Sunday, October 15, 2017

Travel Tips - Part 3

Accommodation Elsewhere varies considerably. You can stay in a hotel, a motel, a b&b, an airbnb, a pension/hostel, a farm house, a cave, a crypt, a prison, a tent, a tepee, a yurt, and you can couch surf.

The comfort factor of accommodation is personal. I look for inexpensive, clean, and well situated for what I want to see/do. And, of course, safe--that goes without saying.

Personally, I haven't stayed in a hostel--sharing a room with a stranger or strangers--since my backpacking youth. That might work for you, and couch surfing might be an exciting adventure. I veer away from those options and also from expensive hotels and motels.  Most people can find hotels, motels, inns and the like themselves on sites like expedia,,, etc.

Hostels can be found here:

Couchsurfing here:

I like b&bs a lot because often you get to meet local people and have what they eat for breakfast.  In the UK and in Europe, it's pretty standard for hotels and b&bs to feed guests breakfast. That meal can range from what's called a 'full English breakfast' with meat, beans, eggs, toast, fried potatoes and tomatoes, all the way down to the simple Continental breakfast which might provide cereal, a muffin or toast, coffee and tea.  The first can offer a lot less food, the second much more.  In Europe, you'll often find the makings of sandwiches for breakfast, meaning, roles, sliced meats and cheese, etc. plus coffee, juice and so on. And of course some places offer no breakfast. Frequently for hotels, the price of the room is a bit lower without breakfast. (It's also usually lower if you prepay for the room).  If you are someone who doesn't usually eat breakfast, that's something to consider.  Most of the time the offered breakfast becomes a lunch as well for tourists, who snag a muffin or apple or make a little sandwich to take with them for later. I'm pretty sure most establishments are not surprised by such behavior.  Here's one b&b search site:

My favorite places to stay are airbnbs.

Airbnb offers a variety of accommodation and is frequently the most economical and the best situated.  Their website allows people to post available accommodation. Again, it's a range and can go from a whole house, an entire apartment, a room in an apartment all the way down to a couch in someone's studio apartment. Depending on where you're going, prices vary.  Airbnb offerings have reviews so you can see what others who have stayed there say about the place.  You also get a lot of detail about what is and isn't available and there are three types of  locked-in payments, from loose to firm. Prices are usually a lot lower than anything else you can find in most cities in the way of accommodation.  I've never stayed in a dirty airbnb--a cleaning fee is included in the rental price. And usually the people renting the accommodation are nice and also helpful with info you might need regarding their city. They may or may not be there. For instance, one place where my travelling companion and I stayed recently was in the house of a woman who had a child and rented 3 rooms as airbnb space.  It was a lovely, modern, clean room that could have slept 4 if we'd had two more friends travelling with us! She handed us the key when we arrived, and in the morning brought this to our room for breakfast:

The price for the room was $85. CDN or $42.50 for each of us for the night with breakfast. 

Another recent airbnb was in Prague. I'd been to Prague in 2008 with my then partner. We could not find a place to stay within our budget, which was about $100. a night, and certainly nothing in the old part of the city. We ended up driving almost 1 hr. to the outskirts to a place we found on expedia in a small 'hotel' of sorts and it cost us $120. for the night. The next day it was another long drive to the old city, which is what we were there to see. 

On my recent trip with my friend, we found an airbnb in the heart of the old city (one of several available).  It was a large city-block building on a very quiet street, a walk-up on the second floor, with people who lived in the building and also tourists renting.  One side of the hallway opened into an enormous space with 3 large rooms, one of which was ours. This was a kind of shared apartment, though all 3 rooms were separated (and locked, of course). It was a shared bathroom space, the toilet separate from the shower/sink, which is normal overseas. There was also a washing machine and a full kitchen.  By the time we reached Prague, we were kind of excited to be able to do some laundry. Breakfast was NOT included.  We stayed 2 nights. The price for the two nights was $139. CDN or about $70. CDN a night, $35. each.  This place was one block from the main square in Prague where you can find the Astronomical Clock, 3 blocks from the Old Jewish Cemetery, and in the midst of many other delights in the old city.  As a bonus, the restaurant in the basement of the building was both charming and cheap and the food excellent. We were given coupons for free drinks as well. 

In all the airbnbs I've stayed in I've been left alone and not in an apartment or even the building with the owner.  Many times I prefer that to a traditional b&b where there's often greater or lesser contact with the owner, who greets you and likely lives in the same house or apartment and makes you breakfast in the morning.

Personal mileage varies so it depends on what you like. A hotel may be the best choice for you. There are reasonably priced hotels everywhere, often around train or bus stations, which is convenient in many ways but might offer a less than pristine neighborhood. Just remember that 'reasonably priced' is of that city or town, not where you live. London and Paris, for example, are two notoriously
expensive cities by North American standards. You can find hotels for $100. CDN a night in both cities, but be prepared to sleep in a match box and/or haul your suitcase up eight or more elevator-less floors. Been there, done that, burned the t-shirt.

It's worth checking out a variety of sites of different sorts of accommodation. Sometimes you find a real deal on a nice hotel that's within your budget. Who doesn't want to stay in a well-located, nice hotel, with an elevator, toiletries, room service, a bar, maybe even a gym? Sometimes a hotel site will bring up a different sort of find. In another part of the Czech Republic, we were considering an airbnb apartment and found the same place, the same specifics, listed for $10 less a night on  Of course we booked it!

But one thing I've noticed: The most honest reviews on accommodation and tourist sites I've found are on Trip Advisor. I always review accommodation there because that site allows truthful reviews, unlike some of the other travel sites which seem to want higher star reviews and nothing too negative said. I once had the same review I'd written on expedia sent back to me several times to remove specific negative things I wrote about a terrible  accommodation that had an expedia rating of 4 out of 5 stars, completely unjustified in my view. I've also had the experience of reading reviews on the major sites expedia, and which made a specific place sound pretty good, then checking Trip Advisor and at least once I saved myself from a scuzzy b&b by honest reviews I found on Trip Advisor, with photos of the horrors! Just my 2.5 Canadian cents on this.

As always, research is your friend and the more you do, the more savvy you become about the types of places you want to stay in and what the going rates are for what. In the good old days travellers relied on travel agents. Today, you have to be your own travel agent. Don't be afraid to take risks. The world is generally a lot friendlier than you might imagine.

Here's a site with recent statistics on airbnb which should reassure you if you're unfamiliar with this type of accommodation (scroll down the page):


  1. Astronomical Clock from Prague you find also here:

  2. Hi Mark. Yes, that clock is a beauty. The building was covered for renovation when I was there but the clock face was not. I saw it on an earlier trip to Prague as well. I love the movements on the hour.