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Why Finding the Cheapest Hotel Room is No Longer Worth it

Spending hours scouring towns for the cheapest hotel possible is no longer worth it. I have other things to do.

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I can’t say for sure that I had the cheapest room in the city, but it sure seemed like it. The last time I was in Jincheng, the biggest city on Kinmen, I was told that the cheapest hotel was down this narrow alleyway, sort of in the grounds of a temple. Vague directions, sure, but any cheap ass vagabond would of course sniff it out. I found it. It was full. I ended up paying over $30 per night at another hotel.

This time, I not only found the hotel but got a room. $25 per night for a private room with a bathroom and everything else is cheap for Jincheng. Though the place can be said to be little remote — in the no-man’s-land between China and Taiwan — hotels are expensive. I spent hours looking for a room my first time here. They all wanted $40, $50, $60+ per night. It was raining and I didn’t have a tent. I was sunk.

While there may be some place in someone’s room of their house or something that’s a little cheaper, when I told the expats here that I paid $25 they commended me on the deal. While there may be some place a little cheaper I’m no longer willing to waste my time looking for it.

Finding a place to stay is part of the work of travel. I like doing my real work — taking photos, videos, and talking to people — not squandering time dejectedly trudging from guesthouse to guesthouse. I used to spend hours and hours and hours looking to save $5 on a room. Not anymore. The time put into looking in endless hotels just isn’t worth the expense. A few bucks is worth less to me now than the conversations, friendships, impressions, videos, experiences, etc . . . that I could otherwise be having with the time I put into ever scrounging a cheaper room. Seriously, my ledger books do not go in the black if saving a little money on a room takes an excessive amount of time. An hour of searching to save $5 on a hotel is going to be less of a financial gain than an hour of collecting and publishing content.

So I now just figure out what the “ballpark” figure is for a cheap room somewhere, and the moment I find it, I take it.

Though it’s only in somewhat remote, more word of mouth, places like Kinmen that I still find rooms on foot. The days of wandering around unfamiliar cities looking for a room are pretty much over. I mostly do this shopping online now — like everybody else. It’s faster and, ultimately, more effective. Though I may miss the little, super cheap family hotel every once in a while, the amount of time that it often takes finding these places, again, isn’t worth it financially. I book my first nights online then if I find a cheaper/ better room later if I happen to find one.

Though I really don’t think rooms come much cheaper than this in Jincheng. It’s a little piece of paradise after a rough night of camping on the sly. The room is big, has a bathroom with a shower, a cabnent to lock bags in, a TV, fan, AC, a water purifier in the lobby, everything. Out of my window is a quiet open space with tables and stools. It’s very still here, and feels like a little shelter from the storm. I relax, I work, there is nobody around but myself, it feels good. I’m not sure if it’s worth the $25 I paid for it, but I have no complaints.

Tomorrow night I will be moving into a room in a traditional house in a small village outside of Jincheng. I found out about it from talking to a woman in the streets. They don’t advertise. It’s $5 cheaper.  

Filed under: Accommodation, Budget Travel, Kinmen, Taiwan, Travel Tips

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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