Traditionally, traveling abroad meant having to book a hotel room for the length of your stay. Those with jam-packed itineraries usually spend the entire day exploring the city that lay just beyond the hotel’s gilded lobby, only returning to their bed and bath enclave for a just a few hours before the next day’s adventures begin.
I, however, disagree with this standard component of travel. Hotels offer no more than a bed and shower, with food and drink offered for an additional price, not to mention their price-gouging practices with minibars. And the less expensive the room, the less elaborate the fixings.
Instead, I recommend that travelers consider renting an apartment. It might seem like a more expensive option, but it actually isn’t. Of course staying at a hostel or couch surfing are ultimately cheaper routes, but for those who would otherwise pony up for a fancy hotel that charges anywhere from $50 to $100 a night, or more, finding an apartment for a comparable price with better amenities is a lot easier than one might think.
My last trip was to a city I’ve always wanted to visit and I regret not taking the opportunity to study abroad there while in college, especially since a semester abroad was cheaper than a semester at home. That city is Berlin. What started off as a 10-day trip in the early days of planning, after some research, became a 30-day adventure as a Berliner.
There are tons of resources available online for finding apartment rentals, either those designed specifically for tourists or standard apartments that locals offer up for short-term renters. U.S. citizens may stay in Germany for up to 90 days without a visa, so for those planning to utilize that allotment going the latter route will offer a greater opportunity for savings. For more information about traveling to Germany as a U.S. citizen, it behooves everyone to visit the U.S.’s official travel information website [http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1123.html].
The place I chose was a serene 1-bedroom apartment in the heart of Berlin, located on the Spree River. It came with a queen-size mattress and a double-sleep sofa, a kitchen equipped with a hotplate for cooking and a washer and dryer. I was a bit disappointed to find there was no oven, but with a bakery and grocery store within walking distance I found no problem preparing meals. There was also free Internet, a beautiful view of a park from the private balcony in the rear of the apartment and a view of the river from the front porch. And in terms of travel, the nearest stop on the S-Bahn was a mere 5-minute walk away. All of this cost me just under $900 for a full month’s stay last year. For that price at a 3-star hotel I would’ve gotten no more than 2 weeks.
It’s also worth noting that Germany is a member of the Schengen Agreement so travel to other states in Europe is possible without a having to acquire individual visas for each country. Saving money by renting an apartment allowed me to travel to more destinations in Europe than I otherwise would’ve been able to afford.
Having an apartment with a bedroom, living room, dining room and kitchen to return to after spending the day exploring the city made my trip especially memorable. I felt more like a resident than a tourist, which is the best way to experience a new location. And given the money I saved by forgoing a hotel stay, I don’t think I’ll ever choose a hotel in the future if there’s an apartment available.
Apart from being a world traveler, adventure seeker, and blogger, Jeremy Haze is a freelance marketing advisor currently closely collaborating with an Australia-based international cruise company, CruiseAbout.