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4 easy ways to get free accommodation while travelling the world

Hotel prices are up, but holidays don't have to be the preserve of the wealthy. Here are our tips for scoring free accommodation

Illustration: Mateusz Napieralski

The cost of living crisis has driven up prices for everyday necessities, but its impact extends to the luxuries too. Hotels and guesthouses are now well out of budget for many – meaning it’s time to get creative if you want some time away. Here’s how you can get free accommodation when you travel.

Editor’s note: In some jurisdictions housesitting is regarded as work and therefore could bring visa problems. People should make themselves familiar with the requirements of each place they visit and seek advice accordingly. 

WWOOFing

WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) connects volunteers with farms. Pick a host and learn the importance of ancient ways of growing organic foods, helping with the land, learning what it means to be sustainable or even taking care of animals. You’ll be immersed in the host’s way of life and will be offered free board. A lot of hosts also provide free meals with fresh ingredients from their gardens, and you might be asked to help in the kitchen. While you will get free accommodation, WWOOF UK requires an annual membership cost of £25 for a single person, or £35 a couple.

Workaway

Like WWOOFing, Workaway is a site where you choose which host you stay with. Whether you’re passionate about wildlife, education, tourism or sustainability, volunteering with Workaway could provide an enriching insight into how life flows in different cultures around the world. Workaway’s website boasts 50,000+ projects in 165 countries all with free accommodation, ranging from working on a hobby farm in Vancouver to a hostel in Koh Phangan, or a community library in Uganda. Sign up for membership as a solo traveller for £42 a year, or as a couple/two friends for a price of £49 a year. If you’re a family, contact the host to see if they’ll accept you. Under 18s pay nothing.

Wild camping

Whether you’re a van lifer or a tent goer, there are plenty of wild camping spots abroad. Each country’s regulations will vary so check beforehand. Leaving no trace is a universal rule of thumb. Fancy a trip to New Zealand? Under section 10 of the Freedom Camping Act 2011: you are allowed to camp in any local authority area (with some but not many exceptions). If you have a van, it must be self-contained with a toilet facility, freshwater storage, wastewater storage and a bin with a lid. If you fancy an adventure in Sweden, the country’s ‘right of public access’ principle is protected by law. Sleep on mountaintops, by lakes, in quiet forests or beautiful meadows.

House/pet sitting

Housesitting is an option for homeowners to seek out trustworthy people to take care of their pets and/or home while they’re away. You might be asked to look after a friendly dog in Berlin or mind someone’s cat in their home while getting to stay there for free. You can sign up at Trusted Housesitters, with monthly costs starting at £8.25 and upwards to £16.60. The higher the membership, the more perks you gain such as: accident and third-party liability insurance, cancellation insurance and free video calls with vets when looking after pets.

Honey-blue Stevens is a member of The Big Issue’s Breakthrough programme

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