How to Find Cheap Accommodation

If you’re traveling the world and want to stretch your dollar as far as possible, the best tip we can give is around how to find cheap accommodation.

While there are plenty of ways to find cheap (or free) accommodation, this article is for those of you who are looking to pay for private accommodation, in the ‘right’ part of town, with comfortable (not luxurious) amenities. 

This article is not for travelers who prefer the cheapest or shared accommodation, hostels, travel-hacking with points, or free stays via couch surfing, volunteering, WOOFing, or house sitting. 

While these are excellent alternatives to find cheap accommodation and maintain a tight budget, we’re covering our step-by-step process for how to find cheap accommodation the mainstream way. 

So if you’re comfortable booking all your stays with Booking.com or Airbnb, then keep reading.

Jump to Section

1. Preliminary Research

We always start with a quick Google search to find the best area to stay.

Some questions we ask ourselves: 

  • Do we want to be in the center of town versus a quiet area on the outskirts?
  • Is there a thriving digital nomad community that we’d like to be near?
  • Is it a walking town or do we need public/private transportation?

Once we’ve settled on an area, we pull up Airbnb to see what’s available. If our dates are flexible, we use Airbnb’s flexible search option.

Airbnb usually has more digital nomad friendly options than hotel-based websites like Booking.com or Agoda, so we start with Airbnb first. 

How to Find Accommodation - Airbnb Flexible Search
Airbnb's Flexible Search Option

Here’s some things we consider when booking any accommodation:

If you’re looking (last minute) for accommodation across weeks or months, options may appear limited, as any random booked day in the middle of your stay means the accommodation will then show as unavailable.

This is okay, as right now, we’re just trying to understand a ballpark of what’s available, the quantity / quality of the properties, and at what price points.  

Later, we’ll tell you how to get in touch with these owners and access to properties which may not be listed on the site.

It may feel counter intuitive to add filters if search results are already thin, but we always add a filter so we’re not wasting time looking at properties that don’t meet our needs.

We filter results by price per night ,and check the boxes for ‘air con’ and ‘wifi’. 

We’ve covered everything you need to consider when booking long term DN-friendly accommodation, including what we look for and why these considerations are necessary.

Lastly, don’t forget Airbnb daily rates are often highly inflated compared to weekly or monthly rates (monthly discounts are awesome), and you’ll be able to score these cheaper rates with the methods outlined throughout this article. 

Don’t get discouraged when looking, this is just our starting point. 

2. Comparing the Options

Once we’ve got a good idea of ‘what’s out there’, we have a look on Booking.com and Agoda to see if they have better alternatives or cheaper rates. 

Again, we set our nightly budget and check the boxes for ‘wifi’ and ‘air con,’ as these are important to us.

I like to go one step further and check the box for ‘rating 8.0 and above’, as I’ve learned those properties usually meet my standards.

Jonny prefers Booking.com, as he’s a Genius member (frequent purchaser) and receives a discount. He also gets an added discount when using the mobile app. The rates he finds shock me every time!

I prefer Agoda, as I have good luck on it without needing any special perks.  

So away we hunt…

How to Find Cheap Accommodation - Booking
Booking.com
Agoda

3. Finding the Best Rate

After we’ve found a few options and check reviews, we turn to Google to find a WhatsApp number and contact them directly

Note: Airbnb will usually hide the name of the accommodation, so it may take some sleuthing on the map to find the exact spot.

We pull up Google Maps and compare pictures until we find the correct place to contact. Always confirm with photos.

In our personal experience, many accommodations are cheaper when booked directly, as they do not have to pay fees to the various booking sites.

Also, property managers may have listings not included on these sites that they are willing to share. This happens all the time, and we usually find a cheaper room or apartment than the original listing! 

However, the downside for accommodation owners is that they will not receive website/platform-specific reviews for their property, so we always offer to provide a Google review when we contact them directly. Property managers appreciate that we’re trying to help them, and usually respond favorably with lower rates or additional room options.

After contacting directly, we assess which was the cheapest option, and book with that method: Airbnb, Booking.com, Agoda, or direct

Is one platform better than the other?

It’s been our experience that short stays are often cheapest using Booking.com’s Genius discount and mobile app or booking directly through WhatsApp. Most accommodations will allow you to pay when you arrive so you do not need to worry about a money transfer to secure your room. 

For longer stays (28+ days), we’ve found Airbnb’s monthly discounts to provide a favorable option, as well as contacting the accommodation directly. Property owners often give a monthly or 3-month discount, up to as much as 40% off compared to daily rates. 

Always ask about monthly rates and discounts for long term stays. 

Are there any other viable options?

Contacting property owners directly isn’t the only alternative to Airbnb (complete guide coming soon). Another method is by searching city-specific Facebook groups (and marketplace) for long term accommodation.

If we know we’re staying in a location for at least a month (and we haven’t found anything using the alternative methods), we’ll have a search in these groups and/or post a request detailing our requirements.

Submitting a quick post is a great way to understand more accommodation options – just know that most of them won’t come even close to meeting your initial request. 

You’ll need to be very clear about what you want. We’ve outlined some of our top tips and a post example in our, What We Look For in Digital Nomad Accommodation” article.

how to find cheap accommodation - facebook groups
An example of Facebook groups for Da Nang, Vietnam

We usually only turn to Facebook groups when we’re booking last minute, or staying more than one month.

Why?

Housing gets added to the site as they become available, and property owners and managers are eager to fill them immediately. As this isn’t a booking site, they are usually first come first serve.

Often, property managers will allow you to view the accommodation in person, and then expect you to book immediately.

Because of this, Facebook groups are a great option if you’re looking for a place last minute or have just arrived and staying in a hotel while you scope out the area.

Which brings me to my final suggestion…

Should I view properties in person?

If you’re staying long term and want to get a feel for the neighborhood, it might be a wise idea to book an affordable hotel in the area you’re considering, and post a message on Facebook the day before you arrive so you can arrange a couple of viewings upon your arrival

A walk around the area will allow you to stumble across properties with “For Rent” signs that you can view too!

In popular digital nomad areas, this is usually a great option as there are plenty of available apartments. We like doing this if we’re committing to a place for more than one month, as we want to make sure its a good fit. 

We can get by with an ‘okay’ place for a month or so, but anything longer, we prefer seeing it in real life. 

Ready to Find Cheap Accommodation?

There you have it. A step-by-step guide for everything we do to find (and book) cheap accommodation

If you’re looking for the factors we consider when searching for digital nomad accommodation, check out our complete guide here, including what filters we use, our exact messaging in Facebook groups, and how to properly read reviews on booking sites. 

If you’re unsure what housing options are available to you as a digital nomad, stayed tuned, as our housing guide is almost complete! It breaks down commonly used words such as guesthouse versus villa, and helps you understand which is best for you.

Do you have a favorite way to find cheap accommodation? Share it in the comments below!

Max quit her corporate job in 2013 to take a chance building businesses online while traveling the world. Armed with an adventurous spirit and a can-do attitude, Max has traveled to more than 50 countries, embracing slow travel as a digital nomad and long-term living in places such as Thailand, India, Nepal, and Indonesia. Max currently resides in Bali where she oversees content creation for DNG as our resident travel aficionado.
Picture of Max Pankow
Max Pankow
Max quit her corporate job in 2013 to take a chance building businesses online while traveling the world. Armed with an adventurous spirit and a can-do attitude, Max has traveled to more than 50 countries, embracing slow travel as a digital nomad and long-term living in places such as Thailand, India, Nepal, and Indonesia. Max currently resides in Bali where she oversees content creation for DNG as our resident travel aficionado.

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