One of the biggest challenges of being a digital nomad is finding proper accommodation, whether it is for a short or long term stay. There are many options to choose from, so how do you make the best decision?
I started my life as a digital nomad in 2012. Since that time, I have stayed in many different types of accommodations. Below I’ve listed the most popular ones to use while traveling and working at the same time, no matter what your preferences are. There are pros and cons to each choice.
Hostels are a perfect option for budget travelers and people who want to socialize. You might be that type of person, but what if you need to work at the same time? Loud dormitory rooms or halls aren’t the perfect space.
You can rent a private room, but the chance that you will feel comfortable there is really small. Most private hostel rooms are adapted for people who travel and just need a place to sleep. There is not a comfortable desk and chair for you to work from. The natural light supply can be very low. And not to mention the Internet connection – even when the hostel website assures you they have fast and free WiFi in all parts of the hostel, the reality may be totally different (Internet may be available only in a lobby or in a corridor).
As a digital nomad, I only consider hostels when I am going to stay in a certain place for a short time. Then I make sure that I choose a private room in a hostel located in a good neighborhood. There should be a café with a proper Internet connection close to my place of accommodation, so even if I don’t like my room, I can go there to work instead.
- Relatively cheap
- You can easily find people to spend free time with
- It’s difficult to find a room conducive to work
- Many hostels still don’t offer stable WiFi
- You may spend additional money to work in a nearby café
Hotels are a more expensive option than hostels. Thus not many digital nomads can afford to stay in them for a long time. They can be, however, a great option to break a routine of staying in budget places (everyone needs a bit of luxury from time to time, right?).
I have never stayed in any hotel for more than a few nights. It’s simply not in my budget, and there are many more comfortable and affordable options. When it comes to working conditions, hotels usually aren’t much different than hostels. Their rooms are more beautiful and luxurious than hostel rooms, but it doesn’t mean they are better adjusted to digital nomads. It’s ok to work from a bed or a nightstand for a few days, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it for longer.
- Comfortable conditions to relax
- No comfortable desk and chair to work from in most of the rooms
- You may need to spend additional money to work in a nearby café
My favorite type of accommodation is a private apartment. You have many options to choose from, so you can easily rent anything that will perfectly match your ideal place to live and work from.
You can rent the whole apartment for as long as you want. Many owners even offer huge discounts if you are going to stay for more than a month, so why not stay longer?
While looking for an apartment to rent, I always pay attention to several key factors: stable and fast Internet connection, access to a kitchen to work from (and save money on food), plenty of natural light, a comfortable desk and chair, and easy access to a city center.
Honestly, I rarely find any disadvantage to renting an apartment. But if I had to list something, it would be the uncertainty that comes with it, especially if you are looking for something for longer. Let’s assume you rent your new apartment while being in a different country. You already paid for it and you plan to stay there for a month, but when you arrive it looks totally different than you imagined. What do you do then?
- Cheap if you want to stay somewhere for longer
- Many options to choose from
- You can easily feel at home (and at your office)
- Kitchen to cook from, so you don’t need to eat at restaurants every day
- The uncertainty that comes with renting a place for longer (what if you don’t like it?)
Basically, hospitality exchange is something that you can experience through websites such as Couchsurfing or Hospitality Exchange. People who host you don’t take money from you. What they expect is that you spend some time with them, share your culture, maybe prepare a local dish, etc.
It sounds like a tempting way to save money, but at the same time, you can easily overuse somebody’s hospitality. While it can be ok to work for an hour or two in someone’s living room, I am sure more than that every single day would be considered rude.
If you keep this in mind and if you are going to stay at somebody’s house for just a night or two, I think there shouldn’t be any problems. But again, those won’t be the most comfortable conditions to work from, so maybe you should plan on spending money on coffee in a local café where you can work.
- You don’t pay anything
- You can wear out somebody’s hospitality
- Working conditions aren’t the most comfortable
- You still may find working from a café the best option
It’s a great option if you have your own apartment. The idea is simple: you stay at somebody’s place who at the same time stays in your place. You can discuss ahead of time the dates of the exchange as well as any other conditions and details.
There are several websites, such as HomeExchange or Mind My House, where you can find apartment exchange offers. The problem is that usually you have to pay a member fee to access available ads and there is no guarantee that you will find something.
- You don’t pay anything (only a membership fee for accessing offers)
- You can stay even for a long time (depends on dates agreed on)
- Easy access to a kitchen, so no need to eat out every day
- Difficult to find something in the right place and at the right time
- You need to be ok with strangers staying in your house
- And of course, you need to have your own house first
House Sitting / Pet Sitting
How about taking care of a house and/or pets of somebody who is traveling? Although responsibilities of house and pet sitters vary and depend on what the homeowner needs, you are usually responsible for watering plants, keeping the house clean, collecting mail, and maybe walking a dog or playing with a cat.
Such responsibilities don’t sound like a big deal (in fact, you still would need to do most of them if you lived somewhere else), but in exchange, you receive a place to stay in a private apartment or house. The duration of the assignment depends on how long the homeowner is going to be absent, but you can find them for even 2 – 3 months.
- A good way to save money (you only need to cover member fees for accessing offers)
- Easy access to a kitchen, so no need to eat out
- Usually comfortable living conditions
- Not for you if you aren’t comfortable with pets (if there are going to be any)
- You take on responsibility for a house and pets
- It’s not easy to find an available offer (much more house/pet sitters than offers)
Accommodations in Exchange for Knowledge or Skills
If you are a digital nomad, you probably have some skills or knowledge that you can share with others. Why not use it as a type of payment for accommodation? My favorite website for this is Worldpackers.
There are many things you can offer. You can teach people how to play guitar, how to play basketball or how to speak your native language. If you are good at math, history or any other school subject, you can be sure that you will find people interested in exchange with you.
Finding accommodations for the exchange of skills or knowledge can be one big roulette, though. You never know how well you are going to get along with your host – what if you don’t find a common language?
Another thing is privacy. Of course, you should discuss exchange conditions at the beginning, but it can happen that your host will not be happy with your work as a digital nomad. After all, you came to them to share knowledge or skills.
- A good way to save money
- You can meet interesting people
- It can be hard to find enough time to combine your work with knowledge/skills exchange
- You can lack privacy
- There is a chance you don’t get along with your host
What types of accommodations do you usually use as a digital nomad?
To read more, find me on:
My blog: https://gomilena.com
My name is Milena Dawidzionek, and I’ve been a digital nomad since 2012. I’m a self-employed translator and copywriter, helping companies to become more visible online. I also run my blog, GoMilena.com, where I share my impressions and tips on working and traveling at the same time.