Let's face it: if you're on a budget, free accommodation is a pretty appealing prospect.
Not all of us would trust a person we meet on the internet enough to let them stay the night at our place on their round-the-world backpacking trip. But increasingly, online communities are growing around exactly this type of hospitality.
Couchsurfing.com is one such community, where over 165 000 members world-wide are making their homes and couches available to each other. For a broke backpacker, sleeping on an internet-buddy's couch beats sleeping under a bridge. According to the site, it's not just about saving pennies; it's about creating a better world by opening homes, hearts and lives. In an age of organised tours and package deals where you're rarely forced to mingle with a local, the chance to hang out with one for a day or two can really enrich the experience of travelling.
Another site worth checking out is GlobalFreeloaders.com. Though it doesn't boast quite as many members as Couchsurfing, it still has over 14 000 members in the United States and two from Turkmenistan. You may even get a whole room to yourself, not just a couch.
Of course, with any of these sites it's important to remember it's a two-way relationship. At GlobalFreeloaders, the expectation is that you'll give back as much as you've received: so if you visited four members while you backpacked around Europe, you're expected to accommodate four members when you can.
There's plenty of other services such as these showing up around the web, so we've decided to add a short list of some of the best we've come across.