OK, so you’re in Europe. Whether you are in a big country or small, North or South, rain or shine, at some point you need to get some sleep. And getting a place to sleep can eat quite a big chunk out of your budget. Fortunately, even in (relatively) expensive Europe there are good budget sleeping options, that sometimes throw a unique experience into the bargain.
I probably am not shocking anyone by telling about Couchsurfing (or CS for short). In case you’ve missed out on this one – its a way of getting a place to sleep on someone’s couch. CS itself is just the largest and most well-known of a number of similar clubs. The concept is simple – you make an account on a website, tell a bit about yourself and send potential hosts a message asking whether they will be kind enough to host you when you’re around. I’ve had some amazing experiences with CS, both hosting and staying, and a couple of not-so-great-but-still-better-than-a-hostel experiences. In case you’re freaked out by the idea of going to spend the night at a random stranger’s place, try going to a meeting of your local CS group, or perhaps use CS in your home town before you go. Besides a free place to stay, CS is a great way to get to know the locals and join them for some cheap thrills, like going to a Death Metal club in Glazgow, wine tasting in an Italian village bar or speed boating on Lake Luzern (all done by me via CS).
If you like to get your hands dirty – why not go WWOOFing? Here the concept is a bit different – you get food and lodging in exchange for a few hours (4-6) a day of work on an organic farm. In addition to free accommodation you get a unique experience and an opportunity to learn new skills. WWOOFing needs an initial investment – to get the information about potential hosts, you need to pay a membership fee for the WWOOF charter in the country you are visiting. A way of circumventing multiple fees if you want to WWOOF in multiple countries is to get membership of “WWOOF independents” – countries where there are just several hosts and that don’t have a national group (in Europe this includes Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Cyprus (Northern), Finland, Georgia, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Russia, Slovenia, and Ukraine).
Most European cities have a camping nearby or even within city limits. Especially in the summer months, camping is a cheap alternative to staying in the crowded, damp hostels. Even more remote campings sometimes offer pick-up and drop-off service from the nearest train station, so you don’t have to have a car to go camping. And did I mention that even in pricey Switzerland camping fees cost just 5 to 10 Euro? In addition, in less crowded areas of Europe (and there are plenty), you can just pitch your tent out of sight for free! By the way, camping does not necessarily mean that you have to pitch your own tent – many European campings offer places in already pitched tents, dorm-style. There are family tents as well, or, if you want more comfort, caravans.
Mind you, these are only the free or almost free options. If you’re less adventure-minded you can find a cheap hostel or book a hotel well in advance (or off season) and get a great deal. But as you now know, even if you’re on a tight budget you can still get a good night sleep, sometimes in really cool places, too. Next time – the essence of travelling – how to get from A to B on a dime and a penny.