HOW TO FIND FREE ACCOMMODATION WHEN TRAVELING
If you’re new to this blog, I feel it’s important to give you some background info about myself. In 2015, I packed my bags and boarded a plane to Madrid. It was a one-way ticket. I had no plans to return back home for years, despite the fact that I had $1000 to my name. And guys, I made it! I did return home at the start of 2018, which means I was on the road for THREE ENTIRE YEARS. That being said, I feel that I am entitled to call myself an expert on cheap travel.
Nope. I’m not rich. And nope, my parents didn’t pay for my trip nor do I smuggle drugs (despite some rumors I heard from my middle school classmates, ha!)
There are three things that kept me on the road for so long:
- I worked online. I did a lot of website design, photo retouching, and article writing that kept me on the road before that job came up. Since this article is about cheap or free accommodation, I won’t fill it with ways to make money online, but I’ll be writing a separate article in the near future with ideas, as well as more tips on budget travel, so I’m going to do a bit of self-promotion here and invite you to join my newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out! 🙂
- I randomly found a job that paid me to write, take photos and travel for over a year. It was weird and incredibly lucky how that happened. I was running out of money and I applied for a work exchange stay where they traded a few months of accommodation in their camp to help them with their website’s copyrighting and several other odd jobs. After a few months of working there, I got offered this incredible promotion and the following year I had the chance to travel while getting paid for it.
- I scored a lot of free stays in places. No, it wasn’t through being a blogger (I don’t do sponsored posts and all that traveling was actually before I even started this blog). I got months worth of free or incredibly cheap accommodation through the tips I’ll share below.
One thing to note about me is that I don’t stick to one travel style. One day you’ll see me hitchhiking in Malawi and sleeping on the streets, and the next you’ll see me lounging by a pool in a nice hotel (and yes! This article will include ways to land free hotel stays WITHOUT being Instagram famous). I don’t like to limit my travels to one ideal or style, and I like to mix things up, so this guide will help you find all kinds of accommodation, from a humble shared room to luxury hotels! All you need is a sense of adventure, regardless of how you like to travel.
Onto the guide!
HOW TO FIND FREE ACCOMMODATION WHEN TRAVELING
We live in an era where the Internet is a thing. While some people misuse it to spend the entire day watching videos of raccoons stealing cat food (that would be me. I actually took a break from finishing this paragraph to re-watch it. It’s hilarious.), it’s also like some sort of realm to connect with people from all over.
There are so many resources available at the tip of your fingers nowadays, and a lot of them will score you free or incredibly cheap accommodation options. Here are my favorite ways to travel without breaking your bank account (or if you, like me, are totally broke).
I think this is my favorite because it doesn’t include talking to anyone. I’m kind of introverted so alone time for me while traveling is a must and house sitting is the perfect way to save tons of money on accommodation, too! Basically, it works like this: someone is going away and leaving their house empty for that time. It could be a week or several months, so finding something that fits your schedule is incredibly easy. You’ll apply, and if you get accepted, you’ll get to live in their place for free in exchange that you take care of some errands – this could mean watching after their pets, cleaning, or just watering their plants.
There are many websites to house sit, but the one I use and trust is Trusted House Sitters. They are recognized worldwide and have more hosts listed than any other in most corners of the world. It does have a cost to register as a sitter, but I’ve calculated that I’ve saved over $4,000 in accommodation costs over the years using this website.
I love this one because not only does it save you tons of money, it’s also an incredible way to add meaning to your travels. What you’ll do is exchange a few hours of work (it can be at a hotel, at a farm, teaching at a school, or anything else you can imagine) for accommodation and food. This is perfect for long-term travelers because it’s a great way to take some time off from moving around and it might also lead you to a place within a country that you wouldn’t otherwise visit. Another perk? You’ll get to interact with locals and see things from a different perspective than if you were just passing through a place and only doing the stuff you read on guidebooks.
Got an apartment or house? You can let someone stay there and in exchange, you’ll be able to stay at their place. For example, let’s say someone from Paris is visiting New York, and someone who lives in New York wants to go to Paris. Instead of them having to pay for a hotel, they’ll just message each other and swap their apartments. How cool is that?!
There are a few travel Facebook groups out there where the community feeling is amazing and you might be able to score a free stay at someone’s place. I recently even saw a girl giving out her one-week hotel stay in Paris because she had to cancel her trip and the hotel refused to refund her, so she went ahead and offered someone to use her booking. Pretty awesome, huh?
This is one group that is solely based on accommodation exchange for females, but I also recommend joining other groups such as Women Who Travel, Solo Female Traveler Network, NOMADS – A Life Of Alternative Travel. I’m an active member of all of those groups, so definitely say hi if you see a post from me! 🙂
Know how to speak a language? Then Talk Talk Bnb is a great way to score accommodation anywhere. In essence, you’ll browse through the website and find people in the place you’re interested in visiting who want to learn a language that you happen to speak. They’ll let you stay in their house in exchange for language classes or simply the chance to talk to a native speaker to practice their skills.
Seriously. This is another reason why I love staying in hostels – they are super sociable and meeting like-minded people is a breeze. I’ve met a lot of people at hostels and a few of them have become friends who I have later visited in their home countries and crashed on their sofas. And while traveling? You can get to split costs with your newly-found friends.
Here’s an example: I met Sarah in Livingstone, Zambia at our hostel and we decided to head together to see Victoria Falls the following day. We needed to pay for a taxi to get back to the city because there isn’t public transport available in the area, but since we were two, we were able to split the cost of the taxi.
We were both headed to Lusaka two days later, and a guy in our hostel room happened to have rented a car and was driving to Lusaka on that same day. He had extra space in his car, so he told us we could hop along. We did pitch in for fuel, but even then, we each saved $13 on our bus fare. Once in Lusaka, we found a hostel and it turned out a private double room cost $25 whereas a dorm bed cost $15. We booked the private and we were able to enjoy having a space for ourselves AND saving money at the same time by sharing costs.
Ever so often, you might get a free hotel stay, too!
My secret: Long layovers when flying. I had no idea this was a thing until I booked a flight from Tanzania to Amsterdam with a 22-hour layover in Cairo. I began researching visa requirements because with twenty-two hours to spare, that was more than enough time to discover the city rather than spoiling at the airport. Visa requirements for Mexicans recently changed, and all the information that I was able to find online was confusing me. Some said it was possible to get it on arrival, while other said you needed to apply for it before landing. I decided to contact EgyptAir on the matter, and they replied to me with the following:
People with layovers of more than six hours are entitled to:
- Free visa
- Free hotel
- All meals during your hotel stay
I mean, what??? And it wasn’t just a simple mid-range hotel, it was the freaking Meridien. My meals were buffet-style and all the food was nicely-designed (is that a real term to describe nice-looking food?). For a flight that cost me $250, I was able to get to my destination and to enjoy a luxury hotel experience that would have probably cost me more than the flight alone did. I call that winning in life.
Airlines that hook you up with a free hotel stay:
And that’s essentially my secret to travel! I am so grateful for these websites because it has enabled mortals like me to frolick around the world. Growing up, my dream was to travel the world but I always thought I’d only be able to do it if I somehow managed to become filthy rich.
Nowadays, travel is something that has become available to almost everyone. All we need is a bit of creativity and a sense of adventure.
I’d love to know if you know any other tricks or websites to find accommodation, so feel free to drop your links and tips in the comments section below so more people can learn about them! 🙂
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, this means if you purchase something through the links provided, I might earn a commission on the sale. This comes at no extra cost to you and it helps me keep creating free content to share with the world.