Cheap Hotels 101
THE HOSTEL OPTION
OK, we'll admit, hostels, especially in the United States, are occasionally damned by their questionable reputation -- bed-bugs, nasty bathrooms, flatulent bunk-mates... But don't let the horror stories scare you away. Budget-minded travelers can find some truly sweet deals -- and truly unique locales -- by taking the hostel route. Some are situated in old monasteries or castles, others offer private rooms and en-suite bathrooms, most have pubs and internet cafes, several offer non-touristy urban walking tours and links to three- and four-day outdoor trips, and practically all of them assure that you'll meet like-minded backpackers out to experience as much as they can while in-country. And some, like Berlin's Circus hostel, are downright traveler institutions.
Nevertheless, do a little research to avoid ending up in one of the hostels that do perpetuate the bad rep. Hostelling International has extensive online descriptions of hostels all over the world, some with the option to book online (www.hihostels.com). Hostelworld.com also has world-wide hostel descriptions with user ratings, facility listings, and booking options. Also, check out robust discussion boards like Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree to solicit suggestions from like-minded travelers around the world.
CONSULT A TRAVEL AGENT
Travel agents? Do they still exist? Sure do. In fact, according to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), they still sell 81 percent of all tour and package bookings and 47 percent of all hotel bookings. Of course, for a jaunt to Moab for a long weekend of mountain biking, utilizing the services of a travel agent is downright lazy, but if you're headed to the far reaches of Bhutan and don't know the difference between an entry visa and a Visa card, the advice of a travel agent might save you serious cash and time (and headaches). They're also invaluable if you're drawn to adventure and eco lodges, or want to use a hotel as a home base for a variety of outdoor activities in a remote country -- namely places where either logistics seem like a nightmare, or quality is a serious priority. To find an agent near your home specializing in a certain destination, use ATSA's easily searchable database at www.travelsense.org.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication