There is never going to be a perfect time or the perfect amount of money to travel. Truth is: you can travel the world for free. Whether it’s house-sitting in London or working on an organic farm in Ecuador, there are options for all personalities and lifestyles to travel the world for free.
In 2015, I booked a one-way ticket to Antigua, Guatemala. For two months I worked as a caretaker for an 86-year-old English woman named Annette. I lived for free comfortably in a spacious bedroom in her antique-style home. In exchange, I walked the dog, painted her nails, and helped organize her home.
It was during my time with Annette where I found my passion for free travel.
After my 8 month trip, the memories that stuck out the most were the people and moments that costed nothing.
I’ve compiled a list of 12 ways to travel FOR FREE. They require little-to-no experience.
Now, let’s jump right in!
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1. Sign up for a work exchange (volunteer abroad)
Work exchange is volunteering your time for 20 hours a week (or less) in exchange for food and housing. Some examples of volunteer jobs are yoga instructor, caretaker, English teacher, hostel worker, and more.
I personally use Workaway to find work exchange positions. Workaway requires a membership fee ($42 single/$54 couples) for their site (valid for one year). Once you’re in, you have access to thousands of work exchange opportunities around the world.
How long are the volunteer positions? They can range from a week to a couple months. If you love your position, you can ask to extend. If you hate it, you can leave.
Who is work exchange right for? Work exchange is for anyone looking for a cultural immersion and unforgettable experience. There are so many opportunities, you are bound to find one that fits your personality.
Related article: Teaching English in Santa Marta
2. Work on a farm for a month in the middle of no where
WWOOF is a worldwide movement that links volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences. Its goal is to build a sustainable, global community. Much like Workaway, hosts provide housing and food in exchange for working on their organic farm.
One of my best friends WWOOFed in Italy for 3 months and loved it. My cousin also WWOOFed all around South America. Both have similar stories of hard hands-on work, hot and sweaty days in the sun, and unforgettable experiences.
Who is WWOOFing right for? I would only recommend this for people who like the outdoors, are interested in sustainable living, and are adventurous travelers. A lot of times things are chaotic, unorganized, and sweaty (like the picture up above.)
Tip: Make sure to check out reviews from former volunteers and always message your host with questions beforehand. My friend even skyped with hosts before she committed to volunteer with them. Never be afraid to ask questions!
Note: you can work on farms using other sites (like Workaway), but WWOOF is one of the most popular.
3. House sit your way around the world
House sitting is when you take care of someone else’s home and pets while they’re away. You get a free place to stay and they get peace of mind knowing their home and furry friends are in good hands. Although house-sitting opportunities are most popular in Europe, you can find opportunities everywhere.
Who is house-sitting right for? House sitting is perfect for long-term travelers or digital nomads who like animals.
How long are house sits? The time period can be anywhere from a week to a couple months.
Related article: How To Housesit Around the World
4. Teach English for a year in Asia
I taught English in South Korea in 2019-2020. English teachers are paid a monthly salary and given an apartment to live in. The job (in some cases) also includes free lunches, flight reimbursement, medical insurance, and paid vacation.
Teaching abroad is most popular and lucrative ($$) in places like Korea and China, but there are opportunities all over the world. I have met a lot of teachers who have paid off student loans and saved thousands of dollars. Even though some days are tough, it can be quite worth it in the end.
Who is teaching abroad right for? I only recommend teaching abroad for people who like kids and are patient, flexible, and adaptable. It’s a challenging and exhausting job. For the right person, it can be a rewarding experience.
Interested in teaching in Korea? Check out, How to Teach in South Korea.
Want to get TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certified? Check out, The Best School for Your TEFL Certification.
Interested in teaching online for $22/hour? Check out, 9 Steps to Getting Hired with QKids
5. Au Pair for a family in Europe
An au pair is a young person (18 to 30 years old) who goes abroad to live with a family and take care of their children in exchange for room and board. The main objective is to have a cultural exchange.
A friend of mine spent 3 months in South Korea traveling around Asia with a Swedish family with 2 small children. Her housing, food, and luxurious trips were all covered by the family. She stayed in a high-rise condo off the ocean with a private bedroom and bathroom. She worked during the week with nights and weekends off.
My friend found a rare (but possible) experience. Most au pair jobs are in Europe or Australia where you live with one family for a summer, a year, or maybe longer. It’s a great option if you’re single, want to travel, and LOVE children. (I repeat: must love children.)
How to become an au pair? You can use an agency ($$) or there are many websites where you can find opportunities ($). Below is an article with the top 10 websites that can help you find an au pair job in different regions of the world.
How much are you paid? The pay ranges, but in most cases the pay is low.
Related article: How to Become an Au Pair
6. Couch surf the world
Couch Surfing is one of my favorite ways to travel. Couch surfing is staying in someone’s home for free as a way to promote free and affordable travel as well as have a cultural exchange.
Couch surfing is super popular in Europe, but there are hosts all around the world. I couch surfed as a solo female traveler and while traveling with a partner in South and Central America.
You simply sign up for a membership (free), create a profile, and start looking for couch surfing spots. Some people provide private bedrooms and bathrooms, others provide a couch hence the name.
Who is couch surfing right for? I recommend couch surfing for adventurous travelers looking to meet locals and learn the language.
Related article: Solo Female Travel Guide for Couch Surfing
Hitchhiking is simply asking someone for a free ride. It could be to the next town over or a days trip. Hitchhiking originated in the United States, then made its way to Europe and other parts of the world. Hitchhiking has been around forever, but became decreasingly popular in the 70s (in the states). The decrease was caused by a better economy, more access to cars, and the fear of trusting strangers. Hitchhiking has become illegal in most parts of the United States but in Europe and other parts of the world, it is still quite popular.
I met a few hitchhikers in Guatemala and although I was skeptical, I decided to give it a try. I ended up hitchhiking for the remainder of my trip, up through Mexico. It was some of the most adventurous and magical moments of my life. I met kind strangers and have some of the greatest stories to tell from those experiences.
If you are traveling alone, I recommend always hitchhiking with a friend or group of people. Always have a plan and know where you are going. I also recommend knowing the basics of the language.
Related article: Ultimate Guide to Hitchhiking
8. Sign up for free travel opportunities
Gabby Beckford from Packs Light, a blogger I follow, opened my eyes to the possibilities of travel opportunities for young people (mostly 16 to 30). There are plenty of opportunities to travel internationally for conferences, leadership programs, fellowships, internships, scholarships, grants, festivals, and etc. And almost all of them can be completely funded.
This option is mostly for students, but there are grants and free trips for writers, photographers, artists, and entrepreneurs. Gabby always says to apply even if you don’t 100% qualify. It’s worth the shot.
Some examples of current opportunities: Capetown Writer’s Retreat (5-day all expenses paid retreat), Holland Scholarship ($5,000 scholarship to study in Holland), Tinggly Blogger Accommodation (free stay for Bloggers/Creatives in Lithuania). Click here for a full list.
9. Become a travel blogger
Do you love to write, take pictures, and share your experience? Start a travel blog. It’s never too late.
As a travel blogger or influencer companies will pay you (or give you free product/service/trips) to share an honest review and promote their brand.
Nowadays, companies are spending billions of dollars on influencer marketing. Travel bloggers receive gifted hotel stays, free tours, press trips, and etc., because of their influence and following on social media platforms.
Important Note: you do not need a huge following to get free stuff or get paid. My Instagram following is under 5K, I have under 500 subscribers on YouTube, and my blog numbers aren’t too crazy either and I have worked with brands.
10. Be a travel hacker
Travel Hackers strategically collect frequent flyer miles and points to travel for free. Most miles are earned without ever stepping foot on a plane. To be honest, this is not something I have done. But, I’ve seen friends reap the benefits, so I must share.
Who is travel hacking right for? I think travel hacking is a good option for travelers who book flights often, stay in hotels, and have good credit. With some credit cards you need to spend at least $5,000 in the first couple of months to get the mega rewards. Therefore, this is a good option for people with car payments or those who spend $$ every month. But, I think EVERYONE who owns a credit card should take advantage of points and rewards.
There are Facebook groups, books, and tons of blogs to help you step by step travel for free using travel hacking.
11. Crew a sailboat or work on a luxury cruise ship
Sailing the world is both amazing and expensive. If you can’t afford to buy a sailboat, why not work on one? People who own sailboats and travel the world often hire (both paid and unpaid) help.
How to find opportunities? There are websites to match owners with crew. One popular site is crewseekers.net. There are also Facebook communities and groups. (Facebook groups are great for finding opportunities in general.)
You can also work on a cruise ship and travel the world. To find these sort of jobs, go to the cruise ship’s main website and search for employment. It’s an easy and adventurous way to save money while traveling the seas.
For more information: Check out, How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship with No Experience, How to Crew a Yacht
12. Join the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps
AmeriCorps is a government funded organization (like PeaceCorps) who supports non-profits in the United States. These are technically volunteer jobs, but they pay you a housing stipend. AmeriCorps salary ranges from $15,000 to about $27,000/year. At the end of your term, you are given an education award of $5,000 (max).
I volunteered with AmeriCorps for their summer program while I was still in school. I managed the volunteer program for a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Iowa. It was one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had. I trained new volunteers, created a volunteer guide, and recruited new volunteers.
AmeriCorps is a way to get away from your home state, go to a new city and live and explore for a year.
The Peace Corps is similar to AmeriCorps, but requires a two-year commitment. I applied for the PeaceCorps after University, but didn’t get accepted. The jobs are pretty lucrative, but I encourage you to apply if it feels fitting to you!
PeaceCorps accepts all ages (over 18) and is a two-year commitment. You must have a bachelor’s and be a US citizen to apply. Jobs range from English teacher (most popular) to environmental specialist to health educator.
I hope one of these options feels like a good fit for you. Have you ever done a work exchange or been an au pair or even anything on the list? (or not on the list!) I’d love to hear your story! Share in the comments, e-mail me at email@example.com, or DM @courtneytheexplorer to chat! xoxo
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