Budget UK Accommodation
Cheap travel needn't mean cockroaches and dirty sheets. Thrifty traveller Susie Wild talks you through your best options, from couch surfing to campervans, and yurts to youth hostels.
It may be cheap as chips and super sociable, but is staying on a stranger's sofa really a good option for budget travel? Many people think so, which is why several couch surfing sites have cropped up, with the system working a lot like liftshare sites. The idea was launched in 2004 in the US with Casey Fenton's The CouchSurfing Project, which now boasts several thousand recruits joining the project's 200,000 registered users each week.
There are some strange fruits on the sites, and you should remember the same sort of safety measures you would with, say, a one night stand like letting someone else close to you know the address of where you will be staying. Luckily, most reputable websites offer eBay-type customer review systems so you can see how your potential stranger has been rated by others, and avoid yet-to-be-rated members, or lone males (if a single female traveller). It's a great way to get to know a new place from the inside, and, if you're super nice, it's a fantastic budgeter as food etc. may get thrown in too.
- Couchsurfing - The original site, and one that aims to "create deep and meaningful connections that cross oceans, continents and cultures."
- Globalfreeloaders - Thousands of Hospitality Club members around the world help each other when they are travelling - be it with a roof for the night or a guided tour through town
- Roomft - works on a similar basis to couch surfing, but offers rooms to travellers within private houses on a short-term basis.
Ah the great outdoors: the freshly manure-scented air, the flooded fields. What better time than the sunshiny British Summer to head out with your ready-made canvas room and see some more of the UK? Okay, okay, so the weather was bad last year, and isn't doing much better this time around. But, have some wild hope, and if all else fails book a caravan or campervan - less leaks, less of a wet option.
Camping has come a long way in a relatively short time. All hail the tents you can pop up and then leave for festival workers to sell in aid of charity at the end of the party weekend. Tents that look like tipis and tents that really are tipis. There are even Wigwam holidays beginning at £16.50 per adult per night. Then there are the fields of ready pitched tents with airbeds and sleeping bags - less to carry in fragile states, bliss! Or try Beach huts, gypsy caravans or luxury yurts, some with real beds!
There are so many options; I must've convinced you by now? Plus a tent pitch cost can range anything from nothing (smile nicely at the farmer as you ask if you can pitch in his field for the night) up to about £10 per person per night. If you can't cope with a bit of filth, steer clear, or make sure you pick a reputable campsite with a shower and toilet block.
Not just for young German hikers, there are youth hostels across the UK offering a wide range of accommodation for any age traveller from whole mansions or castles for family gatherings to sleeping in tipi under the stars. Whether in the city or the country, all prices work out competitively, but the best budget options, alongside dorm beds and group bookings at the more conventional hostels are their camping barns (stone tents) which start at £6 per person per night and their bunkhouses which start at £10 per person per night). Many also offer private rooms for couples at a slightly higher rate. For hostels in Scotland visit Scottish Youth Hostel Association and in Ireland there is the Hostelling International Northern Ireland and Irish Youth Hostel Association respectively.
Bed & Breakfasts
Brash, gossiping landladies, scratchy sheets, screaming kids and greasy fry-ups? Okay so B&Bs have got themselves a bit of a bad rep. But search a little harder and you can find yourself some real gems in amongst the flotsam and jetsam washed up around the UK. In the better ones there are hearty great healthy and unhealthy brekkies thrown into to bargain prices, way undercutting local hotels. Bonuses include themed rooms, eco-friendly options, boutique spaces, packed lunches provided on request, great views, late bookings and good beds. To suss out how good a place really is simply Google it. Everyone voices their opinions online these days. Reviews good and bad shouldn't be too hard to find.
By Susie Wild
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