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Stay in Hotels and Hostels for Free or Cheap

The following list of six tips can be use by travelers for finding free or reduced cost accommodation throughout their travels around the world. 1. Trade websites for free accommodation There are plenty of options for trading for a free bed in hotels and hostels. The follow are a few strategies that I know of: [...]

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The following list of six tips can be use by travelers for finding free or reduced cost accommodation throughout their travels around the world.

1. Trade websites for free accommodation

There are plenty of options for trading for a free bed in hotels and hostels. The follow are a few strategies that I know of:

Trade webpages for a bed-I helped set up, design, and field tested the Traveling Webmasters program at Hobohideout.com, and it works magnificently. It is basically a very straight forward and free program for travelers to trade webpages to hotels and hostels for free accommodation. The traveler easily loads photos and descriptions of the hotel/ hostel through the Hobohideout.com interface, and then publishes the site. The hotel website will then go into the Hobohideout.com database and will be immediately available for users to find and then go to the hotel.

In this deal, the traveler gets a free place to sleep for one to two weeks and the hotel gets a larger web presence through having a 20 page/ 60 photo English language site within the frame of a high traffic and popular hotel website.I have traveled through Central America and Eastern Europe testing this program out– it works great.

To set up these deals, just walk into a hotel, show them the Hobohideout.com

Traveling webmasters homepage
Webmasters FAQ

Trade work for a room-At various points in my travels I have traded work in hotels and hostels for room and/ or board. I usually work as a receptionist and tend to most guest related duties. Opportunities for trading work for a place to sleep abound — many hostels want native English speaking staff who they don’t have to pay — but these deals are often a real hit or miss endeavor. Though I have had a pretty decent success rate when trying to set these arrangements up.

Each time I set out in a city to find work in a hostel, I was always able to — even though I have had many doors slammed in my face. But, I generally know that if I try enough places some hostel would be willing to let me work there for a few hours a day for a fee bed.

The problems often come if the hostel wants you to work too much. It is my impression that working 60 hours a week is worth far more than a dorm bed, and, if I find myself in such a circumstance, I tend to travel on. Three or four hours a day in a hostel is a good trade for free accommodation.

Free accommodation is everywhere

2. Work a job that provides a room

There are plenty of jobs around the world which provide their employees with free places to stay. Hotels and hostels are just one place to look for this type of work, but be sure to look into contract employment. Basically, just about any job that requires you to travel will over free accommodation. When I work in archaeology, I do not pay for my room or food, the company I work for does.

Some examples of jobs that include free accommodation are as follows:

Farm work
Contract surveying
Circus, carnival, traveling shows
Pipeline work
Environmental inspections
Teaching English abroad
Oil rig work
Commercial fishing
Seasonal employment in the tourism industry

3. Use hospitality sites

The word has long been out on hospitality websites through which you can arrange to stay with a host in the place you are traveling for free. Some of the options of this are Couchsurfing.org, Hospitality Club, Global Freeloaders, Warm Showers etc. . .

A lot has been written about these hospitality websites, so I won’t dwell on the topic too long, but I feel this piece would be incomplete without a mention of them. They are also probably the easiest and most reliable way that I have found to get a free accommodation, and they are also a direct way to make friends with the people who live where you are traveling.

4. Sleep in airports, bus stations, train stations

I was hitchhiking in Japan when I found myself stuck out in the rain one night in the countryside. I walked up to a monastery and requested accommodation, the monks turned me down. I haggled with them a little — there was no place else to go and it was cold. Finally, and old monk stepped forward and introduced me to the, “station hotel.” He really called it this in English, and then proceeded to tell me that I could just walk down the hill and stay in the little cabin reserved for waiting train passengers for the night.

I grabbed a can of beer on my walk down the hill, entered the little railway hut, and found myself with free accommodation. I would repeat this routine throughout my travels hitchhiking through Japan, and many other countries.

The benefits/ risks of finding free accommodation in transportation hubs must be measured though. Sometimes this is secure enough to sleep in a station, often times it is not. The pedestrian traffic in airports, bus, and train stations throughout the world varies by location and culture: sometimes stations are busy and relatively secure public places throughout the night, sometimes they are deserted and sketchy places. I usually only use the station hotel when there seems to be minimal risk involved in doing so or when other pressures — such as weather or lack of other accommodation options — show the station hotel to be the best option. Generally, if stuck outside for the night, I tend to go for camping on the sly.

5. Camping on the Sly

Make your own free accommodation. If you carry your home on your back, you can live anywhere. Camping on the sly means finding a place to sleep outside for free, typically outside of campgrounds, typically in secret. There are many skills and tactics for camping on the sly, and they are best learned quick for any traveler wanting to ride a bicycle, hitchhike, or walk long distances in this world — as, when you are in the countryside booting your own transportation, night often catches you far away from any hotels. Camping on the sly is also a good way to save travel funds in expensive countries, but the usage of this travel tactic diminishes greatly where hotels and hostels are cheap.

How to camp on the sly

6. Homeless shelters

I would rather walk up smug to the doorstep of a homeless shelter than shell out $50 for a room. It is a good thing that there are often facilities for people without accommodation means in many of the more expensive countries in the world. In Western Europe, the public tourist offices often have printouts of the addresses of local homeless shelters and soup kitchens available for penniless travelers to use as a resource to find shelter and get a free meal. This is another way of getting around Europe on a bare bones budget.

There are also many other ways of finding free accommodation: be creative, take advantage of all situations, keep your head up. The world is made for traveling, there are opportunities everywhere that will allow you to move through the world better and cheaper.


Filed under: Accommodation

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

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