While travelling on a budget, it can sometimes be hard to maximise your trip time without paying a whole heap of money for accommodation. It can oftentimes be the big determining factor on where you go and for how long. Going over past travel budgets, I have found that accommodation is probably the single most hefty necessary expense that one incurs while travelling abroad.
But is that expense really necessary? Well, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Just like paying rent while at home, unfortunately you just have to accept that accommodation will be ever so often lightening your load.
Or will it? I said earlier that the housing expense is only sometimes unavoidable. Other times you will not have to pay altogether. Before you close this window and write me off as a nutter, please take notice: It is possible to travel and not pay for accommodation! The more you do your homework and pre-planning, the greater your chances are for saving money on your trip. I like to make a good rule of thumb to aim for 50% of my nights sleeping on my travels will not cost a dime. Which means my trips can be extended significantly longer than someone with a similar budget who is paying every night for the room.
Let me show you a few ways of achieving this:
Couchsurfing.org – Couch surfing is one of those sites that goes far beyond the pages and domains of the network. It’s a network that relies on real, face-to-face interactions, and the more you put into it, the more that you will get out of it. It is a social community of like-minded travellers, all set on helping each other out and enriching the travel experience by staying with locals.
It comes with it’s own ebay-style rating system, which isn’t perfect (nothing in life is), but it goes a long way in helping to encrust a bit of trustworthiness in strangers you might potentially be staying the night with.
The idea is simple: You search for places that you want to visit, and if there are people with available couches in your area, you can view their profile and message them to see if it would be a good fit. Seem easy? That’s because it is! I’ve had great success as a host and a surfer, with nothing but good things to say about this site. But as always, use caution and use at your own risk!
WWOOF‘ing – Short for “Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms”, WWOOF’ing is a great way to travel for cheap, and learn a thing or two about organic farming. For a modest membership fee (country specific but usually in the $40 range), members receive a guide book filled with all the nearby farms participating in the program. The rest is up to you. The general expectation is 4 hours of work per day in exchange for food and accommodation.
I have to warn people about one bad experience – the Little Whanganui Hotel in New Zealand. They served us canned spaghetti (hardly organic) and had us cleaning old dirty motel rooms (hardly organic farming). They were rude and were taking advantage of us. Every other experience has been excellent, so please do your research before going, and trust your gut!
This can be another great way to meet people, save some money, and get plugged into the traveller circuit. Most hostels offer general work in exchange for free accommodation. You just have to ask the desk, and not be a complete creeper. I’ve stayed at some places for months doing this, and having some great entertaining scenarios happen along the way. But that is a different story altogether…..
So there are a few options to save you money. What else can you think of? Please let us know!