20 May 2015

Five Ways to Live Abroad For Free

I’ve spent the last four months travelling through Australia and so far I haven’t paid for a single piece of accommodation. It’s so easy to now travel on a budget and essentially travel abroad for free. I’m not talking about someone sponsoring me to travel the world (if only…) I’m more or less talking about travelling and getting your accommodation, and sometimes food, for nothing! 
I’ve come across many different ways to do this and I can think of five easy ways you can travel on a budget and use your money for the fun things rather than an uncomfortable bed in a fourteen person dorm.

1. Couchsurfing

Probably the most heard of. Couchsurfing is a great way to stay at someone’s house for free and also meet some locals. If you aren’t familiar with couchsurfing, it’s basically a website where you search for a person in a selected city/town/area/blah blah and see if their couch is available for you to sleep on. I’ve used this site a number of times to stay in a place and sleep on someone’s couch, or sometimes have my own double bed in my own room. It’s all free, you don’t need to pay for the website or pay anything to your host. However, I do like to cook for them or take a small gift as a thanks. They get to meet new people, and then they can couchsurf in other countries as well, so you can return the favour but it’s not expected. The site allows you to narrow your searches, so you can pick age ranges, non-smokers, even similar interests as everyone has their own profile. You’re then allowed to reference a host after your stay, that way you can avoid the weirdos and it lets you know past surfers experiences. The expected stay can range from just one night to as many nights as your host lets you, but I assume this tends to be 3-4 nights maximum stay.

2. Helpx

I’ve used Helpx as my main accommodation around Australia and now I can’t imagine travelling without it! Helpx is another website (at a cost of around £15 per year) to search for places to work in a country in exchange for food and accommodation, all of which can be done on a tourist visa. The site is split into categories of farms/boats/accommodation/other/homestay. I tend to pick homestays as it means you stay with a family. So far, I’ve stayed with about six families and they have all been incredible! I’ve received my own large room, double bed and sometimes an en-suite and my own lounge room. The food has been fantastic, and if anything I’ve put on weight because they feed me so much. 

I’ve heard different Helpx experiences where some people are made to work eight hours a day, all week, but with my experience so far I’ve worked an average three hours a day, but usually a lot less, and I have ample time to explore the area that I’m staying in! With families I tend just to help out around the house, empty and load the dishwasher, do a load of laundry and maybe a bit of gardening, then I receive my accommodation and pretty much as much food as I want! Plus the families love to show their guests around so I’ve seen parts of Australia and family life that I never would have seen otherwise. The site, just like couchsurfing, works on references so you can also check out other helpers experiences. The length of stay can vary, some hosts generally say 1-2 weeks but some request 1-2 months, and some (not many) even say a few days. The site is fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough!

3. Wwoofing

I’ve never done Wwoofing, but from what I know it’s pretty similar to Helpx but the emphasis is more on farm work and I believe the length of stay is generally longer. Wwoofing stands for Worldwide Work On Organic Farms. The registration is around £50 per year and you receive a book with all the woofing hosts in your selected country.

4. House-sitting

I’ve never tried house sitting so I can’t say too much but from what I gather, you look after someone’s house whilst they are away. This could involve doing for a few things for them such as watering their plants or looking after their pets. You get free accommodation as part of the agreement, but you have to supply your own food.

5. Au Pair

This is generally a little bit different than the rest of my ways to live abroad for free as au pair work is generally a job, however, it allows you to live in a place without paying for your accommodation and food. I was an au pair in France for just over five months and I earned €100 per week for a few hours of work a day. I won’t go into too much detail about my experience, as there is a whole separate post for that. But basically, you live with a family, look after their kids and you generally get your own bedroom, and sometimes bathroom/lounge area, and all of your food. You act like a member of the family but with a bit of work on top. Au pair experiences tend to take up the longest time out of everything I have mentioned, so it’s unlikely to just be an au pair for one month, but it can happen.

So to cut a long post short, there is no excuse to not having enough money to travel. Obviously, you have to pay for your flights, activities and getting around each place but without paying for accommodation, and sometimes your food, your money can be stretched so much further! Plus you get to see parts of the country, with locals, and they tend to know all of the best spots.

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