What’s your biggest expenditure during your travels? Accommodation, right? I realised pretty early on that even the cheapest hostels were eating away a considerable chunk of my travel money.
If only I didn’t have to spend so much money on sleeping, then I could travel for much longer. But how to get free accommodation whilst travelling without sleeping in a cardboard box?
After a bit of research, some asking around, and a whole lot of travel blog reading, I realised that there are four sure-fire ways to stay in amazing places for free.
Couchsurfing is a really popular way for travellers to find a free place to stay, and there are very few backpackers that don’t swear by it these days. It’s probably the easiest of the four ways too. Hosts tend to be generous and usually enjoy meeting like-minded people, totally foreign people, and sometimes just to like help a chick out.
We originally heard about it through word-of-mouth whilst we were living in Taiwan, and decided to sign up as a host – we’re always happy to meet new people and we had a spare, albeit shabby, room. We enjoyed the experience so much, that when we went travelling again, we became surfers. We’ve had incredible hosts in countries all over the world, from Hong Kong to Poland. Sometimes we’ve been squashed onto a ramshackle sofa and other times we’ve had a whole attic suite to ourselves.
House sitting is a recent development for us. Having decided to embark on an indefinite travel adventure in Central America and needing to travel slowly in order to work and keep costs down, we got into house sitting. But being a house (and/or pet sitter) isn’t quite as easy as sending over a quick message to someone on Couchsurfing.
House / pet sitting is a big commitment and involves a lot of trust on the home owners part. Taking on the responsibility of caring for someone else’s home and pets isn’t something to do lightly, and it’s not something which everyone is suited to. It also involves staying in the same place for a longer period of time (weeks or months even) and you’re stuck there if you don’t like it.
That said, house sitting has been an awesome experience for us. Not to boast, but we’re sitting in a house overlooking the mountains with eight gorgeous dogs and a little cat. Maybe I’ve mentioned it once or twice before…
Work-Aways & Volunteering
I’ve already written about language volunteering opportunities in Europe where you can get free bed and board in exchange for speaking English, but there are a lots of different opportunities out there.
These days, there are a lot of work-away and volunteering programmes that are asking for money – but remember, you really don’t need to pay to work. People need volunteers for all sorts of things, from working on an eco-farm to rescuing baby turtles.
We had a great time volunteering as language tutors in Poland, but the next thing on our list has got to be WOOFing (working on an organic farm). Work aways are popular for many tight-budget travellers looking to learn a new skill and see a new country. Workaway and Helpx are two other websites which help travellers find volunteering opportunities. Searching Craigslist is a good (and free!) way to find volunteer programmes too.
Every travel blogger’s dream is receiving a complimentary stay. After nearly six months of blogging, I mustered up the courage to ask some eco-lodges here in Costa Rica to put us up, and was pleasantly surprised when a few replied with a yes!
A complimentary stay doesn’t come cheap though. I mean, sure there are no financial costs, but you still have to offer something in return. Whether it’s an accommodation review, an article for their website, social media promotion or a video blog – or all four!
Do your free accommodation dreams suddenly seem possible?
They are possible, but remember, none of these opportunities for a free accommodation just tumble into your lap. You’re not going to get that magic email unless you go looking for it first.
When you ask for a free place to stay, whether it’s in someone’s tiny flat or in a luxury resort, you have to sell yourself. It’s not easy to do, but luckily for you my three part guide to getting a free stay is coming soon.
What are your experiences with free accommodation? Do you have any other tips for getting a free stay whilst travelling?