Accommodation is often one of the biggest costs of travelling. If you’re an avid globetrotter, you may already know some of the tricks for saving money on accommodation such as sticking to hostels or relying on AirBnB. But what about free accommodation? Is it really possible to travel without having to pay for accomodation at all?
Well, yes, it is possible. You do however need to be prepared to sacrifice quite a few home comforts. We’re talking about truly rugged travelling. Below are just 5 ways to rest your head at night for free when travelling.
If you’ve got a car already and are planning a roadtrip, car camping could be a free accommodation option to consider that is certain to save you a lot of money on motels. This involves simply sleeping in your car.
Those who have tried sleeping in a car before may know that it can be quite uncomfortable. It depends a lot on the type of vehicle you have and how you choose to sleep. Bigger cars tend to obviously be the best option – don’t try to go car camping in a tiny car.
There are several ways to go car camping:
- The most basic option is to lay back one of the front seats as far as it will go and sleep here. This can be quite uncomfortable for many people, although adding lots of pillows across the seat can drastically improve things.
- If you’ve got an estate vehicle or a minivan, you may be able to lay down the back seats and sleep in the boot of the car. This does mean keeping the back of the car clear of luggage (having a roofbox could be a way to get around this).
- There’s a literal form of ‘car camping’ that involves pitching up a tent on the roof of your car.
- There’s also the option to sleep in a caravan or camper van. This is definitely the most luxurious option. Of course, if you don’t already own a caravan or camper van, acquiring one won’t be cheap (although in the long run it will pay off).
Make sure to bring some pillows and a duvet to make things more cosy. A windshield cover could also be worth bringing to block out light and provide some privacy. Try to avoid running the heating or air con at night so that you don’t drain your battery.
When choosing where to park up, consider safe and secure places with access to food and toilets such as service station car parks and supermarket car parks. Car camping can be illegal in some places – look out for signs before parking up somewhere for the night.
Wild camping involves camping out in the wild instead of staying at a campsite. You won’t have to pay any campsite fees. However, it does mean sacrificing campsite amenities such as bathroom facilities, wi-fi and bins.
This style of accommodation is as rugged as it gets. It can however give you the freedom to explore some of the most remote locations on the planet without having to worry about finding a campsite or a hotel. You can also wake up to incredible views and feel closer to nature than ever.
A successful wild camping trip involves being prepared. On top of bringing a sturdy tent that you can easily carry on your back, it’s worth buying some extra camping gear like flashlights and portable chargers from sites like EcoGear FX. Make sure to pack enough food and water and pack lots of light clothes.
Before pitching up your tent, always make sure that the spot is comfortable, safe and legal. A few things to consider include:
- The conditions of the ground. It shouldn’t be too stony or boggy and there should be minimal sloping.
- You should never camp too close to a river, lake or the sea. The most common cause of death when wild camping is drowning because people don’t account for tide changes or flooding during the night.
- Wild camping is not legal in some places. While you can get away with it in most national parks, you should be careful of camping in forests and fields that may belong to a landowner (get permission first). Always look into your country’s wild camping laws first.
Travelling somewhere abroad and happen to know a friend or family member that lives there? Consider asking to sleep on their sofa for a couple nights.
This is one of the best ways to secure free accomodation. You may not even have to sleep on the sofa – they may have a guest bedroom.
Obviously, you don’t want to overstay your welcome by staying somewhere too long and you should try to give them enough warning in advance. It’s also important that you know and trust that person. Meeting strangers while you’re abroad and sleeping on their sofa is an option, but much like hitchhiking it has its risks. If someone insists that you sleep on their sofa and you don’t quite trust them, don’t do it.
Coaches, trains and planes can technically double-up as free accommodation. If you’re travelling somewhere through the night and you’re able to sleep on public transport, consider this option.
If you can’t sleep in a chair, you can opt for sleeper buses and sleeper trains, which have on-board beds. However, many of these charge extra for a bed, so it’s not really free accommodation.
Working abroad can be a form of travelling itself and a way to fully immerse yourself in the lifestyle of that country. Some workplaces such as hotels, campsites, cruise ships, catered chalets, farms and oil rigs offer free accommodation to employees. This is particularly the case with voluntary workplaces where you can offer work in return for a free bed.
This is something you’ll likely need to plan in advance. If you’re going to be working abroad, a working visa will likely be required so factor in the added cost of this.