Pros and cons of budget accommodations in Europe

photo by NatBat

Accommodations are often the most expensive part of a vacation budget. For our two-week trip to Europe, our estimated hotel costs are more expensive than airfare.

One of the first things I’m looking at as we attempt to slash our budget is how to save on accommodations. I’ve looked into three different options: budget hotels, hostels, and guesthouses. Here are some of the pros and cons I’ve found for each option:

Budget hotels


  • It’s incredibly easy to find traveler reviews and book a hotel online.
  • Budget hotels may not be fancy, but they’re private, comfortable, and pretty luxurious when compared to other options.
  • Most hotels are conveniently located. Even budget hotels are centrally located in the city or near public transportation.
  • Concierge services and hotel resources make it easier for travelers to find their way around the city (especially in France where tourist-y hotels are more likely to cater to English-speaking travelers).


  • They’re expensive. The cheapest I could find was $125 a night.



  • Staying in hostels could cut our hotel costs in half. Staying in a dorm-style room with a number of other travelers is the most economical option (as cheap as $20 per person per night). We’d want a private room, though, which is a little more expensive. A private room with a shared bathroom would save us about $800.
  • Hostels are centrally located with easy access to public transportation and traveler resources.
  • Some of them include a continental breakfast.
  • Online booking sites also make it easy to find and reserve a room in advance.


  • Sharing a bathroom with other travelers would probably mean we’d be waiting for a shower in the morning.
  • I also have some concerns about cleanliness and atmosphere. It seems like staying in a hostel (even a private room) is like staying in a college dorm. Lots of student travelers means drunk kids, filthy bathrooms, twin beds, and noise. Not exactly what we had in mind for our romantic second honeymoon in Europe.



  • Guesthouses are family-owned bed and breakfasts. You’re a guest in someone’s home. Private rooms with private bathrooms are about $25-$50 a night cheaper than budget hotels depending on location, and a home cooked breakfast is often included. We’d save about $350-$700, and we could save even more money by sharing a bathroom with the host family.
  • Because they’re in private residences, rooms are clean and comfortable.
  • Hosts are accommodating to travelers, so they’re discreet and respectful of privacy.
  • Other travelers rave about this option. They say it’s comfortable, homey, and perfect for novices. Hosts offer insider advice on where to go, what to see, and how to get around.
  • It’s also a great way to experience another country, because you’re staying with locals instead of other tourists.


  • They’re trickier to book than a hotel or hostel. Guesthouse agencies can help travelers find information and reviews and make reservations, but it’s more work than logging into Expedia and searching for hotels.
  • Even if hosts are respectful of privacy, we’d still be guests in their home, which means sacrificing a certain degree of privacy and freedom.
  • Location is another concern. Affordable guesthouses are situated on the outskirts of the city, which means a 10- to 30-minute trip by bus or train to get into the city every day. In London we could probably get advice on the commute from our hosts, but this would be tougher in France if they don’t speak English.

I’m leaning toward guesthouses. Tony is a pretty good navigator, and as long as we’re close to a bus or train station I think we’ll be ok. I love the idea of staying with local people in quaint neighborhoods, and I obviously love that it’s cheaper without sacrificing comfort. Staying in a quaint little bed and breakfast on the countryside just seems romantic to me.

I also might consider spending most of our time in a guesthouse, and booking a hotel in the city for only a night or two. This might be a good compromise, but it would be a hassle to pack and move our stuff from guesthouse to hotel.

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “Pros and cons of budget accommodations in Europe

  1. Kacie

    I think it would be kinda cool to stay in a variety of places, but you’re right, it would be a hassle to move your belongings several times.

    So I dunno. Good luck!

  2. Micaela | Striving Green

    I love reading about your planning – thanks for posting this. I can live vicariously through you! I think your guesthouse idea is great, as long as one of you is a good navigator, you should be OK. BTW, sharing a bathroom is not such a bad thing. We stayed in a mom & pop hotel in Paris which had a sink and toilet in the room, only the shower was shared. When you think about it, several hundred dollars savings vs. sharing a shower that you only use for 5 – 10 minutes a day might be worth the savings. Our experience was the bathroom was clean and we didn’t have to wait very long.

    Micaela | Striving Green’s last blog post..Is it a Bribe? Or a Motivator?

  3. Margot

    I’ve already shared a comment like this before, but in the event it’s useful again, you can stay in budget hotels for MUCH less than $125. I was in Paris two years ago, spent 15 min walking around a popular tourist area (near where other budget hotels were that were listed in Lonely Planet) and found a very, very nice hotel that had just opened, was nearly empty, and our room was somewhere around $30-45 per night (can’t remember exactly). I’ve done that all over Europe. You just need to be willing to make reservations when you arrive in a city. This way you also get lower rates with any hotel, because you represent an opportunity for them to fill whatever room is going empty that night anyway. And unless you are traveling at the highest season, there will always be tons of availability. Also, I’ve stayed in tons of youth hostels around Europe, and many of them are quiet and clean (you can get good reviews online and on travel websites), and some even have private rooms with attached bathrooms.

  4. Nikki

    I’ve been to Paris multiple times and found the best saving/experience by renting a privatly owned apartment. Having your own kitchen make meals cheaper and provides a whole new adventure (the grocery stores).

    These are harder to book and check into, but I think it was worth it!

    Nikki’s last blog post..Save $93.08 – Drink Less Soda

  5. Sarah

    Hi! I was just browsing through your blog and found this post. One thing my husband and I have come to really appreciate for vacations is or other “by owner” vacation rental sites. Usually you can rent a whole house or condo for about the same (sometimes less) than hotels. Plus, you have the ability to save tons of money by cooking your own food instead of going out to eat for each meal. Just something to consider if you like to cook. :)

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