How to find free and/or cheap accommodation in any major city

Usually when people give advice on finding free accommodation, they’ll almost always mention the Couch Surfing website, or other similar services. They’ll also mention the work for accommodation that organisations such as WWOOF can help you arrange on as farm hands or other similar agricultural type jobs. These are both very good option when looking for free accommodation, but I wanted to look further for alternatives. What if you can’t find a host in your chosen city, or you don’t want to be based somewhere rural? There are a number of reasons why either of these two options may not be applicable to you at certain points during your travels, but you may still need or want to find free or very cheap forms of short term accommodation, so I thought I’d share some options that I’ve came across on my travels with you.

1. The Airport

City airports as a general rule are open 24/7, almost or everyday of the year unless you are in a country with a particularly low population such as Greenland etc. If you have a plane to catch first thing in the morning, say around 6am, but you don’t want to pay for that night’s accommodation at your hostel, then why not just sleep in the airport? I’m not saying it’s the most comfortable place to sleep, but if you are faced with paying £20 for one night’s stay at a hostel in Paris for instance, where prices are particularly high for accommodation, then why not save yourself some money and just deal with a bit of discomfort.

You can also help to make your night in an airport more comfortable by taking a sleeping bag with you and a pillow, as well as taking some snack food and bottled water bought out the supermarket before hand to save you some money on airport food or vending machines. Even if you find it hard to sleep in the airport itself, you may be able to get free or cheap wifi depending upon which airport you are in. For instance, Singapore Airport, which is one of the main places people use as a stop over for trips from Europe to Australia/New Zealand offer free wifi and internet via computers at their airport. Alternatively, bring a book, kindle, magazines etc, and whittle away your time knowing you have saved yourself some money and can sleep on the plane!

2. All night culture

For cities with an all night 24/7 culture such as London or New York, you can often save yourself some money by simply just staying up and going to all night cinema’s, pub’s, club’s etc. Now this will inevitably cost you some money, but how much is really up to you. For instance, if you are in a 24/7 bar, then you will have to buy at least one drink upon entry, as usually people who don’t buya drink in these places are asked to leave by the staff. That doesn’t mean however that you can’t just buy the cheapest drink in there and sip on that bad boy until the sun comes in! Usually what I’ll do it just buy a pint. Depending on which city you are in, a pint of beer or cider will usually cost you anything between 3 – 5.50 GBP. If it’s going to cost you 15 – 25 GBP for one night’s accommodation in a hostel or budget hotel then you’ll have made a bit of a saving. If you plan on buying 2 or 3 drinks though, or you can get a deal on a hostel for the night then there’s really no point.

Same goes for the cinema. It really just depends on ticket prices to work out whether or not it’s worth your while, but if you were going to watch that particular film anyway then it may work out more in your favour.

Things to watch out for when indulging in 24/7 culture instead of booking accommodation are a) thinking about what you are going to do with your luggage and whether or not it’s practical for you to take it all in with you, and b) if you’re staying out drinking all night then are you able to make it ok to where ever you are going first thing in the morning with both you and your luggage intact?

3. Network!

Sounds bad, but sometimes it pays to make friends with people from various different countries and cities. There’s plenty of times on my most recent ventures where my past travels have been great in that many of the friends I met from previous ventures are now back home and I can now go visit them in their home countries! It doubles really well as I can meet up with friends I’ve not seen in a long time, and have fun spending time with them, but also get some free accommodation at the same time!

Of course, with all friends that I stay with, they are always welcome to crash at my place wherever in the world I may be at that time, and it’s important to repay the favour I think because you are friends after all, and if you just use someone for free accommodation then they’ll soon click onto what you are doing and the facility will no longer be there. That being said, I have been guilty in the past a few times of deliberately adding people on facebook I’ve not known long because they come from some remote island somewhere and I’m thinking ahead for if I would ever go there and need a place to crash but don’t know anybody else! It’s worked out for me in the past a few times, so networking is important when it comes to free accommodation, but it’s important not to outstay your welcome.

The one thing I would recommend doing if you do crash with friends around the world, is to cook and/or buy them dinner while you are there. I usually buy them dinner personally. If you’ve tasted my cooking you’ll know why. If you’re really on a budget though it’s fairly cheap and easy to just buy some basic ingredients out the supermarket and cook them in house.

– None of the above options are things that I would recommend for any more than staying one night If you’re staying with friends then you may be able to stay for a week or so without out staying your welcome, but certainly for Airports and 24/7 culture then I would always advise only to do it for a night, or at max two nights in a row, but even then it would be hard. Still, if you really can’t find any accommodation last minute, or everything is just too expensive and you’re only staying a night, then these could be alternatives to traditional forms of accommodation.


3 Responses to “How to find free and/or cheap accommodation in any major city”

  1. Katherina says:

    Don’t forget couchsurfing!! 😉

  2. Bohol Cross says:

    Haha… I’ll do anything to save money. Sleeping in the airport is no problem at all, as long as its just for one night. And I do have lots of online friends from different countries and I don’t add them as friends just for the sake of free accommodation but of course you gave me and idea of how to have a free accommodation through your friends and at the same time to have fun with them. Luckily, I’m a person that would return favor no matter how big it is. I love reading your post.

  3. Interesting! I actually considered just staying out all night on my recent trip, since I had to leave for the airport at 4 a.m., but I was traveling with my husband, and he had to go straight to work from the airport the next morning, so we didn’t go with that option.


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