Financial Travel Tip #80: Free Accommodation with Volunteering

by Nora Dunn on May 18, 2013

 

A few weeks ago I wrote about balancing managing an online business while volunteering in trade for accommodation.

But in tackling this topic I realized I put the cart before the horse; let’s first discuss how to get free accommodation by volunteering.

 

These are often referred to as work-trade gigs; you work a certain number of hours on the property where you are staying, in trade for free accommodation and sometimes food.

 

The variety of possibilities are endless. Here is a selection of work-trade volunteer gigs that I’ve enjoyed over the years:

 

These were each wildly different and incredibly rewarding ways to stay somewhere for a while and live a slice of local life. Oh yeah, and get free accommodation.

 

Volunteer Resources

Here are a few resources for you to find your own work-trade gigs. Many carry an annual fee, but most are well worthwhile, and just one night of free accommodation will more than pay for it.

 

The Caretaker Gazette

This remains one of my favourite subscriptions, with worldwide work-trade opportunities that vary dramatically in nature. House-sitting positions are also often listed here.

 

WWOOF

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is one of the longest standing work-trade organizations. Contrary to it’s name, it’s not all about gardening, but in order to be listed on the site, the host must have some organic component to their operation.

What I don’t like about WWOOF is that memberships are country-specific. So if you already know where you’re going: great. But if you’re open to finding opportunities in many countries, WWOOF is too limited.

 

Grow Food

I found my Hawaiian hostel gig through this site years ago. It’s similar to WWOOFing but with a global membership.

 

World Help Link

This site includes a wider range of opportunities from volunteering to teaching to interning. There are both volunteer vacations that require fees, as well as fee-free programs. I haven’t used this service but know others who have.

 

HelpX

This is another global work-trade site that is very popular and gets rave reviews from fellow travelers. Job postings and locations vary widely, so have a gander and see what sticks!

 

The Underground Guide to International Volunteering

This recently updated guide by Kirsty Henderson gives you lots of concentrated practical and inspirational information on volunteering around the world.

 

 

Tips

You can browse the listings on many of these sites before joining, so you can get a sense for whether there’s a fit with your needs and volunteer desires.

And once you’ve committed to finding a work-trade gig, cast that net wide. There is a lot of competition, and it’s not uncommon to send off many applications without even a response. I talked more about this in my latest newsletter, which you can see here (and sign up for here if you’re not subscribed).

 

 

Time Commitment

I’ve had gigs that involved little more than an hour of work a day. But for the most part, you can expect to work 20-30 hours per week. While this might seem steep (and it is, especially if you have an online business to manage), it is an immersive experience unto itself. Sometimes traveling without moving is as much – if not more – globally enlightening.

 

 

Other Forms of Free Accommodation:

How to Get Free Accommodation Book CoverVolunteering isn’t the only way to enjoy free digs around the world. I’ve been doing it in one form or another since 2007. Check out this jam-packed resource to help you make your next trip a lot cheaper – and probably more enriching:
How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World

 

 



					
				

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Turner May 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm

I am loving this list. Milking goats? Eco tours?

How about working with elephants in thailand? http://aroundtheworldin80jobs.com/volunteering-jobs-with-elephants-in-thailand/

I just did that one and I must say, it was amazing to be so close with these giants.

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theprofessionalhobo May 19, 2013 at 8:29 am

Hey Turner –
I’ve heard this can be a very rewarding experience. And although you create a good case for why the program isn’t free, I still balk at the idea of paying money to shovel large amounts of shit.
(Maybe it’s just me). LOL

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Turner November 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Ha true that.

I would say you can clean up tiger shit for free at Tiger Temple, but the place is kind of unholy in my book.

http://www.aroundtheworldin80jobs.com/tiger-temple-abuse-volunteering-experiment/

I am working with a guy in Northern Thailand now that has a small conservation, so if you can build, you can earn your keep – but alas, the rise of voluntourism is a slippery slope. Good ideas on where to look though.

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theprofessionalhobo November 8, 2013 at 8:28 am

Hey Turner –
That tiger temple seems pretty unholy to me as well!
One of the things I’ve realized about volunteering in trade for accommodation is that it works best in developed countries. You get more “value” for your hours worked in that the cost of accommodation is generally more expensive to begin with.
In developing countries there seem to be more dodgy operations (or legit ones that require steep-ish payments), and it’s almost easier to just stay in a hostel and have your own time since food & board is cheap.

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Tiffany May 18, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Milking goats in Hawaii. I love it!

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theprofessionalhobo May 19, 2013 at 8:31 am

Tiffany – One minute I was a “financial tycoon” in an urban wonderland; the next minute I was milking goats. As my first volunteer gig, it was quite an adjustment – but a welcome one at that! Trial by fire….er….milk…. :-)

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Charli | Wanderlusters May 21, 2013 at 6:36 pm

I had great fun volunteering in Costa Rica. I was house sitting at the time and took the place of the home owner assisting with vetrenairy surgeries while she was away. It was a really eye opening experience and I met so many amazing people. It really inspired me to look for more opportunities to give back to the places I visit. A volunteer/accommodation exchange sounds like a great way to save money and have a really immersive experience.

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theprofessionalhobo May 21, 2013 at 7:59 pm

What an interesting experience, getting to step in at the vet as well! How did you find that house-sitting position?

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Tim Hirtle May 21, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Thanks for the list. Have you ever seen any couples who were able to arrange volunteer accommodation?

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theprofessionalhobo May 21, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Absolutely, Tim! In fact, about half my volunteer/house-sitting positions were fulfilled as a couple.
Some gigs favour couples who can bring multiple skills to the table, while others gigs are trickier for catering to couples (for example, places offering dormitory-style accommodation).

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Teresa May 25, 2013 at 8:44 am

GREAT article and now I must read more from you! Travelers inspiring travel is what its all about :-) I just joined the growing family of travel bloggers and am loving all the new FRIENDS I am making as I discover their sites. You will now be saved to my reading list and I will LIKE you and will tweet the whole world some love for you! YOU ROCK!! Thanks for the great info!

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theprofessionalhobo May 25, 2013 at 10:34 am

Nice to meet you, Teresa! Happy travels, and stay in touch! Cheers.

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Yeity May 28, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Wow – milking goats in Hawaii, that’s a good one for the resume!

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theprofessionalhobo May 29, 2013 at 10:30 am

Yeity – True….I’m still not quite sure how it will lend itself to future work experiences….but I must admit it was fun! :-)

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Viky Verna July 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Hi, my name is Viky and I am one of the owners of Pacot Breeze Hotel. If you are thinking about volunteering/working away from home while making a difference consider Haiti among your options. You came to the right place for what you are looking for. We have been hosting travelers/foreigners for several years now and have helped hour hosts with a variety of purposes/passions. There are several volunteering opportunities available nearby (walking distance) from our location in several nearby schools, churches, NGOs, hospitals, orphanages etc… We can help with the arrangements for you if needed. We actually also need some help running our hostel with front desk work and greeting the tourists we receive weekly. Our past guests have also really enjoyed being able to learn about the amazing Haitian culture and also learning our languages (French and Creole). If you have not been to Haiti before I am sure it will be a great experience!

We also have other services (for small fees) that you may be interested in such as airport pick up/ drop off with no problem, breakfast, diner, lunch, laundry etc… We are located in the center of the city, so all the places that you would want to visit will be relatively close. For example the main park of the city called Champs de Mars is at about 10-15 mn walking distance to us. The Haitian Palace (Palais National D’Haiti) (which is now our Ground Zero) was located in the middle of Champs de Mars before the earthquake. Petion Ville is at about 15 mns to our location, easily accessible trough the Route du Canapé Vert.

On top of its convenience in distance and accessibility, Pacot is also known to be a safe and peaceful residential area for several years now. And for extra security, our location is secured by very high walls and gates. Plus we have a security guard who is on duty 24 hours a day. Therefore you can be reassured that you will be safe there :)

The Pacot Breeze location listed is my family house where I grew up before I came to the US for my studies and so on… A couple of years ago we transformed it into a sort of Bed and Breakfast and added more stories and rooms to accommodate our guests. Therefore, we have several room and room types available. We have Hostel Beds (Dorm Room Type) for $15-$25 per night. We have single rooms ($30/night) with one queen size bed, double rooms ($40/night), with 2 smaller beds, and apartments ($75/night) of three rooms, a small living area, a kitchen with stove and fridge and 2 bathrooms. All the rooms have private bathrooms (single and double rooms). We also have studio type rooms which have a single room, plus a little kitchen with stove and fridge. Volunteers are considered as preferred guests therefore for long-stay volunteering cases (several weeks) arrangements (price reduction) will be made.

Thank you again for your interest. We hope to see you at Pacot Breeze Soon! Visit us on Trip Advisor, Airbnb and http://www.pacotbreeze.com.

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