Hotels, Hostels or Couch Surfing: Which One Works for You?
When it comes to accommodation options, I’ve experienced the full spectrum in my travels. I’ve slept under the stars in a swag in Central Australia, campevrvaned around New Zealand, and made the rounds to just about every type of hostel there is in Europe.
I’ve also spent the night in a tree house in Costa Rica, an ancient Palace in Marrakech, the exclusive Hazelton Hotel in Toronto and Cuba’s most historic hotel in Havana. And on the other side, friends new and old have invited me into their homes – or vacation rentals- to crash for free, a cozy luxury after other complimentary options which have included nights spent curled up in a corner of the San Jose airport or on a hard plastic chair in Reykjavic.
Most recently I stayed at the W Santiago on a business trip. I think if I had been staying in hotels like this all along I would have seen considerably less of the world. That bath tub was heavenly!
But after experiencing such a range of accommodation, the fact remains that for me a hotel room is never the draw of travel. It’s more of a necessary evil, adding to the logistics you need to sort out and costing you money. Whether you travel alone or with friends, you still need a place to lay your weary head at night.
Inevitably there will be long nights spend snoozing on a hard plastic chair at the airport, waiting for a delayed flight to be ready for boarding. There might also be long nights spend guarding your bags at a deserted bus terminal in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully, however, the majority of your nights will be spent in a bed. So what are your best options as a solo female traveler?
Let’s be honest, given a choice, most people would prefer to stay in a 5* hotel. After all, who doesn’t like the idea of room service, freshly laundered sheets and a nice swimming pool? Of course you don’t need to stay in a 5* hotel to enjoy great facilities. Check out IHG and you will see there are plenty of hotels out there to choose from, some of which might serve your needs better.
Hotels are generally very safe. Non-guests are not usually allowed beyond the public areas and your room should be secure. However, you do still need to be on your guard. Always lock your room at night, preferably by dropping the latch. If there is a room safe, use it to store your valuables.
The cons of hotels are that they are more expensive and can be lonely for a solo traveler. Although having your own room should make you feel more secure, at times I have felt safer staying in hostels where I am surrounded by dozens of travelers just like me.
Hostels are perfect for solo travelers. When you stay in a hostel, you get to meet lots of different people from random countries, some of whom might be traveling to the same places as you. This is one of the top places I’ve met new friends on the road.
As a solo female traveler, hostels are usually very safe. You can share a room with other people, or book a single room if you want some privacy. Most hostels are very secure and doors are locked at night, so you should be safe. However, it is sensible to keep a close eye on your belongings at all times, as occasionally items can and do go missing. Make sure to lock up your valuables!
On the flip side, hostels can be noisy and you don’t have your own space. There also comes an age where it is no longer appropriate to be sharing a room with teenage travelers on their first trip around the world. I feel I haven’t quite reached this limit yet but I may be getting close.
Couch surfing is a cheap and, depending on your host, cheerful way to see the world. There are various websites devoted to couch surfing where anyone with a spare room can advertise for guests and travelers needing a place to stay can look for accommodation. At first glance, this is a great way to travel. You can make new friends and see places from a local’s perspective. In most cases, accommodation is also free in return for some lively conversation and a hand with the chores.
However, there are cautions to consider, especially if you are a solo female traveler. Always vet your prospective host before you agree to pitch up at their home. Read their reviews and if anything seems a bit off, look elsewhere.
I personally wouldn’t recommend couch surfing to solo female travelers, unless you are a seasoned veteran of the road. If you’re with a friend this can be a great option, but going alone it just seems too risky (ladies, there’s a lot of creepers out there). While the “free” factor is seductive, I’ve met too many young female travelers who are drawn into this and don’t think objectively about how the experience will play out. I’ve also met solo travelers who have had wonderful experiences couch surfing, but in my opinion paying a little more for a bed in a hostel is worth it to avoid uncomfortable situations and give me my independence.
Readers where do you prefer to stay when traveling? Let me know in the comments below!