The Ultimate Guide To Travel The World For Free (Almost)

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Traveling the world does not have to cost an absolute fortune.

There is a whole world of opportunity available to those who would like to live and experience life in a new country. Whether it is for 2 weeks or six months, there are choices in almost every country for you to live and enjoy the place for free. This is why I decided to come up with the Ultimate Guide To Travel The World For Free (Almost). 

I say almost due to the transport costs and the modest fee to join one of these websites. Most of us who set off to travel the world will cut our trip short due to a lack of funds, or end up having to work along the way. I spent my time in Australia working in a construction job and when we went to New Zealand, I had a variety of jobs in both catering and construction. If you are looking to have a great experience without much of a budget, then I recommend you read on.

I spent my time in Australia working in a construction job and when we went to New Zealand, I had a variety of jobs in both catering and construction. If you are looking to have a great experience without much of a budget, then I recommend you read on.

I have spent countless hours browsing through some of the sites I am going to mention, and it always amazes me when I am talking to people who are traveling or would like to travel, but they have never heard of these. The internet has changed the way in which we travel drastically. The whole world is now connected from rural Peru to the Himalayas and all the way around the Mediterranean, there are people who would like a bit of help in exchange for your room and board. The excuses of ‘I don’t have enough money’ or ‘where could I go’ just don’t cut it anymore!… The world is your

The internet has changed the way in which we travel drastically. The whole world is now connected from rural Peru to the Himalayas and all the way around the Mediterranean, there are people who would like a bit of help in exchange for your room and board. The world is your

The world is your oyster if you choose it to be that way.

Let’s Address the biggest cost in traveling first.

Transport

Transport is the main culprit to emptying my bank account and it is the same for many world nomads. Flights, trains, busses and general getting around accumulate the highest costs involved in most adventures. Alas, once the major flight is paid for, you can travel around for a very long time in one place without spending much money. Europe could take a hold of a person for years with the small geographical size (compared to Australia or Canada) and the ease of getting around via hitchhiking, bus or Ryanair flights, as these are pretty cheap. The only issue is visas, but I am writing this from a Irish perspective so Europe is a free-for-all for me, thankfully.

Alas, once the major flight is paid for, you can travel around for a very long time in one place without spending much money if you are prepared to make some compromises. Europe could take a hold of a person for years with the small geographical size (compared to Australia or Canada) and the ease of getting around via hitchhiking, bus or Ryanair flights, as these are pretty cheap. The only issue is visas, but I am writing this from

Europe could take a hold of a person for years with the small geographical size (compared to Australia or Canada) and the ease of getting around via hitchhiking, bus or Ryanair flights, as these are pretty cheap. The only issue is visas, but I am writing this from a Irish perspective so Europe is a free-for-all for me, thankfully.

I fully respect the fact that you need some money to travel, but the truth is that you might not need as much as you think.

There are opportunities out there for everybody to work a few hours per day, in almost every country in the world, in exchange for food and somewhere to sleep. I have managed to run out of money in New York, Spain and almost again in Thailand… Did it stop me? Not a chance. There is always another opportunity around the corner. Life will keep throwing you a line if you continue to look for it.

Did it stop me? No, but it forced me to become resourceful and pro-active about finding a solution.

There is always another opportunity around the corner.

Work… (You Don’t Always Need A Job)

We all need to replenish our travel funds at some stage and finding a job becomes part and parcel with traveling (unless you are rocking a 10k ‘worry about it later card’). Depending on where you are, it may be easy to find work or incredibly difficult and not feasible due to low wages. So how do you spend a few months in a country without resorting to either blowing your budget, or working for pennies? Paying for somewhere to stay and feeding yourself is what is considered the ‘cost of living’ while traveling.

Depending on where you are, it may be easy to find work or incredibly difficult and not feasible due to low wages. How do you spend a few months in a country without resorting to either blowing your budget or working for pennies?        

Just as you exchange your time for a wage in a ‘real job’, you can do the same for food, accommodation and experiences with certain websites. I am not affiliated with any of these guys, but I am a paying member of three (HelpX, Workaway & MindMyHouse).

Tropical Nomad Digger
Digger Snap

 

HelpX vs Workaway – If you only have €20 to spare..

I decided to do a short comparison of these two websites due to the similarity in respect to what they do and offer travelers. I do like both websites very much, but if I only had €20 to spare, which one would I pick? Based on my own experiences with these websites I am going to say that I find Workaway the better of the two. Why?

  • It is more recent and up-to-date which makes it slightly more appealing than HelpX. The hosts are all new and have pictures of their property and themselves. I think if a host has not updated their profile in 6 months, they should be removed or hidden until they do an update. I have spent a good bit of time contacting hosts and looking at profiles of people who were not logged in in over 8 months on HelpX. (I mentioned this in an email to HelpX and they responded saying that they are looking into fixing this issue, which showed good customer service)
  • Social Media.. I just checked and Workaway have a profile on Twitter and Facebook account, where HelpX only have a group page on Facebook and no Twitter account (even though lots of people mention them – the traffic would drive itself so I don’t know why they are ignoring social media!?). The ability for travelers to connect and share experiences on common social media channels is hugely beneficial. This allows Workaway to create a community for its users.
  • Design.. HelpX has not changed its design in the last 2 1/2 years. The homepage is  plain and unattractive. Workaway is shiny, new and socially active. It is the new kid on the block with a cool presence, bright yellow buttons and an intro video on the homepage.
  • Reviews – Hosts have a score out of 100 which makes it easy to see what other thought of their stay. Both have reviews, but this gives a quick indication of what to expect at a glance.
  • HelpX hosts in Spain
    HelpX Hosts in Spain

Work A Few Hours For Food & Accommodation

HelpX

helpx host countries

Cost: €20 for 2 years access

This is the first websites of this kind that I came across. I remember sitting in my room in Australia sieving through all of the potential candidates for places to stay on my future travels. There were boats in Fiji, farms in New Zealand, hostels in Thailand, B&B’s in Italy, Ranches in California, orphanages in Nepal, sail boats in the Caribbean, turtle farms in Costa Rica… I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Although the possibility to travel to these places had crossed my mind,

There were boats in Fiji, farms in New Zealand, hostels in Thailand, B&B’s in Italy, Ranches in California, orphanages in Nepal, sail boats in the Caribbean, turtle farms in Costa Rica…

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Although the possibility to travel to these places had crossed my mind, I never thought that there could be such a global network of places to stay and live for FREE. I called home to Ireland and said to my mother “I’ve found a website that offers food and accommodation, I might never be home again!”… (That didn’t happen of course, but this was the excitement I had when I found this website in 2011)..

To the right is a glimpse of the countries featured in the ‘International’ section of the HelpX website. Since I joined over two years ago the numbers have increased dramatically. The search box on the homepage allows you to filter what sort of experience you would like to get. The experience will vary from host to host and New Zealand remains one of the best countries to partake in the HelpX exchange, due to the friendliness of the people and how common it has become for people to use this service. Horses come up a lot in listings so if you have experience with horses, you will have many different opportunities in a wide variety of countries.

The experience will vary from host to host and New Zealand remains one of the best countries to partake in the HelpX exchange, due to the friendliness of the people and how common it has become for people to use this service. Horses come up a lot in listings so if you have experience with horses, you will have many different opportunities in a wide variety of countries.

orses come up a lot in listings so if you have experience with horses, you will have many different opportunities in a wide variety of countries.

Top Countries to HelpX

I have been delving through the statistics to come up with the Top countries to HelpX based on the number of hosts available.

  New Zealand   2000+
France              1292
Canada             800+
Spain                 701

Ireland               521
Australia.. Well check out the image!

Australia helpx hosts

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 1.27.18 AM

From the Website:

“HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.

HelpX is provided primarily as a cultural exchange for working holiday makers who would like the opportunity during their travels abroad, to stay with local people and gain practical experience. In the typical arrangement, the helper works an average of 4 hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts”

Workaway

Cost: €20 for 2 years access

I only came across Workaway in the last month and signed up straight away. Even if you are only considering traveling, I think you should pay the few euros to have access to the world of opportunity that is out there. I will happily browse and save hosts to my favorites for future reference when we head off again in a few months.

It creates a feeling of adventure and excitement looking at all the places you can be and all the different things you can do for free to help travel the world!

workaway stats

From the website:

“A few hours honest help per day in exchange for food and accommodation and an opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community, with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings.”

This is a shot to show that we are actually members, and that there are 7431 opportunities for you to stay in a new country and live for free in exchange for a few hours work per day

WOOFING – Organic Farming

Cost: €20 for 1 years access 

Ok, so I think almost everybody has heard of Woofing by now!? It is not chasing a dog around barking but in fact a chance to live and work on an organic farm, to see how the sustainable lifestyle works and to help out in exchange for you board. For the most part, it will be physical, laborious outdoor work. You will be dirty and may spawn dreadlocks or a new love for trees as a result of the experience. People have been known to spontaneously burst into dance in the rain, as a celebration for its joyous, life-giving nutrients due to WOOFING experiences..

For the most part, it will be physical, laborious outdoor work. The accommodation can sometimes be a tent, caravan or old farmouse. This will vary from host to host.

From the website:

WWOOF organizations connect people who want to live and learn on organic farms and smallholdings with people who are looking for volunteer help. 

Usually you live with your host and are expected to join in and cooperate with the day to day activities. In most countries the exchange is based on 4-6 hours help-fair exchange for a full day’s food and accommodation.”

WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. Volunteers give hands on help in return.

Chiang Mai Cookery School

Free Couch

Cost: Free – It’s all about the Karma..

Couchsurfing currently has 100,000 cities on the database with hosts who are willing to give you a couch for the night.. There is no cost, this is a completely free option for traveling. How is it free? With 1 million verified Couchsurfers around the world and a €19 fee to verify identity for hosts, Couchsurfing has funded itself nicely and made 19 Million in the process, not including advertising revenue. So this is great news for travelers! I have never used this service, but maintain a profile and keep it up to date so I can host when possible. The idea is great, but I have heard stories of not so great experiences. Be diligent and always check reviews, contact not only the host, but the people who stayed there also.

How is it free? With 1 million verified Couchsurfers around the world and a €19 fee to verify identity for hosts, Couchsurfing has funded itself nicely and made 19 Million in the process, not including advertising revenue. So this is great news for travelers! I have never used this service, but maintain a profile and keep it up to date so I can host when possible. The idea is great, but I have heard stories of not so great experiences. Be diligent and always check reviews, contact not only the host, but the people who stayed there also.

Fancy Some Meditation?

Cost: Free – It’s all about the Karma.. Runs on donation so it is whatever you can spare..

This may seem like a strange addition to the list but after trying out a short meditation retreat in Chiang Mai, I think that opportunities for a free 10 day stay in Byron Bay or an Ashram in India sound appealing? Vipassana Meditation retreats offer a chance to explore ancient meditation techniques by experienced teachers. These centers run by donation only, so you would be expected to hand over something at the end, but it can be a little or as much as you want. I think if you are looking for a unique experience in a foreign country this could be it!

From the Website:

The technique of Vipassana Meditation is taught at ten-day residential courses during which participants learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results. There are no charges for the courses – not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. All expenses are met by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to also benefit. There are numerous Centers in India and elsewhere in Asia/Pacific; ten Centers in North America; three Centers in Latin America; eight Centers in Europe; seven Centers in Australia/New Zealand; one Center in the Middle East and one Center in Africa.

meditation retreat chiang mai

Housesitting

Cost: Varies depending on Website

This is an up and coming form of travel and becoming very popular amongst bloggers especially. The general idea is that you mind someones house while they are away and you take care of the property, keep it clean and maintained in return for free board. This could be for 3 days or 6months, it all depends on which housesitting profile you come across! Food is usually not included with housesitting opportunities and from what I can see, it is rather difficult to get started. You need reviews before hosts will have you and it is harder for younger members to break the ice and be seen as trustworthy. The best thing to do here would be to try and find a local short stay to get your first reviews and go from there. Animals play a major role in the housesitting business and most listings will require you to mind anything from one cat to a whole family of dogs, cats, pigs and horses!

If you think this sounds like a good idea the lowest fee out of the housesitting websites is Mindmyhouse. They have options throughout the world but the main areas are Europe and North America.

Who Rules The Housesitting Game?

TrustedHousesitters are the main players in the housesitting game. With a $60 annual fee, they boast the largest site of its kind on the web, and also have the fastest growing.. It’s main opportunities are in the UK and Europe, but is also gaining popularity in Australia and North America.

Housecarers  have a $55 annual fee with lots of good house-sits in Australia, New Zealand and North America. The only downside is their poor website structure that is difficult to navigate.

Conclusion

So that rounds up this Ultimate Guide To Travel The World For Free (Almost) post.. I hope this gives you the information you need to go and have the adventure of your dreams and possibly opens up a world of opportunity to those who may not have heard of some of these websites. You can manage a huge travel experience with minimal expense if you keep an open mind and are willing to get out of your comfort zone. Happy travels!

adam profile 4

10 COMMENTS

  1. Hopefully some people will read this Adam and take your lead. I meet so many people who say they can’t afford to travel. The bottom line is, as you and I know, ANYONE can travel!! Safe onward journey to your next stop. Jonny

  2. WOOFING – Organic Hippy Tree Loving Stuff?

    You’re representation of wwoof’ing is really inaccurate and the price varies depending the country so “20 euro” is not always the case.

    Although wwoof is supposed to be all organic farms, there are plenty of homesteads on there. Not all of it was “physical, laborious outdoor work.” I’ve stayed at places where I only worked about two hours a day, making tea and fruit leather. I herded goats for up to eight hours a day. The most wonderful wwoof’ing experience I’ve had was on top of a hill in Oregon, maintaining a garden for four hours a day with the rest of day off to explore, read, write, etc. From all the places I’ve stayed, there were only three real organic farms, and the hosts and co workers were totally normal.

    While your intention may not have been to poke fun, some people may not be into ‘the hippie thing’ and therefor forfeit on the whole wwoof’ing thing. I’d hate for people to miss out on this great thing just because they read your blog post.

    WWOOF has been an amazing thing for me that changed my outlook on food. It’s been great to see where your food comes from, to go into the field and harvest your own lunch. It’s been very educational since I now learned all about GMO and what it means to eat organic. Please consider changing your paragraph on wwoof’ing. It’s funny, but it’s not entirely true.
    Alysia recently posted…Two days in ParisMy Profile

    • Hi Alysia,
      My intention was a joke and to make fun of Woofing, I did not mean to offend. I highly value the experience offered and try to shop organic as possible when I can. I just feel like WOOFING is the older more experienced of the opportunities available for travelers, so could take a cheeky hit! WWOOF is “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms”… So most of the time you should expect to be put on an organic farm. I would think Workaway or Helpx would have far more homestay options.

      I’ve met many organic farmers (even building a website for one here in Ireland at the minute in exchange for produce), and I can safely say that MOST are pretty hippy 🙂 I can only speak from experience… Peace and Love!

    • Hey Ryan,
      I am glad that this has helped you out. There are so many cool opportunities to work and live in Europe via these websites for a young, single man like yourself! It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but spend a good day or two sieving through and you will bookmark a great bunch of prospective hosts. Also, check twitter for the #workaway and you can see what other people are doing and where they have been. There is no need to freak out – (unless you run out of visas) – but those sites should keep you feed and watered for your time in Europe!

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