13 Places You Can Stay for Free Around the World

Find a way to offset your travel costs.

mariott marquis
Photo: Courtesy of Marriott

Traveling the world can get pricey, which is why it's great when you can find free accommodation. Whether you're looking to hike through America's national parks or score a night at a luxury hotel, there are some ways you can do it all for free. From owl-shaped cabins to artist-hosting hotels, here are some places around the globe that offer a free stay.

01 of 13

Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France

Shakespeare & Co Sleeping
Courtesy of Bonnie Elliott

Shakespeare and Company is a historic bookshop in Paris that has been inviting writers to take up residence in its corridors since it opened back in 1951.

Through the shop's Tumbleweeds program, writers can sleep in beds hidden away between its bookshelves or in a book-lined apartment that's located upstairs, sharing the space with other guests. In exchange, guests help for a few hours a day around the bookshop and write a one-page autobiography to add to the shop's collection of past guests.

According to the bookstore's website, the program is temporarily paused due to ongoing construction.

02 of 13

Les Refuges Periurbains in Bordeaux, France

Refuges Periurbains Bordeaux France Guetteurs Watch
Courtesy of Bordeaux Métropole

If you're looking to explore the natural scenery of Bordeaux, there are a series of eight shelters located along the region's outskirts where travelers can stay free of charge, with a one-night maximum, as part of the Les Refuges Périurbains project.

The shelters don't have water, electricity, or heat, but they're close to attractions like flowing rivers, ancient castles, and stargazing spots and come in designs that range from an adorable owl to a giant snail sitting on the water. Reservations can be made online, with the shelters open from March through October each year.

03 of 13

Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China

swatch art peace hotel
Courtesy of Swatch Art Peace Hotel

A space dedicated to artists, the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China, invites both known and unknown artists from around the world to apply for its artist residency program. They are asked to leave a trace of their stay behind in a work that the hotel will display online in its virtual museum.

Artists can meet fellow creatives and take the time to work on their projects while exploring Shanghai for anywhere from three months to up to six months at the hotel. If you've got the creative portfolio for the job, you'll take up residency in the second and third-floor apartments within the hotel free of charge with continental breakfasts included.

04 of 13

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Alaska

chilkhoot trail
Stefan Wackerhagen/Getty Images

The National Park Service has also been inviting artists to create works as far back as the late 19th century. Today, the NPS has more than 50 different residency programs in the country, allowing you to stay at locations that range from wilderness parks at Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

At the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, for example, artists who are selected hike the entire length of the Chilkhoot Trail as part of a two-week backpacking trip, spending one to three days at each campsite. Positions are open to a range of specialties from photographers to composers, cinematographers, writers, and more.

05 of 13

Bed and Breakfasts for Barter Week in Italy

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For the last decade, a Bed and Breakfast organization in Italy has been inviting travelers to stay in thousands of charming bed and breakfasts across the country in exchange for goods and services.

Barter Week, which takes place towards the end of November, allows you to find the accommodations that have signed up to trade your skills for their hospitality. While some might not have specific lists nor be open to all kinds of barter, others may ask for everything from knitting, food blogging, comic book illustrations, or even help with olive oil production.

Guests can apply with the B&Bs, and once the offer is accepted, they'll be able to pack their bags and make their way to accommodations found everywhere from Sicily and Tuscany to Sardinia and Umbria. Some businesses are even open to bartering year-round. If you want to travel beyond Italy there is also a platform for international stays, however, there are fewer choices.

06 of 13

Carlton Arms Hotel in New York City, New York

carlton arms
Courtesy of Carlton Arms

The Carlton Arms Hotel in New York started its art-in-residence program back in the early 80s, standing as a space where you can admire an array of works throughout its corridors.

Artists can snag a free room in the hotel for the time they need to complete their project, in addition to getting all of the materials they'll need. You could have your artwork next to the likes of Banksy, who has also contributed works to the property.

07 of 13

The Appalachian Trail in the U.S.A.

Eckville Shelter in Pennsylvania on the Applachian Trail

Photo: Ben Hasty/Getty Images

The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The 2,190-mile trail spans 14 states from Georgia through Maine and includes more than 250 backcountry shelters that you can mostly stay in free of charge, while only a few charge fees. The sites that charge fees are most often found in New England, and the cost is usually $10 per night or less. The shelters are typically located about five miles apart from each other and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some more tent-like and others with multiple floors.

08 of 13

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan

sleeping bear dunes
John A Gessner Photography/Getty Images

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore's artist-in-residence program allows American writers, composers, visual artists, and photographers to apply and enjoy a three-week residency to use the lakeshore as their artistic inspiration.

You can choose between a free park house that's located nearby, or staying in one of the developed mainland campgrounds. Artists will be asked to donate an original piece of work to the park and to share their knowledge during the last week of their residency with the public through workshops, demonstrations, or readings.

This program has been paused until further notice.

09 of 13

Glacier National Park in Montana

glacier park
Getty Images/Feng Wei Photography

Those taking part in the artist-in-residence program at Glacier National Park will be housed in a historic cabin on the shores of Lake McDonald, which comes with a full kitchen, a bath, a bedroom, and a studio that overlooks the lake. During the four-week program, you can explore the landscape and participate in lectures, demonstrations, film screenings, and guided walks.

10 of 13

Mountaineering Club of Alaska in Alaska

alaska mountain hut
DCrane08/Getty Images

If you happen to be traversing through Alaska, there are seven huts in the state's mountain ranges where members of the Mountaineering Club of Alaska can stay for free.

Scattered throughout the Chugach and Talkeetna Mountains, the huts sit at varying altitudes to accommodate people at different stages of their hikes or climbs. Lodgings like the Mint Hut can sleep up to eight people at a time and offer scenic views, like that of the Little Susitna River.

While the club itself has a yearly membership fee of $20 per individual or $25 per family, members can take advantage of these cabins while exploring Alaska's magnificent natural terrain.

11 of 13

UXUA Casa Hotel and Spa in Trancoso, Brazil

uxua casa
Courtesy of UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa

Located in the Brazilian town of Trancoso in the state of Bahia, UXUA Casa Hotel and Spa is a property rooted in history, with half of its houses dating back 500 years.

The area became a haven for artists escaping from Brazil's major cities during the 1970s, according to hotel representatives. That spirit continues today with the property's artist-in-casa program, which ranges from two weeks to one month and allows an artist to stay in the hotel for free in exchange for making art with local materials before the end of their stay. In exchange, you'll spend your days surrounded by the natural beauty of the Bahia coast.

12 of 13

The Vagabond Club in Singapore

the vagabond club
Courtesy of The Vagabond Club

Another haven for artists, the Vagabond Club is the first hotel in Singapore to offer an artist-in-residence program.

Creatives can apply for residencies that vary in length from a weekend to two weeks, with everyone from writers, poets, and musicians invited to apply. Residents are encouraged to mingle with one another and even conduct performances at The Salon, the hotel's restaurant. Artists are also asked to leave something from their work behind for the hotel after their stay.

This program has been paused until further notice.

13 of 13

25hours Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland

pawn shop hotel in Zurich

Courtesy of 25hours Hotel Zurich

If you've been holding on to your family's antiques, you might be able to make a trade on your next trip to Zurich. The artsy 25hours Hotel brings a whole new meaning to the word quirky with a unique amenity you'd be hard-pressed to find in any other modern hotel — a pawn shop. Guests and visitors can not only browse the hotel's collection of curios and trinkets but they can also donate their own to the collection and get a free stay in exchange. You can contact the hotel with the form on their website to inquire about making a barter.

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