Free Accommodation Warmshowers Couchsurfing and others
I’ve always marvelled at the kindness strangers have shown me when I’m travelling. Invitations to take tea or an evening meal, the offer of a beer or a shower, detailed directions, a motorbike escort through a city in the dark of night, clothes repaired and washed. These are the people that make memories of travelling a delight. They give gifts freely, they give you their time. An old man from Portugal once told me: ‘Time is the most precious thing in the world. Always remember that.’
I once received a card with a touching message: ‘I wish you enough. With enough to spare and enough to share.’
Travelling for extended periods can be expensive, especially if you crave creature comforts such as a hot shower, a meal served at a table or clothes laundered properly. I know how much these luxuries chip away the cash reserves. If you’re camping on approved campsites, the cost soon mounts and wild camping might not be for you. Sometimes travelling can be a lonely experience, we crave company even if only for short periods.
The following two organisations are a great way to way to meet people, tell stories and share meals as a traveller whether on a tight budget or not. And if you have a spare room or food to share then consider joining and you too can enrich the experience of travelling for others.
The Warm Showers Community is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink.
I have hosted cyclists from Canada, France and (ex)Yugoslavia.
Mathias and Erik who found us via Warmshowers and entertained me with great music.
Couchsurfing is a free global community of 9 million people in more than 120,000 cities who share their life, their world and their journey. Couchsurfing connects travellers with a global network of people willing to share in profound and meaningful ways, making travel a truly social experience.
BeWelcome is a free hospitality and culture exchange network. Many members of BeWelcome offer a place to stay overnight to traveling or visiting members or to meet-up and show them around their city or region. BeWelcome aims at creating more real social connections in the world and to create deeper cultural understanding.
The Hospitality Club
With members from places as far apart as Antarctica and Svalbard, HC hopes that one day everyone can go to a different country knowing that someone will receive him/her with open arms. People will travel in a different way, meet each other and build intercultural understanding through personal contact. Membership is free.
LGHEI (pronounced Elle-Gay)
The Lesbian & Gay Hospitality Exchange International is a growing network of lesbians and gay men from around the world who offer their hospitality to other members free of charge. These hosts, in turn, are received when they travel. There are currently more than 500 listings in over 30 countries.
Wild camping or stealth camping is not for everyone, but if you’d like to give it a go, then have a look at this beginner’s guide for some useful pointers to get you started.
Big thanks to Drew (See comments) for his link to the history of hospitality exchanges.
Do you know of other organisations that I could add here? Please post in the comments below.