Yes, we certainly are! You too can stay in amazing places from rustic to luxury, around the world… FOR FREE!
Part 1 – The Ultimate List of Free Accommodation Options for Travellers… Cause There’s Better Things to Spend Your Money On!
Accommodation, transport and food are the major costs for travelling, so to travel for longer either expenses need to be reduced, income needs to be increased… or both!
So here is the ultimate list of the various ways you can find free accommodation so your dollar, pound, ringgit or euro goes as far as…well, as far as you want to travel!
So without further adieu, Part 1 of this blog is all about the cheapest forms of accommodation, and it doesn’t get any cheaper than FREE!
Travel and get Free Accommodation? What do I have to do?
There’s various forms of camping to suit a variety of purposes and preferences.
There’s a swag (an Australian canvas-covered sleeping bag) to your standard tent, then there’s camper trailers, caravans, campervans and motor homes. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get started, and often you can buy great quality secondhand gear from people who have either upgraded or don’t get a chance to camp as much as they’d like.
In Australia, there’s camping grounds where you need to pay to stay overnight, but there are also plenty of rest stops and free camping places all over the place, from beaches to the bush to the ‘outback’.
Australia is not the only place where camping is popular either! Just check out Google for free campsites in the area you are travelling or ask in the local area forums or Facebook groups.
When Chris was backpacking in his 20’s, he hitch-hiked and camped around Scandinavia with a small tent and sleeping bag. There are so many majestic places to take advantage of to setup the tent. Imagine camping by the beautiful Geiranger Fjord or up in the mountains overlooking Narvik in northern Norway. Chris even camped in a public park in Sweden and once while camping in Danish forest woke up to deer outside the tent… it was an awesome experience for him!
In Australia, we loved getting out of the constraints of 4 walls of home and hitching up the camper trailer to the car and ‘going bush’, to explore our region even if it was just for a few days. Listening to the sounds of nature while sitting under the stars around a campfire drinking a beer or a Jack Daniels or two, getting away from the traffic, noise, and the hustle and bustle of suburban life was magical! And it really meant that we got to experience everything the area had to offer. Unfortunately, the camper trailer was sold when we left Australia and we haven’t had the chance to camp again…but there’s no doubt we will!
For camping in Australia, check out WikiCamps for locations of campgrounds, caravan parks, backpacker hostels, day use area, points of interest & information centres. It’s available on iOS, Android and Windows.
Pet Sitting & House Sitting
When pet sitting or house sitting you may need to do a few things in return for getting free accommodation. This may include looking after pets, walking the dog, tending to their gardens, or they may simply want people in the house just to show the neighbourhood that it is being lived in.
Many of these websites require an annual fee in order to register your profile and view their listings, but we made our money back on the first housesit that we did!
What you’ll get…
Free accommodation for an agreed length of time with the owner, ranging from a night, a few days, months, or even in some cases up to 1 year… hard to believe I know!!!
House sitting and pet sitting requires responsibility and a commitment to stay for the duration of your agreement. If you need to leave early then you better make sure it’s for an emergency and try and help the owner find alternate pet sitters, otherwise you will receive a bad review and you’ll be hard-pressed ever finding another stay!
What Type of Pets Would I Have to Look After?
Typically owners will have dogs, cats, birds, or fish, but occasionally some places have guinea pigs, reptiles, and farm animals including horses, rabbits or chickens, so having experience with animals is certainly beneficial. All the details about the pets will be in their home listing description.
For a very reasonable fee, you can access their network of hosts all around the world.
Sitters Annual Fee: $50 / year
Hosts Annual Fee: Free
A house sitting website that has been around for 5 years with homeowners in 20 countries, mainly UK, France, Spain, USA, Australia and China.
House Sitters Annual Fee: £49 – £79 / year
Home Owners Annual Fee: £49 – £79 / year
Another house sitting site which is cheaper but has less listings (nearly 25,000 home owners)
House/Pet Sitter Annual Fee: $20 / year
Home/Pet Owner Annual Fee: Free
A house and pet sitting website with close to 100,000 house sitters.
If you’ve never done it before, have a look at this blog on the 10 Commandments of How to be a Perfect Housesitter.
Sitters Annual Fee: Free (max. of 3 applications) & $89 / year
Host Annual Fee: Free
They offer places all around the world to get free accommodation. This is particularly popular in the UK, Australia, USA & Canada.
For example, right now (May 2018), there are over 1000 pet sits available in the UK alone.
We’ve successfully used Trusted House Sitters last month and had an excellent 11-day free holiday in a nice area in Bangkok.
House/Pet Sitter Annual Fee: $119 / year
Home/Pet Owner Annual Fee: $119 / year
House Swapping / Home Exchanges
There are 2 main types of house swaps available:
- Simultaneous – where you each go and live in each others houses at the same time
- Non-Simultaneous – They stay at your place and you stay at their place at a later time
This is a house swapping website mainly for Australia, but also has some from around the world including UK, New Zealand, France, Turkey & Canada.
Simply create your profile and start searching for places you’d like to travel to.
Fee: AUD $5 – $9 / month
Home Exchange is by far the most popular, but also has the most expensive fee for house swapping, with a history over 1.2 million house swaps from all over the world. According to Home Exchange they have ‘65,000 active exchange members in 150 countries swapping primary and secondary homes, apartments, rental properties, timeshares, B&B and hotel guest rooms, yachts, houseboats, cottages, tree houses….really, anywhere you can sleep. Members even swap cars.
If you’re worried about handing the keys to your home over to a complete stranger, then have a read of their guide, ‘Is Home Swapping Safe?‘
Annual Fee: $150 / year
There are many home owners who are open to having guests stay in their house while they are home. You may get a place on the floor, a couch, a sofa bed or a spare room. The living conditions will be described in their listing. You will need to provide a great profile with photos, and a bit of information about you, your interests and your travels. The better the profile, the more inclined a host will be to say yes to your request.
A very popular method for travellers to find a place for a few nights is to couch surf. Register your profile and you’ll have 1000’s of willing hosts all around the world who are happy to give you a place to stay for a night, a few nights, or even a week.
You might get lucky and find they’re happy to show you around their local area as well!
With over 400,000 hosts and 4 million surfers in 230 countries you’ll find a host practically anywhere! With references and verification systems in-place they’ve done a great job at making this a safe option. Do’t let the name put you off, this is a community of well-meaning hosts who like to welcome strangers into their homes, often just for some interesting travel tales or for some new cultural experiences.
As we write this, we just had 2 Couch Surfers, Johannes and Astrid from Germany, who stayed with us for 4 days in Penang, Malaysia and are cycling from Armenia to Australia (currently 16,500km’s and counting!). Occasionally they’ll go to hotels, but they’re also using Couch Surfing or Warm Showers for free accommodation, otherwise they’ll have setup their tent somewhere. Wow, what a journey!
This site is for cycling community boasting over 100,000 members & 63,000 hosts from over 160 countries. If you’re a touring cyclist in need of free accommodation (and probably some good cycling stories and tips) then this is the place for you.
Working in Exchange for Free Food & Accommodation
Yet another way is to exchange your time and labour (typically around 4 hours a day), for free accommodation and food. Often you can learn new skills and share your skills with your hosts.
HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.
Membership: Free and Premier Membership (20 Euros / 2 years)
A website where you can work, travel and live with the locals. Their map-based website shows places all around the world where you can do various types of work from waiting tables to reception work.
They offer 1000s of active hosts in over 155 countries offering all kinds of places to stay.
Memberships: Hosts (Free), Single Workers ($36/year), Couples ($46/year)
Wwoof – stands for ‘WorldWide Opportunities On Organic Farms’
On an organic farm you will live alongside your host helping with daily tasks and experiencing life as a farmer with no exchange of money. In return you’ll get free accommodation and the freshest and healthiest food available.
Membership: Varies from country to country, but normally around $30/year for each destination you want to go to.
These are just some of the ways in which you can get free accommodation. If you know of other methods or websites, please send us a message and we’ll add it to the list.
Still Have Nowhere to Sleep?
If you’ve been unsuccessful in your application to couch surf, pet sit or house swap, or the place you’re going to doesn’t have any hosts or camping allowed in the area, then you’ll need to consider paying for your accommodation.
In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll reveal a range of Budget Accommodation options and where you can find the best deals that won’t cost you an arm and a leg!