Sleeping is one of my favorite things in the world, but that doesn't mean it is an easy thing to make happen. It can be tricky to find a place to sleep that meets all your expense, comfort and location standards. There are many ways to meet these needs, it just depends what you are looking for.
Overnight Trains -
One of the most efficient ways to sleep, overnight trains allow you to sleep while you travel. Prices are pretty close to what you would be paying at a hotel, but are usually more expensive than a hostel. Sleeper cars always require the purchase of reservations, even if you are using a Eurail pass.
A Friend of your Friend’s House -
If you are humble and are ok in milk awkward situations, this can be a great way to not only save money, but to have a great time. People are weary of “inconveniencing others” by staying at their house, but especially while traveling around the country as a kid, I realized how much more fun it is to stay at people’s houses, and I’m sure a good portion of them enjoy it too. Building connections and relationships is a great way to enable this methodology. It’s a favor based thing, but can lead to great friendships and great times. Plus, you automatically get a turgid who know the area and can (hopefully) help you out if you run into problems. The some ways to pay someone back are
1. Cooking dinner.
2. Buy them a case of beer.
3. Inviting them to stay at your house sometime.
Give it a shot. I can guarantee you will have some great times and stories.
Couch Surfing -
This is an emerging, yet slightly sketchy way of spending the night. Its a completely favor-based system that is cheap and interesting, but slightly dangerous. The idea is that you spend a night or two at a registered person’s house, they are rated by people on the site as good or bad hosts/hostesses. You would then also be registered as a good or bad tenant and/or host. So basically its a crowd-sourced hostel. I would personally think of this as a last minute solution. I have never used this method myself, but I have heard from a few friends that it can be a cool experience.
The cheapest and probably most popular method of spending the night, hostels can range from a terrifying, to quite pleasant experience. Hostels are different from hotels because they are lower quality, you usually share a room with other tenants. NOTE: Many hostels operate on a per-person basis, so its a big deal if you try to cram more people into a room. Many hostels and hotels will require your passport to be copied for some reason. If you happen to be one person over, many places will give you a cot for that person, but some places will make you buy an additional room. So its important to find out how many people will be traveling with you.
Usually the most expensive option, but most luxurious, hotels are generally the same across the board. Hotels are nice, if you can afford it and if you don't want to worry about anything going wrong. Of course, there is no promise of disaster not striking, but chances are, if you are willing to shell out the money, you can avoid the headaches. I find hotels unimaginative, and a very lame answer to the call for adventure. If this is the way you travel, good for you, but in my mind, I see it as a cop-out.
Definitely my favorite method of obtaining rest. Apartments can be very affordable depending on the weekend you book it for and how many people you are traveling with. I have had both good and bad experiences. My best experience was in Barcelona, where were in a 5-person apartment that had everything we could possibly need. It was a 10-minute walk from the largest supermarket I have seen in my life. Once we figured out that the hot water heater had to be turned on, the shower was nice too. Unfortunately, the same didn't happen in Paris. We talked with the landlord at 6pm, letting him know that we would be in at about 10:30PM. Upon arriving in Paris, I called him, to confirm our arrival. He didn’t answer. I called again. Nothing. 57 calls and 4 hours later, still nothing. Worst night of my life. We had been traveling for close to 24 hours straight. We were beyond tired. Luckily a nice Parisian girl invited us into her apartment, gave us some tea and helped us call a taxi for the train station. We got to the train station at about 3am, and non of us were happy at all. Tension was high.
And another thing, you can save money on breakfast, if you try to find hotels or hostels that provide breakfast. Every once and a while you might even find a place that includes dinner too. It can range from free to cheap to expensive. It's worth looking into as you try to find your lodging quarters for your trips.