All of you already know that accommodations can take a serious bite out of your travel budgets, especially if you are staying at four and five star hotels. Heck, you can spend a lot of money even staying at ‘only’ three star places. And I think this concern is a major reason why Shelley and I get asked almost all the time – how can you afford to travel so often and for so long?
Believe me, it’s not because we’re wealthy or we spend lots of money we don’t have. One major way we make our travels affordable is by staying at inexpensive, yet clean and safe guesthouses (and doing so in third world countries, but we’ll save that topic for another day!) at times. That is, when we’re not staying completely for free with home exchanges, barter and other methods. This is our back-up plan: free (Plan A) to inexpensive as Plan B.
I imagine at least some readers out there are rolling their eyes, saying things like ‘I don’t want to stay in some dingy place that I would hate’ or ‘that’s only for mangy backpackers’ or whatever. Admittedly there are some guesthouses out there that may rightfully fall into those kinds of descriptions, but I promise you that is NOT the case for all of them. Below are a couple of examples from our most recent travels.
As many of you know Shelley and I took a three week trip to Nicaragua last month (it was freaking awesome by the way!). We did a few different things that helped us significantly reduce the amount of money we spent on places to stay including a home exchange in Granada and Shelley doing some travel writing for a few other places. But we also stayed in three different guesthouses in the same number of places. All three of them were clean, run by friendly locals and relatively close to restaurants, bars, and other services you need when you are traveling.
One of them was a place on Ometepe Island called El Indio Viejo. We arrived kind of late in the afternoon by ferry to the town of Moyogalpa. Our final destination was on the other side of the island, but we needed a place to stay in that town for just one night. After looking at our guidebook we checked out a few places near each other that were recommended in our price range and ended up picking a funky little guesthouse called El Indio Viejo.
Now sure, the place was simple and didn’t even have hot water (not really THAT much of a problem when you are staying in the tropics), but it was clean and safe, had a great atmosphere with cool murals and plenty of little tables and hammocks to hang out in while spending time in the courtyard area, and our room only cost us $14. It also had a pretty groovy bar that had ice-cold, 1-liter beers for like $2, and we were able to easily get around town by foot to rent a motor bike, get a couple of tasty meals at various restaurants, and shop for a few items before heading to a more secluded part of the island.
Another great example is the place that I am staying in right now in Siem Reap, Cambodia which is called Seven Candles Guesthouse. (I’m doing some nonprofit development work here with WOWi which is partnered with the Ponheary Ly Foundation to teach digital media skills to some disadvantaged students and likewise do a digital, cross-cultural exchange between these students and some students in Austin, TX). In fact I am typing this blog piece in my room!
Now I have stayed in more guesthouses in Southeast Asia than I can remember, and this is by far one of the best I have ever been in. First of all it is run by the Ly family which in of itself makes me feel good, because that means the profits go to locals and stay in the country where it is really needed. And this is true for most guesthouses.
However, this one stands out for several reasons. It is very comfortable with cold A/C and hot water showers, room cleaning service every day (they keep the whole guesthouse pretty much spotless), very friendly staff (most from the Ly family), and delicious breakfasts. They likewise are very helpful in arranging other travel services such as transportation (usually tuk tuks) to the nearby temples of Angkor and wherever else you might want to go. And even though it’s high season now, I am only paying $20 per night (same for a single or a double room). Seriously, if you are looking for inexpensive accommodations in Siem Reap, you really should give this a try. Heck, just check out their reviews on Trip Advisor, and you will see why.
These are just two guesthouses, and there are literally thousands out there like them in various countries spread out all over the world for you to stay in while traveling to beautiful and interesting places. So seriously, there really is NO need to spend a lot of money on places to stay, so all the more reason to hit the road!