How long will you be there?
Now, the duration of your stay will no doubt impact the type of accommodations you should consider. If you’ll only be there a short time perhaps you may wish to use group travel and let someone else plan everything. I’ll cover transportation issues in more detail later on but consider the following:
Hotels, motels and the like are good for short trips, perhaps a week. After that coming back to a room with a shower just doesn’t cut it. You can invariably get a better deal using services I’ll identify later to get a more spacious accommodation and allow you to live like a local.
Campgrounds can be fun but again unless you’re an outdoor type, an explorer or enjoy roughing it, this is generally not something you should try outside the U.S. or western Europe. Keep in mind that the wildlife and insects in many parts of the world can be downright dangerous even deadly.
Examples: In Africa there are snakes, bugs and animals that see you as a meal. Tigers come to mind as well as Black Mamba snake, the Tsetse fly and African ants. I’ve read about man eating tigers in India and people getting bit by an insect in Southeast Asia that put them in the intensive care unit of a local hospital. My point is, conduct a bit of research beforehand.
Condos and apartments are my preferred mode of accommodation when traveling and I’ll identify a few of the services I use later on. But, if you’re going to be somewhere longer than a week, in my opinion you should rent something a bit more than a hotel room. You’ll have more room to move about, more privacy, probably an area away from the tourist noise and you can feel at home while enjoying the local scene.
Availability of transportation
If you’re only going for a short stay or even if you’re not then access to good public transportation will definitely be a plus. Paying for a taxi everywhere can drain your finances in a hurry. In most major cities you can quite easily find a place within reasonable distance to public transportation. If you’re visiting a place to visit a specific site than you should be able to solve your transportation needs in a relatively simple fashion.
But if you plan on being out and about then as they say in real estate, its location, location, location. As a general rule if I’m in a city with a good public transportation system, I’m willing to opt for a place that is even a bit of a walk for two reasons. I don’t mind walking and doing this normally saves me money I can use for more important things, like having fun. Like I’ve said before, yes there are things you will want in a room but how much time do you plan on spending in it? You paid for a vacation, don’t spend it in a room wishing you were sightseeing. Get out there.
Access to sightseeing activities
If everything you wish to see is quite a distance, select somewhere centralized. I provided some foundational information in the previous paragraph but keep in mind if you want the most value for you dollar, you need to do some planning. I’m assuming you aren’t heading out blind (Yes, I’ve done this before) but unless you’re an experienced traveler or can deal well with chaos and the unknown, you’ll want to plan at least a little.
So, you’ve selected some primary sites and established a time factor for each site. If you’ve fully planned out your trip, you can now search for your accommodations with a map tool which is widely available in most good travel booking sites. Keep in mind that despite your best plans it is not uncommon for things to run amok so be flexible. Now, head on over to one of the travel sites and search for a room within a comfortable distance to all your prospective sites. You should be able to look at the map to get a feel for potential lodging points. Also, if the map doesn’t have a public transportation overlay, open another browser window and bring one up. Just use one of the major search engines and type “Public Transportation” along with the city name and something useful should come up.
As you look at the map and potential locations you need to ask yourself how much you’re willing to walk to get to the transportation point. In some cities, taxis are incredibly cheap, but even then if you use them a great deal, even a nickel used 20 times adds up to a dollar, so use your head.
Eating can be interesting, challenging and fun all at the same time. If you travel in North America and Western Europe, you should be good. Even Eastern Europe is easy to navigate, but there are still some pitfalls so keep your wits about you.
Is western type food available? Are you willing to eat local fare? Do you know what that means?
Real Life: When I was in Sofia, Bulgaria I asked for the location of a restaurant that served authentic local fare. I soon found myself staring at a plate with calf brain as I was told this was real Bulgarian food. Well, after 30 years of traveling I finally found something I just could not eat and in short order the waitress and chef were standing beside the table waving their hands. It was god awful, not because there was anything wrong with the food. It just wasn’t a taste I could accommodate for some reason. Fortunately, I was able to extricate myself from the situation without offending the staff too much as I was able to partially explain myself despite their minimal English and my zero Bulgarian.
Anyhow, my suggestion is be a bit adventurous and try the local fare but use some common sense. If it’s something you don’t normally see at home or at least a variation of it, I would probably still try but exercise some caution.
Like I said earlier, if I didn’t unscrew the cap I don’t drink it and if it wasn’t fried, baked, super-heated or something similar, I don’t eat it.
Type of accommodation
What are you looking for in a place: house, hotel, hostel, condo, campground or apartment? There are a multitude of options available for travelers and the budget spectrum is wide open. Do you mind house sitting? There are numerous sites join. Are you willing to sleep on a couch or floor? Again it’s out there. How about a bit of work along the way? Yep, you can trade your sweat for a place literally around the world. Are you comfortable sleeping on hard mattresses, picky pillows, without air-conditioning, inadequate heat, room cleanliness that wouldn’t measure up to western standards? There are quite a few opportunities for you out there.
Sometimes when I travel I feel like a house, some of the time I can rough it and then there are times I want full service. There’s nothing wrong with that but generally I’m after a couple things. I like to experience a culture as much as I can or rather within reason. I probably won’t sleep deep in the African bush country, at least not without an experienced guide. Remember that you have options and plenty of them so don’t settle for whatever pops up first. Do a bit of research, find a place that suits your needs based on some criteria like:
Where are you going?
What your level of comfort is?
Are you out to experience the culture?
What is your budget?
Are you traveling alone as a couple, a group, with friends?
Are you an experienced traveler?
Can you deal with other personalities when you have no choice?
Traveling involves a big evolving gray area where choices are to be made. Get in there, have some fun.