The appeal for many that enjoy traveling is the idea of getting out of one’s comfort zone – and that includes where you lay your head each night. Hotels are convenient if you’re a new traveler and want to have a guarantee of the comfort of where you’re staying. They can also be a necessity if you’re going on a trip that is high impact in terms of baggage, where you need a shuttle service, or with many schedules to accommodate, or if you’re trying to coordinate with a large number of people. But for a smaller and more flexible trip, there are a number of unique and sometime exciting places to stay that are a bit more off the wall. Here are just a few ideas for travelers looking for novel travel accommodations.
If you’re squeamish about small spaces, never fear, capsule hotels can be surprisingly roomy! And more importantly, if you don’t mind a slightly more cramped space (and admittedly no standing room), they’re a truly fun experience and come in all shapes and sizes. While popularized in large, highly concentrated cities like Tokyo, capsule hotels have spread to other regions as well. Canada has what’s referred to as a “pod hotel” which is the same principle, and the Netherlands, Austria, and other parts of Europe all have their alternatives.
Apart from generally being cheaper per night, they can also have interesting design and technology installed to make up for the loss in space. Word of warning however, in certain locations, like Japan, capsule hotels may be gender specific.
WWOOF, or the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a way to put in a little bit of work, learn about a type of sustainable organic farm in a different country, while earning you keep for a short stay. It’s not ideal if you’re hoping to just pop in and out and go on day trips around the region, but if you have an interest in the running of a farm, animal livestock, or just seeing how food is produced and sold, this is a great opportunity to feel useful while also learning.
While hardly an unknown option – Airnbnb’s are almost more popular these days than hotels and hostels – some Airbnb’s are more art installation than bed and breakfast if you’re willing to dig around for a while online. This tile house in New Mexico for example, or this Marie Antoinette themed room in Paris are both perfect examples of homes artfully transformed.
Because so many hostels cater to budget travelers and sometimes – although notably not always – a younger crowd of travelers, they can be themed in interesting and fun ways. One hostel in Germany is themed after a climbing base camp, and then there’s the beehive hostel in Italy. Usually hostels are hit or miss, and often the cheaper ones are a little bit less exciting, or you’re more likely to be set up in a bunk room than have a private space. But depending on the country and city you’re staying in, and reviews you can find online, you can check out places ahead of time and find a good experience for a decent price.
This last option is not comfortable, in my personal experience, but can be a very cheap way to spend a night. Sleeping at an internet café is probably most ideal for someone passing through a city very quickly, or stuck waiting for a flight or train for 15 hours and hoping for somewhere quiet and private to sleep. Some internet cafes offer food, a cubicle for privacy, and even showers, usually for a very good price. That said, sleeping conditions, even in the cafés set up with a matt on the floor, are pretty cramped. During a trip through Tokyo, I did find a café with free soft serve ice cream, corn soup, and showers, so the experience is definitely variable.