When on a long trip, you’d be an idiot if you book all your onward travel and accommodation before you left! Sure, set yourself up for the first week or so if you’re a little nervous but you have no idea where you’re going to go and who you’re going to meet. It’d suck to have it all sorted, only to meet 3 of your new best friends but be unable to continue on with them! Flexible travel is key on a long trip, but if you’re a first time traveller the idea of just rocking up in a new town with no place confirmed to stay is a little daunting. What can you do to allow you the ability to change your mind constantly but still know you have somewhere to sleep? Why not read on and see what I do.
There are an unbelievable number of accommodation booking mobile applications available to you now! From Booking.com, Hostelworld, WeHotel - even STA Travel now have a mobile app that you can use to book hostels and hotels with while on the road. This is great as you can hop into a cafe, shop, bus station etc and log into the wifi then within 5 minutes have a bed or room booked for your next destination. You’ll also be able to see all the reviews for these places and pick accordingly. I would suggest though to only book a few nights at the accommodation, even if your plan is to stay for a week or more just in case it’s not your cup of tea / you land in the worst room possible. It’s an easy get out of jail free card but you can always add on additional nights if required!
Booking via computers in an internet cafe is similar to using your mobile apps except you’re using the website version and is a great option if you don’t have a wireless device with you on your travels. The only issue with this is that it can be risky paying via card when using internet cafes, there are endless tricks that people will play to get your details and before you know it all the money in your account is gone so try and book places that are happy with payment in full on arrival and not a card deposit.
Just Show Up
Just showing up always works well, in a hostel or guesthouse there will generally be beds available but I always like to have a few names and address stored away with options to try. Generally this is from recommendations of other travellers on the way, but you can do this from looking online at sites just like tripadvisor too. The only risk with this is that there may be no accommodation available left that fits within your budget, or even worse no beds available in any of the places! You won’t normally find this problem in off peak times or midweek, but you will find this over national holiday periods where the locals also want to join in the festivities or weekends. Friday / Saturday nights can be busy so call in advance just in case!
If you’re a fan of using a travel agent, you’re local one from home is still only an email away! You can ask them to book your onward travel on a weekly basis and know that they’ll be only happy to help. Another option is to head to a travel agent in the country you’re staying in and book with them!
It’s free, it’s easy, it’s generally safe and you get a local experience! Only suitable for travellers who are fairly confident and easygoing, it’ a great option to guarantee a bed but also learn more about where you’re staying. You can make friends for life with the people who put you up and money can’t buy the sort of experiences that these people can show you. This is the stuff that doesn’t make it into the guide books as they’re local secrets!
A simple phone call the morning before your arrival from a phone booth can prevent you knocking from door to door if beds are limited. I’ve found that locally owned hostels will generally honour their word if they say they will hold a room for you without requiring payment in advance if it’s the same day as you’re planning to arrive. This can be done with email instead but you’ll need to have access to emails after you send it to check out the reply!
With the internet at our fingertips now every step of the way, it’s so much easier than explorers before us to find safe places to stay and to find those places in foreign lands. Enjoy yourselves and most of all, enjoy the freedom of not knowing what’s coming next! There is very few other times in life where you can have absolutely no clue what the next day holds without it inciting fear.