For expats a major concern is finding suitable accommodation. I’ve given advice on other posts about this difficult subject. I wanted to write here about hostels and cheap hotels. These are of course not long term solutions; but good to know for tourists, someone visiting to look over a city for potential relocation or possibly for a short term roof over one’s head while you look for a better solution.
Some hostels have single or double rooms but these sometimes cost more than a cheap hotel for less comfort. Shared hostel accommodation is also not everybody’s thing. It’s a way to meet people but might be hard to get sleep if your fellow roommates snore, talk or come in late stinking of booze and smoke. This is not an unlikely scenario in places that cater to young backpackers. Note that some hostels may require a membership card in the Youth Hostel Association or YHA. Some student accommodations require a valid University ID.
My inspiration to write about this was recently finding the website www.hostelz.com This site is a real gem. It is well designed and gives a good general overview of many popular locations. Not only International Youth Hostels but other hostels, student accommodation and cheap hotels are listed. One gives in the location and desired dates and not only gets a list but also a price comparison from major sites; Hostelworld, Hostelbookers.com, Gomio.com, Hostelsclub and Booking.com. Each accommodation is described as to its services, location and reachability with public transportation. There are also customer reviews of many of the places.
Many people know about the site www.tripadvisor.com which is also a good resource but sometimes hard to find just what you want in the clutter of too much information. Hostlz.com is just focused on cheaper offerings. The one thing I did not see was listings for Ibis Budget Hotels (bookable at www.ibis.com) . I assume they aren’t cooperating with Hostlz.com at this point with their booking system.
The Ibis Hotel group is international and often present in major to middle-sized German cities. They also have more expensive hotels but the budget ones are often the best value in town; dependably clean rooms at good prices and often the option to change or cancel reservations until the last minute without paying a penalty.
There are 2 drawbacks to the Ibis Budget places; first, they are usually situated outside a city center. Some like the Stuttgart-Feuerbach one are well connected by public transportation but others are rather inconvenient unless one has a car. Second, the prices are also sensitive to demand. If booked well in advance, one usually gets a great price. But they can get booked out and in times of high demand the prices go up to reflect this. But while one should book in advance, they are paradoxical a good place to look for spontaneous availability. Due to their cancellation policies, rooms can suddenly be free at the last minute as well.
Another thing to be careful of is changing a reservation at Ibis. One might reserve a room for say 38 Euros and then later decide to add another day. By then the price might have gone up to 48 Euros. One should then keep the original reservation and make an additional one for the following day. If you basically cancel and rebook or change the original reservation, you will pay the higher price for both days instead of getting the cheap price for both days, or even the first day cheap and the higher price for the second. If you make the people aware of the consecutive bookings upon check-in they are likely to keep you in the same room. This saves everyone extra work.
Another issue with shared accommodation is theft. One is not usually worried for their personal safety but things do seem to disappear more often than one would think. Most places have some sort of locker for valuables but then the shirt or book or even a backpack you left on your bed suddenly vanishes. I don’t think this is overly prevalent in Germany but in general can happen anywhere. I’ve traveled a lot of third world countries without experiencing any of the horror stories one hears about thieves and pickpockets but then had things stolen from a hostel where the other guests were friendly, well-off Europeans and Americans. Losing a book is a disappointment, suddenly finding your cellphone or portable music system missing can be a serious loss.