Budget accommodation in the Middle East
Many places in the Middle East are well-known for their luxurious hotels that none of us will ever be able to afford unless a hitherto unknown rich uncle dies and leaves us a fortune. That said, it’s possible to find budget accommodation in most countries of the Middle East, including hotels, guesthouses, hostels, and even cheaper resorts.
Prices will vary significantly depending on which country you visit, and where in those countries you want to stay. Hotels in Iran are generally cheap, while accommodation of the same quality in the UAE, Qatar, or Israel will cost significantly more.
Finding and booking accommodation in the Middle East
We recommend pre-booking accommodation wherever you visit in the Middle East. Although tourist infrastructure is well-established in many places, you don’t want the stress of turning up in a new place after a long trip and having to find somewhere to sleep.
If you haven’t pre-booked your accommodation there’s no need to fret. Unless you’re in an incredibly busy tourist area or there’s a major festival or holiday occurring, it’s unlikely every bed everywhere will be taken. Depending on the season, you might be able to negotiate lower prices in budget hotels in some areas of Israel and Iran.
Types of accommodation in the Middle East
In most areas of the Middle East backpackers on a budget are going to be looking at cheap hotels and guesthouses, though in some major hubs there are backpacker hostels available. If your budget can stretch a little further, there are resorts in some areas of the UAE that, depending on the time of year, will cost an arm but not an entire leg.
Hotels to suit all budgets can be found throughout the Middle East, with major hubs offering a great deal more variety than more rural areas (though you should also expect to pay more in touristy places).
Budget and mid-range hotels are a little easier to find in countries like Iran, which are still building their tourist infrastructure after recent upheaval, whereas the UAE, Qatar, and Israel tend to skew towards high end hotels.
When you’re booking cheaper hotels, we recommend looking at reviews online beforehand to check that your room will be air-conditioned. Depending on the time of year this can be essential (though you may pay more for the privilege).
Guesthouses in the Middle East are most commonly found in areas that aren’t super-busy tourist hotspots, and they’re most prevalent in Jordan. They represent something of a mix between hotels and hostels, providing social spaces to meet other travellers, with some even including shared buffet-style meals in the price.
Hostels can be hard to find in the Middle East unless you’re in the heart of busy cities. They’re most common in Israel, particularly in Tel Aviv, and their prices are often not much cheaper than a budget hotel. They’re usually only the best option if you’re jonesing for some dormitory action.
Resorts are usually well out of most backpackers’ price range, and the Middle East has some shamelessly luxurious ones, particularly in the UAE. If you stay in one it’s likely to be a one-night treat.
That said, cheaper (although rarely cheap) resorts do exist in less busy areas, and although they won’t be as luxurious they do offer a small taste of the good life. Keep an eye out for deals during the low season.
If you’re interested in staying with a local family in the Middle East to get an authentic taste of life and culture there, ask at a local tourist centre. Homestays aren’t available everywhere, but some families will rent out rooms or offer space in their homes for a reasonable price. It’s certainly a more unique experience than a luxury resort.