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Frugal Travel Live Like a Local

Exploring New Trends in Travel

By Hilary Diack

What do you do when your credit cards are still recovering from your New Year’s holiday, but you have the “back to work blues” and are desperate for a break? Follow the example of thousands of smart travellers around the globe who have latched on to the hot new trend for frugal travel options. While we all enjoy the pampering that is on offer at high end hotels, we know that a weekend can set us back a tidy penny. Imagine spending a full week in a great location for half that price.

If you don’t object to the thought of camping out in someone’s backyard, (a summer option we hope) , or hunkering down on the couch in their sitting room or study, there are some bargain deals available through www.couchsurfing.org, www.airbnb.com and campinmygarden.com. As couchsurfing so aptly puts it, “You have friends all over the world, you just haven’t met them yet.” There are pros and cons of course; you relinquish your privacy to a large extent, but gain through the experience of having a local host who can give insider tips on where to go and what to see. Another great site to check out is www.bewelcome.org, you will find comprehensive information on accommodation around the globe.

Safety concerns are important, but there are comments posted by both travellers and hosts on all websites, so it pays to check out recommendations before proceeding. You need to use your common-sense when home sharing, so read up on the local culture and customs and the part of town that the host lives in. A great resource for this can be downloaded as an app for your smartphone, try www.fieldtripper.com.  Solo female travellers should be very selective, but this should not stop them from finding a great holiday host, just look for family situations or other female housemates to avoid potential misunderstandings.

Obviously a couch can only accommodate two people max, so a family or group of friends might want to look for other options like self-catering rentals. There is no shortage of great websites worth browsing; you can find everything from houseboats, gites in the rural French countryside, stylish studio apartments in the liveliest cities around the globe, luxury beachside villas, and golf-course bungalows. Prices vary according to location, season, facilities and size of property, but to give an idea we found the following:

On www.airbnb.com we found a spacious, modern apartment in Paris with a direct view of the Eiffel Tower. It accommodates two people, with a possible third on the sofa bed. And the price per night? A mere USD 112, Wi-Fi included. Anyone who knows Paris will agree that this is a bargain.

Trip Advisor has always been a great resource, and now that it has expanded to cover self-catering  options, it is even better. The feedback from other travellers is invaluable, and it gives good updated destination guides as well. We found a modern loft apartment overlooking the Acropolis in Athens for USD 129 a night. It accommodates six people, and is perfectly located for a culture packed visit. Check out www.tripadvisor.com.

Some more offbeat options are available on www.responsibletravel.com include houseboat rental in Devon. A boat accommodating four to six persons can start from as low as GBP 385 per week in low season, and even at GBP 750 in high season it doesn’t stretch the budget too much. What about a traditional stone farmhouse in the heart of Tuscany? It accommodates up to seven and can be rented for as little as GBP 600 per week in low season. High season rates jump to GBP 1120 per week, but for such an idyllic location it would be worth it.

UK based company Holiday Lettings, www.holidaylettings.co.uk, is easy to search with, and they offer PayPal facilities as well, so you can book and pay in advance before leaving home. If you are in the mood for a little luxury you can find a modern stone villa with an infinity pool, 3 ensuite double bedrooms and all mod-cons in the lovely coastal city of Paphos. It is only five minutes from a lovely beach, and also within very easy reach of restaurants and high end shopping. The price? It starts from a reasonable GBP 735 a week. Smaller properties in Cyrus can be found for less than GBP 200 a week in low season, and the climate is much the same as Alexandria.

A tip for people who simply don’t have time to do their own research before travelling to a new location, if you want to really get to know the place like a local you must take a look at www.tourhq.com. They have listings of recommended local guides for every destination you can think of. Having a guide could make things much easier, letting you enjoy your stay to the maximum.

If you are totally out of pocket and have good English language skills there is always the option of spending time as a guest in someone’s home for free in exchange for conversation!

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