Is it possible to travel with little or no money? My answer is YES.
A question I get asked by my readers almost daily is how I can afford to travel so much. I wish I could say I am rolling in money but that is unfortunately far from the truth.
There are two secrets to this: I work while I travel and I know how to keep my costs minimal.
First year as a nomad, my living costs were actually lower than when I was a student living on instant noodles and porridge.
In this post, you will learn all my secrets on how you can travel the world for free.
Some costs I am happy to pay though. Like insurance. Last year I needed emergency care in Singapore and my travel insurance had run out.
The operation would have cost me all my savings, so I decided to fly home to Sweden and do the operation there, which was a huge risk.
I never want to be in that boat again.
If you are a digital nomad or long-term traveller, I can highly recommend SafetyWing, which is made specifically for nomads. It’s so much cheaper than what insurance costs back home.
How to travel the world for free
1. Volunteer/work exchange
Volunteer in exchange for housing. Bear in mind that most volunteering providers you find online will charge a fee, and often it can get very expensive.
Like when I was volunteering with animals in the Namibia (but totally worth it to be able play with monkeys and cuddle with leopard babies).
If you want to find free opportunities, I can recommend Worldpackers. They offer three types of volunteer opportunities:
- Work exchange – exchange your skills for accommodation
- Social impact – volunteer in NGOs, schools & social projects
- Eco program – learn in ecovillages, farms & permaculture projects
Most opportunities are free, and there are many filters you can apply to find the perfect host for you. Some filters are continent, skills, month, travel length, type (beach, party, contact with nature etc).
Most hosts require you to work 5 hours a day Monday to Friday with weekends off. Accommodation is free, and some hosts offer free meals too.
2. House Sitting
What do you do when you have to leave your home for vacation, but you don’t want your pets and plants to starve? You could check your dog into a dog hotel for 100 dollar a night OR get a house sitter for free! That person could be you.
If you’re lucky you could have a fancy villa all for yourself, and all you need to do is cuddle and take care of cute pets and water plants now and then!
3. Work on a farm
Have you ever wanted to experience the life of a farmer? Or do you just want to get away from the city stress and connect with mother earth? Then this is for you.
If you’re an avid backpacker you’re probably familiar with the term “WWOOFing”.
You work on an organic farm and get free accommodation and food in exchange. There are hosts in almost every country in the world, so no matter where you’re dreaming of travelling next, there most likely is a WWOOF host there.
Stay with locals for free. It’s called couchsurfing because usually your bed will be a couch.
But sometimes you can get lucky, like when I was couchsurfing in Lithuania and not only got a bed, but a private room too!
My favourite thing with couchsurfing is actually not the free accommodation, but making friends with locals and all the insider information they give you about the town they live in, that you never would have found out if you had booked a hotel room.
The second night my host told me Dalai Lama was in town and we went and watched him talk.
The last night we went on a festival together and I got to meet and hang out with her friends. It was a wonderful experience I might have not had if I had just hung out with other tourists.
Make sure you read the host description so you don’t end up in the middle of nowhere with a 3 hour commute to the city. Also make sure to choose a host with reviews, and that the reviews are positive.
If you’re a girl, I highly recommend you only choose female hosts as a safety precaution. Couchsurfing is the biggest and most well-known platform, but you could also check out Global Freeloaders and Servas.
5. Remote work
Work remotely to finance your travels! Negotiate a remote work contract with your boss, get a remote job, become a freelancer or start an online business to finance your travels.
I do this mainly by teaching Swedish online and social media management for companies, but there are so many ways to do this. In this article I list 99 remote jobs and income ideas.
6. Home swapping
Have you seen the Christmas classic “The Holiday” with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet? Then you know how much fun home swapping can be.
It’s also free! List your home on a home swapping website and contact other hosts to arrange an exchange of homes for a certain period of time. There are many home swapping websites such as Love Home Swap and Home Exchange.
7. Teach English abroad
There are many countries around the world that hire foreigners to teach English in local schools.
When I went to Nepal, I met many people teaching English in China and for a very good salary – some of them were earning 35 dollar per hour! English teachers are also in high demand in South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. Some of the best resources for job hunters include TEFL.com and ESL Cafe.
If you don’t want to settle down in a place and just want to stay a few weeks, there are many websites where you can find opportunities where you get free accommodation and board in exchange for teaching English. Check out Diverbo, Lingoo and Culture Go Go.
8. Get an adventure job
Have a passion for snowboarding, scubadiving, climbing or perhaps mountain biking?
AdventureWork lists jobs in the adventure space. Some short-term, some long-term and others for vacationers looking for a free trip.
9. Organize a trip
Now we’re really getting into travel hacking. If you plan a trip for a group of your friends or family, many operators will actually give you a free trip if you function as the trip leader.
10. Join a birthright program
Do you have your roots in another country? Believe it or not, some countries will give you a free trip back to the country to connect with your culture.
For example, BirthRight Israel offers young Jewish adults a free 10 day adventure-filled trip exploring Israel.
11. Get a spring break job
Get payed to go on spring break to exotic destinations like Mexico and Bahamas. The downside?
12. Yoga teacher
Do you love yoga and travelling? Then why not combine them – travel the world as a yoga teacher! If you’re not already certified, you can get certified for cheap in the capital of yoga, Rishikesh.
Some schools have sponsorship opportunities where you work a little and get the training for much cheaper.
Or just come to my home country Sweden, where you can camp pretty much anywhere in nature, due to “Allemannsrätten” (The Right of Public Access in English), which gives everybody the freedom to roam the Swedish countryside.
14. Host a trip for your students
Are you a teacher? If you want to take your students on a trip to help them immerse themselves into the culture, some companies will cover your costs.
15. Become a travel blogger or influencer
Become a travel influencer and stay for free at hotels in exchange for creating sponsored posts on your social media channels and/or blog.
I would recommend waiting with contacting hotels until you have a combined following of at least 10k followers on social media, otherwise they might not take you seriously.
16. Au pair
Love kids? Then maybe you should think about becoming an au pair! An au pair is a young person who works part-time for a family abroad taking care of their children, in exchange for a private room and meals.
AuPair World is the biggest au pair agency, but you can find hundreds of other agencies on the web.
17. Flight points
There are many credit cards that will give you flight points for everything you buy with your card. These points you can later use to buy free flights. I use Travel Wallet by Scandinavian Airlines, because it’s free, a debit card and have many flights to my home country Sweden.
18. Cruise shipping
Getting paid to travel the world on a cruise ship might sound too good to be true, but is actually a reality for many people, and you don’t need a fancy degree to get a cruise ship job.
Check out Zero to Travel’s blog post for a complete guide to getting a cruise ship job.
19. Tour leader
Becoming a tour leader is a dream for many. I mean, why have a traditional office job when your office could be the Himalayas, the Sahara desert or a national park in Kenya?
Working as a tour guide looks like a vacation on the outside, but be prepared for long hours and a lot of things that can go wrong – clients getting sick, theft, delayed transportation etc.
And you are the person who have to deal with all of this. Check out this article for a full guide on how to become a tour leader.
20. Visit friends and family
Do you have friends or family in foreign countries?
If you tell them you’re thinking of going to their country, there might be a chance that they offer you a guestroom or bed in their home.
Last year I spent 3 weeks in Sydney and 2 weeks in Singapore, places with maybe the highest accommodation costs in the world. How did I afford it? I had friends in both of these places who offered me a bed in their apartments (thanks girls!)
21. Sleep in airports
Have a long layover? Instead of spending money on taxis and a hotel night in your layover country, spend the night at the airport for free! It will not be comfortable, but it will be free.
Make sure to search for the airport on Sleeping In Airports to read reviews and find out where the best sleeping spots are.
22. Choose a career that involves travelling
With the tips presented so far you will avoid paying for accommodation and sometimes some pocket money and meals, but if you want to take it one step further and earn a comfortable salary travelling, you could choose a career where travelling is one of your duties.
Some suggestions are:
- Flight attendant
- Travel agent
- Hotel manager
- Airline pilot
- Foreign service officer
- Travel writer
- Luxury travel advisor
- Cruise ship director
23. Free walking tours
The first thing I do when arriving in a new city is googling whether there are any free guided tours. In most cities there are, and I find that they usually are better than tours I have paid for.
You see, the tours are donation-based, so the guides put in that extra effort. Just google “free walking tour + the city” to find free guided tours offered in the city you’re visiting.
24. Dumpster diving
Dumpster diving is a new trend amongst frugal and eco-friendly backpackers and students. It’s exactly what it sounds like – “diving” into dumpsters, looking for valuable items and fresh food in dumpsters. So how to choose a dumpster?
Supermarkets throw away tons of food every day, just because the label says it has expired. Find out where your supermarket throws away their food and dive in!
This is something I’m personally scared of trying, but let me know in the comments if you have done it and how your experience was.
In Turkey I met a guy who had been travelling all over Europe for free by hitchhiking. I felt so inspired that I actually tried hitchhiking myself in Turkey, with some guys I met at my hostel.
Most drivers didn’t speak English, but they were so warm and friendly. This is something I would not do alone though, especially not as a girl in a foreign country.
26. Walk or bicycle
When I was in India I met another Swedish girl, and when I asked her how she got here she told me she cycled from Sweden to India!
I haven’t cycled much abroad but I love walking, and often choose to walk instead of taking public transportation or taxi. Not only is it free but also great exercise, and a good way to explore a new place.
27. Free entertainment
No matter where you travel, there are tons of free activities you can do. Explore parks, go hiking, attend free festivals and meetups you can find on Meetup and Facebook. M
any museums have a day or time slot every week where you can go for free, so if there is a museum that sounds interesting to you, it could be worth taking a look at their website.
28. Van life
If you’re on Instagram you’re probably aware of this hot, nomadic trend of travelling from place to place in a van.
The van is not only used by “van lifers” to get from place A to B – it’s where they sleep, it’s where they cook, it’s their home! Many of them live as digital nomads working from their laptop.
There you have it, 28 ways to travel the world for free. However one could also argue that most of them are not truly free, as they require an exchange of services.
But if you’re strapped for cash then these hacks will definitely make your money last longer. For more travel inspiration, check out my Instagram @thespiritnomad.
Which of these hacks are you thinking of trying out? Let me know in the comments!
This was written by Julia Lundin, a digital nomad with the mission to help people step into their purpose and awaken their power.