For many travellers around the world, you may not have a choice on which form of travel you choose. In most cases, you’ve had to save for a year to just afford the flights and a place to lay your head down and just being able to travel is a luxury compared to most who may only afford a holiday camping nearby or not at all. Or your travels are funded by rich parents or you happen to be rich parents.
There are also those people who could perhaps sometimes afford an occasional hotel stay but way prefer the experience of backpacking and exploring at a more grassroots level. Now don’t get me wrong, both forms of travel have its merits. I am a fervent lover of pampering particularly of the spa variety which is most likely found at hotels. At each stage of your life, I have no doubt this preference will change and by the time I have a family, I may not be as content to rough it. But when given the choice, I’d almost always choose the journey of a backpacker.
Backpacking is a winner for singles for this exact reason- Meeting people. Whether you’re lounging in a hammock on the balcony or frying something in the kitchen, at any moment you could strike up a conversation with an attractive stranger or make a friend for life. Many of the friends I’ve made at backpackers end up being the group I travel around with and really go on to shape my experiences of a country. I’m not sure it’s possible to feel lonely at a hostel and more often than not, you may end up craving some alone time where people do not want to party or hook up.
Save your money for experiences
Instead of blowing all your money on the place where you spend 20% (or less) of your time, keep your cash for seeing and experiencing the city instead. By staying in a beach hut and renting a scooter, you are going to end up veering through the nooks and crannies of a town instead of viewing it all through the tour buses windows. Often what you would spend on a hotel stay per night could be used on visiting the cities big attractions, enjoying an adventure activity or just your lunch and transport for a few days.
Face of the city
Many locals work in backpackers and prove to be useful resources on what is hot and happening around the city. Whilst a hotel will hand you a brochure, a backpackers may send you on surf tour of all the local beaches or tell you where to find the best pizza. Backpackers in Brazil had the most jam-packed schedule each night. We could opt to go to a Favela Party with locals and go down to the markets to find the must-haves according to the Brazilians.
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve experienced wonderful hostels where the bedding appears clean and the dorm looks welcoming. But you just never know who you’ll land up in the same room with. I’ve been stuck in a room with loud Aussies in Brazil. I would have the pleasure of waking up to their farts in the morning and stench of their previous night’s sweat and boozing. Not ideal.
With most hotels, you pretty much know what you are going to get in any country. Their décor may differ slightly, but they will have the standard bedroom, bathroom and amenities. I find that backpackers differ depending on the country and often have different personalities. Mellow Yellow in Rio de Janeiro was playful, colourful and totally geared towards partying. Whilst an old, Victorian style hostel in Knysna had a tranquil garden and a fairly quiet atmosphere to with high ceilings and cute kitchen. Archie’s Place in Recoleta, Buenos Aires had the feeling of a loft apartment with white walls, a comfy lounge and beautiful doors opening out onto the street. Buccaneers backpackers in Eastern Cape of South Africa is surrounded by unspoilt land with forest, rivers and rural land. Everything blends in with its natural surroundings and they offer yoga classes.
Loneliness and Privacy
Unless you’re travelling with a friend or partner, hotels can get very lonely. You have the room to yourself and occasionally you may order room service and chat to the lady giving you’re a pedicure downstairs at the spa. Inside your place of accommodation, there is seldom much interaction as hotels are really just seen as a place to rest, sleep and relax. Many travellers love the anonymity that accompanies a hotel stay, but unless you’re a loner you would have to counteract this solitude with going out, making an effort and meeting people. On the up side, you get ‘home’ to find a drunken dorm mate passed out on your bunk bed.
If you’re paying good money and it’s a decent hotel, you can pretty bank on the fact that everything will be fresh and clean. You don’t have to share a bathroom with anyone, the water is hot and the towels are clean. No one has left their hair in the shower or blocked the toilet. The duvet is super comfortable and the sheets are silky. If you’re lucky, there’ll be a fluffy bathrobe to accompany the slippers. Santé Wellness in Stellenbosch spoilt us with a turn-down service. When we returned from dinner, the fire was going and there was chocolate and water beside the bed. It’s the hotel’s form of a tuck-in.
At any hotel who strives to keep its customers and keep them full stop, they know the value of customer service. The staff will do anything to keep their guests happy. Upon arrival, your bags are taken up to your room. Gourmet food can be delivered to your door and the host is just a phone call away with any information or assistance you may require. Staff are impeccably dressed and madly polite and really do aim to please.