If you're a budget traveler, you'll most likely be interested in staying in hostels. Hostels are one of the cheapest forms of accommodation and make it easy for you to splurge on more exciting things, like tours and nights out on the town.
Price Ranges for a Hostel Stay
For a single bed in a dorm room, the price will vary from a few cents to over $100, depending on what part of the world you are in, but it'll be very rare for the price to come in at any higher than that.
In Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, South Asia, Central America, and other affordable regions of the world, you can find dorm beds for next to nothing. In Laos, for example, you might pay $1 on a private room in a guesthouse overlooking the Mekong. Certainly, it will be basic, but what a value! That's an exception rather than a rule, though. In these parts of the world, you can find a dorm for around $5 a night, with private rooms for as little as $15 a night.
In Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, and North America, you'll find the highest prices. In these parts of the world, dorm rooms can start at around $20 a night for a decent hostel and max out at $100 night for a private room in the flashiest hostel in town.
In between those two extremes are everywhere else: cheaper parts of Western Europe (Spain and Portugal); the Middle East, Africa, and South America. In these parts of the world, you can expect to spend around $15 on a dorm room, and around $50 a night for a private room.
HI (Hostelling International), YHA, Australia's Nomads, and a few other hostel bookers or chains offer hostel discount cards for use at their hostels (like a hotel points account), but for the most part, don't expect a huge deal. Hostels are already extraordinarily cheap.
But if you're a savvy negotiator and a slow traveler, you should easily be able to bargain with the hostel staff for a cheaper rate. Hostels will usually give you a discount for staying long-term, so if you're planning on being in a city for a minimum of a week, it's worth it to not book in advance and just turn up and try to negotiate. You'll nearly always be able to talk hostel managers down a bit.
And if you're looking to spend a significant amount of time in a place, you could try offering to work at a hostel in exchange for a free bed and food. Perhaps you could spend a few hours every morning cleaning dorm rooms.
It's common to receive a complimentary breakfast in a hostel, but this isn't necessarily as good as it sounds. In Latin America, you'll be faced with bread, juice, and instant coffee; in Europe, you'll be able to grab the same but with some decent cheese thrown in.
The free breakfasts in hostels are usually served buffet style and cold. If you see the words "continental breakfast" know that it will be pretty basic.
If you don't care about having a bland meal each morning, the free breakfast will allow you to save money on food, and if you're like some travelers, you'll grab some extra rolls to eat for lunch later in the day.
The internet is available almost everywhere these days and hostels are one of the few places where you can nearly always be guaranteed to get online. While hotels still like to charge for Internet, hostels will give you a free Wi-Fi connection to use for as long as you like. While connections can sometimes be slow, they're nearly always usable, even in dorm rooms. Some hostels have Wi-Fi in common areas only. The one exception? Hostels in Australia usually charge for Wi-Fi.
Tours and Activities
Hostels are fun because of the sheer number of low-cost activities they can lead you to. Hostel staff will be able to tell you where the free walking tours are, will run pub crawls, will organize social nights, will help you get to your next destination and will run day trips to nearby sites of interest.
In many places, tour companies will charge you a supplement to take a tour alone, which is often double the price you'd pay if you were part of a couple. If you are staying in a hostel, you can often avoid the single supplement charge on tours by going with a with a group of people and paying very little money for it.
Some hostels are deemed "party hostels." Party hostels attract a younger crowd who want to experience the nightlife in a place, as well as the cultural and historical sites. It's great for the young solo traveler. Everyone’s there to have a good time and are much more open to instant friendships.
Sheets and Towels
You will always be given linen to use for the duration of your stay, so don't be one of those travelers who brings your own with you. You'll be unlikely to ever use it, anyway, as most hostels forbid you to use your own sleeping bag or sheets because they could be harboring bedbugs, and hostels are actually really quite good at keeping bedbugs out (contrary to popular opinion).
While there are quite a few hostels out there who will provide you with free towels to use (or allow you to rent them for a small fee), you may consider bringing your own for the rare hostel stay that is towel-less. Private hostel rooms generally come equipped with towels if you've got your own ensuite bathroom.