When I was a new nomad, wandering the globe, hopping from place to place, I didn't know how to make it sustainable. I had finished up my 2.5 years service as a Peace Corps Volunteer and knew one thing for certain: I wanted to stay abroad. How? Not a clue but that was future Kat to figure out.
And, 10 years later of no looking back, I can safely say I have figured out how to build a life abroad. I've lived a lot of different lifestyles in a lot of different countries throughout the past decade but, when I first started out, my main goal was to figure out how to live abroad on a shoestring budget.
I relied on the people I met while traveling to give me a great tip or two and send me on to my next destination. I had a little bit of money and a whole lot of wanderlust and wanted to stretch it as far as I possibly could.
Sometimes I'd work, sometimes I wouldn't but my desire to establish myself in new places and stay for longer than just a few days or weeks was strong.
While it definitely took some flexibility, I quickly learned that staying abroad for free was actually possible. Sure, I spent money on a few beers or day trips but my accommodation and a lot of times even my food was taken care of.
These are my top 5 tried and tested methods of how to live abroad for free.
1. Volunteer Abroad
Volunteering abroad is one of the most versatile options on the list and one of the most clear-cut ways when searching for something "free." As a volunteer, you won't make any money but you also won't spend any.
To make this a free way to live abroad, you'll want to find a work exchange program. My two favorite platforms to find these types of opportunities abroad are:
Both of these platforms work almost the exact same so it's really dealer's choice here. On both, you'll be able to browse volunteer opportunities all around the world. The volunteer work will cater to a wide range of skill sets, from digital skills to construction and childcare and everything in between.
Workaway and Worldpackers are both open to all nationalities but most opportunities will probably ask for a specific language but in some cases, it can rudimentary. In general, there isn't an age limit or any specific requirements. Each job listing will clearly state what they're looking for in a volunteer so you can apply with confidence.
In exchange for a few hours of work, you should always receive free accommodation. In my experience, I've also been given free meals so I really wasn't spending anything once I arrived. I was also gifted free experiences, like joining in on tour groups when I volunteered at boutique hotels and lodges.
A third platform you might want to try out is WWOOF, the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Here, you'll need some experience in agriculture or at least a desire to learn and put in the work. Just like in the other platforms, you should receive free accommodation and sometimes free meals in exchange for your work.
Do note that all 3 of these platforms will require you to pay a small membership fee.
2. Pet Sit and/or House Sit
As a pet/house sitter, you can say goodbye to paying rent. While you shouldn't expect any free food while as a pet sitter or house sitter, you can expect to stay in much nicer housing than you'd get as a volunteer, generally.
You might need to be flexible with where you go and your exact dates but it's possible to hop from one sit to another. A great website for this is Trusted Housesitters but word of mouth and FB groups are other ways to find these opps. Just be sure to take your time when creating your profile or applying to listings. While there are a few big tips to becoming a successful housesitter, for starters treat the opportunities that come your way like job applications and you'll be a lot more successful.
As a house sitter, you'll temporarily live in someone else's home while they're out of town. You'll care for their plants and whatever other specifications they have. As a pet sitter, you'll do the same but add in the homeowner's pets. Sometimes this can be as easy as feeding an old cat or as difficult as managing farm animals. The choice is yours here!
This option is perfect for digital nomads who work remotely because you won't be required to volunteer certain hours. You'll just need to take good care of the pets you're responsible for but otherwise, how to spend your time is up to you.
Living the rent-free life is a great way to give yourself a little bit of money freedom while you build your own freelance business or save up.
Trusted Housesitters require a membership fee but obviously, word of mouth or Facebook groups are free to use.
3. Working Holiday Visa
Ever heard of a Working Holiday Visa? If you haven't, you're in for a treat! These visas are geared towards people, typically under the age of 30, that dream of living abroad for a year or so. The idea here is that with this visa, you can move abroad for a year and work (if you want) or simply travel to your host country.
Not all countries offer these visas but if you're under the age limit, I'd recommend researching which countries offer Working Holiday Visas (WHV) to your nationality.
The most sought-after WHVs are for:
This is by no means an extensive list but just a few examples of countries that offer this type of visa.
A perk to applying for a Working Holiday Visa instead of a regular work visa is that you don't need to have a job lined up in advance. You can job hunt once in the new country, and again, only if you want to work while abroad. These visas are typically much more straightforward, have a quicker turnaround time, and are easier to apply for than regular work visas.
Plus, compared to a tourist visa, you're allowed to stay in the country for a much longer time period and with the option to earn an income.
Most visas will have a small fee to apply and will require you to have a certain amount in your bank account. This gives immigration the peace of mind that you can afford to live comfortably in the host country if you choose not to work during your stay.
4. Work Abroad
Ok, so working a job will require more effort and energy than the other options on this list (for the most part), at least in this one you make some cash along the way. It's not always the case that your job will provide housing but when I was a tour guide in Panama and an English teacher in South Korea, housing was part of my package.
Some jobs abroad will even pay for your plane ticket or moving expenses, so you won't even have to dip into your savings to relocate.
While free housing and moving expenses don't equate to an entirely free experience of living abroad, given the fact that you're earning an income, you at least won't be spending your savings but, instead, you could make enough to save money while still getting to live abroad.
There are a lot of great jobs to work abroad, but some will be easier to get than others. Technically, you can find jobs ranging from product designer to yoga instructor but a few of the easiest to find and most straightforward work visas will be for jobs like:
- Teaching English Abroad
- Hosting Travelers as a Tour Guide
- Working in the Medical Industry (as a nurse or vet)
- Taking Care of Children as an Au Pair
- Yachting, as a Stewardess or Deckhand
You should never have to pay to apply for a job abroad. You might need to get certain training or certifications though. For example, to teach English abroad, most countries will require that you have a TEFL Certificate.
Last but certainly not least is Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is another online platform that allows you to find free places to spend the night. Unlike the other ways to live abroad for free on this list, this is geared towards shorter stays.
On Couchsurfing, you'll most likely find a host that is willing to let you sleep on their couch (hence the name) or even a bed for a night or two. It's possible to make a great connection with your host and stay for longer but I would expect that to be the exception, not the rule.
In general, you're not required to offer anything in return for your stay. Most hosts are extroverted travelers, too, and enjoy meeting people from around the world. So, bring along some food or drinks and gear up for a nice evening of sharing your best travel tips and wildest stories from around the world.
To sign up for Couchsurfing, you'll be required to pay a membership fee. The fee for this platform is by far the cheapest option as it was created for true budget travel.
You're Ready to Travel Cheaply
If you're wondering how to live abroad for free, there you have it, 5 simple ways to extend your travels and stay abroad for free. Ideal for solo travelers, digital nomads, or couples looking to save money, these options are diverse enough that you'll be able to find the perfect option for your skills, lifestyle, timeframe, and budget.
Personally, I've done every single option on this list so can say with confidence they're all great ways to live abroad while sticking to a tight budget. If the most important thing to you is living abroad, each of these options will get you where you want to be without emptying your bank account.