How To Find Cheap Travel Accommodations


The number one expense I worry about as a long term traveler are my accommodations. Hotels and long term travel don’t mix. Unless your last name is Hilton, hotels are just not an option. Over this past year I’ve tried many different types of accommodations that I never thought in a million years I would try. This has become an extension of my travel experience.

It’s been an incredible journey. A lot of the budget accommodations that I tried gave me the opportunity to mix and meet with people that I wouldn’t have met under normal circumstances. I’ve enjoyed 95% of my stays, and even with my bad experiences I wouldn’t change any of it.

So to help you in your travels I’ve compiled this list of 11 ways to find cheap accommodations.



Cost: $10 – $25 per night

Hostels are a great budget accommodation and a home away from home for many backpackers and young travelers. They’re popular because they offer a dorm setting which is affordable, safe and has a community of fellow travelers to mix with. It’s also important to note that it’s not only meant for young travelers. When I tried a hostel for the first time, I was 41 and paranoid about sticking out. I was grateful to find that I was wrong. You find a variety of travelers in hostels, ranging from the young to the young-at-heart.

Hostels come in different shapes and sizes, some that I’ve stayed at felt like miniature hotels. Always do your research before booking at a hostel, to ensure that it has positive reviews and offers lockers to secure your belongings.


Short Term Rentals

Cost: Private Room $10 – $35 per night /  Apartment $25 – $50 per night (obviously rates vary on city and quality of accommodation you pick)

Short term rentals have constituted 70% of my accommodations during my travels. I love them.

People who have a spare room or an entire apartment for rent list them online on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. They’re fully furnished and normally have all the amenities of at home like a kitchen and washer/dryer.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experience through AirBnb. I’ve tried shared rooms, private rooms and renting whole apartments. When I’ve rented a room with a family it felt like a homestay. I got to mix and learn more about the local culture.

Some rules when renting short term rentals:

  • Always make sure the hosts have positive reviews.
  • Pick places that are conveniently close to transportation hubs. This will make it easy to get to the apartment and to get around the city that you’re in.

I have a video of a studio I stayed at in Kyoto. It was a strange little place, I kept hitting my head on the doorways because I was taller than the door frames. But it was a good deal and conveniently located in Gion so it was a perfect place for me to enjoy Kyoto.

Websites:, and



Cost: Free

This has been one of the most surprising experiences I’ve ever had traveling. Couch surfing was not something I was familiar with prior to my travels. It’s where a host will let travelers come into their house and stay with them for a couple of nights for free. They might provide a bed, couch or futon for the traveler. I was shocked when I found out about it and didn’t understand why anyone would allow strangers to stay with them for free.

Turns out most hosts are fellow travelers who want to meet people and share travel stories. I tried it for the first time in Zurich and I couldn’t have asked for better host or experience.

The only problem with couch surfing is actually finding a host. It’s supply and demand. There are more surfers than hosts. So don’t presume that you’ll find one easily, you should have a backup plan in case you don’t connect with any hosts.

Some tips if you plan to couch surf:

  • Make sure the host you stay with has a solid review history. I wouldn’t recommend staying with host who has no references.
  • This isn’t a hotel or hostel. You’re staying at someone’s house for free. Read their house rules and abide by them.
  • You may or may not get a chance to interact with your host, but it’s generally expected that you spend time with them to get to know each other. It’s rude to use their place to crash and then not give them the time of day.

I wrote a blog on my experience with couch surfing that you can read here. I also have vlog where I talk about it below. I was still shocked by the concept of couch surfing and it comes across in my video.


House Sitting

Cost: Free

There are sites available to connect homeowners with people to help them take care of their property or pets while they’re away. This transactions usually involves free accommodations for your services. Obviously, this is not a guaranteed method to score accommodations since you don’t know when, where and for how long the opportunities will  arise.

Websites: and


House Exchange

Cost: Free

Another option that I’ve not tried is a house exchange. Don’t have one 🙂

There are sites that provide the service of connecting people around the world to swap homes for a predefined period of time. So this probably works best for older travelers and families. This has the benefit of free accommodations AND free house sitting since you’re swapping homes.


Budget Hotels

Cost: $20 – $55 per night

Budget hotels are a convenient accommodation option for short stays. They provide simple and affordable rooms minus the amenities of larger hotels. The quality varies so it’s important that you check out their reviews online prior to booking.

Traveling through Asia I found a plethora of cheap business hotels to use. These hotels tended to cater to business men who had to stay overnight in the city. They provided simple and spartan rooms that are small and efficient. Emphasis here is on SMALL. Below is a video of business hotel I stayed at in Japan.


Capsule Hotel

Cost: $25 – $40 per night

Capsule hotels is an option while traveling in the developed countries of Asia (especially in Japan). I have a love/hate relationship with these accommodations. When I spent a month and half in Japan, 4 weeks of them were in capsule hotels. By the end of my stay, I burned out from the confined space and had a major meltdown.

It wasn’t pretty, but I’d still recommend them.

My first experience was at a capsule hotel called Grids Hostel + Lounge in Akihabara. This is a very nice establishment that was well maintained and had a friendly staff. This being my first experience I found it to be exotic and enjoyable.

It’s important to note the following with capsule hotels:

  • Some capsule hotels are men only. So if you’re female, make sure to check in advance to whether they host women.
  • Men and women are normally segregated on different floors and security is usually good. All the capsule hotels I stayed at required access keys to enter the capsule room.
  • If you happen to be in Japan,  cleanliness will not be an issue. The Japanese have a fetish with having everything being clean, especially the bathroom. I’m not kidding, the shared bathrooms in these capsule hotels were cleaner than hotel rooms I’ve stayed at in other countries.

Not all capsule hotels are made the same. I loved the hotel in Tokyo but then I tried another in Nagoya that was horrible. I felt like I was in a coffin, it made me paranoid and triggered a travel meltdown. If you are interested to see my reaction to that stay here is the link to the video ( meltdown starts around 2:10)

Below is my more pleasant experience with the capsule hotel at the Grids Capsule Hotel in Akihabara, Japan.


Volunteer / Work Exchange

Cost: Free

There are programs setup where travelers can exchange accommodations and other living expenses with volunteer or work services. I’ve not tried this as I believe this is geared to younger travelers.,, and


Overnight Travel

Cost: Free

One way to save on accommodations is to plan your long trips as overnight travel. I’ve done that on a couple of flights that leave at night arrive in the morning at the destinations. You can do a sleepover on trains or buses depending on the route that you take. All that is required is a little pre-planning and you can save the cost of one night’s accommodations by traveling at night.


Stay With Friend Or Family

This is an obvious way to save some money, yet I don’t think people think of it instinctively. If you know someone in a city contact them and see whether you can stay at their place during your stay. Great way to reconnect with friends or family.


Stay Away From Expensive Cities

My last recommendation is to stay away from expensive cities. I don’t mean don’t ever visit them, just don’t stay in them. Look for accommodations outside city with easy access through public transportation. You’ll always be guaranteed lower rates. The flip side is you’ll need to travel to and from that city. But for some locations, the savings justifies the hassle.