Accommodations for People Travelling on a Student Budget

During my study abroad, I was lucky enough to be able to travel quite a lot. However, travelling while being a student is not all sunshine and rainbows.

As a student I was very budget conscious when it comes to spending my money. Of course it didn’t mean that I starved myself or never splurged at all, but I was just more aware when it came to spending money. I made sure I didn’t overly spend my money and I didn’t splurge too much on unnecessary things. I tried my best to always keep some money in hope that I could use it to see Europe while I was there.

Erasmus Mundus (EM) students were encouraged to see and learn the European cultures. I think this was one of the reasons why I appreciate my programme. I lived in 3 countries in the 2 years span of my study and learned a great deal of different cultures of different European countries.

Like every international student, I tried to do two things:
1. See as much as I could (I only had two years and travelling only on holidays!).
2. Do it with as little money as possible.

Yes quite a task!

One of the main expenses for travelling is its accommodations. Here are some accommodation ideas for students or for people who travel on a student budget in Europe.

Crashing at a friend’s place

As an EM student, I had quite a lot of friends living in cities across Europe. That and the addition of other friends from Indonesia that I already knew. So when I travelled to their city, often I crashed at their place. Of course this is ONLY when they can and I always try to cook or help them clean the place.

The Indonesian EM community also has a mailing list and most students are open for you to crash at their place but I always feel more comfortable when it’s friends from my own circle as they already know me.

Crashing at my friend's place in Paris, brought my own sleeping bag
Crashing at my friend’s place in Paris, brought my own sleeping bag
I’ve stayed at my friends’ places in Paris, Barcelona, Geneve, Groningen, Poznan…and many more! I tried not to be a nuisance to them (I hope I was not!) and tried to keep their place clean, and also I never stayed too long (the longest was a week in Poznan).

The great thing about being at your friend’s place is you get a glimpse of their everyday life. I also felt more like “at home” and it was a great way to catch up with my friends.

I always feel that if I don’t know the friend well enough, then I prefer not to stay there. Maybe that’s just me, but I don’t want people to be interrupted by my presence and I hate feeling uncomfortable during a trip (also having awkward chit chats in the morning!).

TIPS:

  • Always ask your friends if they have space for you. If they have a spare bed then yey! If not, bring your own sleeping bed, don’t burden your friend by hassling them finding an extra bed, duvet, etc.
  • Do your chores! This is not a hotel.
  • Stock up their fridge. If you are cooking and eating there, offer to do the shopping. It is only right!

Hostels

Hostels are great…sometimes! I’ve stayed at hostels before and there were some great ones but some awful ones too. Sharing a room with a bunch of people is not everyone’s thing.

I tried to pick small dorms, which means less people, more privacy (sort of). Many hostels in Europe also offer ladies only dorms if you are uncomfortable with mixed dorms.

View from my hostel in Brasov
View from my hostel in Brasov
Usually I travelled in a group of 3-4 people including myself and it was great as I could just book a 4 bedroom dorm and had us all stay in the same room. Somehow it worked out great for me!

TIPS:

  • Bring earplugs if you are sensitive to noises.
  • Sometimes a hostel also offer private rooms which are cheaper than hotels, opt for that to cut cost.
  • A hostel’s breakfast might not be the most filling, so be ready to splurge more on your fuel for the day.
  • Be considerate to others when you are sharing a room with strangers.

Apartment renting

Apartment renting is awesome because most apartments are equipped with a kitchen and you can save money by cooking. Take this chance to stock up on local ingredients and cook your own meal. My friends and I did alternate cooking when we stayed at an apartment (ate lunch outside, then we cooked our own dinner). Sometimes we would also make sandwiches to bring for lunch or for those emergency “hangry” moments.

The great thing about apartment renting is that some apartments have really great locations. Depending on where you prefer, there are some very near to the main attractions, there are also those at local neighbourhoods. The latter is a great option when you want to be a part of a local community and see how they live daily. It’s also great if you’re staying for a long period of time.

The cost for apartment renting is usually quite reasonable. The plus side is you can fit many people inside depending on the size of your apartment, so you can easily split the cost between your friends. Usually it is not as expensive as staying at a hotel.

Making crepes at the apartment my friends and I rented in Zurich
Making crepes at the apartment my friends and I rented in Zurich

TIPS:

  • If you are staying at a local neighbourhood, remember to keep the noise down. You don’t want to be that annoying tourist making a racket in the middle of the night.
  • Make sure that you clean up your mess if you have a kitchen and are using it to cook.
  • Take care of your belongings, some apartments may not have a place to store your valuable things so work out a way to keep them safe.
  • Don’t try to fit everybody inside. Yes, you may be able to fit 10 people into your 2 bedroom apartment, but is that necessary? Be reasonable.

Hotel

Don’t be afraid to stay at a hotel because sometimes they have special offers and students are allowed to splurge every once in a while, right?! One of the tricks that I have with my friends when we travel for some weeks is that we would make sure that we splurge on a hotel stay for at least one of the destinations. 

Surprised to see this gorgeous view outside my small and cheap hotel in Innsbruck
Surprised to see this gorgeous view outside my small and cheap hotel in Innsbruck (you can even see the Alps!)
There are of course many hotels that you can choose from. I had experiences where I was lured by cheap hotels that when I arrived everything inside was indeed “cheap”. From squeaky elevator to toilets that won’t flush. I definitely learned my lessons and now I always check for the hotel’s review as well as listen to advice from friends who have been there (and travel bloggers of course!).

Splurging in Mykonos at a hotel with a killer view
Splurging in Mykonos at a hotel with a killer view
I don’t think I have any tips for staying at a hotel as it’s pretty obvious, just don’t over spend (unless of course you have the budget).

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Of course there are many other ways you can cut costs when it comes to accommodation. Some other options that you might want to try are: Couchsurfing, camping (or maybe even glamping?!), travelling with a caravan and home-stay.

Have you ever travelled on a student budget? Do you have any additional tips/advice?

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