part I || part II || part III [coming soon!]
Listen, I’m a big fan of AirBnB. Every time I plan a trip, the second website I hit up [after Skyscanner] is always AirBnB. Still, like most things in life, it’s not always going to be the best solution to every problem, with our problem this time being finding budget-friendly accommodation in Europe.
Although transportation can be delightfully inexpensive around these parts, accommodation, it seems, is trying its best to make up for the deficit, making budget options kind of tricky to find. Even with the cheapest options available, expect to leave a couple hundred [and maybe your dignity] at the door. With that in mind, let’s dig right in!
Part I: What’s the Cheapest Accommodation in Europe?
Hostels can be an incredible budget option. However, you really have to be choosy about them. The first hostel I stayed in was an awesome £7 a night, but it had co-ed rooms, was super far away from the city center, and was so unhygienic I’m amazed I didn’t catch something. But at the same time, I’ve been blessed with a Lisboa Central stay, an experience so heavenly it converted me to that hostel lyfe for only 16€ a night. Just read the reviews and stick with your gut, and don’t be afraid to fork over a couple extra bucks for comfort of mind and cleanliness.
I’ve yet to have a bad AirBnb experience [although, being me, I’ve definitely had a lot of awkward ones.] It’s a great service, with the only flaw being pretty much the same as a hostel’s: be careful who you trust. That sounded ominous, and honestly everything is usually fine! I’m just your local paranoid travel blogger mom. Location can also be a major problem sometimes, but just keep an eye on the map and .
I’ve left this one for [almost] last because, admittedly, I’ve never tried it. Still, it’s such a great concept that I would be remiss to leave it out – basically, you sign up for the website [going through a couple of checks so they can make sure you’re not a crazy murderer] and connect with people in your target city who are offering up their couches to crash on for a night or two. All for free! This is apparently also a great way to meet locals [and new friends], with the only catch being that you usually have to sign up months in advance to find a host in a popular city, and that even then, there’s no guarantee.
4. Giving Up and Sleeping on the Street
Okay, hear me out. While not ideal, if you’re only spending a night in an unfamiliar place, why not make it a Nuit Blanche? Stay up, drink, party until your bus comes, or even take a nap in the corner of of bar—the options are limitless. Nothing is cheaper than free, right? Try to avoid attempting this alone or in dangerous areas, though.
5. Overnight Transportation
This is actually a personal favorite of mine. For multi-city trips, booking overnight transportation can actually be a great way to save. For example, an overnight bus from Madrid to Lisbon gives you a safe & warm place to get some shut-eye while also getting where you need to go. Two in one! [Not recommended for people who can’t sleep in moving vehicles.]
Part II: Things to Watch Out For
1. Creepy Men [and Women]
While I’m not necessarily one of those shitty people who assumes that men and women can’t sleep in the same room, I am moderately against people in general who are total strangers sleeping in the same room. While co-ed hostel dorms/male AirBnb hosts/etc. don’t bother me in the slightest, the world is kind of shitty and you’ve got to keep an eye out. When the lights go out, creepy folks start to crawl out of the woodwork. If this is a concern for you, many same-sex hostels and dorms exist, and booking a private room is also an option.
Basically, safety > savings.
2. Amenities [or lack thereof]
A really common hostel thing is renting out towels instead of simply providing them. This makes a lot of sense when you take hygiene into account, but can also suck if you’re on the road and caught without a way to dry off after a shower. Some hostels also charge for hair dryer rentals, washing machine use, and more. Just do your research and plan accordingly.
On the plus side, free breakfasts are usually available and a great motivator to get out of bed in the morning!
Part III: Location, Location, Location
1. Why it Matters
One of the biggest pitfalls of finding budget accommodation anywhere is location. Luckily, the majority of European cities are very walkable, and even places outside of city limits can be less than a half hour away from the major sights by foot. Still, it is something to keep an eye out for, especially since the cheaper a hostel/AirBnb/hotel is, the further away it is from the city center or any tourist hotspots.
2. Can You Walk It?
One of the things you’ll either come to love or learn to tolerate while traveling through Europe is walking. It’s essentially the #1 way get around hereabouts, when public transportation isn’t an option/isn’t necessary. Depending on the city, metro rides can actually be quite pricy, especially if you’re relying on them to get around everywhere. Here’s a Paris hack: every major tourist destination is within walking distance from the rest. Pull out your map and take a stroll!
3. Is It By a Bus/Train/etc. Station?
If you’re in a large city like London, where accommodation can run for a hefty price and the most affordable options tend to be fairly out of the way, try to make sure your accommodation is at least close to public transportation. This shouldn’t be a problem in any major city, but also, having to pay a jillion dollars for a last-minute cab ride is depressing.
On that note, try not to stay out too late and risk missing the last train back.
What are your best tips and tricks for finding budget accommodation in Europe [or elsewhere]?