Where do I sleep when I travel the world?


You wonder where you can sleep when you travel the world? We have been on a world tour for over 600 days now. There are many campsites, hotels and yurt camps. Time to write a little guide on the topic of overnight stays on journeys.

There are six categories of sleeping accommodations on trips:

  1. hotel room
  2. Apartments
  3. AirBnB room (with family connection)Hostel / Dorm
  4. campsites
  5. “Free” sleeping facilities:
    • Wildcamps
    • Couchsurfing
    • Work for board and lodging (workaway.info and others)
    • bunkabiker.org
    • 1nitetent.com
    • Warmshowers.org (for bicycle travelers)
    • Hand against bunk (for sailors)

When travelling, overnight stays are a significant cost driver, but also an important comfort factor. If you camp wild for budget reasons, but don’t feel comfortable, it can spoil the whole trip. On the other hand, it doesn’t help: if you can’t afford a hotel room for every night, you have to get creative and try different sleeping arrangements.

In the following I will show you the advantages and disadvantages of the individual accommodation options. However, the transitions between the categories are sometimes fluid: you can rent an apartment because you want your peace and quiet, and you get the landlord next door who wants to look after you more than you like. Or you wish your AirBnB host to show you the city, but he has little time or interest. Sometimes it takes a little bit of luck, but at some point you know what you want and choose the accommodation category you need. The best thing is to try different options, eventually you will find your preferred one.

hotel room

In this category there is a huge range: from a windowless little room with ten square meters to a spacious luxury suite, there is practically everything your heart desires. Whether the purse plays along, is however a completely different question. The prices are as varied as the offers.

Advantages

Comfort: In your hotel room you finally have the space to completely unpack your luggage, wash it, re-sort it or just leave it lying around for a few days. If you have a few nights on the camping site behind you, you will be happy that the bathrooms (mostly) belong to it and you don’t have to share the shower with strangers. Also the quality of the beds is usually not comparable with a sleeping mat and sleeping bag.

Privacy: One likes “his peace” and the anonymity of a hotel room, the other one feels lonely. The fact is: the most privacy you have in a hotel room.

Security: In most travel countries you don’t have to worry about your valuables. Still, be careful, don’t brag about money or expensive equipment, and don’t give anyone an easy opportunity. Use the safe if you do not carry everything with you.

Roof terrace of the hotel in Fes
Roof terrace of the hotel in Fes

Disadvantages

Price: Hotel accommodation is usually more expensive than the other options. But here it is always necessary to pay attention and compare. At booking.com there is for example the Genius program. After a certain number of bookings you get extra discounts or upgrades to room categories. This can quickly make the booking cheaper than a similar booking through other portals. However, you must be careful to compare complete offers. Some portals only list service or cleaning fees at the end, so the total price is higher than it seems at first glance.

Anonymity: A hotel room bears the danger of isolation, because you may be in a strange place, but you will not notice much of it. Some people have the tendency to curl up in their room to have their peace and quiet. In measures or “again and again” this is desired and pleasant on journeys, but one should be also conscious of this danger and become active occasionally. Otherwise one could have stayed at home.

Atmosphere: Especially hotel chains look the same everywhere. You don’t get much or nothing of the atmosphere and the local customs and traditions.

Equipment: Most hotel rooms offer bed, wardrobe, bathroom, sometimes a desk. They almost never offer cooking facilities. However, eating several meals a day away from home can drive up travel costs. Sometimes a more expensive accommodation is worth it just by offering a kitchen/kitchenette or even a washing machine, because it reduces the other costs in return.

CREATIVE TIP: We used to pack cups and immersion heaters even on shorter trips. Meanwhile we use a foldable version of bowls and cups. With this we can quickly bring cereals, coffee and tea to the table in the morning and only have to get ready to go out later. Also in between we can quickly prepare instant ramen or similar simple quick meals. For us, this is a significant gain in comfort and a contribution to price-conscious travel. Instead of the old-fashioned immersion heater, a small kettle can also be used. But this needs more storage space in the luggage.

Immersion heater
Praktischer Tauchsieder

Apartments

The apartment differs from hotel rooms only in that it is usually slightly larger and has a kitchen or kitchenette. Renting a whole house also falls into this category.

Advantages

Equipment: Apartments are usually better equipped than hotel rooms. They often offer a kitchen or (depending on size) at least a kitchenette. This reduces your travel expenses enormously. If a kitchen or kitchenette is available, you can cook for yourself and do not have to go out for every meal. Depending on the country you are travelling to, this can have a significant impact on the price of your stay. However, there is a risk that you will not notice much of the culinary delights of your destination if you only cook for yourself. But the kitchen gives you the opportunity to cook for yourself and eat out well balanced.

In many booking portals, the search mask is so small that it is possible to search for specific equipment features. We handle it for example in such a way that we look for accommodation with washing machine approximately once a week, in order to be able to wash all our laundry comfortably. Especially if you stay for more than one night, you can pack everything freshly washed and well dried again and the topic of laundry is gone for a few days.

Comfort and privacy of an apartment are similar to those of a hotel room, at least as long as you have the apartment to yourself.

Security: Even better than at the hotel, the security at the apartment looks even better, since no strangers regularly come in here. Nevertheless, it does not hurt to follow elementary rules.

Disadvantages

Anonymity: An apartment lived in alone, like a hotel room, offers the danger of simply staying in it and not knowing anything about the destination country. Be aware of this danger and otherwise enjoy the peace and quiet.

Price: In my experience, the apartment ranks second after the hotel room in terms of cost. And: the more expensive the destination, the greater the price difference between apartments and hotels. I explain this by the fact that more people have to be paid for their services in the hotel. Not to forget of course the “additional costs” in the hotel by eating out and possibly using the laundry service.

Hidden costs: AirBnB has long been considered an inexpensive insider tip. In my experience, however, you have to be careful with this. Do not compare the price offered on the results page of your search with the comparable hotel room price. Look closely at what fees for service, final cleaning etc. are still due at the end and compare the total price.

Tree house in Costa Rica
Tree house in Costa Rica

AirBnB room (with family connection)

Of course, you can also book accommodation through the AirBnB portal, which you have all to yourself and enjoy your peace and quiet. But for me this would fall into the category of hotel rooms or apartments. This is explicitly about living among locals. You have a room in an apartment or a house where someone lives permanently. You share a bathroom, kitchen and living room with him.

Advantages

Atmosphere: You live among locals. There is no better way to get to know a city or a country. You can ask all the questions you have wanted to ask for a long time and get to know local customs and traditions. Maybe you will cook together and get to know authentic country cuisine without having to visit an expensive restaurant. We have always asked the locals about the pronunciation of certain words in the local language and were often surprised how far off we sometimes were.

Comfort: Similar to an apartment you have bed, bathroom, kitchen and washing machine at your disposal.

Price: In my experience, AirBnB rooms are cheaper than hotel rooms or apartments. Of course, this statement is to be taken with caution, also with these rooms the range is wide and you have to search and find what fits your situation and your wallet.

Disadvantages

Privacy: Because of the family connection you can perceive your privacy as limited. Depending on the type, this is either an advantage or a disadvantage. If you are looking for peace and quiet, you can carefully dose the nights with family connection and enjoy their advantages in a relaxed way.

Hidden costs: AirBnB has long been considered an inexpensive insider tip. In my experience, however, you have to be careful with this. Do not compare the price offered on the results page of your search with the comparable hotel room price. Look closely at what fees for service, final cleaning etc. are still due at the end and compare the total price.

Traditional Moroccan hostel
Traditional Moroccan hostel

Hostel

In the hostel you rent a bed in a dormitory (not always separated by gender) and share a common bathroom with others. There are also private rooms, but this is a different chapter.

The internationally used term hostel corresponds in German to youth hostel. The users tend to be rather young, but the hostel is open to all age groups.

Advantages

Price: Hostel rooms are cheap. There is not much more to say about that.

Atmosphere: The close proximity, especially in the communal kitchen, makes it easy for you to get to know other people. These are usually other travelers, not locals. But if you want to meet other people, hostels are the right place for you. Many a night of drinking has made friends for life, especially because many people with the same interests, namely travel, meet in the hostel.

Disadvantages

Comfort: Sleeping with several strangers in the same room requires practice and composure. Earplugs and sleeping goggles help.

Travel equipment: If you only stay in hotel rooms or apartments, you don’t have to worry about packing towels or flipflops. Those who at least occasionally use communal showers will not be able to do without slippers or the like and their own towel. Microfiber towels are practical, they take up little storage space and dry quickly.

Security: Do not leave your things unattended. Use all possibilities to lock things away, either in the locker in the room or at the reception. Paksafes are also a useful purchase.

TIP: Better charge the Powerbank unattended than the Smartphone! You can replace a Powerbank in any electronics store, but not your Smartphone and the data on it.

campsites

The campsites of today cannot be compared with the campsites of the past. Unfortunately, this also means that today the majority of campsites are dominated by motor homes of all sizes and equipment. However, it is worth looking for campsites where the few tents are not pushed unlovingly into a corner. After all, if the campsite is beautiful, there is little better way to spend the night while travelling.

Campsites can be very differently equipped. Especially in Scandinavia, cabins with bunk beds are very common, often there are also hot plates, but not always with running water. Mostly you have to use common rooms for shower and toilet.

In more southern countries of Europe or Asia glamping is also widespread in the meantime. Glamping is the short form for glamour camping. These are luxurious tents, which can sometimes compete with the comfort of a two-room apartment.

But no matter how the place is equipped, it is practically always: cheap, but sometimes you have to accept compromises in terms of comfort and tranquility (small children or animals in the neighboring tent, shared toilets …). On the other hand, it is usually easy to get into conversation with your tent neighbors and a view of the lake from the tent is quite unbeatable.

Advantages

Price: A place for the tent is usually cheap, huts are much more expensive, but without being as expensive as a hotel or an apartment.

Atmosphere: You have to like the relaxed atmosphere on the site, but then camping is the most relaxed option of all. Having a beer in your hand and talking to the people in the neighboring tent is fun and you get to know different nationalities. An overnight stay in a tent can also be very romantic.

Disadvantages

Comfort: The comfort varies depending on the equipment. Thin Isomatte and sleeping bag can provide at night already times for cold weather, also missing chairs or the experience to have to go in the flowing rain by the mud to the toilet can cloud the travel experience. On the other hand, we never remember the comfortable hotel bed later on, but the mud battle on the camping site in the storm is permanently remembered.

Security: Since a tent is not lockable, it is better to be careful than sorry. Use lockers at the reception or carry important items with you. Paksafes also help.

Travel equipment: Similar to the hostel, towels, flip-flops, earplugs and sleeping glasses are standard equipment.

Privacy: Even though a tent offers the illusion of walls, you can still hear all the sounds outside, no matter whether the neighbor is snoring or farting. If there is not much going on, you can set up the tent a bit away from the others, otherwise you have to live with it – or invest in good earplugs.

Breakfast visit to the campsite in Norway
Breakfast visit to the campsite in Norway

Free sleeping accommodations

Who is on the way with little budget, can fall back also to free overnight accomodations. Free of charge means in this connection “they do not cost money“. That does not mean, however, that no return service is expected, in the form of company, stories, etc. There are different offers, some of them are meant for a limited target group (e.g. cyclists or sailors).

Wild camping

Who doesn’t dream of falling asleep on the perfect beach or the great cliffs with a view of the sunset. A hotel in such a location is not affordable for most people.

The easiest way to get a free overnight stay is to simply pitch your tent somewhere. However, depending on the country, this is easy, complicated or even forbidden. In Scandinavia it is a little bit regulated by the Everyman’s Right, but still easy; in many European countries it is simply forbidden. In countries with a lot of space and little infrastructure like Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan wild camping is normal, while in New Zealand it is more and more restricted due to the many campers. Inform yourself well in advance before you get into trouble.

There are now many apps that help you find a place to sleep. Here are just a few international examples, for many countries there are special apps (NorCamp for Norway …)

  • iOverlander
  • Park4night
  • Google Maps satellite view
Wildcamps in Montenegro
Wildcamps in Montenegro

Couchsurfing

With the Couchsurfen it concerns a free overnight accomodation with private people at home. You may have a room, but often you really only have a couch. You don’t have much privacy, after all you are the guest, but you will get an insight into the host country like hardly ever before. You get to know many different people in their personal circumstances. Couchsurfing means authentic experience of a new place and probably many insider tips from your host.

If you have never done this before, but are curious, I recommend the book “Couchsurfing im Iran” by Peter Orth. At the latest after this reading you will want to try it out.

In the media, couchsurfing is occasionally associated with security problems. One of the completely early Couchsurfer writes in addition: “The probability to become victim of a crime with Couchsurfen is not larger than elsewhere. You can also be raped in the disco or in the forest. You can also be filmed taking a shower in a hotel and you can also be robbed on the street or in the park. His blog, especially about couchsurfing, is absolutely worth reading: https://rooksack.de/couchsurfing-weltweit-kostenlos-schlafen/

Bunk a Biker

On the side bunkabiker.org free overnight accomodations are collected particularly for Motorradfahrer. The site is non-commercial, small, but very helpful. Zee Traveler, who some of you probably know from social media, has done a good thing. The FAQ answers many questions, including “What can I ask of my guests? Answer: Everything, except payment. Things like a copy of your driver’s license in advance, not smoking and such things that many of us take for granted anyway. https://www.bunkabiker.org/

1nitetent.com

1nitetent (one night tent) works like couchsurfing – only outside. The website collects places on a map. Behind them are nice people who share their garden with you for one night. This takes into account the fact that wild camping is prohibited in Germany and camping sites are becoming more and more expensive. https://1nitetent.com

Warmshowers.org

Warmshowers is a free, worldwide organization for accommodation of hospitable cyclists. People who want to accommodate touring cyclists sign up, share their information, and have someone here and there to share exciting stories and a great evening with!

Warmshowers is represented in 161 countries and almost 100,000 hosts are registered. https://de.warmshowers.org/faq

Work for board and lodging

Working for board and lodging is a special variant of work&travel. It is common to rent somewhere for days or weeks, usually working four to five hours a day (five days a week) without having to pay for meals or accommodation. Sometimes you will be paid additionally. The type of work is as varied as the country and its people are: Working on farms, in families to look after children or helping with construction or renovation projects. Sometimes special places like a lighthouse in Norway or the yurt camp in Kyrgyzstan attract people. There are various websites that bring together providers and seekers. This is also a good way to get to know the country and its people off the beaten track.

When looking for a job, you can have good or bad luck. We met some travelers who were totally enthusiastic and kept in contact with their hosts for years. We were rather unlucky and did not get along with our hosts very well. It’s definitely worth a try – and if your trip lasts as long as your budget allows, it’s a great opportunity to extend the duration of your trip.

Here the three best known suppliers:

Hand against bunk

Among sailors “hand against bunk” stands for cheap sailing along against active support for all work on board. https://www.handgegenkoje.de/

Other sleeping possibilities:

There are countless other accommodation options, with a little creativity you can find much more.

  • Book night trips: Nocturnal travel allows you to sleep more or less relaxed in the bus, train or plane
  • Sleeping at the airport (https://www.sleepinginairports.net/)
  • House-Sitting or Pet-Sitting: Free living, so that houses do not stand empty while their owners are away. Various platforms offer to bring the two parties together (e.g. trustedhousesitters.com). Often (but not always) it is also a question of taking care of pets.
  • House or apartment swap

And what do I do with all this information?

As you can see, there are countless possibilities to find a place to stay overnight. I have tried not only to enumerate these possibilities, but to structure them. So you can always choose what is best for you in your current situation. Sometimes it is the anonymous hotel room. Sometimes it is couchsurfing. And sometimes wild camping on a lonely Scandinavian fjord is the highlight of the week.

One final tip: Look for country-specific features, then you have the opportunity to delve even deeper into the particularities of a country. Here are a few examples:

  • Jurtencamps in Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia (just drive there or book via booking.com)
  • Hobbit Caves in New Zealand
  • Overnight stays in the monastery
  • Ice caves or igloos in Scandinavia
  • Tree houses in Costa Rica

If you are interested in the topic “How do I finance a world trip?”, please have a look at our article:

www.rtw-trip.com/how-do-i-finance-my-world-trip/

Camping in Charyn Canyon in Kazakhstan
Camping in Charyn Canyon in Kazakhstan

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