May 27th, 2018
There's a common myth that travel is expensive, but it really doesn't have to be. If you know where to look, it is possible to live on the road full time, without spending any more than you would normally. The longer you travel, the cheaper it becomes, which is why I've just managed to book myself 5 nights of accommodation, without paying a single penny (cent, grosz etc.). Read on to find out how I did it.
I had already booked a flight to - and four nights stay in - Rome for £20, using a £75 voucher that was gifted to me to compensate for eBookers' lack of customer service skills. Now I wanted to visit some other countries I'd never been to, so I decided on Lithuania and Latvia. I'm currently in Warsaw, so a cheap return flight can be booked to Vilnius, Lithuania. I used Skyscanner to pick the cheapest days to fly.
From there, I had booked a return bus ticket for around €18 to Riga, Latvia. Already, this is looking pretty cheap. The bus is only four hours, so it's well worth going by land to save money. The flight is almost an hour anyway, plus a couple more for check in and security.
However, I still needed accommodation. Eastern Europe has incredibly cheap hostels, from around €5 a night. However, this is still €35 for a week, so it all adds up and it's still a good idea to try and find discounts. For this, I used loyalty points. Due to my booking history with eBookers, I had accrued a bonus of around £20 to spend on hotels.
You see, there are a lot of travel companies out there, all competing for your business. They know how easy it is to sort search results by price and so they're all trying to undercut each other. This is with the exception of Airbnb, who have a different business model, focused on customer experience rather than price.
Anyway, sites such as eBookers need to attract customers and they do this with loyalty points. Everytime you book with them, you get a bonus and after just a couple of bookings, I already had £20. A good way to quickly build up bonus points is to book for a whole group at once and then get everyone to pay you back. This way you'll spend more and therefore get a bigger bonus.
So I was looking for a hostel for 3 nights in Riga and found a nice one for roughly £8 per night, equalling a total of £24.21. With my £21.47 bonus applied, I ended up paying £2.74. That's less than a pound ($1.33/€1.14) per night. But we're not done yet.
I still needed somewhere to stay for my two nights in Vilnius. This is when I stumbled across a referral link for Booking.com on Facebook. It said that if I booked anything using that link, I, along with the person who shared it, would receive a £15 cash reward. I also have a Frequent Traveller Genius account with them, giving me 10% discount on selected hotels.
So I picked a hostel in the Old Town with good reviews and it came to €14 for two nights. At the time of booking, €14 was £12.26. So with my £15 reward, Booking.com were actually paying me £2.74 to stay in a hostel for two nights.
£2.74...coincidentally, the exact amount I'd just given to eBookers for 3 nights in Riga. So in total, using a loyalty bonus and referral link, I'd come out exactly even. £0.00 for 5 nights, in two countries.
I hope that wasn't too much maths for you. The moral of the story is that there are legitimate ways to stay in hostels very cheaply or even cost free. This does tend to mean getting the cheapest options available, but its also possible to find a nicer private room for much less than it would usually be. These little discounts, loyalty rewards and cashback offers add up, meaning that the smart traveller can stay on the move without running out of money.
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