HOW TO TRAVEL FOR FREE
By J. Currie; The Frugal Nomad
Note: This article contains excerpts from J. Currie’s bestselling book, The Frugal Nomad (available on Amazon.com and booksellers worldwide).
Once you start thinking outside-the-box, the sky is the limit.
The idea in general is to incorporate any number of the strategies listed below into your travels to reduce or eliminate expenditures on the three most costly areas of
your travel budget: accommodation, food and transportation.
Not all of these ideas will work for everyone but just being exposed to alternate
view on this subject can get your creative juices flowing. I guarantee it will be
fruitful in your own unique way.
Below are a few suggestions on how to reduce the cost of your transportation, or
even earn an income from transporting others.
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE BUS AND TRAIN NETWORK
I know, I know, this isn’t free but depending on the country you are in, say Nepal,
where a bus ride costs 25 cents, it might as well be free. In most countries you can
find local or regional buses and trains to get just about anywhere. And in many cases, it is extremely cost effective to travel this way. If you are not a frequent user
of public transportation, such as I wasn’t, it might take some time getting over the slight learning curve. With just a little practice, it will become second nature.
Ride sharing is the concept of locating others traveling in a car on parallel routes.
Sometimes the person with the car is looking to split the fuel cost but many times
you can find someone just looking for company.
In all countries, Facebook groups are a great place to search for or post ride
sharing opportunities. You can also find on the following websites:
USA: Craigslist www.craigslist.org
Canada: Kijiji (the Canadian version of Craigslist) www.kijiji.ca
Europe: Bla Bla Car www.blablacar.com
I prefer to camp whenever possible. Use your judgment when selecting a camping
spot. I tend to use the adage “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask for
permission” when it comes to setting my tent up somewhere. I have camped in all
sorts of places, from train yards, abandoned barns/houses, abandoned buses,
behind businesses, local playgrounds, truck stops and people’s back yards. It’s
more of an art and less a science. Just go with what feels right. The typical worst-
case scenario is the local police will come and ask you to move.
The website below is a great resource for those looking to find prime stealth
camping locations. Additionally, the growing number of van/car campers will find
Originally created for cross-country bicyclists, this website is a network of 100,000
individuals who allow access to a warm shower. A married couple whom I maintain
a very close relationship with used this site quite successfully on their cross-country
USA bike trip.
CouchSurfing offers an easy to use web/app platform to be connected to over 11
million travelers all over the world that have agreed to let other travelers sleep on
their couch for a few nights.
This is a great resource for people who will be traveling in major cities for a few
days to a week. Hosts are typically very interested in showing their guests around
introducing them to local culture and cuisine.
Be advised that there is a bit of strategy involved with creating a profile that other
CouchSurfers will be responsive to. You will need a completely filled-out profile
with positive references. This is something that should be completed well in
advance of leaving on your travels. I recommend doing some research online with
regards to setting up a profile that other members of the community will find
Volunteering in one form or another is probably both the best and widely used
method for covering your accommodation and food costs while on the road.
Opportunities exist in many forms but in general will consist of the traveler trading
labor for some specified length of time each in exchange for receiving meals and a
place to stay.
There are websites dedicated to specific types of volunteering, such as organic
farming or animal rescue, and still others designed for specific volunteers, i.e.
doctors, dentists, corporate executives, members of specific religious affiliations.
I recommend checking online to see if there are opportunities specific to your
interests or background. Below I have included some popular links to check out.
AGRICULTURAL “ORGANIC” WORK-FOR-STAY
Ever wanted to spend time learning about farming? Some popular opportunities
exist during harvest seasons, like the peach harvest in England or the grape
harvest in France.
WORK-AWAY & HELPX
A great resource for volunteer opportunities are WorkAway and HelpX. WorkAway
specifically, offers a very easy to use interface and allows you to search openings in
the entire world for a low annual fee (currently $20USD).
For those interested in working aboard a boat of some kind, Find-A-Crew can
connect you with captains looking for shipmates. At any time, there are thousands
of boats sailing all over the world. Captains sailing alone often require assistance or
even just company. The site allows you to search by port of origin and see the
different destinations of ships currently docked there. This is a fantastic way to get
free transportation form one country or continent to another.
MONASTERIES AND RELIGIOUS ORDERS
Religious institutions are particularly friendly to travelers and spiritual seekers.
They love to share their wisdom and some in remote locations, very rarely get
outsiders that visit. Some examples; Hindu, Catholic (Franciscan, Dominican,
Benedictine), Buddhist, Jewish, Ashrams, Orthodox, to name a few. Many times,
monks and nuns are glad to open their doors to a traveler and offer a warm bed
and hot meal.
VIPASSANA MEDITATION CENTERS
With hundreds of centers all over the world, a traveler can find a much-needed
respite from the rigors of travel.
The core program is a 10-day silent meditation. Free accommodation and food is
provided. These centers work on donation and volunteer efforts only and those who
complete the program are only asked to give what they are able. Once a student
has completed the 10-day program they are eligible to serve as a volunteer for
others completing their first 10-day program. I have met many travelers who travel
from center to center all over the world volunteering.
Be advised, this is not for the casual traveler. While it is one of the most rewarding
experiences you can have, it is 10 days of meditation for 11 hours each day. You
MUST be absolutely sure this is something of value and interest to you before
Ever seen a photo of a mansion on a private island? Do you know who looks after it
when the owner isn’t there? The title of that person is a Caretaker.
A typical situation that arises is when the owner of a property passes away. While
the family is trying to list the property for sale, they need to make sure someone is
looking after it while it is on the market. Properties could be active farms, some
sort of business or a large private island home with employees. Other opportunities
might include looking after a ski lodge or bed and breakfast in the off-season.
There are so many opportunities for caretaking and many websites that can help
connect you to them. Below is a good starting point:
This is an updated phrase to replace the former, and slightly tainted, concept of a
commune. Intentional communities are generally formed around an idea or purpose
that unites the residents. An example would be a tiny house community; a location
that people desiring to live in tiny homes would populate. There are communities of
all types all over the world. Some are rather exclusive and not fond of visitors.
Others are very welcoming and want to inspire people with what they feel is a
better way to live. With a bit of searching you should be able to locate a community
where you will be traveling and stop by to see if they will allow you to stay for a few
As you can see, there are many cleaver ways to offset your expenses while
traveling. Some of these take a little time to set up profiles and make connections
but if traveling on a budget is something you want to do often, it is definitely worth
Good luck and safe travels!