I didn’t know everything on day-one. I have made all travel mistakes before I figured out the style, budget and type that works well for me.
Here are some tips from my experience.
** Stay at hostels or home-stays:
Reasons for choosing hostels :
– If I travel alone and unsure about the place I am visiting, I will always find fellow travelers who are equally lost. And a company makes a huge difference.
– Most of the travelers have a unique story to tell you. Those who quit their jobs to travel with no set time limit, those who have taken sabbaticals, etc., the hostel is mixture of cultures, ideas, and inspirations.
– You get to save tons of money. The cheapest place where I stayed was in Cambodia for $5 a night for a private room that had the same facilities my parents’ house in Chennai.
– If you have absolutely no-clue what to do in a country, almost always there is someone else with an itinerary to tag along. I had no plan of hiking Mount Bromo in Indonesia until I met a Spanish husband-wife who encouraged me to join them. And it was one of the best hikes.
– Find friends to share cost for taxi, boat rides and group discounts.
– Most hostels have kitchen where you can cook to reduce cost. Especially if you are a vegetarian and you don’t have many options available outside.
Annoying things about hostels:
– Loud !!! Yes, the kids in their 20s party hard. To deal with this situation, I always get a private room so I am not disturbed when the party kids come back to dorm.
– There will always be someone looking for a hookup in crowded hostels. Trust me, not every guy who talks to a girl is like that. In fact, I have only met decent, honest and respectable guys.
– Cleanliness is not an issue at all the hostels. Majority of the ones I have stayed at are pretty clean. But, there are places that are dirty. Just leave and find another hostel.
(or may be I have high tolerance for untidiness. )
– Losing personal belongings is one of the biggest issues with hostels. Almost at every hostel I have heard incidents of stolen cellphones, laptops, money etc., But, again my private room strategy have worked well for me. And for a few extra bucks, hostels provide lockers too. Traveling light helps in this situation. Try not to carry many valuable and don’t think twice about getting a locker by paying extra money.
Most of all follow your instincts. If you don’t feel safe in a place, leave !!!! Find another hostel where you can make friends.
If I get a home stay in a country, that would be my first choice for accommodation because of the local experience you get to have. But, the issues one faces at hostels are applicable to homestays too.
Search for a well rated home-stays before going, especially if you are a solo female traveler.
Tips for researching:
– I usually go to hostelbookers or hostels.com to look for hostels with good rating and cost.
– As a second step, I go to tripadvisor for review of the hostel i am considering. If there is even a single comment that doesn’t sit well with me, I am not going to that place. Call me picky !
– At the same time, if I am already in a country, I get advice from fellow travelers on a location and hostel to stay. This has always been a great experience. For example I heard a fellow traveler talk to someone else in a bus about a hostel. He was praising the hostel for the service they provided for the money they charged. I interrupted him and got the details. And made some awesome friends, and had a great experience staying there. So, ask fellow travelers.
I don’t usually stay at hotels unless it is absolutely necessary. The only few countries, where I had no choice but to stay at a hotel was because there was no hostel available.