TRAVEL TIPS: BUDGET ACCOMMODATION AROUND THE WORLD
Throughout the world, many different types of accommodation are available to travelers, ranging from free accommodation to budget to mid-range and on up to 5-star + luxury resorts. That means people can travel in whatever standard of comfort they desire or can afford.
The plethora of free and budget accommodation options means that world travel does not have to be expensive. In fact, just about anyone from the developed world can afford to travel, if they so desire.
Because budget and mid-range accommodation doesn’t even exist in the USA, many Americans aren’t aware that such options exist out in the world, nor how extremely inexpensive accommodation – and travel- can be.
In this travel tips article, I detail the many different types of budget accommodation available around the world. For information on other categories of accommodation, see more articles in this travel tips series:
The cost of budget accommodation varies tremendously from region to region around the world. Budget could mean a $25 dorm bed in expensive cities like London and Singapore. In many other countries, budget rooms go for as little as $4 US, with an average price currently at $ 6-12 US.
Standards of rooms and facilities also vary greatly from country to country, even within the same region of the world. Travelers’ definition of ‘budget accommodation’ is also quite subjective. It depends on each person’s budget, standard of living and accustomed cost of living at home.
As a well-seasoned world traveler of 14 years, I personally define budget accommodation as a room or dorm bed below $10 US. In SE Asia, most budget accommodation costs $4- $8 US. For that price, you can generally get your own room, sometimes with and en suite bathroom, sometimes with a shared toilet and shower facilities. You’ll get a fan and cold water showers. If you require air conditioning or hot showers, you’ll have to bump up to mid-range accommodation.
Standards vary a lot from a windowless ‘closet’ of a room, to a dingy hotel room to a thatched bungalow on a beach or in the jungle to a clean, bright, airy room with en suite bathroom to a more upscale room with tiled floors, tv and hot shower.
In general, budget accommodation in major cities is either more expensive and/or of lower quality than what you’ll find in that country’s town and rural areas. In cities $4-8 US might only get you a dorm bed with shared bathroom facilities. Islands also tend to cost a bit more than the mainland.
Prices naturally rise over the years, so rooms that used to cost $4-5 US in late 1990s- early 2000s might now cost a bit more.
In addition, since about 2009-2010, exchange rates have changed pretty significantly, with many Asian currencies strengthening against the Euro, GBP and $US. This alone has increased costs for western travelers by 25-30%.
Sample changes in international exchange rates:
Thai Baht: formerly 40-45 B / $1 US now 30 B / $1 US
Malaysian Ringit: formerly 38 MR / $10 US now 30 MR / $10 US nearly
Singapore dollar: S$ formerly S$ 1.8 / $1 US now S$ 1.2 / US$
Indonesian rupiah: formerly steady at 10,0000 rp now 9200-9400 rp
*note that the new exchange rates mean roughly a 30% increase in costs for travelers, not counting room price increases.
Therefore, in this decade, it’s probably more reasonable to expect to spend $8- 12 US for budget accommodation around SE Asia. In some places you can still find rooms for $5-6 US. Other places offer budget rooms closer to $15 US.
Still, that’s infinitely less expensive than accommodation in the North America, Europe or Australia. And just about everyone would consider $8-15 US as budget accommodation.
Different types of budget accommodation:
Stand alone rooms. What Americans might refer to as cabins. Bungalows exist all over SE Asia, mostly at beaches and islands, but not exclusively. Bungalows are not very common in towns and cities, though.
One common type found in Thailand and Malaysia is the thatched bungalow, with walls made of woven palm matting and thatched roofs. Other bungalows have plastered walls, wood or tiled floors, and tiled roofs.
Americans think of ‘resorts’ only as upscale, luxury resort accommodation. But out in the rest of the world, many many different kinds of resorts exist, including budget ‘resorts’.
Bungalow resorts are budget places offering a collection/group of bungalows for guests to stay in. They are common all over SE Asia at beaches, islands, national parks, and rural areas.
This term is rather difficult to define or explain, because it covers so many different types of budget accommodation. In addition, guest houses don’t’ exist in the US, so it’s hard to relate if you’ve never seen one.
To simplify, ‘guest house’ basically means ‘budget accommodation’. A guest house might have dorm rooms, private rooms, or stand alone bungalows. They might have private bathrooms or shared. Rooms might all be inside one big building- essentially a hotel. Or the rooms might be set around a garden, lawn or property.
The guest house might be an original family house set around a central open courtyard. It might be a backpackers/ hostel, with lots of young backpackers and noise. Or it might be popular with couples, middle class travelers, or older long-term travelers, and solo travelers.
Facilities, cleanliness, noise level, size and quality of rooms vary significantly from place to place, as do prices. You’ll only know what any country or place means by ‘guest house’ by reading a description in a guidebook, talking to other travelers, or showing up to see for yourself.
Originally, home stays were rooms at a local family’s home. Some ‘home stays’ still are that. Sometimes guests’ bedrooms are located in the main family house. In that case, guests share other rooms and facilities with the family. More often, guests’ rooms are in a separate building / buildings on the property, close to the family’s main house.
In many places, like Bali Indonesia, traditional family ‘houses’ are walled compounds with many small buildings inside, set around a yard or garden. Then it’s quite easy and natural to set up separate guest rooms.
Nowadays, many local budget places use the term ‘home stay’ even though guests don’t really stay with a family at all. ‘Home stay’ has come to mean the same as guest house in many places.
The name says it all. In many countries, the original budget hotels were set up for nationals of their own country: traveling businessmen, families, and couples. Many of those hotels still exist and are still visited mainly by local travelers, though westerners are generally welcome too.
Staying at such hotels can really make you feel like you’re part of the country, much like traveling on local buses can. In Asia, these places might be very noisy, with thin walls, blaring TVs, and guests talking very loudly. Then again, they might be very quiet.
Ever since the mass international budget travel industry took off a few decades ago, hundreds and thousands of budget hotels have been built that are geared mainly to western budget travelers. Prices and standards vary tremendously. They may essentially be the same as guest houses, home stays or hostels. Or they may be very much like hotels, with a cheap price tag.
backpackers / hostels:
These places are found all over the world, even in large US cities. I suppose the original hostels began back in the 1970s-1980s with the international organization,Youth Hostel International and YMCAs. They had an international membership system, but also accepted guests who were not members, at a slightly higher fee. They offered the cheapest accommodation available to travelers at that time, almost exclusively in dorm rooms with common bathrooms.
They usually had a kitchen and cooking facilities, a common gathering room, and sometimes laundry facilities and a restaurant. They were set up in converted houses or large city buildings all over the world. Mostly young travelers stayed at hostels, but travelers of all ages were welcome too.
Since the 1990s, there’s been an explosion of hostels around the world. The concept is the same. They still mainly cater to young budget travelers, aka backpackers, but you’ll also find travelers of all ages scattered amidst the youth at many hostels. You’ll find them in major US cities, all over Europe, Asia and Australia.
Most hostels offer only dorm rooms, but some also have a few private rooms for couples or travelers who can’t handle dorm life. Most have a common sitting room, a tv, shelves of books and magazines, stacks of dvds for guests to use for free, and a fully equipt kitchens for guests to use, including pots n pans, dishes and cups, silverware, stoves, toasters, and microwaves.
They usually have lots of information about sights, activities, tours, bus and train schedules in the area. They generally can book transport and various tours. Nowadays, most also have free wifi and/or internet access with computers.
So many hostels abound that different types have sprung up. Some are geared to energetic party animals and are quite noisy and raucous. Other hostels are much quieter and have curfews, lights out times, or quiet hours at night. There are even trendy, upscale hostels in some major cities, sporting designer interiors, the latest tech appliances and gadgets, and price tags of hotels.
Philippino’s term for budget hotel and guest houses.
Indonesian budget hotels and guest houses, geared for local travelers, not international visitors. What this mainly means for western travelers is that staff usually don’t speak English. Otherwise, losmen are much the same as guest houses, homestays, or budget hotels.
They are usually clean, well maintained, and comfortable. They offer rooms, usually with en suite bathrooms. Breakfast is often included.
The only thing to bear in mind is that Asian travelers are often very noisy- they tend to talk loud, blast tvs, and travel in groups or families. All that equals- noisy! On the other hand, some losmen are mostly frequented by traveling local businessmen, who tend to be less noisy.
Western travelers are welcome to stay at losmen, if they can locate them. You’ll have to look for signs ‘losman’ or ask around. Locals won’t actually believe that foreigners want to stay in a losman, so they won’t naturally suggest them.
Losmen staff might be a bit bewildered and uncomfortable, since they don’t speak English and probably believe you require a luxury hotel. If you can find losmen and don’t mind locals’ reactions, losmen are great places to stay. Of course, speaking some Bahasa Indonesia helps.
Do you know any other types of budget accommodation?
If so, please tell us, along with the prices if you know them.
What’s the cost of budget accommodation in your country, if it exists?
If looking for cheap budget accommodation, you might also be looking for the cheapest travel insurance. You should definitely shop around online to see what is available and how it may suit you. Endsleigh supports this post.