• Michael Acevedo

Finding The Right Place To Stay Abroad

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

Finding the right place to stay when traveling abroad can seem like a daunting task. How do you make an informed decision without having ever been there?! I have been asked this many times and have definitely had success and failure with this, but thankfully more successes. Here are some of my tips for finding the right place to stay.

Figure Out What's Important To You

Every traveler has preferences and knows what are the things that they are not willing to compromise on. Some of those things may vary depending on whether it's business or personal travel or if you are traveling solo, with a group of friends, or on a family trip.


I tend to travel solo and have a mix of personal and business travel. When my company is paying for my travel, I am all about the points - hellloooooo Hilton Honors! However, when I am on personal travel, I care less about those points because every dollar I spend on accommodations is a dollar less I have to go do stuff.


While you consider all of these things, below is a list of important things to me. Some of these might seem trivial if you've never traveled abroad, but be mindful (trust me).

Air Conditioning:

I don't care if it's winter, I need to be able to control the temperature in my room. But be warned, "air conditioning" doesn't always mean you can make the room cold. In Santiago, Chile my room came with "air conditioning" and it was literally a heater on the wall. Wasn't the best considering the 90+ degree temperatures outside...


Free WiFi:

I usually don't upgrade my phone plan to include fancy international roaming, so WiFi is definitely important when I want to upload all of my photos and videos of the day to preserve space on my phone.


Water Heater:

Much like an air conditioner, I like to be in control of my comfort. I don't necessarily take really hot showers but I'd like to option of not having the water come out glacial.


Private Room and Bathroom:

I said some of these might seem trivial... I don't care so much about staying at a proper hotel, there are lots of accommodation types, but I definitely don't want to stay in a dorm with strangers and certainly don't want to share a bathroom.


24 Hour Front Desk:

This one is important when traveling internationally because flights can be at weird times and time zones are all different. Fortunately, this has never happened to me, but you want to make sure you can get into your room in the middle of the night.


Location, Location, Location!

Never underestimate the importance that the right location can have on whether you have an okay vacation or an incredible vacation. So many factors go into choosing the right place, and again, this will vary depending on the type of trip and who's joining you. Below are some of the things that I consider.

The main square in Lima, Peru is lined with hotels, restaurants, and cultural sites
The main square in Lima, Peru is lined with hotels, restaurants, and cultural sites

Proximity to City Center:

Many tour operators will provide transportation for you if you are within a certain radius around the city center. Don't get caught in a situation where you have to figure out (or pay for) how to get to a rendezvous point. Also, I hate to be in the very middle of a big city because traffic may make it difficult to catch a taxi plus pollution from all the vehicles passing by and the noise it creates.


Access to Good Food and Drinks:

I tend to plan my trips by the time of day. I always have a day activity and a night activity. In general, the day activity is going to visit either a landmark, museum, or natural site, and my night is always centered around food and drinks.


I am always on the hunt for a great night market or street food vendors that provide me with the option to try lots of little things and usually very cheap. When searching for accommodations I always think about what my night will look like (and sometimes that means being within stumbling distance from a bar to the hotel).


Find The Right Side of The Railroad Tracks:

Find the place where people say "don't stay there" and stay just outside of there. No, seriously! Have you ever had the most amazing food at a hole in the wall mom and pop shop in a kinda sketchy neighborhood? Yea, every time!


OK, so I am kind of kidding, but kind of not. Don't totally ignore what you read about the "bad parts of town", but don't be afraid to explore. I'll provide some of my safety tips in another post. You are bound to find the most humble and wholehearted people on your entire trip if you are willing to stay just outside of the touristy areas.


Accommodation Types

Like I said before, I'm all about Hilton points when I am on business travel, and even at times during personal travel. However, when I travel internationally, I try to avoid big chain hotels for a couple of reasons.


First, they always cost more - always! Think about it, they have to pay to be part of the brand the same way that brand name clothes cost more. Second, I am a big fan of giving money to locals directly because you know it goes right to their household. This is why I opt for either smaller hotels or privately owned apartments. Below are a few types of accommodations to consider.


Hotels:

Now I know I just told you that I avoid the big brand hotels, but not all hotels are created equal. Lots of hotels internationally are essentially small businesses in their community. Hotels, in general, offer good quality rooms and services and are sometimes connected with tour operators who can give you a good deal. I'll show you many examples of these in other posts. Here's a couple of shots from a small hotel in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Hostels:

I appreciate that people are willing to share rooms with random strangers and pay $5USD per night, but not me. However, not all hostels consist of just dorms. Many hostels offer a variety of room types. If you are traveling with a group of friends, a "dorm" for 4 people might be a perfect way to save money and you all get your own room (if the hostel allows it).


I like hostels because they are communal in the way that I like them to be: a smattering of travelers looking to get lost in the world and who are on a budget. Lots of times hostels have excellent common areas meant to get travelers connected and new friendships are sure to be made!


When I stay at a hostel, I always opt for a private room with a connected private bathroom. I found a great one in Cartagena, Colombia (pictured below) that I'll share more about in another post.

Private Apartments:

These are essentially private residences in a condo building that either individuals or small companies rent out. This is a great way to give money directly to the owners and for you to enjoy a private and spacious place, usually fit out with all of the comforts of being at home such as appliances and even kitchen supplies.


This is great for families that need multiple rooms but want to keep a close eye on the kids. There was a great one that I stayed in when visiting Lima, Peru (pictured below) that I ended up going back to another time.

Private House:

Just like the apartments, this money usually goes right to the owner and is a great way to support the local community. I never rent houses because I am usually solo, but my parents have done this many times when they are staying for a few weeks in one area. They once found an amazing home in Costa Rica that was cheap, staffed with someone to clean for you, and even had monkeys right on their back porch - how cool!


Accommodation Websites

There are lots of websites that act as search engines to thousands of accommodations around the world, but there are some that I use frequently. This is not sponsored so I promise this is unbiased.


Booking.com:

I recommend this site because it doesn't limit the search to only hotels and offers many ways to narrow down your search based on your preferences. You can elect to only view hotels or apartments or hostels, or all of them if you don't have a preference.


I always select all and narrow it down by making sure all of my required amenities are there (hot water, A/C, etc), that others say it is in a good area, and that it's within whatever my budget has to be. Many times this leads me to realize that I can spend way less money than I originally thought! If you find a place you love, shop around on different sites and find the one that gives you the best price for the place you love.


Hostelworld.com:

This site is geared for the backpacker type, but I have used it to make sure I get the best deal on a place I may have found on Booking. I actually booked my Cartagena hotel using this site because the hotel did have a couple of dorm options so it's considered more of a hostel even though my experience was like a hotel.


I hope you have found these tips useful! I could go on for hours about my experiences around the world related to this, but I'll share those in specific posts. If you have any questions or need advice, feel free to drop me a note. Happy hunting!

 

Want to know more? Are you interested in becoming a contributor for Pedacitos? We'd love to hear your stories! Send me a message and I will get back to you!

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