several posts just on that narrow range of world accommodation.
In case you missed it, in Unique Hotels of the World part 1, I presented under-water hotels, snow hotels, boutique-art-design hotels, Japanese ‘ryokan’ and British ‘cottages’. Today I bring you 5 more Luxury Hotel Alternatives. See if any of these float your boat:
A few years ago, I had the exciting pleasure of staying in a treehouse bungalow while traveling through Thailand. I felt almost like Robinson Crusoe climbing up into my tree and looking down from my balcony over the island. I felt like a real adventurer. I was even more excited that my quirky lodging cost only 200 TB / $5 US at the time.
More recently, investigating tree house hotels online, I discovered that they’re located all over the world. Costa Rica, Mexico, USA, England, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, New Zealand, India, Fiji, and China all offer tree house hotels.
However, upon closer inspection, I noticed that most of the so-called tree house rooms are simply built up on tall stilts from the ground. They’re not actually located in trees!
As far as I’m concerned, those aren’t tree houses at all, but elevated rooms. Since houses-on-stilts are actually a typical traditional house construction for ordinary homes all over SE Asia, they don’t even seem unusual or unique to me.
A bit disappointingly, the only real tree house hotels I found that offer rooms actually built in trees are located in Thailand and, surprisingly, China.
Google ‘tree house hotels’ to see which places appeal to you.
Have you ever wondered how you’d feel to be a knight, a lady-in-waiting, or a member of a royal European family in a by-gone era? Staying at a castle hotel is a great opportunity to find out. Experience a part of European history, enjoy stunning views, and bask in luxurious interiors.
Castles are an integral part of European history and are still proudly standing throughout Europe and UK. Castles are set in stunning scenery and landscaped gardens. Some rest behind moats or along the shores of lakes and rivers. More than 200 castles have been converted into luxurious hotels, while retaining their original architecture, interiors and ambiance. Nearly 100 castle hotels are found in the UK alone- England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Nearby France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Romania all have plenty of castle hotels as well.
Prices range greatly from about £ 50-350 or € 75-300 ( $100-500 US) Generally, this makes a castle stay a luxury endeavor. But good news for budget travelers who’d love to spend the night in a castle: a few castles offer rooms or dorm beds as low as £ 17-20.
As above, simply Google ‘castle hotels in …’ with your destination country, and start scoping out all the cool places you could visit.
If you vacation annually at luxury resorts and hotels, perhaps a better alternative for you would be timeshare resorts.
Timeshares are essentially condos or apartments located in amazing places around the world, including beach resort areas, charming towns, and other vacation destinations. They generally come fully furnished with a fully-equipped kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, and common rooms. Essentially, they are condos with a few additional perks, so you live like you would as a resident in that destination. Various amenities like swimming pools, work-out facilities, spas, gardens and/or yards are also often available to time-share owners.
That could sure beat staying in a hotel room. According to statistics, internationally there are over 5000 timeshare resorts in 100 countries. That gives timeshare owners a tremendous range of choices and countries to visit.
Basically, you buy or rent a timeshare (a condo unit) for a set amount of time each year, at a fraction of the price of a condo. One to two weeks per year is typical. Nowadays, time shares are extremely flexible. Although you buy a particular property, in a particular location/country, you’re not necessarily ‘stuck’ with that exact property every year.
You can return to the same unit ‘your unit’ every year at the same dates if you want. But you can also change locations every year, thus visiting several different destinations within one country, or several different countries over the years. Options include changing the dates you stay, ‘exchanging’ your property for an equivalent one in another country, taking a shorter stay, or longer stay, or rolling-over your time to a future year. You can upgrade or downgrade. You can lend, allow friends or family to stay, rent, and re-sell your units.
Owning a time share is a fantastic way to slowly visit different locations around the world, while staying in a your own condo rather than a mere hotel room. At the same time, it’s a real estate investment, so you’re not simply ‘throwing your money away’ to hotels.
For the ultimate bizarre hotel experience, stay over night in a prison cell! Find out, first hand, what it’s like to be an inmate. Well, sort of. Although the guards might speak militantly and order you around a bit, they certainly won’t be physically violent, and you won’t have to deal with fellow inmate bullys.
You’ll also be treated to fine gourmet meals rather than prison slop. I guess it would be closer to experiencing prison as a wealthy white-collar criminal or mafia figure: behind bars, with all the luxuries and etiquette of fine society. At least that’s my understanding of a stay at a prison hotel.
Surprisingly, there are many prison hotels dotted around the world: Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK and Europe, including those in Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, England, Ireland, and Latvia. Also known as jail hotels, some are former jails converted into quite luxurious hotels, not much like prisons at all any more.
However, some ‘treat’ guests to a fairly authentic jail experience, including practices like being required to hand over all your possessions upon check in, getting your mug shots, being hand-cuffed, having to walk in formation, being interrogated, cleaning toilets, and so on.
My fellow travel blogger, Zoe Dawes of Quirky Traveller, recently checked herself into one such prison hotel in London. Read her personal account of being locked up for the night. Escape to Alcatraz, My Story
Prison hotels cover the range from budget to luxury, with prices ranging tremendously from $10-100 US / night.
Cave hotels are located in several countries, most notably Turkey, Iran, USA, France, Sweden, Greece, and Australia. The most famous ones are in Turkey. For the most part, they are real caves that have been converted into hotels. Of course, many were previously inhabited by locals and monks. However, the Australian cave hotel I discovered is actually a former mine shaft.
Cave hotels all seem to fall within the luxury hotel category, decked out with luxurious interiors and prices ranging from €100-400 and $150-500 US.
Again, simply Google ‘cave hotels in …’ with your destination country to find a cave hotel you’d like to luxuriate in.
If you like luxury travels like me, but can’t always afford it, check out this awesome guidebook:
The Luxury Traveler’s Handbook
by Sarah and Terry Lee, founders of LiveShareTravel - online travel & lifestyle magazine
In the authors’ words, “The Luxury Traveler’s Handbook proves that luxury travel doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s a show and tell guide on how to source luxury for less. Exploring everything from flights and hotels to shared ownership and glamping. The Luxury Traveler’s Handbook is your passport to smarter, more luxurious travel.”