How to get free accommodation that’s not Couch Surfing or WWOOFing

Every time I read a blog post somewhere about free accommodation, it almost always mention Couch Surfing, or WWOOFing. Both are fantastic services, but I sometimes feel like – haven’t we already heard of these services already? Also, what if neither of these options quite suit your style of travel? Or maybe they do, but you just can’t find somewhere when or where you want to be based? Sometimes they can seem like the only option for free accommodation, but that’s not the case at all.

Workaway

By chance I happened to bump in David, the founder of Workaway.info on my last few days in Spain before I headed home for Christmas. For some reason I had not come across Workaway in the past, despite it being quite a popular service already. I am therefore really glad I bumped into David on that day, because it helped me discover what is one of the best services for finding work in exchange for accommodation in my opinion.

Like WWOOFing you’ll find a lot of farming or agricultural style volunteer posts available, but what I liked most about this was that there was more variety than WWOOFing had. I found a lot of hostel jobs available, teaching jobs, language exchange too. You’ll also find that many of the positions offer free food, as well as language courses, or free city tours to name some extras. You could find yourself doing anything from working in an eco lodge, to doing a bit of cleaning in exchange for living with a host family, or running pub crawls at a hostel. The site also covers a huge variety of destinations too, with everything from Europe, Asia, to South America too, amongst others.

For someone like me who doesn’t really like the idea of working on a farm (sounds a bit too much like hard work for me 😉 ), had I been in the position where I was looking for a work exchange, I would most definitely have liked the variety of the work available on workaway.info that you may not find on some other sites. However, they do also have all the regular fruit picking kind of stuff too – so you have the best of both worlds.

It costs 22 Euros to sign up to Workaway.info. However, this allows you to use the site in it’s entirety, i.e. respond to hosts, for 2 years. You can also save a bit of money if you have a friend who wants to sign up too. For 2 people it only costs 29 Euros for 2 years (so 14.50 Euros each).

Review hostels & hotels

For any bloggers reading this, something I do regularly is review hostels & hotels in exchange for free accommodation. I’ll either put the review up here on RunawayJane.com, or more often than not on some of my other travel sites. Alternatively, I’ll offer some form of advertising instead, depending on whether it is suitable, and if I feel that the hostel or hotel is reputable, i.e. I won’t advertise anyone I think offers an overall bad service.

I get approached by hostels quite a lot to do reviews, but usually the one’s I take up are the hostels or hotels I have contacted myself, because they fit into where I’m going on my itinerary. There are many hostels & hotels I would love to take up the offers of, but they may be based in a country far away from where I am at the time of contact, and/or that I don’t plan on going to in the next 6 months.

If this is something you’re interested in, but are not sure how to pitch or where to start, I talk about how to do this in my new book – How to travel the world for free (using your blog). It gives you a step by step process of how I do it, and how you can do it too.

Use Twitter

If you use twitter regularly, and follow a lot of travellers, travel bloggers, or people involved or interested in travel, then you’ll probably find you have a network of people based in countries all over the world. Although I have never done this personally, I do know people who arrange to stay with their twitter travel buddies whenever they arrive into their city for the first time. I guess it’s kind of the same as Couch Surfing in a way, except you’re also getting the chance to put a face to the name of someone you’ve been conversing with on twitter for some time.

The only thing to be aware of with this method is that you don’t have the verification process that say Couch Surfing would have, so what I’d suggest is meeting for a beer or coffee somewhere in a crowded place first, and ideally going along with another friend if you can. That being said, if you’re meeting a blogger for instance, who has been blogging, posting pictures & video’s for several months or years beforehand, then I guess there is a little bit of verification in that, but you have to use your own judgement on things, and whether or not you feel secure. If you don’t, then arrange something else, and don’t go.

Work on Cruise Ships

If you want to earn a wage as well as receiving free accommodation, albeit on board a ship, then working on a cruise ship could be an option. You’d be amazed at the variety of jobs on board cruise ships. They need everything from graphic designers, to doctors, to entertainers, receptionists, bar staff, cleaners, and more. The wages can be pretty good, and with next to no expenses, including your free accommodation, you’ll find you can probably save a lot of cash. One of my friends worked on a cruise ship for 6 months and managed to save $10,000 so it’s definitely worth considering!

Call in some favours

The more you travel, the more you meet people from a variety of destinations around the world. I would never become friends with someone just because they live somewhere I’d like to visit, but a great benefit of having friends who do travel, or who live in far away destinations, is that you can call upon them to crash on their couch from time to time, and of course return the favour when they come to your hometown too.

Staying with friends can either be the best form of free accommodation or the worst. In my experience I’ve only had good times when staying with friends. Even with friends of friends, I’ve had great experiences. I remember crashing at my friend Mathieu’s flat in Paris for 3 nights once. At the time he was more a friend of one of my old flatmates from Edinburgh, but after then he became a friend of mine too, so that was pretty cool.

I have heard of some friends who have done similar to me, and not enjoyed their time at all. For instance, a friend of mine went to Greenland and stayed with a friend of hers for 6 weeks. By the end of it they were both sick of each other, but I suppose 6 weeks is a really long time. For me, I think it’s best to stay just a couple days, or a week at most. You don’t want to overstay your welcome, but I suppose in her case she was probably thinking “when am I ever going to come to Greenland again?”, so I can understand why she would want to stay there that long.

You also have to appreciate that people have lives to lead. They may be working during the day, or tired at night, so don’t expect to be shown around. Plan to do things on your own, and if they’re around to share some memories then great! Just don’t expect it. Also, it’s always nice to either cook/buy them dinner some nights, and buy them some beers.

– Couch Surfing and WWOOFing are fantastic services, and this post is in no way meant to criticise them. I just sometimes feel that every blog post I read on free accommodation mentions them, or site’s which are basically a carbon copy. Hopefully this provides you with some more free accommodation options you may not have thought of before! 🙂

6 Responses to “How to get free accommodation that’s not Couch Surfing or WWOOFing”

  1. Great article here! Never heard of Workaway, but will definitely look into it.

  2. Rahul says:

    It will be great help cutting down my expenses….most of these advice are reasonable and practical… I am certainly gonna try it now….

  3. Sarah Stowell says:

    Hi Jane

    Great info, but that text color on the patterned background is almost impossible to read!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] practical note, Runaway Jane was giving us the lowdown on the many ingenious ways in which we could find a free bed for the night if the idea of staying in a hotel or hostel simply isn’t enough of a challenge, or equally, […]

  2. […] The majority of the opportunities are being given to travel bloggers who exchange their review and ability to promote the hotel in return for a free night’s stay. Runaway Jane, a blogger from Scotland, has written a little about the process. […]


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