Accommodation is one of the biggest expenses when traveling. So if you are wondering how to find cheap accommodation in Europe look no further! Here you’ll find all the options and the best resources for each one of them.
It’s true, hotels aren’t cheap. However, with a bit of planning and knowing where to look, you can score a surprisingly good hotel deal and enjoy the privacy and other perks hotels offer.
First it’s good to start with some booking providers. Here are the most popular ones;
Booking is one of the most popular providers for accommodation in Europe. They have a large section of different accommodation options and are great when booking hotels, hostels and apartments. If you make 5 reservations with them you become a genius member, which is the name of their reward’s program. The perks include discounted prices on accommodation and some other freebies.
HotelsCombined compares all top travel sites in search for the best possible deal.
Hotels.com can also offer a good deal. Their reward program offers discounted rates and a free night after collecting 10 nights.
HotWire is a site where you book accommodation without knowing where you’ll actually stay. That’s why their prices are cheap! You’ll be shown a general area grid, amenities, stars, the price and after your card is charged you are provided with the name of the hotel. The hotels are rarely below 3* so this can be a good deal.
Secondly, once you find the cheapest price on these booking providers check the price on hotel’s website directly to see if they match.
If you want to find cheap accommodation in Europe then choose a hostel. They are great for budget-minded travelers. Hostels aren’t what they used to be in the past, their service and safety improved a lot and now there are even luxury hostels on the market and hostels that offer a wide array of entertainment options.
Besides cheap prices, hostels offer the chance to interact with other people, which can be handy if you’re traveling solo as you get to meet new people. Of course, there’s a risk you can meet a bunch of idiots too!
Nowadays I rarely stay in hostels. I like having privacy and peace so I usually opt for hotels, private rooms or a private apartment. If you don’t mind the lack of privacy, hostels are a great way to save money on accommodation in Europe. Make sure that the hostel will provide a locker for your valuables and I highly recommend bringing earplugs and a sleeping mask. I like the SleepMaster mask.
The best websites for finding cheap hostels are;
Guest Houses & B&B’s
Guest houses are, in most cases private homes opened for travelers. They are budget-friendly and calmer than hostels. They also offer more privacy as you can choose a private room. Some of them are lovingly decorated and set in beautiful surroundings making the whole experience that much better. Guest houses are very popular in UK, France and Germany.
The best website for finding guest houses is Booking.
Book an apartment and live as the locals do! Staying in an apartment can really provide a glimpse into the way of life in a foreign country. It’s also cheaper than staying in a hotel. You can book a private room or a whole place for yourself.
Make sure to read reviews thoroughly and check the location of the apartment.
If you want to stay long-term in an apartment – check the local ads, FB groups, Couchsurfing. You’ll find a much cheaper deal.
Best websites for short-term rentals are;
If you sign up through my Airbnb link you’ll get 25% off your next trip.
You can also volunteer for a good cause and get free accommodation and meals in exchange. You can volunteer for numerous causes at numerous places! South America, Asia and Africa dominate with these opportunities, but Europe also has plenty of them.
The best websites for volunteering opportunities are;
Camping is popular in wilderness areas, national parks and at the seaside. Nowadays camping is a broad term, from hikers carrying light gear to campers who use recreational vehicles equipped with electricity, running water, furniture etc.
There are also numerous forms of camping: backpacking, bicycle camping, glamping (glamorous camping), social camping and more.
Camping is free in most locations but in some tourist places you may have to pay for it. You’ll also have to invest in good gear.
Best websites for camping are;
House sitting basically means that you can live in someone’s home for free while they’re away, in exchange for doing general house maintenance, pet sitting, picking up the mail etc.
If you travel long-term this could cut your travel costs substantially as you won’t need to pay for accommodation and could live in one place for a few months. Some owners will even pay you to house sit.
Best websites for finding house sitting opportunities are;
Couchsurfing is a large travel social community. People from around the world would be happy to show you around their city and provide accommodation for free. Not all people host and not everyone uses Couchsurfing to stay at someone’s place for free. Some travelers just want to find company while they travel and someone to show them their city. Couchsurfing also has meetings in many cities worldwide where you can meet locals, expats and other travelers.
I’ve never used the actual website for staying at someone’s place. After attending meetings and showing foreigners my hometown, I’ve made friends with some of them. Later on wherever I went traveling my newfound couchsurfing friends would connect me with some of their own friends in places I was visiting. They’ve always readily opened their homes to me, so I ended up staying with 3-4 Couchsurfers in total.
Also the biggest myth is that Couchsurfing is free. It’s not. If you care about your host you’ll bring them a gift or take them to dinner. Also you may not get a spare key and you’ll also need to spend time with your host which could limit independent roaming.
I find Couchsurfing best for finding like-minded people and meeting other travelers on the road. Their groups are especially helpful as you can find people who are interested in same things as you. There are groups for hikers, bloggers, expats, LGBT travelers etc.
You can also save money by choosing to travel overnight on planes, trains, buses and other modes of transportation.
I’m not a big fan of this as I have a really hard time falling asleep in buses or trains but it’s definitely a good way to save money. Again, don’t forget earplugs and a sleeping mask.
Home exchange is another example of sharing economy. Two parties agree to exchange their homes or rooms for a set period of time. It can include anything from houses to cottages. This is a nice way to save money and experience living like a local.
The best website is Home Exchange.
Staying at a farm can cost money or it can be free – depending if a work exchange agreement was done. Accommodation includes cabins, cottages, guest rooms or tents. Farm stays are very popular in Italy, Iceland and Ireland.
You can find good opportunities on WWOOF and HelpX.
At first this may seem unusual but monastery stays are quite typical in some European countries. They also range from the ones offering very minimal service to those who are luxurious. They are usually cheaper than hostels and include communal kitchens. Some monasteries are famous for producing their own wine and food. Attending religion service is not a prerequisite for a stay.
Monastery Stays is a good resource.
Ask a Friend
We live in a connected world. You probably have friends who study abroad, relatives or friends you met while traveling. It doesn’t hurt to ask if they’d be happy to host you or if they know someone who would.
Purple Roofs is a great resource for LGBT travelers. It lists LGBT owned and LGBT friendly accommodations from hotels, B&B’s, hostels, apartments etc. There’s also a list of tour operators and travel agents.
Disclosure: Some links on the list are affiliate links. If you click them, I may get a small commission for your purchase at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products that I personally use and love.
Featured photo: Gery Bembridge on Flickr under CC