Accommodations in the Balkan countries range from very basic hostels up to international five star hotels. While many areas are still developing their tourism and accommodations, we have not had a difficult time finding places to stay on our limited budget. I thought I would post a few tips that can be used by families and backpackers on how to save money on what is often the biggest expense of long-term travel.
While guide books can be a useful resource for many things, I never use them for finding a place to rest my head. My past experiences with places listed in Lonely Planet or other guidebooks, has not been good. They tend to raise their prices and lower their quality because they can always count on a steady stream of visitors blindly following the book’s recommendations. Instead, I use online resources combined with a little follow up to find great places to stay at the lowest possible prices.
The first thing I tend to do in my research is visit Kayak. This allows me to see what basic prices are in the region and which properties are the cheapest. I have found through Kayak that Booking.com seems to have the most properties in the Balkans that are in our price range. I don’t go directly to Booking.com though, since Kayak allows me to see many more sites at the same time as well.
The next thing that has been working for me is to email the properties directly. Most of the budget accommodations in the Balkans are locally owned and directly contacting them has allowed me to save 10-20% over the online price. Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price either. Several times I have informed them of a lower price in the area and they have matched. This strategy essentially allows me to pay the lowest price possible for a place with great reviews.
For families, it is also important to negotiate the children’s rate. Most websites show that European hotels charge full price
for all but the youngest of children. Through my strategy of contacting properties directly, I have been able to negotiate for Shawn Reece to stay for free or at the very least for a reduced charge.
Right now we are averaging about 20-25 Euro ($26-32) per night for accommodation in this region. (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria) While we certainly aren’t staying in high end properties, the majority of the hostels and guesthouses we have stayed at included free wifi, in room television and an ensuite bathroom. Even when we didn’t have these amenities, the rooms have always been clean and the stay pleasant due mostly to my reliance on online reviews.
- Use a travel comparison site such as Kayak to get a basic understanding of general rates in the area for the dates you are visiting.
- Cross reference a few of the facilities you are looking at with review sites such as TripAdvisor.
- Choose a couple of hotels/guesthouses with good reviews and decent prices then perform a Google search to find out their contact information. 95% of the time I can find the email address on my first try.
- Email the facility and negotiate for a better rate. I have been able to get rates 10-20% off the online rate for double rooms and 50% off the rate that would be charged for three people.
Do you have any tips on how to secure the best quality budget accommodations at the best prices? Leave them in the comment section below!