Ask the experts: Budget accommodation

Our panel give advice on budget accommodation for gap-year travellers

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 18 Oct 2015, 09:00 BST, Updated 5 Jul 2021, 11:45 BST

QI'm planning a round-the-world gap year with a limited budget for hotels. Along with hostels, I've looked into couch surfing services and Airbnb, but they're not available everywhere, plus my family are concerned about the quality and safety of this type of accommodation. What else would you suggest?

Alan Clarke, CEO, If you want to get under the skin of the place you're in, and learn about its people, then stay in a local's home. With a homestay, the host is always there so you can experience the destination in the way they would — what's more, your host will be used to gap year travellers, as 30% of our bookings come from students. is an online community, featuring homes in over 150 countries, and a review system that helps guide your choices. The places on offer are distinct and welcoming, with the added bonus that many hosts will prepare home-cooked food, act as your tour guide and give you hints and tips on local customs and cultures. Plus homestays are great value for money, with the average overnight stay costing £29.

They're available worldwide but Peru, Bhutan, Nicaragua, Colombia, South Africa, China and Fiji are growing in popularity for gap-year travellers. Southeast Asia, New Zealand and India are long-standing favourites with students while top destinations include Thailand, Sydney and New Zealand.

When it comes to staying safe, a good rule of thumb is to find out as much information as possible about your hosts and destination. offers a video chat service where you can talk face-to-face to prospective hosts before deciding to book with them.

Sarah Barrell, Associate Editor, National Geographic Traveller (UK): Since couch-surfing was born back at the beginning of the millennium, it's spawned a new generation of cheap, locally hosted 'peer-to-peer' accommodation options such as, Airbnb, Roomorama and HouseTrip, along with myriad other choices for those with houses to 'swap'. For gap-yearers, Airbnb is by far the most popular option, but bear in mind the service has lately gained something of a reputation among young travellers seeking locals to hook up with. Plan your trip accordingly.

Get in touch: If you're in need of travel advice, email our team –

Published in the November 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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