Accommodation Options for Student Travelers

From Hostels to Guesthouses, Housesitting to WWOOFing

Hostel in Koh Lipe © Lauren Juliff
••• Hostel in Koh Lipe. © Lauren Juliff

Figuring out where you're going to stay while you're traveling is a decision that can easily affect every experience on your travels -- where you're staying can make or break a trip.

Here's our round-up of the different types of accommodation options for students on the road:

Hostels

Most students opt to stay in hostels when they travel because they're the cheapest option and allow you to make friends with fellow travelers who are of a similar age.

Hostels can also save you money if you book tours and activities through them. 

The disadvantages are often not getting a good night's sleep if you're staying in a dorm room, or you might have roommates you don't get on with or who have poor personal hygiene. Sharing a bathroom is never pleasant either.

Read more: Hostels 101

Guesthouses

Guesthouses are mostly found in cheaper parts of the world (Southeast Asia, Central America) and are similarly priced to private rooms in hostels. They don't usually offer dorm rooms.

You can save money by staying in guesthouses if you were already planning to stay in private rooms in hostels, but this way you can be guaranteed a decent night's sleep too. Guesthouses are best if you're going to be traveling with a friend or partner and can split the cost of the private room.

The downside to guesthouses is that they're often not as well set up for meeting people as hostels are -- you'll have to make more of an effort to meet people, and they're usually going to be couples.

Couchsurfing

If you're traveling on a strict budget then couchsurfing could be the answer, as it allows you to stay in someone's home and sleep on their couch for free. You'll often only be able to take advantage of this for a couple of nights but if you can find a few places in the same city, this can be a viable way to save money.

Couchsurfing isn't just about free accommodation, however. In fact, avid couchsurfers say that it's absolutely not about the free accommodation. It's all about the experiences. It's not often that you'll have a local open up their home to you and give you an insider's look into a city. Through couchsurfing, you'll often make lifelong friends and discover parts of a city you wouldn't have otherwise found.

The main downside to couchsurfing is having to sleep on a couch and having very little privacy. Safety can be a concern for female travelers too, though as long as you pick hosts with lots of positive reviews you should be fine.

Read more: Couchsurfing 101

WWOOFing

Want to save money on accommodation but don't feel comfortable sleeping on a stranger's couch? WWOOFing stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms and is a way for you to volunteer on local organic farms as you travel in exchange for free accommodation and meals. You'll get lots of exercise, will be able to give back to the local community, and have no travel costs overall!

The downsides to WWOOFing are that it's extremely intensive physical work and you often won't have much spare time to explore where you're working.

Read more: WWOOFing 101

Housesitting

Housesitting is probably the most enjoyable way of receiving free accommodation but it also requires a lot more effort.

Housesitting involves looking after somebody's home and pets while they're away on vacation. You'll need to spend a lot of time building up a decent profile, and it won't hurt if you can add some references too. However, if you do go down the housesitting route, then you'll be able to live in gorgeous houses for weeks or months at a time at no cost to you. Housesitting works best if you have flexibility and don't have fixed dates and places you need to be at certain times.

The main disadvantage to housesitting is the stress of taking care of someone's home and pets. Things can go wrong, and often do, and it's up to you to figure out the solution.

Read more: Housesitting 101

Short-Term Vacation Rentals

Like privacy and home comforts while you travel? how about taking a look at a short-term vacation website such as Airbnb? With short-term vacation rents, you can browse apartments that are rented out on a daily, weekly or monthly rate, allowing you to spend your time in a city living like a local.

The apartments often have kitchens, workspaces and, if you'll be sharing the travel costs with a partner, often won't cost all that much more than a hostel. Airbnb works best if you're going to be staying somewhere for a reasonably long amount of time. We rented an apartment in Portland for a month and the $100 daily rate turned into $1000 total for the month.