Picking The Best Budget-Friendly Hotels For Your Next Adventure


It’s kind of fun to fantasize about nice hotels. To dream the impossible dream of down pillows and over the top service. Sometimes you even get to stay in one of these palaces for a night or two, which leads to you endlessly pontificating about things like thread count and infinity pools the second you get home.

Don’t worry, we’re not hating. Tell us more about the claw-footed bathtub you spent hours in.

But the truth is that a fair bit of the time, when we’re getting ready to hit the road, we’re going to Hotel Tonight or Kayak. And those filters are always set to “Show least expensive hotels first.” Of course, once we check in, things are different. We still want the cozy sheets and the deep tub and the infinity pool. We just didn’t want to pony up for them.

Most times, that’s impossible. But not all the time. There are some pretty astounding properties on this planet for less than $140. Many of them are in developing nations where the dollar goes much further, but a fair few can be found here in the US. These are hotels, hostels, and guesthouses where your money stretches like Elastigirl and you don’t have to lay down much of it. Not the cheapest hotels around the globe, but the cheapest awesome hotels. Trust me, there’s a big difference.

– Steve Bramucci, Travel Editor

Cascade Manor: Paarl, South Africa

The point of staying at Cascade Manor, in South Africa’s Cap Wine Country, is really to get that luxe summer house feel without the cost. And, on that front, this hotel is a smash. You can literally book it right this second for $120. And remember we’re going into summer there.

For that cost, what you get is pretty wild. There’s the pool, the nearby waterfall, the rolling hills, the sprawling grounds… and yes, even many of the most basic rooms have baths. The spa features tubs and a sauna and the rates are affordable. If that’s not your style, do an olive oil tasting between wine tours.

Seriously, this place is such a good value that it’s probably actually a front for some money launderers. It’s TripAdvisor’s #1 Value Hotel on the African continent for a reason.

Rooms start at $120

-Steve Bramucci

The LINQ Hotel & Casino: Las Vegas, Nevada

The LINQ is built for fun. To get a first-rate hotel room for thirty-five bucks is a wonder in and of itself. But to do it at a bright, fun property with the world’s tallest observation wheel and a zip line that shoots guest down the promenade is something else entirely. It’s not bloody likely you can find a better bargain on a mid-strip room.

The hotel is super flashy with pops of color everywhere. It’s the perfect setting for some dope travel images. Between the jewel tones, the shimmer, the accent walls in lemon yellow and lime green, and the illumination after dark, you can literally grab gorgeous images round the clock. And even the rooms (which run a little small) have touches like murals and platform beds that look great in pics.

If you’re willing to pay a little more, think about a poolside cabana room that comes with rain showerheads and a private patio.

Rooms start at $35.

Alia Stearns

Hotel Theodore: Seattle, WA

Hotel Theodore is in one of the most prime locations in Seattle. The former Roosevelt Hotel high-rise was transformed into a plush hotel that’s as affordable as it is fun. The rooms here are well-appointed and shockingly spacious — newly fitted and intricately tiled, with nice bathtubs for sexy good times. The bars are on point along with the in-house restaurant, which features local delicacies and ingredients on an ever-evolving menu.

There’s free coffee each morning and afternoon. We’re not talking a pot of coffee by the check-in desk here. We mean a barista is going to brew up a cup of what you want right then-and-there. It’s dope. Oh, and there’s a free bitters and vermouth happy hour every night in the main lobby, so you can get your Negroni on for an hour before you hit the city.

Rooms start at $132.

Zach Johnston

Pacaya Lodge & Spa: Masaya, Nicaragua

The only five-star resort at Laguna de Apoyo (a volcano crater lake), Pacaya Lodge and Spa is a straight up boutique accommodation less than a half hour from Grenada. Now, obviously, a resort is going to have a lot that recommends it between amenities, activities, and the property. But we think the coolest part of this hotel is their commitment to alleviating poverty in Nicaragua. They work with local leaders and support and fun community-led initiatives. Plus, they source all of the furniture, art, fixtures, and décor from local artisans.

The best part of the rooms might be that they are located near a stunning blue lake with the Mombacho volcano on the horizon. But it doesn’t hurt that they are housed in nine tile-roofed casitas. The neutral palette, natural wood furnishings, and small pops of color offered by artisan goods like throws, handicrafts, and paintings make things feel homey without being cheap or ordinary. Plus, if you like something in your room, you can totally buy it.

We are also serious fans of the white-stone bathroom with glass-walled showers that beckon you to walk-in and luxuriate under the strong water pressure. That’s a treat.

Rooms start at $118.

Alia Stearns

25hours Hotel Bikini: Berlin, Germany

Berlin is a playground for the middle class. The city is one of the cheapest places to party and sleep (nobody sleeps) in the world. Right in the heart of City West, you’ll find Bikini Berlin — a popup mall where the cool kids hang. Attached to the mall sits 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin.

The hotel overlooks a bombed-out church (a WWII memorial) on one side and the Berlin Zoo on the other side. You’ll get amazing views from your in-room hammock or over-sized bathtubs over one of the two vistas. Plus, there’s a killer cocktail bar on the top floor that fills up most nights so you’ll always have a place for a pre-party drink or that all-too-crucial 5am nightcap.

Rooms start at $111.

Zach Johnston

Yoo2 Rio de Janeiro: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Yoo2 Rio de Janeiro does a really stellar job of being a hotel that would seem cool in any big city without negating the fact that it is in Brazil. It’s got London design notes, with a hefty helping of murals by local street artists and amazing views that are all Rio, all the time. Want to maximize the fun? Be sure to hit the rooftop pool, make some new friends, and down some well-crafted cocktails. Plus, the property has a number of planned activities like street art bike tours and a guided morning run that helps you connect with the neighborhood and culture of the locals around the hotel.

There aren’t enough hotels that do cool shit like this, so to find one that is also affordable is unreal. Seriously.

The rooms at Yoo2 Rio try to make guests feel both a part of and apart from the city. It’s a delicate balance. They do it by using the colors, energy, and patterns of Rio in their design, but they also make each room a relaxing retreat. Be prepared for some heavy-handed tropical rainforest prints and motifs. If you’re looking for views, some rooms face Christ the Redeemer, while others feature views of the beach or Sugar Loaf Mountain. If it matters, request the view you want. Otherwise, see it all from the roof and snap your pics from that vantage point.

Rooms start at $112.

Alia Stearns

Mama Shelter: Paris, France

Mama Shelter is all about the chic sex and Halloween masks from the 80s. The Paris hotel has a killer vibe that will help you get in that Parisian mood where anything might happen. The rooms are all painted black with in-room iPads for entertainment and plenty of wall-sized mirrors with lipstick messages.

The bars are fun in their own right, especially the rooftop garden in the summer. The restaurant has a dope and eclectic French-focused menu, alongside a deep wine list and beer lineup. This place is pure fun, pure sex, and pure Paris.

Rooms start at $133.

Zach Johnston

Caveland Hostel: Santorini, Greece

If you’re looking for a low-cost lodging, hostels are a great way to go. We like the opportunities to connect with others, as well as the chance to stay in some really cool places. Caveland is great on both those levels. The chances of being able to find an affordable 18th-century winery on one of the most photogenic islands in Greece is one not to be missed. It’s a complex of caves and terraces that boast both awesome views and little gardens, redolent with fruit and nut trees. In the 1980s, the property was a resort called Tennis Club after the two professional courts designed by the Wilson company. At that time, it also had the second largest pool on the island. By 2011, it became the current shabby chic hotel it is today.

You have a lot of room options, including dorms, doubles, girls only caves, and the historic apartment. The dorms are either 10- or 6-bed ensuite rooms with high ceilings, handcrafted furniture, and a ton of space. There are also lockers, air conditioning, and a fridge. If you wanna get fancy, spend a little more for the apartment and enjoy sleeping in the former winery office. It still has the original tile floor and wooden furniture from the late 19th century. It’s also on the upper terrace, with a sea view from the balcony.

Rooms start at $20
Alia Stearns

Dar Chams Tanja: Tangier, Morocco

Tangier is one of those places that’s locked in amber. It’s timeless, enthralling, and dangerous. The best bet to lay your head is at a riad. That’s a sort of guesthouse that’s focused around a central hall with balconies of rooms rising around it.

The Dar Chams Tanja is a classic riad right in the Kasbah — the oldest part of the city (rock it). The butchers, spice merchants, and tea houses are mere steps away. Hashish will be wafting around every corner. Each morning the Adhan from a nearby mosque will beckon you to Dar Cham’s rooftop for a view over the ancient city and Atlantic as the sun rises.

It’s as close to real magic as you’ll get.

Rooms start at $111.

Zach Johnston

Hostal Las Olas: Copacabana, Bolivia

Okay, let’s be honest. This is one of the coolest looking accommodations we have ever had the privilege of enjoying. This quirky hotel is like something designed by a Teletubby. But with its views of Lake Titicaca, it’s fab staff, and its low price, we can’t think of a better way to enjoy Copacabana. Nothing about Hostal Las Olas says minimalism. Don’t look for straight lines and clear surfaces. Expect the buildings (which are crafted from mud bricks) to be insanely eye-catching because of their curves, wild colors, and whimsical spirits. It’s a wonderful blend of modern joy and classic construction, as they aim to use traditional methods and materials whenever possible.

The hotel has 20 suites and every single one of them is unique in design. Think hand-carved furniture and large fireplaces that the staff happily come to light. The rooms are soothing, thanks to the use of curves and organic shapes. Colorful windows let in the sun and glorious views of the lake. But there is also a garden with hammocks and deck chairs if you want to enjoy the lake from outside your room. Plus, as it is a hostel, there is a kitchen area where you can prepare all your meals.

Some of the rooms are really big, so if you’re looking to travel with a huge group, this is an awesome option.

Rooms start at $52.

Alia Stearns

Hotel Amor De Mar: Montezuma, Costa Rica

Montezuma is a hidden gem off the beaten path in Costa Rica. The hippy-ish little beach town is pretty difficult to get to and, because of that, it attracts a mostly younger set of travelers, backpackers, and expats who are drawn to its artsy vibe. It has fun nightlife, good restaurants, great hiking, and an incredible beach that’s so big, it’s easy to find stretches that contain no one else in sight.

No one. That means beach sex.

Hotel Amor De Mar is the perfect budget stay in the town. It’s so pretty — with large grounds covered in bright green grass butting up against stunning ocean views — it’s almost like you stepped into a postcard. It’s the kind of place where you just want to lounge with a book on a hammock or sit on one of the many tucked-in porches with a glass of wine. It’s only a 5-7 minute walk to the bars in the main area but it’s removed enough that you feel like you’re apart from any hectic energy, just relaxing in the jungle.

Bonus: The hotel is the entrance to the Montezuma Falls hike — where stunning falls give way to a popular swimming hole.

Rooms start at $70.

Allison Sanchez

Hotel La Catedral: Cadiz, Spain

If you read the name and got excited about staying in a cathedral, sorry to disappoint. Actually, the hotel is named for the city’s Baroque and neoclassical cathedral, located across the street from the hotel. So a dip in the roof terrace pool or a coffee at the café that extends into the plaza means front row seats to an absolutely gorgeous piece of architecture.

Hotel La Catedral is, itself, a historic building as well. The white walls and modern furnishings make it feel crisp and filled with energy. But traveling from one part of the hotel to another means a slight shift in that energy. The café is for sure laidback, but the roof terrace is a bit more sensual.

There are 14 standard and superior rooms and each of them is very simply decorated and very clean. It’s kind of a bare bones place, which makes it comfortable, but you don’t want to move in. It’s the perfect spot to call home base while you go adventuring. Obviously, the more you pay for a room, the better the views are. But when you just need to walk to the roof to take in the whole neighborhood, it isn’t really worth it. Instead, spend that money on some bomb tapas and cocktails at the café bar.

Rooms start at $98.

Alia Stearns

Dar Souad Maison: La Marsa Tunisia

While more of a guest house than a hotel, Dar Souad Maison is a sweet spot to hole up at while on a budget in Las Marsa, a hip part of Tunis. The staff has fresh fish for newcomers with amazingly tangy homemade chermoula sauce in the mornings. The rooms are charming and can accommodate travel parties of several people (my squad consisted of two females and myself and they had no problem putting us all in the same room together, which isn’t always a guarantee in predominately Muslim countries).

The best döner kebab I’ve ever had – which is available all hours of the day and night – is a couple blocks away from the front door. I’ve had dreams about that kebab. So work a deal and split a room with your travel pals, then spend all your extra dough on sweet, delicious, harissa-doused Maghreb cuisine.

Rooms start at $101.

Mark C. Stevens

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#bonjour #bitchez #niggaz #in #tunis

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The Good Hotel: London, England

The Good Hotel could just as easily be included in a list of coolest hotels, because it is absolutely rad. It’s a re-designed floating platform that once served as a Dutch detention center, now docked in London. You want some dope Thames views and a concrete paradise full of design classics, then this is for you. Two young Dutch designers were looking to balance the industrial and the natural, so you get a lot of the building’s solid construction with the kind of textiles and materials that make you feel like you are in a modern retreat.

We like that they offer work to long-term unemployed locals, giving them a foot into the hospitality industry. It’s a cool policy.

People like to call this a hipster hideaway and we get that. The paper lanterns cut by origami enthusiasts and the faux tweed shell chairs might read that way. But we find the whimsy charming. We even like the alarms that go off every time you leave your room. Plus the neutral palette and the huge ceiling light bulbs make us happy. With such a bare-bones foundation, the moments of design really stand out in ways we appreciate. Things can be a little small (hello, bathrooms) and rustic (hello, super rough wood on tables), but there’s enough luxury and joy that we think the designers balanced the space beautifully.

Rooms start at $60.

Alia Stearns

Gord Chiang Mai: Ching Mai, Thailand

Gord Chiang Mai is the budget hotel you want it to be. It’s inexpensive, clean and right in the heart of things. A short walk to the Cowboy Hat Lady of Anthony Bourdain fame? Check. Close enough to be picked up for your elephant sanctuary tour? Totes. Within walking distance of thirty gorgeous Wats? Absolutely.

Chiang Mai as a city is wonderful and often gets overlooked as a place to stay longer than the requisite three days spent at an elephant-visit outpost. The (street) food is some of the best I’ve had in Thailand. The coffee is some of the best I’ve had in Asia. And Chiang Mai has one of the most picturesque festivals on Earth in Loi Katong.

If you’re looking to stay a couple extra days without breaking the bank, grab a room at the Gord.

Rooms start at $35.

Mark C. Stevens

Boutique Hostel Forum: Zadar, Croatia

Located in the center of Zadar, Boutique Hostel Forum barely feels like a hostel. You will for sure think of it as a stylish design hotel before anything else. Literally, there is not a better location or price for accommodations anywhere in the neighborhood. We love the blue and white striped corridors. In fact, we love the colorful stripes that run throughout the entire hotel. Some of the rooms are orange and white striped. But there are some that are all-black, all-white, or festooned in mirrors. The whole property makes for some killer photos, even the wacky bathrooms.

The property has 111 beds that are configured in doubles, twins, and quads rooms. Everything faces the cathedral or forum, and clearly the higher you go in the hotel, the more you can see. The windows let in a lot of light, which brightens the small spaces and amplifies pops of color. Things are organized really well for small spaces, so you never feel cramped or like you are in a poky hole. But there isn’t a lot of extra room either.

The hotel offers breakfast, so that’s one more bit of savings for an already budget-friendly place to stay.

Rooms start at $58.

Alia Stearns

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Od kluba do kluba od rejva do rejva

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The Millennials Shibuya: Tokyo, Japan

If you haven’t stayed in a capsule hotel, you should. In addition to being relatively inexpensive, the experience is so unusual that it gives you a ton to talk about with folks back home when you return. What The Millennials does that is special is that they aim to create a community of guests.

Each person gets a capsule that is simply a full-sized bed with room for a suitcase underneath and a small shelf above the headboard. An iPod given to you at registration controls the lights and adjusts the bed, while also allowing you to use the elevator. Otherwise, you spend most of your time being a tourist or in common areas, which include a kitchen and lounging area and a co-working space. At night, the hotel has a free beer reception, during which you meet people from all over the world. And it’s placed in a totally walkable locale.

Rooms start at $97.

Alia Stearns