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I have encountered references (e.g. hitchwiki) that list squatting (staying in a an abandoned building as I understand it) as a cheap accommodation. I have however some concerns:

  • it is illegal in most countries
  • it is dangerous (because of the state of the building)
  • the habitants may not like you
  • the neighbors may not like you

I wonder whether it is a viable alternative for an ordinary traveler and if yes under what conditions? Even without a penny there are still a lot of other safer and more convenient possibilities for a free overnight stay.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Oddly, the legality depends on the country. In the UK for example, it's a civil offense against the landowner, but not illegal. And as an added bonus, if you 'live' there for 10 years, you can claim ownership! (This has actually happened).

More often than not, it's homeless people that squat, rather than travellers. It's so common in the UK, that there's even a website - "Advisory Service for Squatters".

TheSite also offers some advice and information on squatting, and finishes with a suggestion on alternatives:

Squatting is, however, a last resort when it comes to accommodation. A good compromise is becoming a property guardian instead. This is where you move into a disused property, such as a school or office block, with a number of other property guardians, and look after the building legally on behalf of the owners. All your bills are paid for and you pay a very minimal rent - say £100 a month.

You will need to register with - and be vetted by - a property guardian company first, which will then inform you of accommodation that becomes available. But the benefit is it's all above board, legal and - most importantly - safe.

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In other countries, you can expect different situations. In the US, you're just as likely to find other squatters, more familiar with the local territory who will defend THEIR territory with a razor blade. –  David Jun 16 '13 at 14:09

For the common traveler using abandoned buildings as a cheap accommodation could be very difficult. First of all most abandoned buildings are already occupied and the inhabitants are not gonna let you in very easily. It's not a free-for-all-hippie-area, the people who live there are very scared of losing their place and could be very aggressive. Even if you find one with no one inside, it's very likely that the building is located in a peripheral and dodgy area where the risk of robbery and assault is quite high. Lastly, abandoned buildings are not widespread and not easy to spot for a newcomers in a city. You are gonna have a hard time finding this kind of accommodation during your trips.

However, there is another option. Most occupied buildings I know in my town are "owned" by people that constantly arrange cultural events like concert, exposition, exhibitions etc. If you get in touch with them, take parts of these events and befriend them you may end up building a relationship that could potentially be very useful. In fact, they may know and have friends in other cities who live in abandoned building and you may be introduced to them and accepted to live with them for some days during your trips.

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