By Jesse Smith
Jesse Smith is a third year Geography student at Laurentian University. When he is not studying, he likes to pursue his passive interests in hitchhiking, learning Spanish, pretending he can cook, and most important of all: travelling far and wide. He has a special interest in pushing cheap travel budgets to the extreme – otherwise he would never be able leave Sudbury! This article is the third in a segment of articles, developed to provide university students like you insight on how to travel on a university budget.
Something seriously important needs to be said about the concept of hotels: they’re expensive and often not worth the cost. Furthermore, there’s an absolute need for people to warm up to the idea of sleeping in something less than a palace while on vacation.
A lot of emphasis is placed on unnecessary hotel amenities, the amount of ‘stars’ an establishment is credited with, and whether or not they look modern enough.
Do you think your bedroom deserves a 4-5 stars rating? Probably not – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but that’s the idea behind this article: at the end of the day a hotel is just a room and board to sleep on, and part of saving money abroad is coming back to terms with the concept of living modestly.
I’ve paid my dues in the ‘overnight scenarios that would make my parents cry’ department; a bench in Hamburg’s Hauptbahnhof, a tent set atop a slug-infested field somewhere in the Czech Republic, and a couple of overnight trips aboard non-AC trains in the pre-monsoon heat of Northern India. I’m not at all advocating that you bring yourself to the point of near homelessness, but what I am saying is that there is something beautiful that comes from desperation.
It’s not a stretch to say that the less money you have, the more careful you are going to be with it, and that’s what has bred a number of creative ways around the cost restraints that come with travel.
One of the easiest, most user- friendly ways of finding accommodation at your price is AirBnB (http://www.airbnb.com), where you can search a private room, bed, couch, mattress, or floor within a preset budget of your choice in any location.
It’s a simple and effective concept where users register their open space for whatever cost they choose.
Trust is built upon the reputation and reviews of both the host and guests individually.
I also always recommend the next closest thing to AirBnB, Couchsurfing (http://www.couch- surfing.org), but it’s not for everyone.
It’s essentially the same as AirBnB, but free: you simply look for hosts in a given location, write them an email, and then perhaps they put you up for the night.
It has a remarkably non-sketchy reputation given its capacity for anything and everything to go wrong, but it’s still not that simple. Couchsurfing has an ethos of cultural exchange, and you should always make an effort to spend time with your host, give them a hand with things, and express immense gratitude.
If you want to expand your com- fort zone, approach programs
like Couchsurfing (or Hospitality Club; http:www.hospitalityclub. org) at your own pace, but I can at least guarantee unforgettable memories.
Other than the highly variable AirBnB and Couchsurfing, there are other more static options to fall back on.
I’m talking about dormitories or hostels, which are geared to- wards budgeteers.
Trust me, I know the stigma hostels come with and I get very frustrated and tired of defending them, but they’re more often very hip and designed for people to talk them up enough to stay in business.
At anywhere from $3-$50/night, it can be challenging to turn one down if you’re in the mood for adventure.