The common perception is that one needs buckets full of money to be able to see all the countries that one dreams of. Like when those friends of a friend that you met at a friend’s braai told of all their travels around the world, and all that you could think of was ‘where the hell do they get the money?’
Well, maybe they were on the same budget as you are, the only difference is, they knew where to look. And even if they are stinking rich, you could probably see all those places without spending much more than your plane ticket. If you’re willing to mingle with a few locals, look after someone’s pet or do a bit of manual labour, then you’re well on your way to finally seeing that country you’ve been dreaming of.
And even though these opportunities may seem like they’re restricted to under 25’s, they really aren’t. In fact, taking the chance could mean experiencing one of the most memorable travels of your life.
Here are eight ways in which you can see the world for free, or at a fraction of the cost.
1. Couch Surfing
Probably one of the best known places to find free accommodation around the world, Couch Surfers connects hosts and travellers with each other in a secure environment. In this way, travellers can search for available couches, beds or spare rooms around the world where they can stay for free for the length of time convenient for their host.
How it works: After registering on the website, you create your own profile with your gender, age, interests etc. You can also specify whether you can host surfers in the future. The more complete the profile, the more trustworthy both the surfer and host become. Now you can browse hosts and find someone in whose home you’ll feel comfortable.
Costs: There is no cost involved to register on Couch Surfers.
Short for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, the basic concept is to exchange work on an organic farm in the country of your choice for a room and full board. Work can include anything from manual labour and fruit picking to feeding the animals and even helping out in the house, making it suitable for different age groups.
How it works: After registering on the website of the country of your choice, you’ll have access to all the WWOOFing opportunities in that country, including working hours, responsibilities, accommodation and contact details.
Costs: Each country has a different registration fee, but it ranges between R250 and R500.
3. Hospitality Club
With the aim of bringing people together and promoting peace around the world, Hospitality Club is much the same as Couch Surfers, connecting budget travellers with hosts that have a spare bed, room, couch or mattress in their home.
How it works: After registering, you’ll have access to an extensive list of hosts and you can send them secure messages. Complete profiles will include details of their location, the type of accommodation, the area’s public transport and information about the host’s interests.
Costs: There is no cost involved to register with Hospitality Club.
4. House Carers
This international database of house sitters and pet sitters connects those who want to go on holiday with those willing to look after their houses and/or pets, in exchange for free accommodation.
How it works: After registering, you can browse profiles of people around the world to see what kind of house sitter they’re looking for. You’ll be responsible for anything from watering plants to feeding animals and this could be in an extensive range of countries around the world.
Costs: The limited trail period is free, giving you the chance to browse and see what kind of opportunities are on offer. Once you’re a member, at $55 per year, you’ll be able to access contact details and create your own profile.
5. Global Freeloaders
This global online community’s main aim is to connect you with free accommodation around the world. The site introduces budget travellers to hosts in much the same way as Couch Surfers.
How it works: After signing up, you enter your destination and travel dates and you’ll receive a list of hosts as well as their age, the location, type of accommodation and distance from your chosen destination. In order to be a member, you agree to hosting as many travellers as the amount of places that you visited on your travels. This could happen at any time and for any length that is convenient to you.
Costs: There are no costs involved for registering, but you’ll probably be responsible for your own food, except if your host is friendly enough to make food for you too.
Servas is an international organisation that believes in open doors and getting to know each other’s culture and ways of life. If you are interested in truly understanding and immersing yourself in a different country’s culture, you can become Servas traveller and spend one or two nights in the home of a Servas host in a different country.
How it works: Once you’ve been interviewed and approved to a Servas traveller, you’ll pay a deposit for the host list of the country where you’d like to travel to. Hosts should provide at least two nights’ stay and one shared dinner in their home. Each traveller needs to contact the Servas office in their home country and set up an interview.
Click here for the South African office’s website.
Costs: You’ll pay a deposit for the host list, but this will be returned to you once you give on your return.
7. The Caretaker Gazette
This family owned and managed publishing business has been running since 1983. They publish online and printed versions of The Caretaker Gazette every two months, advertising house sitting and care taking opportunities around the world.
How it works: After subscribing to the Caretaker Gazette, you’ll receive a bi-monthly newsletter containing listings for people looking for house sitters, pet sitters or someone to help out at their home or guest house. In some instances food will be provided and sometimes the caretaker will receive a stipend.
Costs: Subscribing to the online version of the Gazette starts at $29.95 per year and decreases if you subscribe for two or three years. The printed version starts at $34.95.
8. Work Away
The idea is to connect budget travellers and language learners with families, organisations and individuals that are looking for help with a range of activities. Your volunteer work is therefore exchanged for food and lodging. There is a very large range of different opportunities available.
How it works: On Workaway.info you’ll find a database of families, individuals and organisations in a range of different countries across the world who are looking for volunteer help. These have all registered and been approved by Workaway.info. On each project page you can find the location, the type of work involved, the accommodation, the languages spoken, photos and reviews of previous Workawayers. Once you’re a member, the contact details for the different projects become available to you.
Costs: You’ll pay a registration fee of €22 for a single person or €29 for a couple or two friends and the membership is valid for two years.