Travelling on a shoestring? Backpacking and broke?
Get the lowdown on free accommodation around the world and never pay for (even cheap) rooms or backpackers hostels again!
Pre-departure expenses can really add up, especially on your first backpacking around the world trip.
Not to worry.
You can easily stretch your travel budget once you're on the road by whittling your accommodation costs down to . . . zero!
There's only one thing better than cheap accommodation, and that's free accommodation!
Whether you're backpacking through Europe, island-hopping in the Caribbean or making your way across Australia, there are lots of places and ways you can sleep for free.
Hospitality exchanges are actually very similar to family homestays. You're invited to stay as a guest in someone's home — except this time it's on the house!
So how do you arrange a hospitality exchange?
You join a free hospitality club such as Couch Surfing. As a member, you become part of an online network of backpackers and travellers looking for free accommodation (usually for a few nights max) and local hosts all over the world who are willing to provide it.
Some hosts are like-minded travellers themselves, who want to pay it forward whenever they can. Others simply enjoy meeting backpackers from different countries, hearing about their adventures and showing them around.
You'd be amazed at how many incredibly friendly and hospitable people are happy to open their homes to complete strangers!
If you're not in a hurry or you just need to slow down and relax for a while, taking on a gig as a housesitter can be a fantastic way to travel around the world.
Not only do you get free accommodation, but you also get the opportunity to soak up the local vibe.
House sitting doesn't necessarily mean just looking after someone's house, though — sometimes you've also got pets to feed, a pool to clean and a garden to tend to.
Still, a couple of weeks house sitting a country cottage in England, a beachside bungalow in the Bahamas or a penthouse apartment in central Paris (don't I wish!) makes for a pretty nice break from backpackers hostels and cheap hotel rooms.
This option probably won't be of much use to the majority of backpackers (including me) but I thought I'd throw it into the mix anyway. You just never know when the info might come in handy.
The idea behind a house exchange is pretty simple — you swap pads with someone for a specific period of time, giving you both free accommodation in each other's homes.
Of course, this does require that you have some sort of suitable lodging to swap in the first place!
Yes, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to find dates that work for both of you. But if your house or apartment is going to stay empty for several months while you travel, then at least you've got plenty of leeway.
There are a many good organisations that facilitate home exchanges all over the globe. You'll have to cough up a modest membership fee but it really is negligible compared to what you can save on accommodation.
Working in exchange for free accommodation might not sound like your idea of a good time on the road. But actually, it can be a lot of fun!
Work exchange arrangements vary greatly both in the type of work you do, how long you're expected (or allowed) to stay as well as the accommodation (and sometimes also food) that's provided in return.
You could find yourself doing reception duty in exchange for a bed in a backpackers hostel. Or helping out with daily housekeeping chores for a free room in a guesthouse. Or walking the dog and weeding the garden in a local family homestay.
Generally, these are short-term jobs (often only a just few days — this isn't a working holiday) and you're usually asked to put in a few hours' work each day.
Even if you don't need to count your pennies, I really recommend trying a work exchange at least once during your round the world trip.
For lack of a better term (let me know if you come up with one), this includes sleeping in places like airport terminals, train stations, bus depots, beaches and 24-hour McDonald's.
Okay, so I guess technically this can't be classified as accommodation, but it is free.
Obviously, you won't be sleeping out like this every night. But there are likely to be times when crashing at the airport before an early-morning flight or hanging out at the train station in between late-night connections will make more sense than forking out for a hostel.
This is where your backpacking sleeping bag and inflatable travel pillow really earn their keep!
Be sure to check out the cheap rooms pages, too!