As I said, one if the best part about TAPIF is having 8 weeks of paid vacation. My advice: take advantage of this to travel to places a bit further from your region! However, costs do add up quickly, so be sure to check out my latest, “How to Save Money on Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” and then read on to learn how to cut costs on accommodation whilst abroad.
1. Hostels: This is perhaps the most obvious of budget accommodations and are common all around the world (though curiously enough not really in the US). I have stayed in countless hostels both while traveling alone and with other people in Europe, Japan, Boston, and New York City. Hostels are sort of like hotels for budget travelers. You basically pay a much smaller price in exchange for a bed in a shared room (though many hostels offer private rooms as well!) This means you also end up sharing a room and bathroom with as many as 4-10 other people, depending on the size of your room and hostel. Most hostels offer mixed rooms (male and female) as well as and female-only room options. Good hostels also advertise the big tourist attractions and destinations in the area, and sometimes even offer their own ticket sales or excursions, as well as maps, bikes, etc. Good hostels also come equipped with a kitchen and have cupboards and fridges where you can store your things, and save money by cooking. If you’re lucky, some hostels provide breakfast; it is almost always standard that they provide sheets and towels, and either a storage space or a private locker. Though hostels are very safe and a GREAT way to meet other travelers, I highly recommend bringing a lock for your suitcase and possessions (and lock them up whenever they are not in your sight), and also bring your own towel, pillowcase, and shower shoes, because, well, it’s just a sanitation thing. The two best websites for hostel research and reservations are Hostelbookers and HostelWorld. I have used both successfully to book many reservations (though I prefer HostelWorld). These sites also list budget hotels if you are looking for a more of a Bed and Breakfast setting. These websites are also available for your IOS or android devices, and offer reviews, rates, and details on each accommodation. Remember, you get what you pay for!
2. Couch Surfing: With the prices of traveling as well as access to social media increasing, Couch Surfing has become a very popular option all around the world. Basically, couch surfing is what it sounds like- surfing for a night or two on someone’s couch (for free). The benefits of couch surfing are seeing a city through a local’s eyes- dinners, events, off the beaten trail sites, all which make you a better traveler. If you click on the link above, it will take you to the website, where you can sign up using Facebook or through creating your own account. In order to be a successful surfer, you should really have a picture and a bit of information about yourself. You also have the option of checking a box stating whether or not you yourself can host surfers. Then, when you would like to go somewhere, you just plug in the name of the city, and available hosts will come up. You will be able to see photos and information about them, as well as if they have been left recommendations and reviews by other people (this is usually a sign that these people are legit!) Then, you can send them a message or a couch surfing request in a manner similar to Facebook. After that, it’s really between the two of you to figure out where, when and for how long you will stay. As I said, couch surfing is free, but it is usually customary to buy your own food and/or treat your host to dinner. This is a generally very safe community, filled with travelers and nomads who are just interested in getting to know other people. In fact, Couch Surfing also hosts events in their communities! (ie: I attend a conversation table every Monday here in Toulon– I found that event on Couch Surfing). If you do end up couch surfing, I would recommend skyping the person with whom you want to stay before you go, just to be safe, especially as a solo traveler, and especially as a female. I personally have never couch surfed, but I am on the website, and I know many females who have successfully couch surfed. It is a really unique experience, but it’s definitely more doable if you are only going to be staying somewhere for a few nights. If you are a TAPIF Assistant and do not feel comfortable Couch Surfing with randoms, one thing I would recommend doing is joining the other Academie Facebook groups and searching for lodging that way. In fact, TAPIF Assistants also have their own Couch Surfing page, if you search for it. Other similar websites include GlobalFreeloaders, Hospitality Club, and Stay4Free.
3. Rent an Apartment: Contrary to hostels, if you are going to be staying somewhere for more than five days (ie: Paris), and/or you are with a group of people, it may actually be cheaper to rent a furnished apartment. It’s also just a lot more comfortable– a kitchen to use and cook, and a place to keep your things safe is just ideal! One good website I would recommend is AirBNB.com, a website that matches people seeking short-term accommodations with hosts who have an unused space to rent. Other websites include Wimdu and Roomorama.
4. House-Sitting/Home Exchange: What better way to get to know a new city or country than by living in someone else’s house for free? This type of exchange is actual quite common in Europe in Australia. Remember the movie The Holiday? That featured the website, Home Exchange. If you don’t really want to swap houses with someone, consider house-sitting as an alternative. In exchange for taking care of someone’s house, you’ll get a place to stay for free! Good house-sitting sites include: Mind My House and Luxury House Sitting.
5. WWOOFing: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms WWOOF Is an organization which allows people to volunteer on organic farms and smallholdings in exchange for food and lodging. It’s a great opportunity to volunteer and live frugally in a foreign country.
There are many different choices for the various different kinds of travelers. As I said, just do what works for you!