How to get (almost) FREE accommodation when you travel

…or how to not pay rent for at least 10 months out of the year (or more)…
 

…without prostituting yourself :p

 

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That is indeed my current view from the rooftop terrace of the place I’m staying in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. How did I get here? Because I was a good girl and Santa Claus finally recognized it – just kidding (partially). I signed up for a house sitting website with the intent of spending the holidays away from freezing my behind off.

Now since I’m here, I have received lots of questions about how I get to stay in an amazing place for free in exchange for sitting a house, a cute cat, and an even cuter dog. Some people’s minds are blown that I have free accommodation while I travel. In this post, I’ll explain all of this in more detail, and will provide you with even more options to save on accommodation while you travel, so there’ll be no excuse left, to get the F out of your country.

 

You can find out how to score the best deals on flights here.

 

Housesitting

There are a few different websites out there, and I have only personally tested Trusted Housesitters. On this site, you can find houses to sit primarily in Australia, UK, US, Canada, and Western Europe. Other countries are rarer to find. Mostly, house owners have a dog or cat you have to take care of and the stays can vary from a weekend to a few months. Unless you as a sitter have to go out of your way to sit pets (such as 10 horses or something), gigs are free of payment for both parties. Accommodation in exchange for walking and feeding pets. There are 3 stages of verification you can go through, but it’s not mandatory.

Their annual membership fee is $120, with a few sales throughout the year (such as Black Friday). If you want to join Trusted Housesitters, join through this link and get 20% off (and help me get two free months in exchange :D):

https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/su/mqHzvdwg

 

Here are some more alternative websites (all prices in USD):

https://www.mindmyhouse.com/ ($20)

https://www.housesitmatch.com/ ($43 – $92)

https://www.nomador.com/ ($89 per year)

https://www.housecarers.com/ ($50 per year)

http://www.luxuryhousesitting.com/ ($25 per year)

 

Australia:

https://www.happyhousesitters.com.au/

https://www.aussiehousesitters.com.au/

 

UK:

https://www.housesittersuk.co.uk/

 

US:

https://www.housesittersamerica.com/

https://housesitter.com/

 

Another housesitting tip: If you join expat groups for your desired destination on Facebook, there’s a high chance you might get a house sitting gig by simply introducing yourself in the group stating that you’re open to it.

This is where I stayed in Cape Town for two months almost rent free (2 weeks of dog sitting and a couple hundred bucks during high season!)

 

Houseswapping

You’re able to welcome someone in your home and want to exchange houses? You can do this on https://www.homeexchange.com/en/ for $150 per year. This is a great and easy option, especially for the summer. It’s not only a mutual house, but a mutual trust exchange as well and families can always communicate via phone and/or email.

Here are some alternative websites with the same goal:

http://www.lovehomeswap.com/ ($20-$34 per month)

http://www.homeforexchange.com/ ($79 per year)

https://www.intervac-homeexchange.com/

https://homelink.org/en/ ($150 per year)

 

Couchsurfing

The Couchsurfing community has been around since 2004. People from 200,000 cities all over the world invite travelers to stay in their homes for free. And if you’re lucky, your host will even be your tour guide as well, show you around and/or introduce you to their local culture.

Yes, there have been horror stories, but if you use common sense and carefully read the reviews of your potential host before you message them (the more reviews, the better), you will be absolutely fine and most likely make lifelong friends.

If you’re a girl, join Girls Love Travel on Facebook, look for their Couchsurfing subgroup, and their group on the Couchsurfing website. You’re guaranteed to find welcoming travelers like you.

 

If you have some money to spare, check out www.trampolinn.com for homestays with hosts.

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Housing opportunities in exchange for work:

 

Work on a farm

Do you like organic greens, beans, potatoes, tomatoes *sings*? At WWOOF (World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), travelers can work on organic farms in exchange for a place to stay. WWOOF is available in almost every country of the world. While on the farm, you will meet like-minded volunteers.

 

Assist on a boat

There are three different options to choose from for people who want to stay on a boat: recreational, professional, or commercial. Mostly sailing or motor yachts and vessel owners want a helping hand on board cruising around Australia or the Caribbean, for example, and in exchange provide you with a place to stay on the boat. Some gigs are paid.

Check out Find a Crew for more information.

 

Volunteer

Idealist.org provides plenty of volunteering opportunities in exchange for free accomodation and sometimes even daily meals. Whether you want to assist at a surf camp in Ecuador, take care of kids in the Peruvian Amazon or work with refugees in Cairo, there are so many opportunities to make this world a better place!

 

Work at a hostel

A lot of hostels around the world offer accommodation in exchange for working at their kitchen or bar or as their receptionist or cleaning. Two websites to check out are

https://hosteljobs.net/

and

Home

 

Do you know about another way to get (almost) free accommodation when traveling? Please share it with us in the comments!

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34 comments

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  • Some really interesting alternatives. Never considered that people even were looking for house-sitters. Isn’t there a weird feeling being staying in someone else’s home when they are away? I might be seeing it in the wrong angle, but it would be even more weird to have someone staying at our home while we are away. 🙂

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      As I’ve never had anyone stay in my home, I can only speak about staying in someone’s home. For me, it was weird the first day because everything was unknown to me, but then, it just felt like a home, too. But I’ve lived in many places and am extremely adaptable when it comes to this, so that might make a bit of a difference too 🙂

  • Housesitting seems like a great idea for long time travelers. If I ever decide to give up my full time job, that would be my option for free accommodation 🙂

    Elena | http://www.inspiredtoexplore.com

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      Absolutely, I’m all for it 😀

  • This is such an awesome blog post! I’ve always wanted to give house-sitting a try since we miss our pets when we’re traveling and would love to care for someone else’s. And I’ve also always wanted to work on a boat for awhile and volunteer/work in exchange for housing. After reading this, I’m seriously wondering why the heck I’m freezing my butt off in central Germany when I could be soaking up the sun with views like yours in Tanzania. Gonna have to look into some of these resources – thanks for the good info!

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      HA! I feel you! I’m freezing my butt of in Germany as well -.-
      You’re welcome, glad you enjoyed them.

  • Without prostituting hahaha. Great list! I have personally already signed up for house sitting, it is the perfect opportunity to go some place without having to spend money on accommodation! My only thing is, I have heard some weird horror stories about Couch Surfing so I am a little skeptical! Have you done it before??

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      I have done it before. I believe it to be safe as long as the host has a lot of positive reviews (some have 50-100). So with that, you can’t go wrong.
      And YAY for housesitting hehe. Love it! It’s also perfect for people who don’t want to stay in a hotel to get a better feel of local life.

  • This is really great information. My husband and I would like to travel for 6 months to a year in the future and had been wondering how to make some extra money. I will definitely be saving this very helpful article. I love articles that give logistics. I think you have a great grasp on how to make this work. Great write up!

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      Thank you, Marla!
      I hope you guys get to travel for 6 months soon and enjoy some of this opportunities!

  • I didn’t know findacrew, it’s amazing! I absolutely need to go deeper and see what I can do to be on a crew on a boat for some time, it’s an experience I want to do!
    About housesitting, though, what always stopped me it’s the fact that usually there are dogs to take care of within, and I don’t like dogs at all…

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      I also just recently found out about it and want to try it as well…
      Aw, that’s too bad… Yeah, there are few opportunities without animals.

  • I’m curious which of these options you’ve tried before. I love the idea of house sitting, but I’m not sure how to go about being selected as the one for the job. How do you go about it?

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      I just made a complete profile, tried to do as much verification as possible and even shot a video, then wrote a friendly message… And I guess then it’s all luck from there and not in your hands anymore.
      I’ve tried couchsurfing, too. I’ve stayed in host families as well. For the future, I want to look into more volunteering and the boat life sounds interesting too!

  • These are some cool links to access different kinds of accommodation. I appreciate your efforts that has gone into this. House swapping is new to me and I wonder how practical can it be.

  • Dane

    Reply

    I’ve been using couch surfing since about 2008 and love it. Not that active these days because I’m far more transient but I used to love hosting people.
    The boat info is actually perfect! I’ve been looking for something like this for ages and that link looks really good. I’m for sure going to get deeper into that one!

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      I also used to be more active a few years ago, but it’s still great 😀 Once I have a home, I’ll also host people!
      Me too, I definitely want to experience boat life for a bit.

  • Wow this was quite a guide! I have not tried most of them, except couchsurfing, which is great both because it’s free, but also because it lets to experience the place very differently. I would love to someday work at a farm though…would be fascinating 🙂

  • We recently met some people that have done the house sitting all over in Salt Lake City, Berlin, Florence and other places. We thought we travelled cheaply until they told us about house sitting. People seem put off by the membership fee but if you use the websites it is worth it.

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      If you compare it – the membership is as much as about 5 nights in a very cheap Airbnb or 1 night in a rather expensive one, so I gladly paid for it 😀

  • Have fun in Dar-es-salaam. I grew up in Dar and loved the place. Where in Dar are you put up? Somewhere near Oyesterbay? I have never tried Housesitting .I have not tried Couch surfing yet but hopefully I will be brave enough to try.

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      Oh, awesome! Love your city 🙂 Where are you now?
      I stayed in Msasani by CTFM.
      I hope you’ll get to try Couchsurfing one day, it’s really awesome!

  • Very informative post! We have read a lot about couch surfing and working at the hostel but not much about others. Housesitting sounds awesome especially if one loved pets, but how much time will you be able to manage to explore the city when you have pets to take care back home? We find farming also one of the best options, what a great way to experience a life of farmers, learn about farming and agriculture. Sounds great isn’t it? 🙂

  • Wow! Such a helpful post. I’ve never considered some of them, but you’ve opened my eyes 🙂 For sure I will use it in the future 🙂 Thank you for a good info!

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      You’re welcome, glad it was useful for you!

  • I love using couchsurfing when I travel. I have been a member for over 10 years now and I had amazing experiences and met wonderful people through the website. I see it more than just a free place to stay, I see it as a way of exploring a different culture then mine and get to know the local customs. I have actually made really good friends thanks to couchsurfing.

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      Yes, likewise! Lifelong friends!

  • Thaks for the hard work on behalf of many like me. Everybody knows Couchsurfing but I did not know there are so many other sites in different countries. The best way is to stumble on nice people and get invited as a guest but that requires some luck.

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      That’s truly the best option :D! But like you said, requires luck and you can’t rely on it most of the times.

  • The view is so beautiful! These are some great ideas for cheap accommodation.
    I’ve never heard about houseswapping , it sounds interesting. Volunteering and couchesurfing are best option.

  • I’ve been toying with the idea of getting into house sitting for a while now. It sounds like the ideal solution if you’re wanting to stay in one place for longer without breaking the bank. I’ve tried couch surfing in a few places and had both positive and negative experiences with it. I’d definitely do it again, but I think couch surfing is more for people looking for short term stays with locals.

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      Very true! However, there are some weekend house sitting gigs as well, so it’s good for short term, too if you like! Just no locals 🙂

  • Wow, awesome blog layout! How long have you been blogging caadkeaeegkdkege

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      Thank you! For 1.5 years now 🙂

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