Your One Stop Post for Accommodation on a Shoe String

Today’s guest post comes from Anna Cleal, who knows a thing or two about finding a place to sleep that will fit your (minimal) budget.

I know I’m at the risk of sounding cliché by using the terms shoe string and travel in the same sentence, BUT hear me out on this one because I think I have a few tips for you that will allow you to stretch that shoelace so far that you’ll be tripping over yourself to book your next adventure.

This post will offer some advice on how to reduce those excessive accommodation expenses and free up more funds for fun!  It promises to appeal to the;

a) Young and poor;

b) Old and poor;

c) Those who would just rather spend their travel budget on exploring, eating, or WHATEVER as opposed to expensive accommodation (boo).

Let’s stick with the shoe analogy for the sake of keeping this blog a bit more upbeat.

First decide if you REALLY need to pay for the shoes

shoe on stovetop
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lori Greig

Ok so I’m not condoning shoplifting, or squatting for that matter, but these are new age times and technology gives us some brilliant options in terms of cost-effective accommodation options.  How about Couchsurfing?  This is a global database of friendly folk willing to give up a bed or a couch, and let you stay with them for FREE, yes that’s right I said FREE!

You can read reviews to make sure you’ll be staying with someone hospitable as opposed to a psycho.  You can also read a bio about the host so you know if they sound like your cup of tea.  If you ask me this is pure gold.   The reason I like this concept is that it usually means meeting locals, instead of just fellow travellers – they may even show you around town, and give you a perspective you wouldn’t have experienced staying in a hostel.  Three words – CHECK IT OUT!

There are a few lesser known sites to add to this list too;

  • Global Freeloaders – with a name that is a little more blatant than couch surfing, but a site offering a very similar service all the same.  Be warned that you are also expected to host, as well as freeload, so make sure you are prepared to return the favour before you try this one!
  • – This is a very easy to use site, however unfortunately the user network doesn’t seem to be as extensive as couch surfing yet.  Regardless – it’s well worth a look!
  • The list could go on and on, so I will rattle off a few more options and leave it there.  Try Servas, The Hospitality Club, Place 2 Stay, or Be Lodged.

So are you wondering why you ever paid for accommodation in the past? Or feeling a little overwhelmed? I urge you to keep reading!

Work for Your Shoes

Nike Air Max 1990 x Home Grown
Creative Commons License photo credit: sling@flickr

Another option doing voluntary work in exchange for accommodation and food, for example; WOOFing. Not to be confused with the noise a dog makes, this is actually a concept that started in the UK in the 70s and is short for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  In my home country of New Zealand people coming from overseas can stay on a farm for free, as long as they help out around the place.  So you not only get a bed (yay), but also the experience of milking cows, rounding up sheep, spreading compost and meeting the farm animals, WOOF, WOOF!

Like Couch Surfing this is a way of experiencing the ‘true’ culture and vibe of the area by staying with locals.

Additionally sites like Workaway will connect you to various worldwide volunteering opportunities, with the basic expectation of 5 hours a day, 5 days a week in exchange for food and board.  Work varies from helping out on an eco project to elderly or child care.

If you DO need the shoes then for goodness sake shop at Walmart not Bloomingdales

shoes me... / chausse moi...
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mzelle Biscotte

There are a heap of web sites made for helping you seek out the best rates and, in my experience, 9 times out of 10 these will be better than the walk in rates you will get in hotels (try Hostel Bookers or Hostel World).  If you’re like me and are scared of making too many bookings then you can always make a list of solid looking spots, go check out the vibe and compare the walk in rate before buying.  The trick of the trade is pop over to the nearest internet cafe after you have found somewhere that meets your approval, and check out if you can find a better web deal.  If you want to be really cheeky then ask the hotel if they have wifi or internet and make your booking from inside the hotel.  Don’t tell them I said that though!

Realise that in some countries you can get boots for the price of slippers

Creative Commons License photo credit: Hamed Saber

If you’ve spent a while living out of shoebox hostels in Europe and feel like it’s time for some nicer accommodation then you may like to try out the fair shores of the developing world.  In fact this is my favourite place to travel in terms of culture, as well as implying much better deals on food and accommo, and generally just being able to travel cheaper.  Putting money into a developing economy is a sure way to improve the general living conditions in the area too.  So while you take advantage of slightly lower rates, you can also feel good about spending money in a country that really needs it.

Price comparison web sites such as Hotels Combined, which target slightly more luxury accommodation, can definitely be used to find great rates in areas such as South East Asia, The Central Americas, and South America. I recently used this to search for accommodation in the Philippines and found some great hotels in Boracay for as little as $11USD – a fantastic tropical destination.  Complaints.. NO!

Finally, get the right fit for you!

flip flops
Creative Commons License photo credit: {eclaire}

For me travel is all about finding a way to avoid being too much of a tourist and having unique and culturally-charged experiences. For you it may be different but just promise me you will have a prod around the web and see what you can dig up.  Check out a few of the sites I’ve mentioned to find accommodation that suits your budget easier.  Do the research and you won’t be disappointed!

So double knot those laces, make a few bookings and, excusing all puns and clichés, get those shoes tightly strung for your next great escape.  It’ll be cheaper, longer and better if you do it wisely!

Take care and safe travels.

Anna Cleal is a twenty-something New Zealander who has spent time working with Kove (the local community microfinance organization) in the Phillipines and is currently spending a month in the Dominican Republic. She blogs at

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6 thoughts on “Your One Stop Post for Accommodation on a Shoe String”

  1. Love the shoe analogy! I can also relate in a literal sense; on a solo summer trip, I bought one pair of shoes too many in Italy and actually ripped my suitcase; if I had it to do over again, I’d only spend a portion of the money and spend it on something worthwhile – like gelato! And I would hang out more with locals. I did that on a subsequent trip to Italy, and it made such a big difference as far as the quality of my trip – not to mention keeping down the costs.
    I like using to connect with locals these days. And I totally agree with you that people should check out the site. Or to use your shoe analogy – people should definitely try it on!

  2. I like the footwear metaphor! Another idea to add to the list – instead of going to Bloomingdales or Walmart, travelers could try checking out a local, independent shoe shop – one with personal service, attention to detail, and unbeatable value. Especially one that comes highly recommended by lots of other picky shoe-wearers who are on a budget.

    Darn Good Digs – – guide to the world’s best independently owned accommodations for budget-minded travelers

  3. Anna-
    The fact that you are interested in microfinance and are in the Dominican Republic caught my attention. Microfinance is quite a side passion of mine, and I’ve been to the DR twice to visit my friend who used to work for Esperanza International down there. What are you doing in the DR – microfinance volunteer work?

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