the wandering bean – where to stay when travelling solo
Where you stay can have a huge impact when you go travelling, especially when you go alone. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly. But if you’re anything like I was before my first solo trip it can be really, really difficult knowing what’s best. Even after I thought I knew, it turned out I didn’t actually know at all. Now I’ve been travelling on my own a few times I think I’m better placed to talk about accommodation. Of course, everyone’s different, but hopefully my experience will help you find what fits with how you want to travel.
On my travels I’ve tried three different types of accommodation: hostels, Airbnb, and hotels. There are other ways of doing things – staying with friends or family if you have some at your destination, sofa surfing (though I’d be waaaay to scared to do that!). As the world seems to get smaller, the possibilities are growing. Everything has its up sides and down sides, so I’m going to tell you what I think are the pros and cons of each type of accommodation I’ve tried.
What I like
If you’re looking for a social experience, hostels are your best bet. I didn’t stay in hostels on my Europe trip and ended up regretting it because I felt really isolated. My best evenings were spent in hostels making friends with people from all over the world. It’s awesome! Even if you’re not so sociable hostels still give you the option to socialise should you want to, or you can keep to yourself. Many hostels have a bar, so if you do choose to socialise you can just pop downstairs and find some friendly people to talk to.
They’re also super good value for money. At least I think so. You get everything you need – a bed, shower, safe place to stay. Yet you don’t have to spend a lot of money for it. It really depends where you go, but I’ve seen hostels in some cities at less than a tenner a night! Of course if you’re going to more expensive places like Scandinavia or really popular cities like Amsterdam you will have to pay quite a bit more than that. Still less than a hotel though!
What I don’t like
You don’t really know what you’re going to get. For some people this might be an upside – adventure and all that. But I like to know that somewhere is at least clean before I get there. And that the beds are sturdy and the lockers are secure.
I’ve stayed in a few hostels and they were all completely different. The ones on mainland Europe seem to be very modern and are often in purpose built blocks with decent showers, good lockers and loads of space. In the UK they’re smaller and a bit dated in my experience. I’ve not been to many hostels in the UK, so they’re probably not all like this. Just be sure to read the reviews first. Besides, I haven’t had a bad experience, I just preferred the European hostels.
In Canada they were somewhere in between. I think it really depends on which hostel you choose. Even the YHA hostels aren’t necessarily consistent. The three I stayed in were all really good, just all very different. In a way that’s a good thing, because I would say that each hostel had the feel of its city about it, and all the cities I went to were very different too.
Bear in mind I am fussy about things being clean, and I do like my own space. Yet I still enjoy hostels. A lot of people write them off too quickly when deciding where to stay. They’re really financially savvy place to stay when you’re travelling.
What I don’t like
When I travelled around Europe I stayed mainly in Airbnbs. I ended up feeling isolated but without the benefit of having a nice hotel room. You never really know what you’re getting until you get there either, which ended up adding to anxiety for me. Even with the reviews you still can’t be sure (and trust me, I read ALL the reviews before I booked). On top of that, the cheapest places are usually located a bit outside the city so you need to figure out how to get there too.
My experience of Airbnb has been a bit of a mixture. There have been no bad experiences per se, but there were a couple of places I wasn’t particularly comfortable in. One of the flats I stayed in had a male host when the listing clearly showed a lady. I specifically chose places with female hosts because I’m aware of my vulnerability as a solo female traveller. The idea of being alone in a flat with a strange man didn’t appeal to me at all, but it ended up happening anyway. Nothing bad happened, but the whole thing felt a bit sketchy. There wasn’t even any evidence of a lady living there – no toiletries or anything – so I have no idea what was going on. Anyway, the man did seem perfectly nice enough but it still made me uneasy.
Another of the places stunk of cat. I’ve lived with cats my whole life but that cat really ponged. I didn’t mind the cat smell too much, but the whole place just seemed a bit dirty. It was the kind of place where I didn’t feel clean even after I’d showered. The lady was lovely, but the flat was a bit to um… bohemian for me.
What I like
On the other hand, the flat in Zagreb was beautiful and the host was lovely. Plus there were TWO CATS. I liked that flat so much I stayed in for the night and had a bath while my host was out partying. I think that was the first time I felt completely comfortable on the trip.
Airbnb does have its place for sure. Maybe on a long trip I would have a few Airbnbs booked between hostels just to have a bit of time to myself. And it can be really cheap if you book early enough, and you get a lot to choose from. When me and Dan stayed in Amsterdam we had a whole flat which was awesome. By myself that would be a bit much though, I’d just be rattling around in there!
I would book with Airbnb again. They seem quite good at sorting out problems when you have them. We struggled to get hols of our host when we were in Amsterdam and they were really helpful, and we got some money back. I feel nervous about using them on my own again though. Maybe for a trip to London I’d consider it. And for group trips where we could afford a whole apartment it would be awesome.
What I like
There’s no denying that hotels are the BEST. They remind me of family holidays and good times. You get a comfy room, your own space, someone cleans for you. Sometimes you even get breakfast. I LOVE hotel breakfast! Especially the ones you get at Premier Inn where you can have hot AND cold stuff and as much as you like.
Don’t get me wrong, there are bad hotels out there. I grew up watching Hotels from Hell. But I think they have more to lose if they’re crap, so they tend to be good. Hostels can get away with it more I think, if they’re not spick and span. At the end of the day you’re sharing with a bunch of other people, of course it’s not going to be top notch all the time.
For my final night in Europe I booked myself a hotel in Berlin. It was the only one of the whole trip, but I thought I deserved a bit of luxury on my final night. Having my own bathroom was glorious. After three weeks of sharing bathrooms with strangers it was nice to shower and go to toilet in my own space. And to be able to prance around and shuffle about without worrying that someone would hear me and think I’m a complete weirdo (though they might just be right).
What I don’t like
The price. Definitely. There’s no way I could afford to stay in hotels while travelling. One night as a treat is a stretch! I’d rather stay in hostels and spend my money on seeing more stuff. I’m not gonna lie though, I have been known to walk around cities staring at hotels with the green eyes of jealousy. Maybe one day I’ll be able to stay in them for free…………….
What are your experiences of accommodation? Share your thoughts in the comments 🙂
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4 thoughts on “the wandering bean – where to stay when travelling solo”
It’s still impressive that you have the courage to travel by yourself, I’m also interested in trying that, but a bit scared as well. I’d love to read more about your adventures 🙂
It is scary, but also really fulfilling. To be honest I’ve become one of those people who says “when I was in X country…..” a lot haha. Finding the courage to travel solo is one of the best things I ever did, highly recommend! There are a few other posts on here about my travels too, and I’ll probably keep writing about travel forever 🙂
This is really interesting! I’ve only ever stayed at hotels to be honest, so it’s great to get the perspective of other types of accommodation!
I’m glad you found it interesting 🙂 Until my Europe trip I’d only ever stayed at hotels, so stepping out of that comfort zone was a bit daunting! I’m glad I did though!