How do I find the right accommodation during my motorcycle travel around the world?1 December 2019
Many people wonder how I find the right accommodation for myself and my motorbike during my travels. In this article I'll give you my tips on how to easily find a place to stay, how to keep your motorcycle safe and why I decided not to camp but stay in guesthouses instead.
Why staying in a guesthouse and not go camping
I am regularly asked why I don't camp during my motorcycle travels. People say that it is not a real adventure if you don't camp! The freedom of pitching your tent wherever you are and whenever you want certainly has its advantages. Sleeping in nature with stunning views when you wake up is really amazing, I agree.
But, bringing out a new YouTube video every other day, staying in touch with my followers via social media and writing articles for this website is hard work and it is just not doable when I am without electricity and wifi during the evenings and nights.
Additionally, the time it takes to buy ingredients, pitch the tent and cook my food on a stove, is time I prefer to spend riding my motorcycle and editing videos for you.
Of course, I would not mind waking up on a lakeside with great mountain views every now and then, but that would mean I still have to bring all the gear with me for wild camping. Not just a tent, but also a sleeping mat, sleeping bag, cooking gear, gas, food and extra water. Because I want to travel as light as possible, I only have stuff with me that I use on an almost daily basis, or things I would need in case of a serious emergency. So, I had to make a choice.
I also have to admit that there are two other reasons why I don't camp on my journey around the world. The first one is that I really, really like the comfort of a solid bed at night after a long day of motorcycling. Secondly, I simply adore a proper bathroom where I can wash off all the dirt that I collected during the day.
So far, I've always found a hotel or guesthouse to stay for the night, even in very remote areas! Only staying in guesthouses or hotels has never been an obstacle to me for venturing into unknown areas.
In case I get stranded in the middle of nowhere
During my Asia to Europe trip with Basanti, I was once riding in the mountains of Tajikistan and I had not seen one single person that entire day. Being in such a desolate place while riding alone, I realised that if something would go wrong and I got stranded, I needed an emergency shelter.
Of course, I have my satellite phone with me, so I can make an emergency call, but people may not be able to come to me within a few hours. And, it's very well possible that when I get stranded, it will start to rain or that I am somewhere with a lot of mosquitos trying to bite me.
So for my Patagonia to Alaska journey with Dhanno, I decided to bring an emergency shelter. This tiny tent is not meant to be used for camping as it is very small, but it can keep me dry and a bit warm when I am forced to spend the night on the side of the road somewhere remote.
Read more about my gear and equipment for this journey here.
How far in advance do I book my accommodation?
Let me start by saying that I'm not much of a planner in general. For my Patagonia to Alaska trip I thought about which countries I wanted to visit and what time of the year it would be most suitable to do so. I decided that I wanted to ride in Patagonia around summertime and also visit Alaska during that same time period of the year. To do that, it means I have either 6 months or 1.5 year to travel north. Six months is way too short because of all the countries I want to visit, so I will do it in 1,5 years.
For booking my accommodation it works the same way. I never book until I am certain I will arrive at that specific destination the next day. The advantage of this is that I am free to change my general plan as often as I like, without having to cancel already made bookings. You never know, the weather might turn bad, landslides may block routes, there may be protests and blockages, or another traveller tells me about a cool place I should visit!
In general, I don't make any reservation beforehand and just rock up at a guesthouse and ask if they have a room available. It worked out fine so far. But when I notice that due to a holiday season or local festivities a region tends to be crowded, I make a reservation in advance.
How do I find the right accommodation?
There are specific requirements and things to look out for when traveling with a motorcycle when you chose your accommodation. Luckily, I am not the only one travelling on a bike and many have shared their most valued places to stay in different apps or online.
In the evening I plan my route for the next day. When I have chosen my next destination, I first check the iOverlander app. Here, other travelers leave their recommendations. Very often other motorcyclists have passed through the same place and left recommendations for camping, hostels and guesthouses. You can find valuable information in their reviews, like if the hotel or B&B has a safe garden to park your motorcycle and whether the wifi functions well. The places that are mentioned in the iOverlander app are often also great places for me to meet other like-minded travellers, and exchange stories and tips!
When I find a possible place to stay, I either use booking.com or call the guesthouse in advance to check if they have a room available, or I simply show up and ask for a room.
Tip: Once you have downloaded the iOverlander app, you do not need an internet connection anymore for finding your next accommodation.
When I can't find anything in iOverlander, I use my second resource Maps.Me. I search for ‘hotel' in the app, and it will show me where the hotels are in that area. I often bookmark one or two, so I can navigate directly to a hotel after a full day of riding.
Instead of choosing the hotel with the highest rating, I pick the hotel with the lowest rating. Often it will be the cheapest place in town. By doing that I save a lot of time, because now I don't have to research which hotel offers the best deal. Furthermore the hotels with the lowest ranking are the last ones to be fully booked too. As I only stay for one or two nights in one place, I am not really fussy about how the place looks like or where it is located.
Like the iOverlander app, Maps.me also works offline once you have downloaded the map of the area you are traveling in or go to. In addition, I use the app also for navigation and route planning, besides my Garmin GPS system.
When I know I'll be in a place for a longer period of time, I often book my accommodation through AirBnB. Especially in bigger cities you often find an apartment via AirBnB for the same price as a bunk bed in a cheap hostel!
The downside of AirBnB is that you have to make an agreement with the owner about the arrival time so they can hand over the key and apartment. Usually, I have no idea what time I'll arrive exactly! Luckily most of my AirBnB-hosts have been quite flexible, or we were able to arrange something together.
How to keep my motorcycle safe at night
In my experience, there is almost always a possibility to park the motorcycle in a gated and safe parking spot which belongs to the accommodation. It only happened a few times that I had to park my motorcycle on the street for the night. When that happens, I will take off all my luggage and bring it with me into my room.
That is a hassle though, but now easier than when I had Basanti. With Basanti I used hard cases for my stuff, and I always emptied the panniers when she had to stay on the street. The panniers have locks, but it only requires a crowbar to pop it open! Now, with Dhanno, I have chosen for soft bags instead of panniers. When I have to leave her on the street, I don't have to transfer my stuff into another box or bag, I just take the bags off.
Last but not least, I always cover my motorbike for the night with a motorcycle cover. No matter where I park my motorcycle, I always cover her. That way my bike is not only protected against bird poo, rain and dust, but also against strangers who want to play with the switches on my handlebar or try to sit on her!
Finding accommodation while traveling on a motorcycle
I think I have answered in this blog the most important questions about how you find a suitable guesthouse, B&B or hotel while traveling on your motorbike. If you still have some questions, please don't hesitate to ask them down below in the comment area.