What are the Best Accommodations for Your Work Abroad Experience?
5 minute read
While many of InterExchange’s Working Abroad programs include housing for the duration of your program, our Work & Travel programs are more freestyle, meaning that you’ll seek accommodations on your own. Even if you participate on one of our homestay-style programs, you’ll likely want to travel before or after your program and will be looking for a place to stay. There are numerous options and they are as easy as ever to find.
Hostels are a crucial part of the backpacker existence, and not just because their dorm-style rooms are cheaper than hotels. They’re also great places to meet new friends. Many hostels include common areas and some feature shared kitchens for self-catering, a consideration for anyone on a budget. You should also think about the atmosphere you want - do you want a lively social scene or a more relaxed vibe?
Hostels vary widely from treehouses to dorms to boutique; trying different ones is half the fun! Some people use hostel networks like Hostelworld, which lets you create a profile, connect with other travelers, and give reviews. Another commonly used resource is Hosteling International, which you can join for discounts on certain hostels and travel services.
The term “guesthouse” can encompass several types of housing. An owner might use this term simply because it’s the local norm, or it may be a way to distinguish the place from the implied cost and sterility of a hotel, or from the lack of privacy that often exists in a hostel. Often a guesthouse falls somewhere between the two.
In most places, guesthouse implies a bed-and-breakfast-style accommodation; in others, it can be a step closer to an inexpensive hotel with a menu and communal eating areas. Unlike hostels though, guesthouses are less likely to have dorm-style rooms.
In many countries, weekly or monthly apartments, sharehouses, and sublets may be available. The more people you have in one unit, the cheaper your rent will be, so this is a great time to pull together your network of new friends that you’ve met on your way. You can also visit the Facebook page for InterExchange participants in your country to search for roommates or call our in-country partner for any leads or suggestions. If you are on a Work and Travel program, you will no doubt want to settle down (at least for a little while!) and these more stable living options might be a good fit for you.
Even on a Work and Travel or non-homestay program, many participants enjoy the insight gained from living with locals. If you’re traveling in a non-English speaking country and working on your language skills, host families are often a great way to practice (and they probably appreciate the exposure to your native language as well). You can find opportunities and host families on networks such as Homestay.com.
One of the most important considerations for living with a host family is that you are viewed as a resident; for example, it would be expected that you participate in the daily life of your hosts to some extent. This could mean sharing family meals and of course keeping your own areas tidy. In other cases, you might spend a lot of time with your host family, seeing the community and creating a relationship that can transcend beyond your exchange.
WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or Willing Workers on Organic Farms) gives travelers the opportunity to volunteer four to six hours per day on an organic farm in exchange for room and board, as well as education about organic farming in general. Your duties could include anything from fence building, planting or harvesting, working at a farmers market, and other tasks. The accommodation types also vary: some are tents set up on the property, some are dorm rooms or cabins, and some of the more quirky farms have converted vans or trailers on site. You’ll need to be a member of the country chapter and communicate with farmers directly to arrange your stay.
Everyone should sleep under the stars at least once! But before you unroll your sleeping bag, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.
First, if you are planning on backcountry camping, make sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return. It’s a simple thing to do and it can save your life. Be sure that backcountry or wild camping is legal in your destination. Of course, some rules and camping etiquette are universal: keep noise to a minimum late at night, always put out your fire, and don’t leave your trash behind. Many laws are not universal, however, and you should always know what is or isn’t acceptable wherever you happen to be.
Transitions Abroad provides numerous useful links to information about camping around the world.
If you haven’t heard of it yet, you will once you start traveling more. Couchsurfing came into existence in 2004 and now has millions of members sharing their couches, guest rooms, floors, yards for tent space and other extra space to thrifty travelers, at no cost. Travelers can reach out to individual hosts and request to crash, or post the dates they will be traveling and hope that someone contacts them. The site also allows travelers to connect with each other and meet up in a foreign city, even if they aren’t in need of a place to stay. While hosts are asked to go through a few basic screening measures, it’s up to the surfer to read reviews, engage hosts in dialogue, and make sure he or she is comfortable crashing on a stranger’s couch.
Ready for Take-off!
Having a place to call “home” is a tricky task among travelers, especially those who are going to be gone for awhile. Some living arrangements work better for some than others and we encourage you to try lots of options during your adventure. If you’re ever stuck or don’t know how or where to choose, do not hesitate to call our partners abroad for support. We warmly wish you the best of luck on your travels, and remember - variety is the spice of life and word-of-mouth is your friend!
InterExchange is proud to have an experienced team that is dedicated to international cultural exchange. We come from a variety of backgrounds, but nearly every member of our New York City-based staff has extensive experience traveling, working, or living abroad.
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