When I first went travelling I had everything planned out ahead of time – my flights, trains and accommodation. I found it astonishing to meet travellers who had the guts to turn up somewhere they’d never been to before – where they didn’t speak the language – and then proceed to successfully find themselves suitable accommodation then and there. I wondered whether I ought to take it easy too and just play things by ear. Since then I’ve done some research on the web and it seems that this strategy of not knowing where you’re going to stay when you arrive doesn’t always work out, for a number of reasons:
The taxi driver might, nay, most probably will take you to places which aren’t good options for you but which give him/her a commission for bringing you in.
You might arrive in town during some festival or other occasion and so there might not be any suitable accommodation available (some travellers have reported having to sleep in the bus station!).
You might arrive at an odd hour and again, might not be able to find suitable accommodation at that time.
Of course, planning everything down to the tee spoils the fun a little bit, especially if you’re travelling for a while and visiting lots of different places. You might not know exactly where you want to be in 2-3 months time. And even if you did you might change your mind along the way or meet some other travellers and decide to cruise with them to some other destinations you hadn’t originally thought of.
The middle ground is to book ahead of time but not too far ahead of time. Be smart about this. If you know you’re going to arrive in a place at a time when a festival or religious holiday is on then book as far ahead as possible to (a) ensure you get to stay somewhere nice, and (b) ensure you get to stay somewhere at all. At the very least it’s worth researching good places to stay in a given location so that you at least know where to go as soon as you arrive.