They say nothing in the world comes for free – and you’d think this especially applies when it comes to holidays and travel. But plenty of savvy travellers are thinking outside the box and finding that, if you’re clever about it, you can actually travel the world for free.
Locals in every corner of the world are opening their doors and unfurling their futons for travellers, and if you’re willing to put a shift in while abroad, there’s no shortage of families and businesses eager to swap a bed, food and free time in exchange for your work.
Looking after furry friends, chattering away to novice English-speakers and getting down and dirty in the fields are among the most unique options on offer, while couch-surfing and house-swapping are attractive possibilities for travellers who don’t intend on rolling up their sleeves. Here’s a closer look at 5 ways to travel the world for free (well, you might still need to buy your plane or train tickets).
Travelling the world and playing with cute pets? Animal lovers won’t need much convincing to try this method out. But few can claim to have mastered the art more than New Zealander Angela Croft, who spent 18 months travelling the world as a house and pet-sitter via the site Trusted Housesitters, repaying her hosts by drawing them sketches of their pets. “House and pet-sitting is based on honesty and trust, and I’ve met some great hosts who love pets and travel as much as I do,” says Croft. Of all the pets she’s looked after, a sausage dog called Henry in Cornwall sticks in her mind: “I got so attached to him, it was like having newborn baby.”
Crashing on a friend’s sofa for a couple of nights while out of town is an age-old tradition – and even this ritual has been taken up a gear in the digital age. Now, you can find a free couch or spare room in virtually any city you want, and make friends with your host while you stay. Four million travellers each year use couchsurfing.com, a kind of social network for tourists and people willing to host them. It’s completely free, with no payment required other than gratitude and good company. And it’s ideal if you’re visiting a city for a large event, when hotels and hostels jack up their prices.
3. Speaking English
Extroverts, this one’s for you: A week of free accommodation in Europe is on offer if you’re willing to talk your way through it. Diverbo look for native English-speakers to join them at their dreamy, pool-equipped locations in the Spanish and German countryside to converse with locals who are trying to learn the lingo. “We’d have conversations at meals, at bars, and strolling through the Spanish village or countryside,” says Abbey Algiers, who first went on the trip in 2012. “It isn’t just a chance to get a free stay in Spain, it’s a chance to make deep, lasting friendships with amazing people.”
It sounds like the premise of a reality show, but house-swapping is quickly becoming a popular way for families and professionals to enjoy a holiday without the hotel fees. Sites like Home Exchange and Stay4Free allow you to connect with homeowners abroad and arrange a stay in each other’s homes for as long as you can agree on. It’s not the most spontaneous option, and you’ll have to be willing to have some holidaymakers rummaging through your fridge, but you’ll get free access to a cosy home abroad without having to lift a finger.
These are business trips – but not as you know them. Swapping labour for food and board is an attractive option for young travellers and small business-owners alike, allowing you to work shifts and explore your host town in your downtime. Workaway offers trips to 170 countries, with tasks ranging from volunteering to hospitality, and au pairing to farm maintenance. It’s an arrangement that’s ideal for extended stays, and living in a family home provides a perfect way to truly immerse yourself in the local culture.