Clocked enough annual leave days, or intend to quit your job and go traipsing through this wonderful planet for a couple of months? You’ll really want to read on. From volunteer exchange programmes to house-sitting, to absolutely free accommodation – check out these 6 online platforms that help you travel longer for less, and get a really authentic experience.
Work exchange programmes
If you like farming and sustainable ways of living…
Check out: World Wide Organisation for Organic Farming
Membership fee: Varies largely from country to country – can be as little as 9 Euros for two years in Estonia to AUD$70 for one year in Australia.
You’ll do four to six hours of farming-related work, five or six days a week, in exchange for accommodation and meals. There’s a huge variety of tasks, which depends on the type of farm you’re working on. You could be sowing seeds, chopping wood, harvesting, picking eggs, feeding livestock, making mud-bricks, interacting with school students and customers, cooking traditional foods, doing carpentry and construction, and lots more.
Hosts will often take WWOOF-ers out on their off days to explore parts of the country you wouldn’t normally find as an independent traveller! For us city folks, it’s a great learning opportunity to experience what it’s like to work for your food. One thing to note is that you’ll have to pay for a membership in every country you wish to WWOOF in.
If you’re keen on a variety of work while you travel…
Membership fee for Helpx: View host listings for free. 20 euros for one person for a two-year membership, to be able to contact hosts from all over the world.
Membership fee for Workaway: View host listings for free. USD$29 for one person or USD$38 for a couple/two friends for one year , to be able to contact hosts from all over the world.
You’ll find pretty easy work like babysitting, cleaning and gardening, manning a hostel, to more physical work like renovation and construction, carpentry and farming, to really interesting stuff like looking after abandoned exotic animals and making herb medicine and essential oils.
Some hosts will also look for specialised skills like graphic design, language teaching, appliance repair, and more. Helpx and Workaway hosts generally require a longer stay of two weeks to a month (compared with WWOOF hosts who may have you for as short as four days) and may not always provide meals. Work commitments and free days vary from host to host.
Check out: Givingway
Membership fee: Free.
If you want to make a difference while you’re on the road, this is it.
Givingway helps connect travellers with local non-profit organisations and schools, trying to make a difference in their community. You may do work like teaching, farming and construction, assisting in providing healthcare, mentorship, and more.
Some organisations need volunteers to pay a fee to cover the cost of your accommodation and food, but some organisations will provide lodging and meals for very little, or for free. Time commitment can range between one week and a few months.
Check out: Couchsurfing
Membership fee: SGD$28 for a year
This sounds too good to be true, but it exists. On Couchsurfing, you’ll find a community of hosts who are open to letting travellers stay in their homes for free. Most hosts are avid travellers themselves who are keen to meet other travellers.
What better way to explore a city than with the inside knowledge of a local? You might be sleeping on a mattress in the living room, on the couch, in a shared room – or if you’re lucky, your own room. You generally will not have keys to the home, and may have to plan your travel around your host’s activities.
As a guest, you should offer to do a bit of cleaning, cook, or bring a small gift from your home country. Make time to hang out with your host – don’t treat the space like a hotel.
House-sit for others
Check out: Nomador
Membership fee: Free, with restrictions; USD$89 for one year with open access to all listings
Just like you, people around the world are going travelling – except they may have pets or other animals, plants, farmland, and unique features of the home that need looking after.
As a house-sitter, you’ll look after the home and any pets or plants, in exchange for being able to stay in the home for free.
Besides your regular homes in suburbs or even remote areas of a country, you might find listings like this one: a private island in the Caribbeans where you’ll have to bring all of your own supplies, use solar-powered electricity and get water from rain harvest.
Oh, you’ll also have to provide water for the 14-month-old wild boar living on the island. Don’t worry, he looks for his own food.
Travel planning tip:
If you’re overseas for a long time, you might not want to be constantly making cash withdrawals. Arm yourself with a travel credit card or cashback credit card for that extra boost to your vacation budget.
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