Given world economic downturns of recent times, a good many tourists are looking for a budget holiday. All sorts of people are out to find value-for-money options even though they don’t consider themselves in the stereotypical budget travel bracket of backpacking students.
It seem as though the two ends of the accommodation spectrum are keenly sought, while mid-tier accommodation occupancy rates may be suffering. We’ve either got cash to travel or we haven’t. We want to do it in style, or eke out our budget. We like to boast about our luxe trip or our canny insider knowledge that ensured we spent as little as possible on our stay. It’s all or nothing, nowadays.
Budget is as commonplace an adjective in the travel vocab online as luxury, boutique or prestigious. Budget travelers’ hangout sites like Airbnb and Hostelworld have exploded our ability to research low-cost accommodation beyond the listings found on official destination sites. Online portals offer the beauty of a large base of user reviews based on trust in a system of checks and balances that is now supported by official redress, in most cases, if things should go wrong either from the traveler or host’s side.
The word guesthouse is now all things to all men; even high-end travel collection firm Mr & Mrs Smith uses the term guesthouse to conjure up homely comfort and genuine hospitality and alludes to ‘budget’, even though it’s not in the business of offering one-star options. “Whether you’re looking for a quirky city boutique hotel, a stylish country guesthouse or a luxury spa hotel, we have selections to suit all budgets and moods”, its ‘About Us’ page says. Pretty much all these options are now available in Malta, particularly the spas and hidden gems of luxury in our historic centres, such as Birgu and Valletta. It won’t be long before Mr & Mrs Smith add Malta to their destination list.
#The ‘budget’ traveler?
Perhaps the Islands are still shaking off the notion of budget travel of yesteryear, before they can resonate as the hip, budget travel destination of today; a place favoured by digital nomads – mostly young people, though not exclusively, without obligations who roam the world, laptop in hand, working from any exotic or insider destination that has fast and stable internet. Digital nomads may end up staying for a month or more in a destination so mid-term rentals are more their thing than hostels or guesthouses. Here, Malta has some good value rental options.
It’s difficult to define any one group as budget travelers. We know of a professional, elderly couple who always seek out clean, basic, guesthouses in Malta, and we had Australian friends who went out of their way to stay in quirky B&B places in Valletta’s back streets. The more character the better, they said.
The budget traveler is just as likely to be a family on a set budget and in need of some sun, as the weekend-break youngster who flies in for a specific gig or event (think Isle of MTV). They are on the beach and/or out late night as well, so neither group is keen to overspend on a room. So long as it’s clean and functioning and comes if possible with a warm welcome and possibly Wi-Fi, they’re happy with the guesthouse.
What budget accommodation is on offer then?
A look at some of the budget accommodation in Malta shows that the offer is still a mixed bag but with a comfort tier now added to denote a few more frills. The visitmalta site lists some 15 hostels, 20 standard guesthouses and 25 comfort class guesthouses. A random check shows around half have their own websites and Wi-Fi and there’s a range of room rates on offer from dirt cheap to reasonable. The comfort class guesthouse is finding its niche with services and standards most of us would think exist only in hotels. Pools were available at some, for instance. We came across a comfort class one in Rabat with excellent views and good reviews for its restaurant, services and distinctive character; and a fairly representative, standard guesthouse in Swieqi (you can’t get more central to nightlife, if not exactly historic city night life) with rooms for Euro 25 per person in peak season. Hostels, meanwhile, have a good number of beds to rooms listed, indicating that they are more dorm-style and aimed squarely at student travelers and informal groups.
Good budget options for accommodation abound in Malta. With official regulation and the comfort of those review sites and portals as well, they offer independent or student travelers the budget price they’re seeking. Long may they fill a niche in Malta as the luxe end of the spectrum burgeons too.
Photo (top): courtesy of Hitchhaiku