How to Get Free Accommodation in Exchange for Work (Stay on the Road Longer)
When I first started traveling, I was on a budget. I didn’t have a lot of savings but I had one big dream – I wanted to travel the world. I look for different options so I can travel without spending too much money. Back then, I was 20 years old. I signed up for my first volunteering program abroad.
And suddenly there I was, planning my first trip to Europe. I ended up in Germany, where I would volunteer for a month in exchange for accommodation and board.
If you are wondering how you could travel on a budget you should take a look at the options that offer volunteer programs.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get free accommodation in exchange for work?
Yes – you read it right – it is possible to get a free bed in exchange for your skills and for your time.
In this post, you will find information on how to volunteer abroad. how to travel for free (or almost free) and what program you can join to make this possible. But first, let me share a few stories with you.
STORYTIME | My Experiences – Will Work for Accommodation
I did a few different volunteering projects over the years to keep me on the road. Some of them were for a few days and some others were for a few weeks. I had all kinds of experiences – awesome and bad. Let’s focus on the ones I really liked and then, I’ll share an ugly one, too (nothing in this life is perfect, am I right?!).
Renovating a house in Chemnitz, Germany
As I mentioned above, the first one was in Germany. I was there with a group of 8 people from all over the world. We renovated a big inhabited house in a small village in Germany. This volunteering program covered accommodation, food and a few activities. In terms of housing, it wasn’t the most amazing experience, but still, it was decent. I learned how to live without hot water and how to manage a pretty minimalist lifestyle.
Working in a Hostel in Istanbul, Turkey
The first time I worked in a hostel was pretty good too. I wasn’t working at the reception, but I had a few different tasks to do such as helping with the breakfast and decorating the hostel. I was working less than one hour per day and I had free housing as well as free breakfast. I stayed there for a couple of weeks during a long trip to Europe.
Helping out on Cattle Station in the Outback, Australia
This was one of the longest volunteering I did. At some point when I was in Australia, I was running low on cash, and I had to find a volunteering position so I can get free accommodation and food until I could get my tax return to travel again. I had to help out on farm tasks such as fencing, tree pruning, and wood cutting, but my main task was to help out with the farm family’s children’s homeschooling.
Working in a Hostel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In 2017, I took a job in a hostel in Kuala Lumpur as I was low on cash (again) and I needed a break of traveling for a bit until I can save money again. The job was a “volunteer position”, but we also had a small wage to cover some of our expenses like food. I had to work about 6 hours a day to get a free bed and one meal per day. It was a fun experience mostly for all the encounter I’ve made working in this hostel.
Working on a Farm in the Greek Countryside
This story is the ugly one. I mean – it wasn’t that bad, but I felt uncomfortable from the beginning. When the host picked me up at the train station, he was drunk and almost ran over a dog on the way to the farm. He was drunk every night and he was always pretty confused about our schedule which resulted in us (we were 4 volunteers) not having to work. I stayed there for a week (I was supposed to be there for a month) and I work a total of 5 hours. The job wasn’t terrible, but the host was a bit creepy. He would “go out with the girls” and leave the guys at the house. It didn’t feel right, so I decided to leave sooner. Thankfully, nothing bad happened – but I’m very glad I exited the project faster. Thankfully #2 – I didn’t have a lot of money, so I didn’t want to leave at first, but my dad convinced me to leave sooner by buying my bus ticket to get back to Athens.
How to Save Money During your Travels
Backpacking around the world sounds fun – but how much money do you need?
If you have been following my story for a while, you know that I left Canada with CAD 2,000 in my bank account. That being said I had to volunteer a few times when I was traveling in order to stay on the road. It was also the case in previous trips where I chose slow travel over “fast and furious” travel. One of the cooler options you can choose to save money when you travel is to do a work exchange for free accommodation and meals.
How to Get Free Accommodation in Exchange for Work
There are different programs you can use to get free accommodation in exchange for work. These programs require you to work for a few hours every day, so you can get free housing and free meals. Of course, some opportunities only include free accommodation, so you should learn more about the project before committing to it.
What Type of Volunteer Work Can You Do Abroad?
If you have read the stories above, you know that I did a lot of different type of volunteer work abroad. I worked on farms and I worked in hostels, but there are plenty of other projects available. You could be working with families who need an Au Pair, you could be teaching English (or any other languages), you could be helping with social media or even housekeeping.
What Programs Offer Volunteer Experiences Abroad?
There are different programs that offer volunteer experiences abroad. You can either sign up for a program or find the opportunities on your own (this could require a lot of research though). Back in the days, there were not so many options available. There was only HelpX, Woofing and Workaway.
Nowadays, you can find opportunities on Facebook too. I haven’t been volunteering for a while now, but Worldpackers caught my attention.
What is Worldpackers?
Worldpackers is a platform that connects travelers and hosts around the world. It allows you to exchange your skills for accommodation. It’s an excellent way to immerse yourself in the local culture, make new friends and save money while you travel.
Is Worldpackers a good option for you?
If you’re seeking a unique experience or if you’re trying to save money during your travels, Worldpackers is probably a good option for you. As you know, I’ve been volunteering a lot over the years – these experiences helped me stay on the road longer – which was perfect with this long-term travel lifestyle.
Volunteering was a great reason to stop moving around so fast and immerse myself in the local culture.
That being said, volunteering abroad can put you outside your comfort zone (which isn’t a bad thing really), but it can be challenging for some travelers. Like I said above, I had to lower some of my standards when I lived without hot water or when I was living and volunteering in remote areas. It’s really doable, but it can be a bit tricky if it’s your first experiencing such a thing.
What to Expect from Volunteer Work?
Obviously, volunteer work means you’ll be working. Most volunteer projects require about 5 hour of work per day, which isn’t a lot. Depending on your project, you could be working more or less. Normally, the hosts are able to give you a clear idea of the work beforehand.
I had experiences where I was working 6 days a week, other where I had to work every day and some others were I barely had to work. It really depends.
Some of my volunteer experiences were including meals and some others, not. Again, this should be clarified with your host beforehand.
Some hosts are more organized than others – I had all sorts of free accommodation during my volunteer trips. I had private rooms, dorms and even private houses. Some of them come with a private bathroom and some others with a shared bathroom.
If you’re taking a remote position, you might have to keep in mind that the connectivity could be limited. I had a project in the Australian Outback which was pretty limited in terms of signal. So, I couldn’t rely on it for online work.
How to Get Your first Volunteer Position?
To get your first position as a volunteer, you first need to apply on a project. I used to introduce myself, give details such as the dates I’m planning to be around and for how long I’m planning to stay (sometimes, they also ask for a minimum length of stay, so keep that in mind) and why I think I have the right skills for the position.
Then, it’s up to the host to decide if it’s a great fit or not.
Where Can You Volunteer?
Worldpackers offers projects everywhere in the world. Of course, some destinations are more popular than others, but yes, you can find volunteer positions worldwide.
Is It Safe to Volunteer Abroad?
Out of all my volunteer experiences, I only had one ugly experience (which I shared with you) and a pretty average one (where the hosts were basically counting hours of work per the minute). Overall, I felt safe. Going to a foreign country can be scary for some people, so you might want to check out to reassure yourself that it’s safe to travel the world.
That being said, Worldpackers has a good system in place to keep you as safe as possible abroad.
Support team: 24/7 support from the customer service team. The support can be done via the app, email or phone.
Verified hosts: Before any host can post or invite guests on Worldpacker, they go through a verification process in which Worldpackers team chat with them and ensure they’re offering a safe experience.
Worldpackers insurance: If a traveler has any issues related to their host during their stay, Worldpackers will cover 3 nights for the traveler at a nearby hostel and the support team will get them set up with another Worldpacker host as soon as possible.
Experts & community: Worldpackers runs 3 programs aimed at digital nomadism and building a safer and more connected network full of useful information:
- Experts (experienced Worldpackers) available to chat with newer travelers for peer-to-peer advice.
- Bloggers, who frequently contribute as writers to the site.
- VideoMakers, who frequently contribute with multimedia content to inspire others to travel and collaborate.
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Have you ever volunteered abroad? Share your experience with us.
Thinking of trying it? Share your ideas and/or concerns with us.
You may also like:
Backpacking Southeast Asia | Tips & Itineraries
Thoughts on Long-Term Travel
How to Stay Safe Abroad
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Disclaimer: this post may include affiliate links. This post was written in collaboration with Worldpackers. As always, all opinions are my own.