Accommodation can easily be the single biggest expense on an extended trip and is undoubtedly the most important factor in day-to-day happiness on the road. A dirty, lumpy bed, grumpy receptionist, or stinky, dark room can leave you feeling exhausted and ready to leave a place that otherwise might be your favorite place on earth. We quickly learned that finding a great hotel, backpackers, or hostel in each city was critical to our enjoyment and sanity. After staying at the Esbelli Evi in Urgup, Turkey, a real home away from home, we realized it would be worth the effort to share our great accommodation finds with our readers.
I am starting with our Eastern European hotels, a small group of comfortable havens in a rapidly changing region. The area was particularly tough from a backpacking familyâ€™s perspective since accommodation prices are steep compared to Asia, India, and Africa and hotel locations do not fall neatly into single city blocks. For the first time on our trip, I frantically researched hotels and contacted them in advance (sometimes by only a few days) so we could make smooth entries into each city. The places we ended up, which range from a hostel to a luxury hotel to a serviced apartment, were all good fits for our crazy crew and enabled us to make the most of our time in each city. Our stays in Bucharest and Prague were so comfortable, in fact, that we spent one whole day in each city holed up in our rooms, sending Tom out only on brief foodfinding missions. Such breaks are a periodic necessity both for getting the kidsâ€™ schoolwork done and for resting from the rigors of our demanding travel pace.
Entries in italics link to my reviews. Non-italicized links will take you to the individual hotel websites (or a review site if the hotel doesn’t have one of its own). I will try to keep current with our South American locations as we finish out the trip and add in reviews of our favorite African, Indian, Asian, and Australian ones as time permits. Our hope will be to provide fellow travelers with direct connections to people and establishments they can trust and also to provide our favorite homes away from home with an increased flow of guests who are looking for more than a well-stocked minibar and overpriced tour options.
Beyond these recommendations, the best sources I’ve found for finding places to stay are Trip Advisor for worldwide destinations (though you have to stick with the budget category to avoid all the Ritz Carltons) and Travelfish for Southeast Asia.
North South Backpackers — Pretoria, South Africa
Sondzela Backpackers — Mlilwane Wildlife Reserve, Swaziland
Isinkwe Lodge — Hluhuwe, South Africa
Nata Lodge — Nata, Botswana
Jollyboys Backpackers — Livingstone, Zambia
Desert Sky Backpackers — Swakopmund, Namibia
Salty Crax Backpackers — Capetown, South Africa
Hotel The Tiger — Udaipur
Golden Sun Hotel — Hanoi, Vietnam
Anan Hotel — Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Golden Orange Hotel — Siem Reap, Cambodia
Viangbua Mansion — Chiang Mai, Thailand
Elephant Crossing — Vang Vieng, Laos
Inter Hotel — Vientiane, Laos
Everything’s cheap, but no place really merited special mention. The kids loved the Han Tang Hostel in Xian and Mix Hostel in Chengdu but neither can compare to the hostels in Southern Africa.
Our house and apartment in Caloundra, Sunshine Coast were lovely. To rent the house contact the management of Norfolks on Moffatt and tell them you want to rent the Queen of Colonies house.
Hotel de Russie — Dubbo, New South Wales
16 Pacific Marina — Coffs Harbor, New South Wales (Formerly Ocean Gem Resort. The ownership has changed but the facilities are the same–they may still have our MacBook cord the old management promised to ship us but never did)
KEA Campervans all the way, baby!
Starwood Hotels Worldwide
Tom’s status as a Preferred Guest with Starwood and the fact that we do all our spending at home using our Starwood Optima Card from American Express meant we had a bundle of points we could use for free stays over the course of the trip. We guard these points closely and ration them wisely–they’re like treasure to us. Filling a sparkling, mildew-free tub with water that’s actually hot, sleeping on a Sweet Sleeper mattress and sheets that without question are bedbug free, and being treated like royalty by a round the clock staff are luxuries that make our hostel and crummy hotel stays far more bearable. We all take great comfort in knowing that there will always be a Sheraton in our future…somewhere down the road. Here’s a list of the Starwood properties we’ve visited:
Great Wall Sheraton — Beijing, China
Sheraton Jiuzhaigou Resort — Jiuzhaigou, China
Sheraton Guilin — Guilin, China
Royal Orchid Sheraton — Bangkok, Thailand
Le Meridien Singapore — Singapore
The Mughal — Agra, India
Arabella Sheraton Grand — Capetown, South Africa (this one was courtesy of KLM Airlines)
Sheraton Voyager Antalya — Antalya, Turkey
Sheraton Krakow — Krakow, Poland
Sheraton Tunis — Tunis, Tunisia
Sheraton Hammamet Resort — Hammamet, Tunisia
Sheraton Iguazu — Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Sheraton Salta — Salta, Argentina
Sheraton Lima — Lima, Peru