Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Free Accommodation

After airfare, most people feel financially constrained by the cost of accommodation during their travels. This is in fact a an easy problem to get around and there are a plethora of ways to avoid paying for accommodation.

1. Work at a Hostel

One of my favorite options if you have at least a few weeks to spend in one place and don't mind sharing a dorm room with about 8 other people... See my post on How to Work in Hostels for details on how to make this one happen.

2. Work on a farm, at a guest house, for an NGO, etc.

Use the popular sites,, and to find thousands of listings by hosts willing to take on volunteers for a week to several months of work in exchange for a free place to stay, some food, and a great experience. You could find yourself spending autumn working the olive harvest in Italy, winter at an alpine hut restaurant in Austria, spring fixing computers in a small city in Chile,  and summer volunteering at an orphanage in Ghana. The possibilities are literally endless. The best part is, you'll make an amazing network of friends to visit next time you're in that part of the world. And, you'll probably learn a few interesting skills you would have never thought of learning. Earlier this year I found myself raising chrysalises into butterflies at a butterfly garden/ bed and breakfast in Montezuma, Costa Rica.

My job was to make sure they really turned into butterflies

3. Couchsurf

Couchsurfing is great for those who don't want to work during their travels and aren't afraid to step out of their comfort zone and sleep on a stranger's couch. This sounds bizarre, but everyone I know who has done it has had great experiences so far. The site requires you to make a profile (for free), at which point you can contact hosts from around the world (you can search by city) and send them a message about potentially staying on their couch. Most people use couchsurfing to spend a few days in a city, not for long-term crashing. As a young female traveler who usually travels alone, I'd probably only couchsurf with a friend, for safety reasons. When looking at potential couch hosts, be sure to check the section that says: "Has room for _ # of couchsurfers", as some hosts might have room for you and al your friends as well! Couchsurfing is also used to meet up with people, and you'd be surprised how many people are more than willing to go out for drinks or a walk around town to show you their city. You can also list the countries and dates you're planning to travel and allow hosts with couches to email you an invitation to stay on their couch or show you the town.

4. Au pair

Au pairing is a good way to spend a relatively long time (3-6 months or more) in one place, and have the comfort and security of living with a family who will take care of your food, accommodation, pocket money, transportation, help you enroll in local language classes, etc. Just Google "au pair jobs in X city/country" and you'll find tons of websites/agencies who will link you with a family. I've also seen many au pair jobs listed on helpx and workaway.

There's really no need to pay for accommodation while you travel. If you only have a short amount of time, try couchsurfing. If your plans are flexible and you don't mind spending a few weeks in one place, check out wwoofing or workaway/helpx. If you want to live somewhere for several months, look into au pairing or find a long-term hostel job. Good luck!