How to Travel for Free

by Diego Navarro | LAST UPDATED June 22, 2021

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Just so we’re clear from the start - there is absolutely no way that you’ll be able to even go to your local supermarket without a few dollars in your pocket, let alone travel the world for free.

The point of this article isn’t to try and sell you fairytale ideas on how you can quit your job tomorrow and be a backpacker in Europe without spending a single dime. We’re going to show you a few ways that you’ll be able to see exotic locations all around the world while also showing you how you can save money on some of the most significant travel costs.

It might not exactly be “travel for free” in the literal sense, but the options we have to offer are a much better option for travel enthusiasts who can’t cover all of the hotel stays.

What Does Travel for Free Mean?

When we say travel for free, what we mean is that most of the options that we’ve listed below will provide you with free room and board in several different countries.

You may find a job that offers a modest paycheck in the form of a stipend on top of the free stay, but your payment will be the lodging most of the time. This, of course, means that you’re going to be volunteering your time and labor in exchange for the free accommodations. While this may seem like exchanging one form of currency for another, it’s actually quite a bit better than it sounds.

On the other hand, hotel rooms usually cost an arm and a leg, and there are quite a few documents that need to be filled out and restrictions that need to be obeyed when it comes to renting out a property in a different country.

This means that staying in any one location for an extended period will require you to spend a lot of money on hotel rooms or hope that you can find a cheap Airbnb somewhere close to your desired location.

On top of all of this, you’ll also need to be able to cover your food and living costs as well, meaning that you’ll either need to become a digital nomad or take up a short-term job in the location that you’re staying. While volunteer work takes up about as much time as a regular job, you won’t have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck since the costs of your stay are covered in the agreement.

All in all, being able to experience new cultures without having to worry about where your next meal is coming from is the main reason why we like volunteer programs more than the standard van lifer or digital nomad lifestyles.

The Main Problem

A man at the airport standing with a suitcase in hand

These volunteer agreements end at the free rooms and lodging, and they don’t cover the rest of your travel expenses or offer free flights as part of the deal.  This means that the biggest issue that you’re going to come face to face with is going to be the airfare since plane tickets aren’t exactly known for being cheap.

Just to clarify: some services also offer free travel on top of the free stay; however, these are mostly large organizations, and they are few and far between.

Most of the options that we run through in our article are either hosts that can’t afford to put you up for an extended period while also covering your plane ticket and travel insurance, or companies that simply expect you to cover these costs on your own.

You’re also going to need to cover the costs of basic toiletries, medicine, phone and internet, and any extra equipment that you might need.

You might be able to visit a few travel blogs and find the best ticket prices, but ultimately, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and buy the tickets.

One of the best travel tips that we can give is to get yourself a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.

This card allows you to do some “travel hacking” by collecting points by using the card on travel expenses and other everyday costs to put them towards your frequent flyer miles. You’ll also receive a few significant sign-up bonuses that we can’t really elaborate on here, but which you can read about by going to the linked article above.

In essence, all you need to know is that the card turns travel experience and expenses into travel rewards, so it’s a must-have for any globe trotter.

Travel for Free: the Options

A woman walking on the street through a crowd

We believe that we’ve created quite an extensive list of ways of traveling worldwide with the least damage to your wallet. We’ve also provided a link to all of the sites that provide the service and opportunities that we mention in each of our sections.

While these sites are our own choices when it comes to these particular services, there are still several other options that may be available to you. This means that if you’ve tried one of the sites that we mention and you aren’t satisfied with the results, then you’ll be able to find a substitute with one simple Google search easily.

Teach English

There are plenty of organizations looking for native English speakers to come and work as foreign language teachers in many countries. One such organization is Diverbo, a site where anyone interested in teaching English can apply for a chance to go to Spain to instruct young students.

This career path is quite common among digital nomads as well, but the benefit of this organization is that it doesn’t require any college degrees. Applicants who have at least finished a TEFL course will naturally have an advantage over less qualified ones, but there’s a spot for anyone in general. There are no payments or membership fees, and all you have to do is send in a CV and an email detailing why you believe you’d be a good choice for the position.

The email address can easily be found on the site and any other information that you might need.

Housesitting

Housesitting is relatively new as career paths go, and that’s the primary reason why many people either ignore it as a job option or forget that it exists entirely.

The job is incredibly simple; while the homeowners are away, your task is to stay in the house and take care of their pets.

There really isn’t much of a formal education that you can have for this sort of position, and the most important aspect to potential clients is obviously going to be the level of experience that you have under your belt and the feedback that you get from previous clients. This means that you’re going to have a bit of a hard start at the beginning when you haven’t had many jobs, but you’ll pick up steam in no time flat.

The best places to go for a housesitting job are mindmyhouse ($20 annual membership fee), housecarers ($50 annual membership fee), and trustedhousesitters ($119 annual membership fee).

Volunteering Your Time

When it comes to offering your services for room and board, there are quite a few work exchange options that you can choose from.

While a site like workaway allows you to choose anything from a school position to a job on a cruise ship, sites like AuPairWorld specialize in babysitting positions.

The former is a lot more suitable for people that are looking for something a bit more travel-oriented, like the cruise liner position that we mentioned. At the same time, the latter is an excellent choice for people that don’t have a problem with staying in one location and in one job for a longer period of time.

Aupairworld requires you to register on the site, make contact with a family, negotiate the agreement and the rules, and sign a contract that’s provided by the site.

Workaway simply requires you to make an account and choose a position from the list of available jobs and locations.

Become a Farm Hand

Speaking of volunteer work, this is a similar sort of free travel option as the previous item on our list, but it’s much more suited to people that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

Sites such as WWOOF are so popular when it comes to providing worldwide opportunities on organic farms that there is a term known as “wwoofing” that was created to refer to this very thing.

All you need to do is select a country, sign up to the site and pay the $40 membership fee, choose a farm in the country that you’ve chosen, and plan out your stay with the host.

Helpx is another site that allows you to work on anything from farm stays and hobby farms to lifestyle blocks and ranches for a 2-year membership fee of $22.

Both of these sites can provide you with a trip anywhere from Italy to Australia or New Zealand, and the only difference is the membership fee.

House Exchange

One of the most unorthodox ways for you to go to another country without paying for a hotel room is to trade houses for a few weeks or months.

Sites like homeexchange allow homeowners to list their houses online and look for people interested in living in another location for a while.

After the two interested parties contact one another and exchange what they deem to be the necessary amount of information, a deal is made, and they simply go and live in each other’s houses for a set amount of time.

We understand that this might seem strange on the first exchange, but you’re free to reject any applicant that might seem sketchy to you; the site provides 24/7 member Support, assistance in case of cancellation or non-compliance, and property damage coverage.

This means that all of your bases are pretty much covered, and at a $150 yearly membership fee, we’d say that that’s a pretty good bargain.

Focus on Traveling

If you’re just looking for a place to stay without having to volunteer your time, then the final option that you have available to you is to simply stay at a host.

Sites like couchsurfing allow you to either sign up as a visitor or as a host for a small membership fee of $2.39 per month or $14.29 per year.

The procedure is simple - you sign up to the site, pay the fee, and look through the catalog of all of the hosts that are willing to provide you with a free place to stay for the duration of your trip.

This is by far the best and easiest way to meet new people, experience new cultures, and get to see new locations.

Conclusion

People sitting in a bar, watching through a window

One of the biggest benefits to all of the options we mentioned is the pure experience.

Traveling the world by going to hotels and just visiting famous landmarks is a very sterile and inorganic way to experience things.

Actually, staying with people that know what to show you and which attractions are the actual soul of their country is much more rewarding and a far more enriching experience overall.

Diego Navarro
Diego became interested in a nomadic lifestyle during a semester abroad during college. He spends most of his time in central Europe and the American southwest (where his family is from). He loves exotic food and playing video games on his Nintendo Switch.

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