These are some apps and websites that I frequently use to find cheap accommodation when travelling. As a general rule of thumb, know what you want (hotel, private room, dorm etc) and where you want to stay (centre or outside the city) to get the most out of these tools.
If you want the best prices, search on all of these tools. I usually set a budget and get the highest that money can buy. For example, it is better to go for a highest double room in a 3- or 2-star hotel rather than going for a single room in a 4-star hotel.
Because I am generally an introverted person and have to push myself to be sociable, rather than being miserable by myself, I usually go for double rooms in hostels. You get good quality double rooms with the social atmosphere of the hostel. This is especially good for small groups and solo travellers who likes the privacy. This is usually the case, but if you are in a city like London where the prices are very high, even these double rooms can be overpriced for what it actually offers. So it is good to use the tools below to search for the rooms, look at the pictures and have a feel about the atmosphere of the place you are going to stay.
Oh, and read the reviews, take the average review into account rather than just reading one or two negative/positive reviews. People usually are eager to leave negative reviews to teach the hosts a lesson, but they usually are not that eager to leave the positive ones. Look for any absolute no-nos in others’ reviews that you want to avoid.
Without further ado,
Book your hostels and hotels with booking.com. If you travel frequently you get a genius badge, which will give you secret deals and discounts.
I like the review system of booking, because there’s plenty for every persona of a traveller. Personally, I like to use the double room and location score filters to make sure that I am right in the middle of all action yet comfortable and quiet.
You can book your hostels through hostel world. Hostels are cheaper than other alternatives. If you don’t want to stay in a dorm room, many hostels have double rooms. With that you get the privacy as well as the social atmosphere of a hostel.
With Airbnb you can stay in others’ homes wherever you go. I usually get a whole apartment, but it has the option of renting out private rooms. Prices vary depending on the city and the location. If you are travelling with friends, it can be really cost effective to stay in an Airbnb apartment and split the costs. You will have a better experience as well. Most Airbnb’s are well maintained. Look for the stars in the reviews.
I have used Agoda only a few times. Sometimes, you get prices cheaper than other search engines. Sometimes, the service seems to have some listings which others don’t have. It is very intuitive, and I like the many number of photos that usually accompany each property with sections like kitchen photos, room photos, lounge photos and so on.
This is an app that has last minute deals. I have used it a few times, where you get last minute, cheap hotel deals. The deals are not that cheap all the time, but cheaper than other apps (sometimes) when you book last minute.
As the name says, you surf someone else’s couch for free in exchange of stories and banter usually. You don’t necessarily have to do anything. I have not personally couchsurfed, I use it mainly to go to weekly meetup and to meet other travellers when I am in a new city. Personally, I would not want to surf a couch. But I have met many who love to do that. Usually have some interesting stories to tell too.
This one is good for those who like pets or can look after someone else’s home when travelling. It is a paid service, subscription based, but I think it is worth it for what it provides, considering the accommodation costs that you would otherwise pay. The plus side is your accommodation is totally free and you get to party with the animals.
Following are some listing website where you can find accommodation and/or food in exchange to helping someone with their household chores, maintenance or any other kind of work.
You can volunteer and help others and save on accommodation with the help of this site. Usually, you don’t get paid to help others for the work that is listed here. But some do pay. They have a variety of job – farm jobs, hostel jobs etc. In exchange the hosts offer you food and/or accommodation.
This is another website like Helpx. I have a membership here, because I liked the usability of the site better, it has a modern feel. Again, you can contact people from here, read reviews about the host and the job. There are a variety of helper jobs here.
This is like helpx and workaway but it is only for organic farm jobs. The only trouble with this one is that you have to register separately for the sites that represent each country that you wish to visit. It is not very cost effective to register in all the countries you intend to travel.
Bring down the cost of travel by working in a hostel when you travel. As I have heard from many others who I met on my travels, working in a hostel can be quite a fun experience. Personally, I would suggest to work in hostels in cities like London or Amsterdam, or any other cities where you are paid in a high valued currency. There is no point in working in a hostel in Ukraine and saving on the accommodation because you can find good hostel rooms for £5-6 pounds.
Craigslist/Gumtree (UK) or similar classifieds sites
If you want to look for long term accommodation, if you are like me, if you like to stay in one place a bit longer – say from a few weeks to a month, you can look at the local classified’s sites. They are very cost effective, cheaper than Airbnbs.
You can also contact the hosts on Airbnbs once you have stayed at their homes for a few days and ask them for a monthly price. If you are lucky you get a good deal.
Room sharing apps similar to Spareroom.co.uk
In the UK there is a website called Spareroom.co.uk, where you can look for private rooms. Make sure you have checked the short lets option to see short terms rentals from a few weeks to a month/couple of months.
Similarly, look for similar room sharing apps in your destination.
Student accommodation for longer term travel
If you happen to travel to a place where there are many students, you can look for exchange or Erasmus (in Europe) accommodations. You don’t have to be student to rent one of these. Simply google for local agencies and call them up to arrange a viewing.
Hope this helps.