Save Money on Accommodation while Traveling

Looking for a Cheap Stay?

So are we. Like, always. Traveling’s greatest financial burden (after flights, but we have our tactics to handle that) is lodging. To save money on accommodation while traveling, you gotta learn a few tricks, and be prepared to get creative if need be. But cheap (and free) accommodation is easily attainable.


Hostels are a staple to the modern traveler, as they provide less-glamorous sleeping environments for more-affordable prices. Hostels have been around forever, and will exist as long as young backpackers need cheap beds to lay their drunken heads on.

If you haven’t stayed in a hostel, I could understand your fears and hesitations. Lack of privacy, shared bathrooms, Australian accents. It’s a lot to handle. But I vow to you, they are absolutely wonderful. Hostels put you in close proximity with like-minded people, and they force you to socialize. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had is with other travelers I met at hostels. You meet, you chat, you eat, you drink, you stay out late, you sleep. It’s a reoccurring system that brilliantly repeats itself over and over, regardless of where in the world the particular hostel may be.

Now, certainly the potential to form once in a lifetime memories with other travelers of the world is an alluring aspect to hostels, but so is the price.


The actual price of hostels range anywhere from “somewhat affordable”, to “is it really only $5 a night?”

Hostels are cheap. Or maybe I should say that hostels are significantly cheaper than hotels. A bed in a hostel will typically run you about 50-75% less than a hotel room. Plus hostels will usually have kitchens available with a range of cooking supplies, meaning you can go to the local market, cook your own meal, and save on food costs as well.

Cheap hostels in Europe will run you anywhere from 15 euros a night and up. Depending where you are in Asia and South America, they might as well be giving them away, as you can find a bed for under $7.

Ho Chi Minh. Hostels are cheap.

La Paz. Hostels are cheap.

Need some privacy? Don’t feel like sharing a room with twelve other strangers for a night? I’ve had that feeling many a times. Private rooms do exist in hostels, but it’s been my experience that they can be really pricey. If you are looking for a quieter evening, definitely do some research, as you may be able to find a hotel room at a better price.

Further recommended reading

Free Hostel Nights

If you are looking to save money on accommodation while traveling, then getting a room for freeis a fairly effective way to do so. Hostels really are great. They give us cheap lodging options, introduce us to like minded travelers, and if you pursue, can offer opportunities to sleep for free.

It’s a known fact around the traveling community that hostels will give backpackers free lodging, in return for some work. Not all of them. Timing is going to be key. But if you ask around enough, you’ll inevitably get a few offers.

What kind of work? It varies. Administration work, graveyard shift at the front desk, helping clean the bathrooms, working the bar. I didn’t say the work was glamorous, but it’s an extremely viable option to reduce the cost of travel. They ask for 3 hours of help and give you the option to save some money. Win win.

A lot of travelers will pursue hostel work, especially because it could be paid work or lead to paid work.

Ask if they need any help or if you can work for a place to sleep.

Hostel paying jobs are slightly more challenging to obtain, but more than possible to find. More on that in the next section.

But what is much more ubiquitous is travelers offering their services for a free bed and if you are lucky, maybe some breakfast. I’ve seen this done everywhere. The work won’t be glamorous by any means, most of what I’ve seen is cleaning related involves taking over the graveyard admin shift. But heck, if it can save you 25 euros, why the hell not? I recommend searching for this type of work when you just want to relax, collect your thoughts, be alone, and save a bit of money. Some travelers do it everywhere they go, if that’s you, awesome. Otherwise it can be a nice option a few times a week. Your choice. Regardless, your savings account will thank you.

Work Exchange

Work Exchange (WWOOF, Helpx, Workaway, etc.) programs are basically volunteering gigs, but a bit different. If you want to travel and get completely free lodging, check out the full guide.


If you haven’t heard of Airbnb yet, then I welcome you to the future. Airbnb is really giving the hotel industry a run for their money.

It’s a website that basically lets people rent out their homes or a room in their home. Quoting Wiki “Users of the site must register and create a personal online profile before using the site. Every property is associated with a host whose profile includes recommendations by other users, reviews by previous guests, as well as a response rating and private messaging system”.

It’s safe, it’s affordable, and it is taking over the world. Airbnb currently has 500,000 listings in 33 cities and 192 countries, and the company is currently valued at over $10 billion dollars.

Although nontraditional, you can understand the appeal of the system. You are staying in an apartment, which gives you the freedom to live like a local. Sometimes the host of the house is not there, but other times they are. Most Airbnb-ers actually prefer the host to be there, as they are then able to gain information and recommendations from an actual local.

Above you can see an actual Airbnb listing in Paris, France. The prices are on par, if not slightly more expensive than a cheap hostel, but the lodging situation is likely much more desirable. Notice the reviews and what is offered. Some will offer a shared room, others, an entire apartment.

Airbnb hosts have a tendency to continue offering their homes for rent. Yes, they enjoy meeting new people and hosting travelers from across the world, but it can also be an incredible source of income. A friend of a friend in Colorado has been hosting for a solid year and a half now, and on average entertains 2-3 guests a week, and making nice supplemental income doing so. It’s a win win.

I dare you to spend 5 minutes on the site. It’s addicting. You have the option the stay in most cities in the world, in a nice apartment, a private room, an established well reviewed host, all at an affordable price. I’ve Airbnb’ed all over the world. It’s an f-ing amazing way to save money on accommodation.

Further recommended reading –

House Sitting

Let me tell you something. House Sitting is literally exploding right now.


Housesitting is one of the fastest growing, and most exciting revolutions in the travel sphere. It's enabling people to live like locals, and at no financial cost. 

It’s super awesome, and something I cannot wait to get into. It’s as easy and desirable as it sounds. You watch over someones house, somewhere in the world. Commonly, the situation will be someone traveling for an extended amount of time, who needs their house cleaned, plants watered, and pets fed. Sometimes it’s paid, but usually it’s not.

But who needs pay? You will be completely eliminating the cost of accommodation, and because you have access to a full kitchen, can drastically cut down the cost of food.

It can be challenging at first to get your foot in the door, but there are plenty of ways to get you started.

If you are seriously interested in house sitting to travel the world, you need to find the right website, and there are a few to choose from. – Annual fee of $20, mostly Europe and North America – Annual fee of $60, biggest site, mostly UK and Europe –Annual fee of $30 – Annual fee of $55, mostly Australia, New Zealand and North America

Membership fees are good things. It ensures validity and promotes accountability, which inevitably makes is easier and safer for everyone involved in the process.

With most of these sorts of sites, your profile will make or break you. Make sure to provide a lot of pictures, be very detailed, and obviously highlight upon anything and everything that can separate you from the other potential “sitters”.

With everything in life, experience greatly helps, and house-sitting is no exception. At first it may be hard to get work if you have no prior hosts to vouch for and review you. Do what you can to get good reviews, like house sitting a friends place for the weekend. Any verification will greatlyenhance you in the eyes of a home owner.

But, the issue of experience is the exact magic of house sitting. If you gain more experience and positive reviews, and advertise yourself on these sites, you will have homeowners coming to you. A house is a big deal. Vacationing families want to know their possessions and pets are in safe, experienced hands. The more experience you have, the safer and more confident people will feel hiring you. Professional house sitters who have put in their time are able to get any house sitting job they want, and professionally travel the world doing so. Like I said, it’s really awesome.

A good house sitting profile/resume will display the following qualities;

A love for animals, as you will likely be working with and taking care of animals.

Knowledge of foreign or local language

Comfort and experience dealing with plants

Handyman knowledge for basic house problems

Also, providing the right references will be crucial.

Further recommended reading –


You’ve probably heard of Couchsurfing. It’s huge. Founded in 2004, it revolutionized the way people travel by becoming the first popular hospitality exchange and social networking website.

Basically, hosts will offer you a bed or couch in their house… for free. It’s actually against the sites rules to require any type of payment, although it is an unspoken agreement between the participants that volunteers should display some gesture of gratitude by offering to clean the house or buying them a cup of coffee or something nice like that.

According to Wiki, in 2013 Couchsurfing had over 5.5 million registered profiles from all over the world, with the average Couchsurfer being 28 years old.

How does it work? Hosting profiles will clearly state what they are offering. Some Couchsurfing hosts just wish to be an ambassador of their city for travelers, and will offer to meet up for a cup of coffee or lunch. Others will offer a couch to crash on for a night or two. Others will offer an entire room for as long as you need. And everything in between.

Are there dangers? Maybe, just like anything in life. But Couchsurfing has been around for years and proven itself to be a legitimate way to cut the cost of travel, while potentially meeting like minded people. Just be safe and smart, (solo female travelers, I’m speaking to you!) Look for hosts/travelers with established profiles and good reviews. Don’t do anything you are uncomfortable with. A lot of hosts will ask to meet for a cup of coffee first, to meet the prospective guests and make sure everything is kosher. If you are considering CS’ing somewhere, contact the individual and message them first. You can build rapport, and ensure you are both on the same page.

For further CouchSurfing recommendations, check out the link below, it’s great article from asolo female traveler who has Couchsurfed all over the world.

Further recommended reading –

Boat Work

Every sailed the seven seas? Ever wanted to? You have options. There are plenty of travelers providing plenty of resources on the web on how to get free accommodation and food on a boat in exchange for labor. Sometimes you need certification, but a lot of times you don’t. The work can vary, based on your situation, and most importantly the captain’s orders, but if you are an adventurer, I couldn’t imagine a more enticing opportunity.

Further recommended reading –

Couchsurfing? Hostels? AirBnb? What’s your lodging preference? Tell me below!

Written by Aaron Radcliffe

City dweller. Dumpling crusher. Aaron is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder of Nomads Nation. Connect with Aaron Radcliffe -