Believe it or not, Hostels and Guesthouses will tremendously improve – or reduce – your travel experience! After a while on the road, you will discover how important a good hostel can be… Check what we wrote about amazing Hostels: The 10 Best Hostels We Have Discovered – And How They Greatly Enhanced Our Travel Experience! Even more amazing is that excellent hostels are usually not more expensive than poor ones (just fully booked, so plan ahead) – They are just better run. And they are not necessarily those pushed by travel guides like the Lonely Planet. Your fellow travelers are the best source of information while on the road: this is first hand, unbiased information and you can ask detailed questions.
We usually avoid “party hostels”, those places were party animals congregate and drink until the wee hours. Those places can be great fun if you are in a real party mood, but a terrible nightmare if you are tired and looking for some sleep. We usually go there for a drink, enjoy the good vibes (if there are) and retire at a quiet place. So when getting a recommendation from a fellow travelers, you should also ask why he or she especially liked this place… It might avoid some terrible disappointment.
As far as food is concerned, we noticed the following aspects:
- The Lonely Planet is still a kind of bible for most travelers and heaven for those restaurants / hostels that find their way in. Once in Hoi An in Vietnam we entered a restaurant recommend by the Lonely Planet, it was packed. The eatery next door looked identical and actually offered the same food, but was deserted. That made us think about the influence of travel guides…
- Try to find out where the locals go – Those places are cheaper and above all more authentic. Set lunches are a good way to save money.
- Markets are a great place to have breakfast and / or lunch – You find cheap, fresh and healthy food. Food stalls are also a good way of enjoying great local food at very reasonable prices. We never had problems with hygiene.
- Spending money in local businesses supports sustainable development in the areas you visit. We try to do this as much as we can. But don’t be naïve. Even locally owned businesses are owned by wealthy people, often leaving far away in the capital or even abroad.
- And yes, sometimes your desires drive you straight into a Pizzeria or a Hamburger joint. Don’t be ashamed of such very human needs. We once spent a fortune on a jar of Nutella in Laos. Talk to anybody who spent an evening at La Copula, a restaurant run by a Dutch guy in Copacabana in Bolivia – Yes, we ate chocolate fondue on Lake Titicaca and we will never forget that!
We haven’t so far done either CouchSurfing or “Eat With Locals”. But we certainly will try it soon.