When I started hitchhiking 4 years ago, I had many doubts and questions in my mind. Like many others, I wanted to travel, and experience this world without spending much money.
I chose to do hitchhiking to reduce transportation costs but the cost of lodging was still a problem for me. Because I didn’t want to spend extra dollars on costly hotels for only a single night.
Then, in my research, I came to know about Couchsurfing where travelers can get free accommodation without any conditions. So, in my initial days of traveling, I used Couchsurfing to save expenses on lodging.
But, in the last four years, while hitchhiking, I have tried many different ways to spend my nights apart from Couchsurfing.
So, in this article, based on my practical experience, I will tell you some of the best free places to sleep while hitchhiking. I chose these following places because they are safer, easy to find and provide free accommodation to hitchhikers.
So, let’s find out what are the best places where you can spend your night while hitchhiking.
Best Free Places to Sleep while Hitchhiking
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Garden and Parks
A Garden or park is also an excellent option to spend the night if you are close to any big city. You can easily find a park or garden in any city with the help of local people or a map of the city (digital or printed map).
Obviously, in the garden or park, there will always be some people beside you. I think being accompanied by some people is a good thing because it gives a feeling of safety to me.
Generally, the atmosphere of the garden and the park gets colder at night so if you are planning to spend the night in the park always remember to carry a sleeping bag.
Also, there is a possibility that Polish might not let you sleep in a park, so try to avoid sleeping in a place that is easily visible.
24-hour Gas Station
The gas station is the favorite location for hitchhikers to spend nights.
Personally, I have spent only one night at a Gas station in Netherland. But, I have heard from many hitchhikers that they often spend nights in Gas stations. Especially, if it is cold outside then a gas station is a good option.
You can spend all night in a gas station drinking coffee or go to the attendant of that gas station, tell him your situation, and ask him if he can provide you some space for sleep. There is a good possibility they might provide you a place to sleep.
On my Armenia trip, I met a hitchhiker from Sweden. He told me that he sometimes sleeps in the ATM booth when he can’t find a place to sleep.
Initially, I thought it is a weird place to sleep. But, Three months later in Delhi, when I didn’t find a good place to sleep I decided to sleep in an ATM and slept in a nearby ATM booth.
Usually, no one visits the ATM booth at night time. That’s why, during my sleep, no one disturbed me or no one tell me to leave the ATM booth. But, remember to leave the ATM booth early in the morning without leaving any traces behind.
ATM booth is a place open for all people. That’s why (most of the time) no one would tell you to leave the ATM booth.
If you have no place to sleep or there is cold outside then an ATM booth is a good option to spend the night.
Camping is my favorite way to spend the night while hitchhiking.
If you want free accommodation while traveling then you must try camping. Camping doesn’t only provide you free accommodation but it also gives you freedom, privacy, and the feel of adventure.
The only thing you have to do is to carry a small lightweight tent with one sleeping bag with you and then find a good site for camping.
If you are traveling in-country like Mongolia where camping is allowed and easy, and a lot of free space is available, you will always find a good site for camping.
But, it is also true that in some countries you may find it difficult to find a proper camping site. Generally, you will face this problem in developed and industrialized countries. So, below are some tricks that you might find helpful for finding a camping site in such countries.
If you are in a place or country where camping is not allowed then you should try stealth camping. Stealth camping is an act of doing secret camping in the public or private areas (legally or illegally).
For stealth camping, one has to find a relatively lifeless place. In a lifeless or less crowded place, you can easily camp at the night without being noticed by anyone. This type of camping is called ‘Stealth Camping’.
The best time to find a place for stealth camping and to set up a stealth camp is just before it gets dark. Leave that place in the early morning and remember to not leave any signs behind. Before leaving, clean the place as it was before.
Stealth camping doesn’t only provide you free accommodation but also provides you a quiet location to spend the night away from the hustle and bustle of society. Public school grounds, Town parks, Backyards of private homes, hills, woods are some of the best locations for Stealth camping.
Find a House with a Garden
Try to find a house which has a garden. It is not hard to find such houses in developed countries.
Once you found such a house, ask the house owner for his permission to let you set up camp in his garden. Remember that you are a stranger to the house owner. So, talk to him in a humble way and with a big smile and explain to him your situation.
You can show him your traveling gear and pictures of your previous journies to create trust. Most of the time, they will give permission to set up camp.
Asking Local People
You can take the help of local people. Generally, local people are very eager and interested to help travelers.
They will help you to find a place for camping and also, there is the possibility that they may invite you to their house to stay for a night. During hitchhiking, I have unexpectedly met many local people who offered me food, money, and sometimes a place to sleep without even asking.
So, always try to talk and connect with local people while hitchhiking. They will always try to help you in one way or another.
Sleeping in the Monasteries, Churches, and Temples
Monasteries, churches, and Temples are some of the easiest places to get free accommodation (And sometimes free food) for hitchhikers.
I don’t know why hitchhikers usually don’t talk about this option. It is easy to find monasteries, churches, and temples in Europe, South Asia, and Southeast Asian countries. You can take the help of local people or google Maps to find monasteries or churches or temples in these countries.
Monastries and churches are spiritual places. You will always find good people in these places who are really interested to help you. Also, generally, these places are safe and quiet.
Just go to any monastery, talk politely with the caretakers of that monastery and explain your situation to them. Most of the time they will help you and will offer you a place to sleep in the monastery. Personally, I have spent many nights in monasteries in Armenia and Georgia.
I remember it was Armenia where I spend my night in a monastery for the first time. I was outside the city and I didn’t find a good place to sleep so I asked monastery people for help. They did offer me food and a place to sleep. They were good-hearted people and were very interested to hear about my traveling experiences. For me too it was a different experience as I haven’t been to any monastery before.
Couchsurfing is an online platform that connects travelers to local people. Using this platform travelers can connect with the local people around the world who want to provide free accommodation to travelers without any conditions.
You need to do only one thing. You have to send requests to some hosts of the city where you want to go and then wait until someone accepts the request.
So, how can you use this platform? The process is quite simple.
The first thing you need to do is to create your profile. Remember, your profile is the most important thing. For other people, you are a stranger and you are talking to them through your profile. So try to make your profile as attractive as possible.
You can upload photos of your previous journey or you can share your travel experiences on your profile. In other words, your profile must reflect your passion for traveling.
I personally think that every traveler must try Couchsurfing because it not only provides you free accommodation but also it connects you with the local people who share the same passion as you and it helps you to understand the culture of the local people. Through your host, you can understand and experience their culture and lifestyle.
I have used this platform in my Russia and Iran trips. I remember I was hosted by three families in Russia and by four families in Iran. They took me to show different attractions in their cities. Then, we used to discuss each other’s culture. They told me about their culture, food, and history. I told them about Indian culture and festivals. Really, these were great experiences.
If you are looking for an adventure, a different experience, good food, and free accommodation then I will suggest you try this platform