15 Places You Can Stay for Free Around the World
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 art-centric hotels, here are 15 places around the globe that offer a free stay.
Shakespeare and Company — Paris, France
Shakespeare and Company is an 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 that sit hidden away between its bookshelves or in a book-lined apartment that’s located upstairs. In exchange, guests help for a few hours a day around the bookshop and write a one-page autobiography.
Ace Hotel — New York City, New York
The Ace Hotel in New York has two ways creative minds can stay for free.
Through the hotel's artists in residence program, artists are invited to stay at the hotel on Sunday nights in exchange for creating a piece of work for the hotel. The hotel partners with institutions like The Museum of Art and Design, Tomorrow Lab, Printed Matter, and Flux Factory to create an eclectic environment that you can contribute to.
The hotel also has a residency for writers called Dear Reader, which gives writers an overnight stay for crafting an open letter to guests to be put by bedsides in each room.
Les Refuges Periurbains — Bordeaux, France
If you’re looking to explore the stunning natural scenery of Bordeaux, there are a series of eight shelters located along the region’s outskirts where travelers can stay free of charge 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 1 through November 30 each year.
Swatch Art Peace Hotel — Shanghai, China
Artists can meet fellow creative 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. Artists take up residence in the second and third floor apartments within the hotel free of charge, in addition to free continental breakfasts.
Artists are asked to leave a trace of their stay behind in a work that the hotel will display on its virtual museum.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park — Alaska
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.
Positions range from photographers to composers, cinematrographers, writers, and more.
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.
Bed and Breakfasts for Barter Week — Italy
For the last decade, Italy has been inviting travelers to stay in thousands of charming bed and breakfasts across the country in exchange for goods and service.
Barter Week, which takes place towards the end of November, allows you to look up each of the accommodations that have signed up to see what skills they’d like in exchange for hospitality. While some might not have specific lists and be open to all kinds of barter, others can ask for everything from knitting skills to food blogging, comic book illustrations, and even olive oil.
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.
The Vagabond Club — Singapore
Another haven for artists, the Vagabond Club is actually the first hotel in Singapore to offer an artist-in-residence program.
Creatives can apply for residencies that can extend 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.
Carlton Arms Hotel — New York City, New York
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 are able to 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 for the project. You could have your artwork next to the likes of Banksy, who has also contributed works to the property.
The Appalachian Trail — U.S.
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 you can stay at free of charge. The shelters are typically about five miles apart from each other, and come in a variety of designs. Some look like tiny cabins while others look like tents and some include multiple stories.
Some, like the Overmountain Shelter, on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, is actually an old barn that was converted to fit more than 20 people, providing those who stay with mountain views.
You’ll want to be sure to check with the specific park you’ll be situated in as a few of the shelters charge fees.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore — Michigan
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s artist in residence program allows for American writers, composers, visual artist, 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 stay 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 options like a workshop, a demonstration, or a reading.
Marriott Marsquis Doha — Doha, Qatar
The program allows for travelers to turn their layover into a stopover, getting the chance to enjoy two cities for the price of one. Two adults and a child below the age of eleven can take part in the airline’s free hotel stay offer. Several other airlines also offer stopover programs that allow you to snag a hotel stay at a highly discounted rate.
Glacier National Park — Montana
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.
The program allows for four weeks to explore the landscape and to participate in three public programs that can range from lectures and demonstrations to film screenings and even guided walks.
Sunrock Backpackers Hostel — Corfu, Greece
This backpackers hostel, which is located on Pelekas Beach in Corfu, Greece, has a volunteer program that allows travelers to spend one month conducting daily work at the hotel in exchange for free meals and accommodation.
Duties typically range from welcoming guests to cleaning guest rooms, working at the bar, and helping with food preparation, but in return, you'll get easy access to crystal clear waters and all the charm Greece has to offer.
Mountaineering Club of Alaska — Alaska
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.
UXUA Casa Hotel and Spa—Trancoso, Brazil
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 producing art utilizing local materials before the end of their stay.
In exchange, you’ll spend your days surrounded by prime beaches and lush rainforests.