Scrooges of the world can rejoice in the fact that travelling is cheaper more than ever. But while two-minute noodle dinners and sardine-like-dorms are still an easy way to save a buck, there are many other quirky ways to travel on a budget. From snoozing in a foreign stranger’s lounge room, milking the cows for free board and cuisine in Tuscany, or just finding bliss by living in someone else’s house in a house-swap – these priceless experiences will cost you next to nothing.
With a name that envisions late-night shenanigans, the reality is chilled-out strangers (or friends you haven’t met yet) offering their couch for a night or two for zilch. Couchsurfing – which is completely free to sign up to – profiles and reviews on 400,000 hosts and four million surfers from around the world. Simply browse and pick where you’d like to stay, contact your provider of IKEA-couch, stay over, and get some shut-eye before embarking on your next adventure.
But the focus is not only the free fold-out sofa bed, but also about sharing your travels. It’s a cultural exchange with your host and learning what it’s like to live like a local. And all the money in the world can’t buy that type of experience.
Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOFING) is a green-thumb organisation doing good in more than 100 countries. Volunteers (or Willing Workers) get their hands dirty on a farm for four to six hours a day, in activities ranging from weeding, harvesting, making a chook shed, milking Betty the cow, wine-making, cheese-making and more. In exchange for helping out hosts offer food, accommodation and teach about alternative and organic lifestyles. Don’t worry, you won’t be on your own – you’re often working with other WOOFers, and staying with families in their homes.
After you’ve done your farming chores for the day, you’re free to venture into the surrounding areas and explore, or just hit the local watering hole. How long you stay is up to you and the host, but they can be as short and sweet as two days or for a full local experience stay for up to six months. A yearly membership costs anywhere from $0 to $150 AUD depending on the country you wish to WOOF in. To help out in the massive backyard of Australia expect to pay $70 AUD.
#3 House swap
The saying “mi casa es su casa” now refers to the thousands of new mates offering their abodes on house-swapping websites. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway by the beach, or a month escape slipping into someone else’s life in the mountains like Heidi, you will find something. Enjoying a modern-day castle but paying sweet nothing is very possible.
Aussie House Swap, like the name, is focused on Australian house exchanges. The type of houses offered range from luxurious homes on beachfronts to inner city boho-style studios. It costs $65 a year to sign-up, but promises that if you don’t get a swap within in the year you can get another year free. For those looking for a home beyond this continent Home Exchange is the largest international house-swap with 150 countries and 65,000 homes listed – due to the larger exotic selection it costs $180 AUD annually.
Similar to WOOFing, Helpx offers travellers a working holiday across Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada and the USA on farms, homestays, suburban houses, ranches, b’n’b’s, hostels and even boats.
Hosts do not have to be organic and the time you volunteer for starts from a mere two hours (accommodation only) up to five hours (accommodation, tucker and more perks). Help with farming and gardening jobs are still the most sought after by hosts, but other duties can be as broad as helping out with babysitting, cleaning out a fridge, tutoring, painting and cutting down banana trees. Helpx costs $40 AUD for two years access to the site, which includes profiles and reviews from other helpers.
Everyone knows that cars are fuel-guzzling, traffic congesting and money-draining beasts that can be a serious blow to your fantastic road-trip. Thankfully, online communities are changing this. ShareUrRide is an Aussie site where users can find car poolers at the click of the button. Another bonus is that it’s free to use. Simply organise with your car pooler where you need to go to get your lift, contribute some coin for fuel, and sit back and enjoy the ride. Overseas sites offering similar things are Blablahcar and Ridefinder. Gumtree and Craigslist are still popular places to offer or grab a lift – just filter out the dodgy responses.
Do you have superior cat/dog/gold-fish feeding skills? Over the busy holiday periods many people go away on holidays and need someone to take special care of their Fido. In exchange for your loving pats, feeds and walks you get to stay for free. Aussie House-sitters costs around $65 AUD to sign-up, but apart from travel costs to get to your destination, the fun you spend at your new location, you won’t have to pay another cent.
House-sitting lengths can vary from a week to a few months. You can browse the site without signing-up to get an idea of what’s out there – and there’s a lot. Once you’ve found your holiday location, pay the fee and get in touch with the house-sitter.
First published on AWOL