Accommodation is often the biggest expense when you travel, especially if you are travelling over an extended period. However, if you’re flexible and a little bit adventurous, there are ways of getting free accommodation around the world.
Food and board in Spain or Germany – Diverbo (formerly known as Pueblo Ingles).
If you are a native speaker of English, you can volunteer with Diverbo for a full week. You don’t teach English – you just have to speak to Spaniards or Germans who are there to practise English. In return, you will get to stay in a hotel or village that’s entirely populated by the Diverbo programme. This is what Diverbo says on their site:
‘Thousands of native English-speakers (or “Anglos” as we refer to them), have come from around the globe to immerse Spanish/German professionals in authentic English conversation.
Our volunteers do not have to teach English in a traditional format; they just have to bring a positive attitude, a passion for conversation and an interest in learning about people from different countries and cultures.’
I’ve done Diverbo twice so I’m speaking from my own experience which was largely positive.You will get very nice four star accommodation and excellent food – three meals a day with wine at lunch and dinner! Every day and evening is highly structured and you will spend your time speaking English with your non-English partners and groups. You will never be stuck with the same partner so you’ll get to meet all kinds of people.
Free if you are an ‘anglo’ (native speaker of English).
High standard of food and accommodation.
Great fun meeting so many interesting people. You’ll make friends from around the world.
Really well organised, lots of activities and there’s usually a trip to a nearby city or attraction.
If you are already in Spain or Germany, you’ll spend little or nothing on this experience.
Some free time for siesta.
It’s not a rest or a break so don’t go if you are tired.
Only available in Spain and some of Germany.
You have to pay your own flight to Spain or Germany.
Shy people may find it a bit challenging but they are usually really glad they did it in the end.
It’s a bit intense as you won’t have much time to yourself.
Food and Board all over the world: Work Away
I haven’t done Work Away but I’ve heard about it from Aussies and Americans. You get food and board in exchange for your help with certain chores or skilled work. E.g. working in stables, farms, cooking, housework, painting, carpentry, construction, gardening. Here’s what it says on the website:
‘Workawayers typically volunteer 4-5 hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation, with visits lasting anywhere from a few days to a few months.
Travel cheaply and stay for free, whilst making a difference to the communities you visit. Put your existing skills to good use, or try something new you‘d never normally get to do and pick up new skills along the way.’
You’ll get to stay in some amazing places for free.
Hosts are rated by previous guests/workers so this should help you to make a good choice.
It will be a very unique experience that will take you well away from the tourist trails.
It’s an adventure.
Could be a great opportunity for you to learn or improve a language in the host country.
It could be open to exploitation, especially if you are young. You need to make very clear what you are prepared to do and what you expect in return before you get there. For instance, if you are not prepared to mind children, state this at the beginning.
If it doesn’t work out you could find yourself stranded so have an exit strategy planned beforehand. https://www.workaway.info/
If you join this site – and others like it – you get to mind pets in someone’s home while they are away.
Free accommodation all over the world.
Can be a break from constant travelling or tourism and will give you time to nestle down somewhere and get to know an area.
Great if you are an animal lover.
The membership plan may be a little expensive if you are on a very tight budget.
Your commitment is very important – you can’t just walk away if you don’t like the set-up or the pets.
Some pets may be more work than others. E.g. you may need to be very fit to walk big dogs for a few hours every day; there might be a lot of cleaning up involved.
If you are very young it might be difficult to find a house as owners may prefer mature sitters.
May not be able to find the location you want; some locations are isolated and you could need a car.
This is one I’m definitely trying out next year and I hope to do several swaps in one year. There are several sites which run home swaps throughout the world. You pay an annual membership fee so the more you use it the more value you get for your money. The range of countries and locations is incredible but you may not get an exact match with the country you want so you need to be somewhat open about where you’re going. You also need to feel comfortable with leaving strangers in your house but you’ll be staying in their house so the chances are they’ll be just as nervous about it as you. Be very clear about your boundaries from the beginning; people generally don’t mind rules or boundaries if you are clear about them before they book or arrange a swap.
Free accommodation and an incredible range of locations around the world.
As you’re saving money, you may get to travel more than you normally would.
An opportunity to stay in places that would be otherwise unaffordable.
An insight into local and ‘real’ life in a real home.
You get beyond the tourist experience because you’re not staying in a hotel. It’s adventurous!
You may not get the exact match you want. E.g. you want Paris but can’t find someone in Paris who wants to stay in your city.
It could be difficult to get a swap if you don’t live somewhere nice or in high demand with tourists.
There is a risk factor. You may not have the certainty that you would have with a hotel that’s had hundreds of reviews. The home may disappoint and perhaps it won’t match the standard of your home.
You are depending on the other party to honour their commitment. They could cancel at the last minute whereas a hotel wouldn’t cancel.
You have to get your home guest-ready and may have to spend some money on this.
None of the perks of a hotel e.g. room service, a bar, cleaners etc.
Despite the list of cons, I’m not put off and think it’s going to be a very interesting experience. Will keep you posted!
Some agencies are listed below: