I prefer Bed & Breakfasts to conventional hotels. They’re a lot cheaper, a lot cozier, and you make a lot more contact with the natives – which is one of the great pleasures of traveling. (When you stay at a Four Seasons, there’s not much chance of hanging out with the owners.)
At a B & B in Auckland, our hosts invited us to join them and their friends at the local pub. We had a little trouble with the New Zealand slang, which all sounds like baby-talk: “brolly” for umbrella, “Chrissy” for Christmas, etc. But we still had a fun, authentic experience that could never have happened at a Hilton– or a “Hilly” as I guess the Kiwis would say.
In Japan, we stayed at a traditional country inn, where we survived a monsoon in a building with paper walls. I won’t say it was enjoyable, but it sure as hell was authentic.
We are about to visit Oslo, where hotel rooms are between two and four hundred dollars. Instead, we found a charming private residence in a desirable location where we are getting a room with a separate entrance, bath, kitchenette and terrace for a hundred bucks. Plus, the owners run an art gallery, so it sounds like they might be pleasant company.
- www.COUCHSURFING.com links travelers to private homes all over the world. You might get a bedroom, a sofa, or just a patch of floor, but your host will give you genuine insights into local culture – and the price is incredibly FREE. One American student got along with her Lisbon host so well that she stayed for three months!
- Our friends George and Alice go hiking in New Zealand every year. They are out in the wilderness all day, and then just take a brief shower before going out to dinner, so they have no need for all the bells and whistles of a fancy hotel. Instead, they stay at a hostel, and pay extra for a private room with bath. This costs a whopping forty-five dollars a night! It sounds like a fabulous vacation – except for the hiking part. I think I’d prefer the hostel in Barcelona, which has an indoor swimming pool.