Stay with locals (1/4)

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As comfortable and swanky as a hotel room may be, it’s just not worth the fortune you spend on it and, in all likelihood, you’ll have a far better experience slumming it like the rest of us than you would sitting in a posh room by yourself! Now, by some chance of fate, you could head to the local bar and be picked up by some tall, dark and handsome local who sweeps you away to his pad and shows you the time of your life but, if like me you live in the real world, here are a few handy (and cheap) ways to stay with people from the area.

Couchsurfing: As a surfer and a host (it’s free to join as both), I can wholly vouch for the couchsurfing platform as a means of staying for free with interesting, friendly locals. I’ve used the website to find sofas in Croatia, Slovenia, Denmark, Italy and the UK and met some really wonderful people along the way. I stayed with an amazing couple in Zagreb in January this year and, while it was the middle of winter and the days were dark, they went completely out of their way to help me experience the area. On one sub zero morning we hopped into their frostbitten car and drove the 2.5 hours to Plitvice Lakes National Park where we spent the day wandering around in awe of the vast frozen lakes and frosty waterfalls (photo above). While it’s not uncommon to stay with homeowners who want nothing more than to show you around be aware that occasionally your host just won’t have the time. Even if their schedules are busy though, you’ll generally get a chance to share a meal together at some point and get some tips about what to do and see in the area. When looking for a host on the website you can search using a number of criteria such as their age, gender (as a woman I tend to look for female hosts), reviews (obviously, try and pick hosts with positive reviews from people who have stayed), sleeping arrangements (I always avoid a host who advertises a shared sleeping surface – you’ll find creeps anywhere) and even their hobbies and interests. 

Globalfreeloaders: This website is pretty much the same idea as couchsurfing although it seems a little less active. I’ve signed up as a member (for free) to globalfreeloaders but only ever received one request to stay and never gotten any response from prospective hosts. Having said this, there are definitely people out there who use the website regularly and find it a valuable travelling tool.

Airbnb: I’ve spoken a little about Airbnb before and was deliberating about which heading to put it under in this post. While, on one hand, it is paid accommodation, on the other hand, it’s a chance to stay with local people and get an authentic experience of the place you’re in. On the website, residents advertise their free couch, bedroom or even entire home which you can stay in at, usually, a much lower rate than the surrounding hotels and B&Bs. Generally you’ll have less interaction with your Airbnb hosts than you would with couchsurfing but it’s still a great opportunity to get some tips and ideas from someone who knows the area.


Written by Ishtar Darlington

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