Hotel Isabela, Mexico City
At least a dozen times I’ve showed friends pictures of places I stayed on vacation and then when I told them it was say, $45 a night they go, “What?! How did you find a deal like that?”
It must be unfathonable to a lot of people that there are plenty of inexpensive hotels out there because at least once a quarter I get quoted in some article about this subject. Here’s a new one from Travel + Leisure no less, called Great Affordable City Hotels. They spelled my name right and mentioned one of my books (where there’s a whole chapter on this subject), so I was a happy camper. It got picked up by CNN.com as well.
You don’t have to be a camper to find a great deal on a lodging though. You just have to step away from the usual booking sites. Most of these interesting hotels are not listed on Expedia and sometimes you’ll have to do a bit of digging to find the good ones. The quickest shortcut is to start using a device that runs without electricity and does not require booting up: a guidebook. Not only will one give some good hotel options that aren’t so well known (if you avoid Lonely Planet that is), but the good ones will also list country or city-specific websites where you can go to find a whole long rundown of options.
I found the Mexico City hotel pictured here in a guidebook and it was around $20 a night for a single. Maid service, an elevator, purified water, and plenty of steaming hot water, in a great area near the main plaza and a metro stop. The two places we stayed at in Antigua, Guatemala we found one in a guidebook and one on some random website I can’t even remember. A suite in one of them is $60. For my recent trip to Peru, I used Andean Travel Web exclusively. For an upcoming trip to Belize I’ll use guidebooks and the Toucan Trail site. There’s usually at least one good clued-in site like this for each location, even El Salvador.
Of course much of the time you score by just walking around the right area. The idea that you need to travel with a laptop to reserve cheap backpacker hotel rooms is preposterous, especially when there’s a worldwide recession going on and it’s a buyer’s market. The time and place you really need to book ahead is when there’s a festival going on, it’s family vacation time in Latin America, or you’re in Europe in the summer. In the latter case I would line up things in advance using EuroCheapo or Hostelbookers.
Don’t forget that the destination itself still makes a huge difference. In this article from Budget Travel, The New Boutique Hostel, the funky hipster place in Paris has “private singles from $100.” For the one in Bangkok, doubles with a king bed and a plasma TV are half that amount. For what you spend to get two cheapo hostel beds in Copenhagen, you can get a really nice room or even a suite in Quito.