What Do You Do When You Have Nowhere To Sleep While Traveling

sleepy traveler

Travel is unpredictable. That’s why we love it. If everything went to plan all the time, we wouldn’t have any stories to tell when we got home would we?

That’s not say that when the s-word hits the fan it isn’t stressful. Of course it is. And sometimes the most stressful thing of all can be finding somewhere to lay your head at night.

Maybe the friend you were due to crash with had to go out of town at the last moment, maybe all the hostels are full or maybe that cheap hotel you read about in your guidebook is under new-management and has raised their prices 400%. 

All can easily happen. And in our experience frequently do.

So, what to do if you simply can’t find or can’t afford anywhere to conventional to sleep? Well, don’t panic just yet, here are a few tips that may help...


If you're having bed problems then Couchsurfing should be your number one port of call. 

You’ve probably heard of it. If you haven’t, then here is the lowdown: Couchsurfing is an increasingly popular home sharing platform home to millions of users across the globe. Users can be ‘hosts’ or ‘surfers’ or both. Hosts offer a space in their home for surfers to stay – for free. 

Operating on goodwill alone, Couchsurfing hosts don’t expect anything in return for their hospitality other than the chance to meet travellers and share experiences. And in exchange surfers get more than just a place to stay, they get a window into how local people live.

And don’t be distracted by the name, surfers often don’t end up on couches. In my experience you could end up sleeping on anything from a blow-up airbed (like the ones reviewed here), to a hammock to a four poster. 

While the system usually works best if potential surfers contact hosts at least a few days, weeks or even months in advance, for those of you stranded most towns have special forums on the site for ‘last minute’ or ‘emergency’ requests. 

Ask locals for help

Despite what the news may have conditioned us to believe, not everyone is out to rob you or harm you. People are on the whole a helpful bunch. 

And while it can be daunting asking for help, especially when you may not speak the same language, sometimes we have no option. So, if you’re stranded with nowhere obvious to sleep, ask around. 

If the hotel is fully booked, ask them what they suggest. Top tip: try to look as helpless as possible here. Bambi eyes at the ready! 

If that fails, try asking in restaurants and shops. Even where language is a barrier, use diagrams, your phrasebook or Google translate. Sleep is universal and as a result a fairly easy action to mime. Just put your head in your arms and mimic your dad’s loudest snore! 

Now, always be aware of your surroundings and be sensible. Don’t follow anyone you don’t trust down any dark alleys. But at the same time be open, the offer of salvation often comes from the most unlikely sources.

Ask the internet for help

Have you ever heard of the Six Degrees of Separation theory? It claims any two people on Earth are six or fewer people apart from knowing each other.

Being stranded in an unfamiliar town with nowhere to sleep could be the perfect time to put this theory to the test. 

Get on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp send out some messages, ask your networks if they know anyone in the area who can help. Who knows, if they don’t know anyone personally, they might know somebody else who does. 

it's amazing what can happen when you just ask for help. A problem shared is a problem halved after all – and that saying was from long before the internet existed. 

Find somewhere to pass the time

If your attempts at finding a bed are still failing, then you're going to need somewhere alternative to kill the time until dawn arrives. 

Get out your map – or handy map app – and have a look for some alternatives. Hotel lobbies are a great spot. They often come with useful amenities like a couch, a toilet and warmth.

Transport hubs like airports, bus and train stations often remain a hive of activity much later than many areas of town. In some parts of the world it’s not unusual to see entire families bedding down for the night in order to catch a super early departure or even the delayed arrival of a loved-one.

And in order to cater for the weary travellers transport hubs often have cafes, bars or the very least somewhere you can get a hot drink.

If none of those work then don’t give up, treat anywhere with a light on as potential place to rest for the night. I know of travellers who have spent the night in a hospital without being ill, a police station without being arrested and even a petrol station without having a car. Get creative.

So there you have it –  my four top tips when you find yourself without a bed for the night when travelling. Don’t panic and don’t worry, in my experience it all works out in the end.

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