Choosing Accommodation in Europe: 8 Factors To Consider
Next to mode of transport, the most important aspect of your trip you’ll need to decide on is where to stay. Accommodation will take the biggest bite out of your budget after flights and internal transport. Most trains take you to the heart of the city. This makes life easier, but there are several other important things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing accommodation.
Choosing accommodation for your Eurail trip
Price is the number one factor for many budget-conscious travelers. Of course, you pay for what you get. Chances are that the €10 hostel dorm “in the heart of Old Town” isn’t exactly clean or spacious. Remember too that accommodation on the outskirts of the city will often be cheaper, but you’ll be paying for public transportation to the attractions every time. Weigh up what it is that’s important to you and go in knowing that the best accommodation in the best location is going to cost you more.
Pro tip: Most booking engines have a “Value”section, which is a good tool to use. Read reviews and ratings in this section carefully and it will help keep your expectations in check.
The location of your accommodation can make the difference between an enjoyable or frustrating experience in a new city. If you have to learn to navigate a complicated public transport system from outlying suburbs on a regular basis, chances are you’ll end up spending more time and money than if you just forked up a bit extra for a bed closer to the action. Research carefully.
Most big cities have several neighborhoods worth staying in, even if they’re far from the city center. You should probably look to stay as close to the heart of smaller towns and villages. Many European towns and cities have an Old Town – the historical center – which is where much of the charm and appeal lies.
Pro tip: If you’re arriving or leaving the city early or late, consider accommodation close to the station, even if it’s only for a single night. It’ll take the stress out of navigating to the train station under pressure.
There’s a lot out there when choosing accommodation throughout Europe, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. Consider what suits your needs. Most travelers consider hotels, hostels, AirBnb, and Couchsurfing as their primary options. You may also find camping, mountain huts, and a few other unique options out there.
Factors to keep in mind with accommodation type:
- Cooking facilities save cash
- In-house restaurants or included breakfasts can be lifesavers
- Private or shared rooms and bathrooms will influence the price
- Wi-Fi for keeping in touch and travel planning
- Common areas if you’re just looking to kick back and relax.
Pro tip: By and large, hostel dorms still offer the best value for money. If you’re a little over dormitories but love the cost-saving and social aspects, consider spending a little extra for a private room.
Not all accommodation is created equal. Check the amenities listed on the accommodation website or booking engine carefully before committing. Everyone has different priorities, but if something like free Wi-Fi, a washing machine, or a hair dryer is a dealbreaker for you, then consider looking elsewhere.
Pro tip: Most accommodation booking engines let you filter out rooms that don’t meet your criteria when it comes to amenities – use this liberally.
When it comes to hostels, atmosphere is a thinly veiled euphemism for “party”. If you’re looking to socialize 24/7, then slide that Atmosphere scale all the way up to 10. But if you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, you may want to consider somewhere a bit less vibey.
Pro tip: Some hostels manage to find a great balance between atmosphere and respect for weary travelers. Others won’t take no for an answer when the pub-crawl leaves at midnight. You may have to dig through the reviews to see if the spot with the great atmosphere has a good separation of interests.
Reviews are your best friend when choosing accommodation. Learning to read them is an art that you should acquire. A high rating or dozens of glowing reviews doesn’t always mean that the accommodation is good value. Nor does it mean it’s a perfect fit for your needs. Personally, I treat any accommodation that doesn’t have a positive rating of 90% or more, across several hundred reviews, with caution.
Pro tip: Use booking engines such as Booking.com, HostelWorld.com, and AirBnb and sort by reviews to get a sense of the pros and cons.
Seasons are inevitable, as are fluctuating prices. The season can make all the difference between an enjoyable stay and an unpleasant one, and not only on the weather front. Peak seasons may have the best weather and coincide with holidays and festivals, which causes prices to rise steeply. Off seasons usually bring rain, freezing or soaring temperatures, and significantly fewer crowds, with much lower prices.
If you have the luxury of choosing when you want to travel, consider which factors are most important to you and book accordingly.
Pro tip: Shoulder seasons are your best friend. A ski resort in spring or fall may not have the best snow, but you’ll save a bucketload on accommodation and passes. Likewise, a beach city in November may be slightly cooler and not suitable for soaking up too many rays, but there’s a good chance you’ll have the whole beach to yourself.
8. Cancellation policies
Eurail Passes offer an amazing amount of flexibility. Unfortunately, many accommodation providers don’t. Make sure you read the cancellation policy carefully before you pay up. Depending on the provider, you may be responsible for the full amount if you can’t get there on the date you initially booked.
Pro tip: Many hotels and hostels offer free cancellation up to a certain date. If you’re not 100% sure of your arrival time, check this as an option when searching for a place to stay.
Choosing accommodation may be a stressful task. But if you use the online tools and services out there carefully, you should have nothing to fear. And if you’re traveling with a Eurail Pass, remember that you’re already at an advantage with most accommodation being perfectly located near the train stations.
Want more travel tips?
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