How-To: Enjoy Free Stays in Monasteries
Traveling can bring you to places you may have never imagined you will end up in. This can be scary sometimes, but that's what makes traveling adventurous and enjoyable.
And if you run out of budget, and really don't have much left for lodging, you can search monasteries in that area and can avail of the generosity and hospitality of monks or nuns.
Some monasteries charge the cheapest rate you can come across with, ranging from $20 to $60 including meals. Some offer free board and lodging to weary pilgrims or impoverished travelers.
You can sincerely donate any amount that you can afford. They will appreciate your gesture.
Although, most monasteries and convents in Europe such as England and Italy don't provide free lodgings their prices are dirt-cheap.
List of websites that provide information of monasteries or convents
Church of Santa Susanna
This website will provide you a list of convents in Assisi, Florence, Venice, Rome, San Giovanni Rotondo, and Gimingnano. Staying in these convents is not free but they offer significantly lower prices than hotels and pension houses.
Men and their families, women and children are welcomed in these places. However, there are curfew hours that guests must observe.
You cannot book directly from this website. Since some of the convents' phone receptionists may not be able to speak English. You can have problems booking a place on your own.
Good Night and God Bless
There are several branches in wonderful places worldwide; in Paris, Nice, Kenya, Cape Town, Saskatchewan, and other places around the world. The locations of the convents or monasteries are peaceful and breathtaking locations that can make your travel interesting. The site will provide all the locations and contact numbers of these cheap lodging places.
This site will connect you to around 300 convents, monasteries and religious lodgings all throughout Italy. You can book directly your choice of lodging from the website itself.
The site has a feedback review rating of 4.4 out of five, and it provides pictures, and details of the monasteries so, you can choose properly a lodging place that responds to your preferences.
Some perks from the site are their provision of a comprehensive package that you'll undoubtedly appreciate. This is optional though, you can choose not to avail of it. These packages though are so affordable; you may not be able to refuse.
Monastery makes the booking for you, so you can be rest assured that you won't need a dictionary or an interpreter to book your lodging place.
On this site, you can search for religious houses, convents or monasteries. You can specify the town, province and region. You will be asked to enter your name and address to facilitate the search and to prove that you're not a spammer.
The places provided in the website are only within Italy; nonetheless, it has listings of all religious lodgings, monasteries and convents that you can choose from.
Dominicans and Benedictines
These religious orders provide lists of guesthouses for interested individuals. Along with these are seminars and retreats that you can attend. The sites provide information about all religious events that they conduct to their flocks.
These websites are not solely for finding monasteries, they're the orders' official websites where they post their announcements and updates about all their activities. You can browse more, if you're interested.
General Guidelines in Staying in Monasteries
- There's usually a curfew during the night, around 9:30 pm. If you want to stay in the monastery, you will have to adhere strictly to their curfew hours. If you can't, then you have to pack your bags and go somewhere more convenient for you. It's a simple rule to follow for all the free or cheap stay you'll be accorded.
- Don't expect luxurious lodgings. Nuns and monks reside there, so expect modest rooms with the basic amenities such as a bed, a bath, a closet and a small table. Sometimes, you'll have to share a common bathroom.
On some occasions, you may stay in one big room - like a dorm - with several people. You may also be staying in empty monk cells or bunks. If you're lucky, you may be given a single room with your own bath.
What's important is that the place is clean and safe. If the amenities exceed those mentioned, then it's an added bonus for you.If you're a paying guest, then you may be able to select your accommodations, accordingly.
- They usually allow you to stay 2 days to 1 week. Unless, you're planning to join their religious order, then extended stays are not allowed for free. For those accepting payments, you may be allowed to extend indefinitely.
- Foods are home-styled. Don't expect lavish meals with side dishes and all the frills. It's a convent, remember. Simple living is the code. Also, all meals may not be included.
- Silence is observed at all times in most monasteries. If you can't bear silence, then you should not choose these religious places. Of course you can talk and laugh, but boisterous behavior is discouraged. Boisterous behavior includes laughing out loud, chattering incessantly and frolicking wantonly in any area of the monastery.
- You're not required to attend their services. But, they usually invite visitors to attend their religious rites. You can politely refuse if you belong to a different religion or if you're busy. Yes, they still practice democracy in there. Nevertheless, wouldn't it be a great spiritual experience if you try to join in their spiritual activities. If you're not really inclined to, you can take a stroll for a breath of fresh air in the gardens and bask in the tranquility of the place.
- Eat your meals on time. Discipline is strictly observed in monasteries, so don't disrupt their organized regimen by going in late for your meals.
- Respect them and their rules. Accord respect to the people in the monastery, and respect their rules. They'll be happy to have you again, if you do. Respect begets respect, so to speak.
- They may conduct free or cheap seminars. You can grab the opportunity to learn something new from these activities. Traveling is always a learning experience.
- There are no maids, so you clean up your own mess. Don't expect maids, who will clean up every time you create a mess. Be responsible and fix your own bed upon waking up, tidy your own room, and take your used utensils to the kitchen. It's like a serve yourself set-up.
- Staying in monasteries can be free or can come with modest fees. Still, compared to hotels, they're dirt-cheap so take advantage of them.
- Call in advance. As much as possible you have to call or book in advance. Rooms may not be available if you book upon arrival.
- Monks and nuns have a vow of charity, love, kindness and hospitality. You're obliged to observe these virtues too when you're living with them.
- Persons from any religious denomination are welcome. Monks and nuns don't discriminate. To them charity and love is for everyone.
Additional Tips on Staying on Monasteries
- Bring a multilingual dictionary with you. You can bring the book form or download it online to your cellphone for easy access. You'll surely need it in other places.
- You may want to have a list of all the monasteries. Include their contact numbers and complete addresses when you travel, just in case. You can never tell when you'd run out of finances and need to stay in these extremely cheap lodging places.
- Even if they're free, it won't hurt you if you leave a little amount as donation. It doesn't matter how small the amount, as long as it's from your heart. They won't mind.
- Most monasteries are located in the suburbs or far away from the city. This allows you sufficient time to submerge yourself in the surrounding area to relax from the bustle of city life.
- Generally, all meals are included. Some monasteries however, provide two meals only. You can always inquire if you're not sure. There's no fee in asking.
- Do take some pictures. Traveling cannot be complete unless you have captured the beauty of the places that you have visited. Take some pictures to serve as your memento afterwards.
- You can also use Google or Yahoo to search. You can use these search engines to find free or cheap religious lodging places. These search engines are merely a click away from your fingers.
- You can also use these interesting books as guides. These books are useful in your search for those free or incredibly cheap religious lodgings. Every detail you need can be found in these books.
- Bed and Blessings Italy by Anne and June Walsh
- Europe's Monastery and Convent Guesthouses: A Pilgrim's Travel Guide by Kevin J. Wright
- Sanctuaries, The Complete United States: A Guide to Lodgings, Monasteries, Abbeys and Retreats by Jack Kelly and Marcia Kelly
- Lodging in Britain's Monasteries by Eileen Barish
Enjoying a free or cheap stay in monasteries is a big adventure that travelers should experience. It's a once in a lifetime event that you must not miss.
What more, this event will enrich your spiritual and moral fiber, and on top of that you're getting this momentous adventure at the cheapest price.
Find the monastery in your travel destination, and go for it!
Do you know any other ways to stay in monasteries for free? Let us know in the comments.