Accommodations are one of the heaviest expenses for a long-term trip. Many travelers only consider the usual suspects – hostels, guesthouses, and hotels. People generally combine a mix of these when planning a RTW trip.
But what about booking a rental? Budget travelers may immediately dismiss rentals as out of their price range. Other travelers may think this option is only good for long-term stays. The fact is that rentals can be a great accommodation option for any trip, long-term or short-term, and could even save you money in the long run.
Some travelers, particularly those traveling on a tight budget, never consider the rental option because they assume that it costs too much. In fact, you may be able to save money by renting a house/condo/apartment on your travels, particularly if you are traveling long-term and want to hunker down in one location for a while.
Depending on your destination, rentals are available for as low as $25-$30USD per night (for those with a higher budget, there are also some amazing deals to be had on unique housing options), or the cost of a private hostel room in those same areas of the world. If you choose to stay in that spot for a few weeks or months, the savings will continue to add up – access to your own kitchen means saving a ton of money on meals out.
While whipping up your own dinner is also a possibility in many hostels, we’ve all been in those cramped kitchens with four stove burners, two pots, three pans, one knife, one cutting board, and 30 hungry travelers all trying to make meals at the same time. It’s limiting, and you may ditch the communal kitchen for street food. While this can admittedly be fun, it does get old after a while.
During our RTW, we were in South America for about three months, staying in hostels the entire time and doing a lot of cooking in these situations. During month three, we rented an apartment in Buenos Aires, and I have to tell you what a relief it was to have our very own kitchen, with a refrigerator that was all ours!
Depending on the part of the world in which you find yourself, you can find a rental for as low as $25-$30USD per night.
Renting a house or apartment during your travels will see you living more like a local, doing less touristy things, and spending less money by default. Though we rented in the relatively expensive city of Buenos Aires, we spent less during that month than we did in Peru, which is typically cheaper.
Getting to know the locals
One of the best parts of indie travel is really digging into the culture that you are visiting. Traveling long-term provides an excellent opportunity to really learn about different cultures and get to know the locals. While it’s still possible to do this while staying in hotels or hostels, it’s much easier when you rent an apartment or house.
When you rent, you’re typically staying in areas where the locals actually live, not tourist ghettos where you’re only surrounded by other travelers. When staying in an apartment, your new neighbors are usually local people going about their daily lives. It’s great to be able to meet, converse with, and make friends with your temporary neighbors.
Staying for a few weeks or even months? You’ll probably start to develop a routine. You’ll start shopping at the same markets, having drinks at the same bars, and visiting the same parks. You’ll get to know those in the community, making for an awesome indie travel experience.
Even the most hardcore backpackers who spend months at a time in hostel dorm rooms ultimately get sick of the lack of privacy. Even if a rental is a bit out of your budget, it’s always nice to splurge from time to time on accommodations, treat yourself right, and get some much-needed privacy and downtime.
When you’re on the road for a while and the dreaded travel burnout starts to take hold, getting some privacy and downtime to yourself (or with your traveling partner or family) is a welcome respite from life on the road.
So instead of spending over $100 per night on a nice hotel room for a few nights, consider renting a small apartment or house for your splurge. Unpack your backpack, enjoy not having to put your valuables in a locker, and buy some beer without worrying about it getting snatched out of the communal fridge. No matter how much you love being on the move, some normalcy on occasion is always a good thing.
Short term rentals
Don’t think that rentals are only for long-term RTW travelers. It’s totally doable to look into renting a house, condo, or apartment on a short-term trip, even if you’re only staying for a few days. The daily budget for a long weekend, a week, or two weeks is usually a bit higher than for a RTW trip, so feel free to splurge. Even if you have a low budget for your short trip, remember that in many areas of the world (Latin America and Asia come to mind), you can find a rental for as low as $30 a night.
The same benefits apply to renting over a shorter trip. When traveling for a week or two, digging deep into the culture can be tricky given the short exposure time. Rentals speed up that process by throwing travelers directly into the local culture.
There were three of us traveling together, and it was far cheaper than getting a hotel room and comparable in price to private hostel rooms.”
We took a short two-week jaunt through Guatemala and Belize last summer and rented a house in both countries for 4 nights each. It was amazing to be able to wake up and cook our own breakfast, shop at the local markets, and get to know the people living around us, even if only for a few days. There were three of us traveling together, and renting was far cheaper than getting a hotel room – it turned out to be comparable in price to private hostel rooms in those same countries.
The options for travelers keep getting better and better as time goes on. In the last several years there has been an explosion of rentals on the market. Whether you’re planning a weekend at the wineries or a year-long RTW trip, consider renting out local homes and apartments as you go. Low cost, local living, cheap eats, and privacy are all huge benefits when renting your own place. If you’ve never done it before, it’s definitely something you should try out on your next trip.
For more on slow travel and renting while on the road, check out the following articles and resources:
- Vacation Rental resources
- Travel is Not a Contest (and Other Reasons to Embrace Slow Travel)
- Why and How to Embrace Slow Travel
- From Tourist to Resident: 7 Signs You Just Want To Stay Put
- Travel Burnout: Is It Real? Will I Get It?
Photo credits: Pawel Kazmierczak