You can travel Europe and live in luxury in the likes of Cannes and St.Tropez, eat in the finest restaurants in Rome and glide down through Europe on the Orient Express. All possible if you have the budget. If you are looking to travel Europe for free though, there are still many excellent ways to see the continent and to enjoy yourself whilst doing so. Below are some ideas and tips for travelling Europe on a shoestring.
Boat Crew – One of the best ways to get to Europe for free i.e. from North America, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean or potentially from anywhere worldwide, is to work your way to Europe and this in effect means trying to get work on a boat. When I was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for example, I found that a lot of backpackers staying in the youth hostel were going to the local marina’s to get work cleaning boats and in the process, getting a job as a deck-hand to stay on the boat and to go with the boat. The boats were mostly off to the Caribbean, although some were off to Europe and others to South America. The key really is to get to know the crews and certainly also hanging out in the local sailing club helps. Work your way onto one of the crews and you can often end up finding a boat which is going to Europe i.e. to the Greek Islands, the Spanish Coast or the French Riveria for example. CrewFinders.com is worth checking as a starting point.
Courier Work – Another option is to get work as a courier (a legal courier that is). Take a look in the Yellow Pages under “Air Transportation” or “Air Courier Services” and join an organization such as the International Association of Air Travel Couriers. The process works in that you book your reservation and make a refundable deposit. Your job will then be to transport goods to a company at your destination. Since those goods will take up space in the baggage compartment, you are only allowed carry-on luggage. Also, you cannot do this while flying within the United States; you must travel overseas. You can however still also benefit from the frequent flyer miles you earn will also help towards another future free flight.This type of work is popular for getting from around Europe and from North America, Australia, NZ to and from Europe. You need to be 18 years of age or over though.
Once you are in Europe, having accommodation organised is the next key issues and there are some great possibilities to stay in Europe for free. The creation of CouchSurfing now means that you request accommodation anywhere in the world, staying with a local host for free. There are some safety mechanisms built into the process in that you can view recommendations and reviews of the hosts and also see which hosts are verified users on the site or are not. Having talked with friends who have personally used this service, the general feedback is that the service is very good in that most people they stayed with did provide decent enough accommodation and were in most cases very friendly and helpful. It was reported to me that some hosts were a bit strange but my friends did not report any problems. If you are looking for a placer to stay for free then the truth is that you cannot of course expect the Ritz Carlton or the Holiday Inn. For free accommodation in Europe though, this is a great service. (Please let us know your experience of Couch Surfing by adding your comments below).
HouseCarers.com is another excellent choice, with many countries in Europe including in Italy, UK, Spain and Greece possible for free digs. By signing up to housecarers you can try and find a match so that you can look after someone’s property whilst they are away. I have not personally used this service and would love to also know your feedback on this service if you have used them before. Another option is to register with housesitworld.com who offer a similar service. There are some fees on these two sites but the fee is nominal. When choosing a a property, make sure you clarify what your work responsibilities will be, and what bills, if any, you are expected to pay (such as utilities). Also, ask for references. If you really want a completely free stay then stick with the couchsurfing option!
Another way to get free accommodation and also sometimes free food, is to either:
Money to Travel and see more – Although perhaps not strictly travelling for free, you can also consider getting a job as an au pair in Europe. You will typically take care of children, playing with them, helping with homework and taking them to school and on outings, prepare meals, perform housework and do light grocery shopping while staying with a host family, for which they are paid an allowance. In Europe, au pairs usually work only part time. If the family you are working for travels, you can move about the continent for free. For job listings, check out websites such as Au Pair International. Be careful to check references on the host family. Also, look into the local government regulations; some place restrictions on age.
So you really can travel Europe for free! Not only that, but it will most likely be far more interesting than the typical wealthy person’s trip. You will get to interact with local people, and see their countries the way they do, instead of a brief, sterile glance. You will create memories that last a lifetime – and that’s priceless.