Save Money Staying At Inexpensive, Yet Clean And Safe, Guesthouses

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?

El Indio Viejo guesthouse on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

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.

Bar area at El Indio Viejo guesthouse

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.

Outside our room at El Indio Viejo guesthouse

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.

Open balcony area at Seven Candles Guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia

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!

My tidy little room at Seven Candles Guesthouse

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.

My own spotless bathroom with hot shower at Seven Candles Guesthouse

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!

Travel well!


About Keith Hajovsky

Exploring and photographing different parts of the world is my passion, and I enjoy helping others do the same. Whether backpacking, staying in 5-star resorts or anything in between, I believe experiencing and interacting with other cultures enriches our lives and helps us to better understand the complex world we live in.
This entry was posted in Accommodations, Cambodia, Nicaragua and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Save Money Staying At Inexpensive, Yet Clean And Safe, Guesthouses

  1. Total agreement. Believe me, I do NOT do dingy, dirty or unsafe! I have three absolute requirements for any place I stay while traveling: it must be safe, it must be clean, and it must be private. I am too old to stay in an open dorm room with a bunch of 20-year-olds, ha ha. Plus, there is always the concern over your stuff when you don’t have a room you can lock behind you that no one else can get in. Some dorm hostels have lockers though, and you should always carry a padlock.

    Anyway, we stayed at Indio Viejo in Nicaragua, and also a nice little place called Rebecca’s Inn in San Juan del Sur on the coast, run by a woman named Rebecca who grew up in the house. Both were charming, funky, clean and perfectly comfortable – and both were less than $20 per night. When you divide that by two people, that’s less than $10 each. I had no problem with either of them – in fact I’ve stayed in many places around the world that were small, inexpensive, family-run places that had far more charm than a $200/night generic hotel.

    So take it from me, who would NOT stay anywhere gross, unsafe or with a bunch of people sleeping on bunks around me – if you can’t get totally free accommodations through home exchange, couch surfing or staying with friends, this is the way to go.


  2. Lorie Poe says:

    That sounds like a great plan. So Keith, how to you find your guesthouses? Guidebooks and Trip Advisor? Any other sources?


    • Keith Hajovsky says:

      Yes, I (we) use guidebooks to get started, and I sometimes will use TripAdvisor too. I likewise use Lonely Planet’s Thorntree website. I do searches there for what people have recommended for places, and if I don’t see enough pertinent info or if the info seems a bit dated I will post a question on the site to all the other travelers who read that site. I will tell them where I am going, my price range, and the kinds of attributes of a guesthouse/hotel that are really important to me, eg. area of town, amenities, etc. I almost always get some great recommendations that way, especially for those places that haven’t been ‘discovered’ or covered yet by the guidebooks.


  3. Pingback: FREE Nights At Hotels All Over The World With These Great Credit Card Offers! | How To Travel For Free (or pretty damn near it!)

  4. Reblogged this on yournewsreader and commented:
    great advise to travellers


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s