How I saved over $4,000 on accommodations in one y...

How I saved over $4,000 on accommodations in one year of travel

This is not a financial advice but recently, I’ve realized that I haven’t paid for any accommodation since I started travelling South America. 17 months of travelling paying for nothing (accommodations) is all because of volunteering and making friends on the road.

So here it is. I am going to tell you the history of my accommodations for over one year of travel. I am not really good in Math but I tried my best to explain each item by including the host, accommodation type, number of days, hostel price per night (by city) and the amount of money I saved. I also included a brief history on how I met these people while travelling. The connections are amazing and I am quite surprised I made through friendship!

For further reading, you can check related article(s) in each item.

Note: Events are in chronological order and prices mentioned below are in U$D.

1. Couchsurfing in Sao Paulo, Brazil

I met my host through Couchsurfing we clicked. I stayed with her for three months and I was able to meet her lovely family who lives in another city. They also hosted me in Pouso Alegre!
Host: Livia (Couchsurfing)
Accommodation Type: Private Room
Number of Days: 90
Hostel Price in Sao Paulo per night: $9
Amount of Money Saved: $810

2. Family Stay in Barranquilla, Colombia

I met one of the members of the family (Andrea) when she visited the Philippines. Though we connected through Couchsurfing, I didn’t host her in Manila. When she learned that I was going to visit Colombia, she insisted that I stay with her family for Christmas and New Years!
Host: Roa Family
Accommodation Type: Private Room
Number of Days: 60
Hostel Price in Barranquilla per night: $12.22
Amount of Money Saved: $733.2

3. Volunteering in Medellin, Colombia

Taking a break from my family stay with the Roas, I decided to visit the city of Medellin since I heard so much good things about it. I found this volunteering job (my first rodeo with work exchange) and it went very well!
Host: Bambu Hostel
Accommodation Type: Dorm
Number of Days: 30
Hostel Price in Medellin per night: $11.91
Amount of Money Saved: $357.3

4. Volunteering in Quito, Ecuador

Moving on, I travelled to Ecuador and decided to volunteer again. I found myself surrounded with a battalion of volunteers who treat each other like family. The owners are quite amazing too and I love them so much!
Host: Colonial House Quito
Accommodation Type: Dorm
Number of Days: 30
Hostel Price in Quito per night: $10.50
Amount of Money Saved: $315

5. Homestay with a friend in Lima, Peru

When I travelled to Palawan a few years back, I met Salvador (Peruvian) whom I made good friends with. The day before I travelled to Lima, he sent me a message and told me that I should stay with his friend (no matter what. He really insisted!) because he is presently living in Taipei. His friend, Guillermo hosted me for a few days and I was able to taste his mother’s legit cooking!
Host: Guillermo (Friend of a friend)
Accommodation Type: Private Room
Number of Days: 4
Hostel Price in Lima per night: $6.30
Amount of Money Saved: $25.2

6. Volunteering in Paracas, Peru

Moving forward, I found this cool beach spot in Peru where I got to work in a bar by the beach with the most amazing workmates ever! These people are now my bestfriends and we decided to travel and volunteer in the next destination together (La Paz).

Host: Kokopelli Hostel Paracas
Accommodation Type: Dorm
Number of Days: 40
Hostel Price in Paracas per night: $9.47
Amount of Money Saved: $378.8

7. Volunteering in Cusco, Peru

I went separate ways with my friends in Paracas to volunteer in a restaurant in Cusco. Just for a change of lifestyle and more solo adventures. In this restaurant, I was working with one German dude and I got to cook food for real customers!
Host: Waminka Restaurant
Accommodation Type: Shared Room
Number of Days: 21
Hostel Price in Cusco per night: $9.10
Amount of Money Saved: $191.1

8. Volunteering in La Paz, Bolivia

As a promise, me and my co-volunteers in Paracas travelled to Bolivia together. We also had a pact — we will look for a hostel to work in and they have to accept us together — all four of us. La Paz was the biggest surprise of my South American travel mainly because I wasn’t really expecting much. This was the best experience of my volunteering life!
Host: Adventure Brew Hostel
Accommodation Type: Dorm
Number of Days: 30
Hostel Price in La Paz per night: $7.91
Amount of Money Saved: $237.3

9. Homestay with friends in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Back in Brazil for the World Cup, I stopped by Sao Paulo for 2 weeks and stayed with my cool Mexican friends whom I consider my best bros ever. Living with men can be challenging but these boys know how to live properly. They are all English teachers in Brazil.
Host: Eduardo, Marcel and Julio (Mexican Friends)
Accommodation Type: Private Room
Number of Days: 14
Hostel Price in Sao Paulo per night: $9
Amount of Money Saved: $126

10. Couchsurfing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This gets challenging to explain as it goes. Well, to start off, I met this French guy who became my close friend (Julien) and he was in Rio de Janeiro the same time I was. He was Couchsurfing with a Brazilian girl named Theis and when I had troubles finding for a place to stay (in the heat of the World Cup), Theis took me in! We all stayed in her place regardless of the space restrictions! Today, I consider Theis as one of my best girl friends!
Host: Theis (Couchsurfing)
Accommodation Type: Couch
Number of Days: 40
Hostel Price in Rio de Janeiro per night: $8.40
Amount of Money Saved: $336

11. Volunteering in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Taking a break from all the parties during the World Cup, I knew I had to volunteer again. I found a gig in a cool bread and breakfast in Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro and I’m back to working again! Plus, I lost my wallet with everything in it during the Cup so having free food and accommodation really helped.
Host: Vila Casanova Bread and Breakfast
Accommodation Type: Private Room
Number of Days: 21
Hostel Price in Rio de Janeiro per night: $8.40
Amount of Money Saved: $176.4

12. Family Stay in Montevideo, Uruguay

I came to a point where I got really sick of volunteering. To change that feeling, I decided to change the way I travel. I posted on the Couchsurfing community wall of Montevideo and asked if there are families who are willing to take me in so I can learn about the Uruguayan culture. Luckily, I received a lot of responses and chose Andres Lema’s family.

Host: Lema Family
Accommodation Type: Private Room
Number of Days: 30
Hostel Price in Montevideo per night: $13.66
Amount of Money Saved: $409.8

13. Homestay with friends in Buenos Aires, Argentina

More connections but let’s put it this way. I had three hosts in a span of two weeks in Buenos Aires: Mili and Mauro were hostel guests and regular bar customers when I worked in Paracas; I met Luciano when I was travelling in Colombia last year; Daniela is one of the Roas whom I stayed with in Barranquilla, Colombia. She is studying in Argentina. In short, all these people are very good friends and close to my heart.

Host: Mili and Mauro, Luciano, Daniela (Friends)
Accommodation Type: Private Room/Couch
Number of Days: 16
Hostel Price in Buenos Aires per night: $11.75
Amount of Money Saved: $188

14. Homestay with a friend in Rosario, Argentina

Today, I am in Rosario, Argentina staying with Paula, an Argentinian who I met when I was working in a hostel in Quito. She is 48 years old and still has this love for travelling! She actually never stops travelling. I love this girl!

Host: Paula (Friend)
Accommodation Type: Private Room
Number of Days: 6
Hostel Price in Rosario per night: $6
Amount of Money Saved: $56.3

15. Blog Sponsors

Additionally, if I don’t find a host, I tap hostels to give me free accommodation in exchange of extra online exposure. I’ve done this in almost 10 cities in South America and it always works well!

In two days, I will be on my way to Cordoba, Argentina to start teaching private English lessons to a family. I will be staying there for a month and I am really excited about it!

In summary, I paid $0 on accommodations for over a year of travelling. How amazing is that?! With this, I am really thankful for all the people who took me in. Thank you for accepting me in your home and always being enthusiastic about my visit. Even if there isn’t enough space, you’ve pushed beyond your means to make me comfortable during my stay.

It’s not about saving money. It’s about making friends and learning culture, food and language through locals. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

I promise you all that you are always welcome in my home (actually my parents’ house because I don’t have a house at the moment) when you visit the Philippines.
Cheers to kindness, love and friendship!

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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. Trisha also loves extremely spicy food, pineapples, plants and symmetry. In no particular order, her favourite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv. Follow her life adventures on Instagram: @psimonmyway

  1. ku kod

    9 November

    Love your article.. You inspired me to travel. God Bless you

  2. Anonymous

    9 November

    Im also thinking of dumping the corporate world in exchange for freedom to travel anywhere in the world! Argggh im getting there. So happy to read your blog. 🙂

    • Trisha Velarmino

      13 November

      GO FOR IT! That’s all I can say. You will not regret it, I promise you that! Thank you for reading!

  3. xerxes seposo

    9 November

    Nice article. 🙂 Continue inspiring others by your adventures. I, for one, love traveling and this article is an affirmation of my passion. Cheers.

  4. Danielle

    10 November

    Really Love this story. is the best. I used to host on that site. I’ve never been on the couch end. Looks like a fun adventure!

    • Trisha Velarmino

      13 November

      Thank you, Danielle! I’ve had a lot of good experience(s) in CS and everything always turns out well!

  5. Karla Louise Pilapil Ceguerra

    4 February

    Thanks Trisha! I also want to do this, but not so soon yet. Always take care! God bless!

  6. Jonny Blair

    24 February

    Well done Trisha, great article. In contrast I backpacked through all the same places as you but spent money on accommodation, yet still felt it was worth it. We all get our own experiences on the road and like you say the money is less important than the experiences we have. Safe travels. Jonny

  7. PaperGirl

    16 January

    Hey Trisha!
    I’m new to your site, so this info may already be in here, but do you have an amount for how much you spent overall? Like besides the free accommodation? My bestie and I are about to head to South America and we’re wondering around how much we need set aside besides accommodation & travel expenses… I understand this varies by country, but it’d be great to have an idea…

  8. Ver Manez

    30 January

    Hello Ms. Trisha, Your travel is full of excitement and challenges.

  9. arvz

    1 February

    So you’re from Zambales too. I’m from Castillejos working hard here in Metro Manila as a ‘waiting on phone” guy. And honestly, it sucks the hell out of me to what I really want to do . But I had no choice but to endure it for the sake of living in the city. And i know it’s a bad choice. LOL. But my wanderlust is still firing me up to be a nomad. And though having no enough money to help me push with my travel-ish escapades still concerns me the most, you’re inspiring me to step up with my life and go beyond my comfort zone SOONER. For me, experience is what makes a person totally content and genuinely happy with LIFE. We DO NOT LIVE ONCE, we LIVE everyday and everyday is a celebration of LIFE. Keep on inspiring us Trish!

  10. Hani

    20 December

    Hi Trisha,,

    I’m Hani, we met in Aqaba, Jordan.

    I’m really liked your experience, you guide me to a new way to save money and make a new friends.

    I just want to ask you about how you being a volunteer?

    privet: i loved your blog and i enjoy when i reading, you inspire me to start writing about my trips.

    Thank you very much


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