The IRS Per Diem allowance is pretty low in most cases, which means you must either substantiate your claims (to avoid being taxed for amounts in excess of the rate) or be frugal. There are ways to cut corners on a trip without having an unpleasant experience, especially when traveling abroad. One option is to trade your night at the Marriott for a hostel.
Hostels can be a great alternative to a chain or luxury hotel if you find the right place. In Cuzco, Peru, I had the best service I’ve ever encountered from a hotel or hostel at the Hostel El Triunfo. No, most of us probably won’t ever travel to Cuzco for business, but they are a STELLAR example of the kind of people who often run these establishments. I got sick (the Peruvian version of Montezuma’s Revenge) and they took me to the pharmacy. They let me keep my room 4 hours past the normal check out time so I could get some rest. They arranged all of my tours during my stay at a fair price. The accompanied me on trips to and from the airport. Upon my return, they even sent me a Christmas card.
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Why are they so great? Because the people behind the desk are often the people who own the place. They have a very real interest in keeping you satisfied with your stay. These properties very much rely on word of mouth to attract additional guests and by and large take pride in what they do. You don’t often get that kind of dedication when staying with a chain.
Many hostels have the option of private rooms. You aren’t going to be stuck in a dorm room with 7 hippies who get in at 4:00am if you don’t want to. You aren’t going to rack up your frequent flyer miles or hotel points, but you can save some serious dough over a pricey chain hotel.