Welcome to the first post that documents my month-long European adventure! Starting with the basics, I think it'll be helpful that I talk about how to find your ideal and budget friendly accommodation. My tips are based on personal experience and tailored to my needs.
Also read: Europe: Living Like A Local
Duration of stay - How many days do you plan to stay in a particular city? Is it short or long term?
Budget - I personally prefer to treat myself if I intend to spend lots of time staying in.
Facilities - Depending on lifestyle, a washing machine and kitchen may enhance your stay drastically.
Privacy - How comfortable are you with sharing common space with your host and/ or other guests? The more you share a space with someone, the higher the level of interaction.
Location - As a rule of thumb, closer to city centre the better. However, be prepared to lower expectations for other factors as good locations usually suggests higher rental and may be less desirable.
Transport options - I've learnt that convenience very much depends on easy and direct links. In other words, as a tourist it's more bearable to travel longer distances on direct lines as compared to multiple transfers.
There are of course exceptions. But answer yourself honestly to avoid disappointments. Once you have a rough idea of your expectations, pick an appropriate website to find your accommodation. Below are some which I have used and trust.
Booking - From hostels to hotels and anything in between, you can book at ease knowing there are no booking or cancellation fees.
Hostelsworld - Good site for a wide range of budget and hostel type accommodations.
Couch Surfing - As the title suggests, you can find "couches" to live on, at no cost. While couch-surfing is obviously the cheapest form of accommodation, you must understand that CS is no way a hotel and should not be abused. CS requires a lot of trust and interaction between the host and surfer and reviews are extremely important. It is not worth it if your sole intention is to find a roof and pay no rent. I had a great experience with my host in Belfort but I recommend this option only for people who truly wish to spend time with your host while exploring the city. Hosts hate feeling used! Be open-minded and you'll have the best time in your life if your host is right for you. Do your research and comb through every inch of their profiles to find a good match. Think of it as looking for a potential partner!
Most generic booking sites are rather straightforward. But relationships based networks like AirBnB and CS often requires a bit of chat with your host. Here are my tried-and-tested tips on how to score the best accommodations and maybe make a friend or two!
Always introduce yourself - Some of my friends find my BnB requests longwinded, but I can confidently tell you that it'll make an impression and give your host a good reason to accept your request. Put yourself in their shoes; wouldn't it be nice to know what else is the stranger interested in other than to live in your home? Talk about your age, occupation and interests as a start.
Ask for discount - 50% of hosts I spoke to offered me a discount when I asked nicely. For that to happen, be reasonable and play your cards right. Don't be cheap. Use polite phrases like "will you be so kind to offer me a special rate?" Emphasising that I'm a student helped.
Ask questions - If you have doubts, ask. Don't set yourself for a nasty surprise! Some considerations I came across were if I needed a car to explore an area and if there were night buses to send me home.
Trust your instincts - They say women have ultra accurate gut feelings. Hosts whom I favoured naturally (even those with little reviews) turned out fantastic in real life! If you feel uneasy about a certain host, consider letting him or her go.
Feel at home - To truly respect somebody else's property, you must feel like it's your own. Whether it's a hostel, home or hotel, maintain cleanliness throughout your stay. Your host will feel really appreciated. Besides, nobody owes you a living.
Make the bed - Especially applicable to BnBs. Many times, I felt like it was a true privilege to live in somebody's personal bedroom. This is a basic gesture so often forgotten. Leave the space like how it welcomed you.
Say thank you - Most BnB hosts collect scraps of drawings and notes left by their international guests, so why not add to their collection? A hand-written thank you note is timeless.
At the end of the day, the emotional experience will be what you remember most from the stay. When I was staying with hosts, I like to offer them iconic Singaporean beverages like Milo and Ah Huat coffee. My hosts were delighted to try something foreign and made me very happy in return. If you can, seize the opportunity to interact with your hosts. They are the ones who will reveal to you the best hideouts in the city you'll never discover on Trip Advisor.