A little under 2 months in to our adventure and it has been fun discovering what our ‘level’ of transport, accommodation and food is. We are happy to take some risks with all three and sometimes this has been clearly rewarding (WarmShowers.org), sometimes it has resulted in undesirable un-comfort (Sleeper Class trains in India) and sometimes the experience has been mixed (Couchsurfing.com).

When it comes to accommodation we fair much better with air conditioning (AC) in our room, even if we use it sparingly. The temperatures we have experienced at night rarely drop below 27 degrees and, ever mindful of mosquito bites, we sleep with the windows closed so our room is often even hotter than this. Even with fans it is much easier to get back to sleep in the middle of the night with a short blast of Air Conditioning. Luckily there is AC available everywhere we have travelled to date, but not in every room we have chosen to stay in.

In Kerela, India we rented a whole house through Airbnb and although it was a joy for us to have three bedrooms, only one bedroom had AC and Alfie’s room ended up being so much hotter than the rest of the house (not hot enough for him to want to sleep with Leo in his room though!).

In Jaisalmer, India, we were offered a hotel room for free through a Couchsurfing host however, in what has been the hottest location of our whole trip, and with a sick child (Alfie was vomiting and had a fever) the lack of air conditioning became a real problem.

We also do better with beds or thick mattresses on the floor. My 41 year old bones do not fair well sleeping on foam camp rolls any more and sleeping directly on a hard floor is not an experience that I wish to repeat – 2 nights was enough. (However our children do sleep soundly even on a hard floor – something that Leo choses to do at home regularly!)

We enjoy sleeping together in the same room, not least because it tend to be cheaper, but also for the feeling of security. Some hostels have 4-bunk dorms which we have enjoyed, we haven’t yet chosen to sleep in a dormitory room with other travellers – unless you count 8 nights on Indian trains travelling AC3 class where we shared the carriages with up to 60 other people. It does feel good when you have a door you can lock to the outside world with all four of us and our valuables safely inside, no matter what the configuration or number of rooms.

So what about the cost?

The cost of accommodation varies widely, and while it is true that you often get what you pay for, we have found this to be less true than we expected. We have used the internet, almost exclusively. Although turning up at a hotel off season might have yielded even better prices we preferred to know where we were heading in a new location. We have used the communities on Couchsurfing.com and WarmShowers.org to benefit from accommodation at no charge. We have also travelled by overnight sleeper train both in India and Vietnam which has saved us the cost of overnight accommodation.

While searching for accommodation in Jodhpur, early into our adventure, I spent 2 hours deciding on the guest house and then checking different booking websites to find the lowest price. In India we found there was a significant between the prices on Booking.com and the site we ultimately booked accommodation through on this occasion, Cleartrip.com. Since advice from a Couchsurfer, in Jodhpur, we discovered Goibibo and installed the Goibibo App which consistently had the cheapest prices for rooms across India, however it proved to be difficult to use Goibibo with non-Indian credit cards. We were also lucky and, through Couchsurfing, connected with a kind man in Kolkota who could book us hotel rooms through Goibibo even cheaper than we could. He booked us 12 nights altogether across the North of India and was happy for us to pay him three weeks later when we arrived in Kolkota – such trust, such kindness – and he wanted nothing except our friendship in return.

What is Couchsurfing?
Couchsurfing.com is a website that connects travellers and hosts across the world.
The Couchsurfing website says:
“We envision a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfers share their lives with the people they encounter, fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect.” Couchsurfing.com
I have come to realise that I want to understand the places we visit through the eyes of those who live there and to make meaningful connections, no matter how brief.
Couchsurfing.com and Warmshowers.org are two websites that we have used to connect to like minded individuals who are offering accommodation or friendship.
(At the time of writing, we have hosted four sets of travellers in our own home and benefitted from connections with seven residents in India and Vietnam, two through Warmshowers.)
While both our Warmshowers hosts have offered us accommodation with ‘no strings attached’ our experience with Couchsurfing hosts has been a lot more variable. Some of our hosts were business people where the ‘exchange’ was agreed in advance, like when we stayed near Hai Phong, Vietnam, in an English School and we spent two fulfilling evening helping teach children English in their classes, or when we freely offered to help them get set up on Trip Advisor. Some of our hosts were more secretive and asked for things from us that they didn’t mention in advance like expecting that we bought a camel safari from them or in another English School in Saigon where I was asked to support an interview for new staff just five minutes before the candidates arrived and without any briefing as to my role.
Read more about our experience of Couchsurfing in Saigon here.
In our first 60 days of travelling, we benefitted from ‘free’ accommodation on 15 nights and saved £450. If you add to this the 8 nights we have slept on a train then that’s almost 40% of our time not in conventional accommodation.
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