Don't look at hotel prices and be discouraged from your destination. We found ways to stay all over the world for cheap and even for free!
Don't Break the Bank
We all need sleep and we need a safe place to rest at night. It's easy for accommodation bookings to rack up the bill for your trip, but this doesn't have to be the case! You've just got to be a little adventurous and a little flexible.
If you're like us and ideally prefer some privacy and modern comforts, start with home-sharing rentals. (There are more platforms than just Airbnb, but it was our go-to.) If you can find a place in your budget all to yourself, having the luxury of a kitchen will save you money on food, as well as other perks like a washing machine! However, don't rule out booking a private bedroom in a shared home. These can be found for MUCH cheaper than an entire place, and still have the perks of being in a house or apartment over a hotel.
While uncommon in the United States, hostels are everywhere in many other parts of the world. We paid as little as $6 a night per bed, and hostels usually provide an opportunity for socializing with other travelers. Your hostel experience will likely include a bunk in a dorm room, a locker (which may require a small fee), access to a shared bathroom, and sometimes a full communal kitchen. Some hostels have bars, restaurants, and other common spaces attached and offer events and activities for guests. HostelWorld was our go-to site for booking!
One of our number-one recommendations for budget travel is Workaway (or other work exchange platforms). We had five positive experiences on our year-long trip, and Andrew had several more on a solo trip in 2011.
Workaway hosts are looking for a wide variety of skills for part-time labor, from gardening, cooking, and childcare to building, remodeling, animal care, and more. Travelers can expect about 20-25 hours of work a week in exchange for a room and all meals, and of course the benefit of cultural exchange and learning about a place from the people who live there.
Another way to find a place to stay for free (usually for much shorter stays than Workaway) is through Couchsurfing: a social media-type network of travelers and hosts. You may find folks willing to offer you a couch to sleep on, while others have full guest suites available, and it's often expected you'll hang out for a while and perhaps cook/buy them a meal or two.
The Couchsurfing community also often holds events or activities for travelers and locals; we attended several of these and made a ton of new friends. Some of our connections from these events later hosted us! We had only positive experiences with Couchsurfing, and it is widely used around the world.