Thinking out of the box...

...while planning your next holiday need not cost you the moon. Some of the most memorable accommodation options are cheaper than staying in a hotel. Take a look.

Sushmita Choudhury | Print Edition: December 13, 2007

Interesting packages to look out for
Barwara Kothi
Barwara Kothi
Cost: Rs 5,950
Contact: 0141-2222796
Soak up the winter sun in Jaipur by availing of the twonight package at this heritage home. Offer inclusive of breakfast but taxes are extra. As a special weekend deal, Barwara Kothi will consider upgrading you to a higher category for free should the base category be fully occupied.
Egypt with TUI
Egypt with TUI
Cost: Rs 44,290
Contact: 011-41513311
Here is a chance to experience Egypt like never before. Combining different modes of transport — road and a threenight river cruise on the Nile — to check out Cairo, Aswan and Luxor gives you a chance to enjoy different perspectives. Offer includes return airfare.

Tired of crashing at cookiecutter rooms that are identical no matter where you are holidaying, save for the colour of the wallpaint? Want something a little less ordinary to spice up your next vacation? There are enough and more unique options available, both in India and abroad.

Like, for instance, bunking down in a working monastery. In Assam’s Majuli Island, for under Rs 400, you can actually spend a night or two at one of the many Vaishnavite monasteries and gain a rare insight into a dying culture. Prefer something a little more Zen? Try the Bodhi Zendo monastery in Perumalmalai, Kodaikanal. You will be expected to attend the zazen (meditation sessions), perhaps chip in with a spot of community work but for Rs 200 a night, including meals, this is a small price to pay. Peace of mind is a bonus.

If you harbour Robinson Crusoe-esque fantasies of living it up in a private island without breaking a bank, then look no further than Kerala’s Coconut Island. This tiny island, located 150 metres from the shore in Canoli canal has no inhabitants other than birds, insects, crabs...and you. There is only one guesthouse on the island, an acre of coconut plantation and mangrove forest, accommodating no more than two people.

Another highlight of this place is the large open roof bath garden, complete with all modern fittings—talk about a hedonist’s paradise. And the tariff? Just Rs 5,000 a night per couple, all inclusive. Imagine, you’d have to dole out over Rs 67,000 per person per night for similar privacy at Necker Island, Sir Richard Branson’s private island.

Houseboats are old news now but if you haven’t tried it yet, there is a lot that you are missing out on. A two-day Alleppey-Kumarakom round trip in an air-conditioned, two bedroom houseboat, including all meals and taxes, would cost Rs 15,000. Compare that with taking two rooms at basic three-star hotels in both places, which would cost no less than Rs 7,000 a night for the room alone.

But a more exciting option is to get a taste of life as our ancestors saw it. Imagine a bedroom 87 ft above the ground, perched on a 200-year-old banyan tree, with a wraparound balcony, a bathroom and an unparalleled bird’s eye view across the misty and mystical rainforestclad Wayanad Hills. Welcome to Green Magic Nature Resort’s treehouses.

At over Rs 8,000 a night, this place may not exactly be cheap but then again most other good hotels in the region charge around Rs 6,000 a night, so it’s a value-for-money proposition.

A Kerala house-boat

Fans of driving vacations have often cribbed that they yearn to hit the open road but worries about finding decent accommodation along the way compels them to stick to the highways. The answer to their prayers is the campervan — a 4x4 turbocharged vehicle fitted with a bedroom, kitchenette (with a fridge no less), portable bathroom tent, special air-conditioning facility and an entertainment centre.

Wisdom Adventures, one of the few tour operators renting out campervans, says a Delhi-Ladakh sojourn for eight days would cost approximately Rs 50,000, inclusive of fuel and meals for four people.

That actually works out much cheaper than taking the flight and budget hotel route — the return airfare alone will come to Rs 5,700 per person. Now the journey, truly, is the destination.

Of course, it is much easier to get creative with accommodation while holidaying abroad (see box The Options Abroad). An ice hotel in Sweden, ancient cave dwellings in Goreme, Turkey, an underwater room off Florida’s coast called Jules Lodge, a subterranean cave hotel in Australia, a former prison in Slovenia, where each cell boasts art work by a different artist...the list goes on.

The point is to constantly look out for alternatives. It’s not that difficult to find a place that’s affordable, yet memorable.

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