Looking for a Free Place to Stay in London?
By Joshua Neil
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Anyone who’s ever lived in London knows how expensive it can be- even the smallest places can cost a bomb. There are alternatives, however, to owning or renting property in the capital- for those short on money and not tied down, there are several options which might prove better, cheaper, and far more interesting, and give much-needed shelter for hardly any price at all. Find below all the possible ways to get free accommodation in London.
#1 | House Sitting
Becoming a house sitter is ideal for many people looking to find quick property in London without the hassle or expense of buying a house or staying in hostels. With websites like Trustedhousesitters.com and Housecarers.com, anyone can register for only £3 to 7 a month, and begin to search for houses around the world.Become a House Sitter Here
Housesitting can range from one night to a year, and is a fantastic way of staying in London without the hassle or expense of booking a hotel or hostel, completely free of charge, with only the need to keep the house tidy and safe- and any pets cared for and well-fed- standing in the way of a free and fantastic holiday in one of the greatest cities in the world. Check out our guide featuring house sitting tips and tricks as well as our detailed guide to house sitting in London in 2022.
#2 | Free Accommodation for Work Exchange
A great- and hey, when you think about it, a pretty obvious- way of finding free places to stay in London is in exchange for work or volunteering. Luckily for those looking for free rooms, a lot of other people have thought of this first, and with a little searching, a number of websites can be found that cater to this kind of exchange.
Sites like WorldPackers (use the Promocode: BROKEINLONDON10 to get $10 discount if you sign up through our link), HelpStay, Workaway and Helpx allow travellers and volunteers to register an account, and begin to search for homes in the U.K. or elsewhere that are seeking lodgers. Most often this will come with certain conditions- most households will expect a few hours of work a week, or help doing chores or providing meals- but even so, this averages on both sites to roughly four or five hours a day, providing plenty of time to look for jobs, see the sights of London, or just laze about in someone else’s home. Find more about how exchange for work works here.Find Exchange for Work Here
For those not comfortable living in strangers’ homes for any period of time (I wouldn’t live in mine, and I’m me) hostels are also a good place to try out this exchange in a place of greater privacy and formality- simply ask the owners if they’re looking for work, and if that can be exchanged for lodging. There’s much less chance of wandering in on someone’s grandma in the bath when in a hostel, too.
#3 | House Swap/Home Exchange
Home Exchange works exactly like it sounds- for those with homes of their own, sites such as homeexchange.com (if you don’t do an exchange in your first year, home exhange gives you a second year free) and Lovehomeswap.com (you can try Love Home Swap for free for the first two weeks) allow an easy way to communicate with fellow homeowners in other countries or places, swapping houses and enjoying locations that otherwise would have cost them a fortune to visit.Swap Your House Here
While each site has a small fee included in the signing-up price- ranging from £5.95 a month to around £20, for the most basic services- it is clear that this is a great deal less than any other form of accommodation while staying in the capital, where even Premier Inns in the city can cost upwards of £200 pounds. Add to this the use of a kitchen, bathroom, and television, among many other features only found in an empty house, and the price is well worth it. Find out more about Home Exchange here.
#4 | Become a Property Guardian
While becoming a property guardian is not a completely free way to find housing in London, it is absolutely one of the cheapest ways to live and work in the city that can be found. While there are a number of property guardian companies out there, with some offering housing in empty homes from between £150 and £500, many of the cheaper and less commercially-minded websites, like Dot Dot Dot or Ad Hoc Property Guardians, can provide properties from £35-£70 a week, even in places like London, as well as many other places across the U.K.Become a Property Guardian Here
Becoming a Property Guardian allows tenants fresh from university or only working part-time- or simply those not willing to invest vast amounts in housing- to watch a property, be it a house, flat, or even former church or school, on behalf of the owner, paying a small fee in return for keeping the place safe and tidy, and in some cases contributing back to the community via volunteer work for certain hours every month. However, it must be said that in many cases there is only a two-week notice given before being asked to move out, so flexibility is a must (well, for those who would rather not live on the streets). More on property guardianship can be found right here.
#5 | Couch Surfing
Similar to the above, but without all of the hard work, couch surfing is the activity of moving from house to house, meeting new people, staying on couches (that’s where the name comes from, get it?) and travelling wherever you want to go.
Couchsurfing.com is a great venue for this: it allows surfers to register for free and then browse for homes to stay in. Open requests can be created where surfers can write paragraphs about who they are and what they are looking for, allowing home-owners to search for them, and there are a number of events that occur in almost every city, allowing new and regular couch-surfers to meet up and discuss things, or to find out more about the phenomenon. While some homeowners may request work done in exchange for the room, many give couches for free for a temporary time- often for a week or so- making this a great website to find free accommodation in the bustling capital. Couch surfing is a great way to stay with locals, get to know the culture of the country and make lifelong travel friends. Want to know more about couch surfing? Check out our one-page guide.Become a Couch Surfer Here
The above are fantastic ways to find accommodation in London, for however long you are looking to stay: from a week to a year, there are plenty of sites that cater specifically to those with little cash and the ability and willingness to work for their stay. It goes without saying that good references, a willingness to work hard and a good demeanour are a great head start in looking these sorts of housing for nearly nothing in a city as bustling as the capital, but for those looking hard enough, these places can be found, giving great free accommodation in London.
For more on every website mentioned, find their Twitter accounts below:
Trusted House Sitters: @Housesitting
Home Exchange: @HomeExchangeCom
Love Home Swap: @LoveHomeSwap
Dot Dot Dot: @3DotProperty
Ad Hoc Property Guardians: @AdHocGuardian
You may want to check our super Tips for renting a room in London.