I know they aren’t going to be totally free because no travel adventure is – unless it’s on your doorstep – but these experiences I have for you are free when you get there. And the great thing about these freebies is that they are totally bucket list-worthy. Let’s take a look …
Lapland, home to Father Christmas and the Sami people, is an unlikely place for thrifty travelers to find travel freebies, especially when considering the price of a burger and a beer in Scandinavia. For those dreaming of the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights), Lapland is the perfect place to come. From late autumn to early spring, the Aurora Borealis lights up the Arctic Circle in magical hues of green, orange, purple and red. Sit on the icy banks of Lake Inari, which lies along the bus route between Ivalo and Rovaniemi, and enjoy this spectacular show absolutely free of charge. Both towns are accessible with flights from Helsinki.
2 Star Gazing Desert-style, Nevada, USA
If the Aurora Borealis experience hasn't given you a permanent crick in the neck, seeing the spectacular night sky over the Nevada desert is sure to be second on your list. You'll have to put some distance between yourself and Las Vegas, where light pollution spoils the enjoyment of star-gazing. Head to Tonopah, a former gold-rush township, where you can hike along desert trails and marvel at the stunning starscape. Who knows, you may even sight a meteoroid shower or UFO from nearby Area 51! The Milky Way is one of the greatest travel freebies on offer.
3 Work Hard for Table Mountain Views, Cape Town, South Africa
The breathtaking views from Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, are on many people's bucket list. Arguably among the world's finest travel freebies, the panoramic views aren't entirely for free – you'll need a map (try local maps by Peter Slingsby at slingsbymaps.com) and plenty of stamina to hike up to Table Mountain's summit. There are about 350 different trails you can take to the peak. Thankfully, there's a cable car for the downward journey.
4 Be a Beach Babe in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Kite surfing, swimming, playing beach volleyball, sunbathing and making plenty of new friends are just some of things you can do on Rio de Janeiro's amazing beaches. Watch the beautiful people going by, listen to the cosmopolitan guitar sounds of other beachgoers and enjoy free Wi-Fi at the Copacabana, Leme, Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca beaches in the build-up to the 2016 Olympics. All you need is a little pocket money for a refreshing cold drink. There are numerous cheap bus rides up and down the coast, even surf-buses if you've got your own board. Copacabana and Ipanema are served by public buses 583 and 584.
5 Join the Throng of Pilgrims to the Golden Temple, Amritsar, India
Since hospitality is one of the core elements of the Sikh religion, both admission and meals are complimentary when you visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. Every day approximately 40,000 pilgrims flock to the Guru-ka-Langar, the temple canteen, where they can enjoy a basic meal of vegetable curries served with chapattis and rice for free. All you need to do is to complete a ritual circle of the Amrit Sarovar (Lake of Nectar), which surrounds the Golden Temple like a mirror. The beauty of the place should tempt you to loosen your purse-strings though for a small donation to the temple foundation – and you stay in the pilgrims’ hotels (or niwas) for a few dollars to help the temple complex (goldentempleamritsar.org) balance their books.
6 Tap Your Toes at Rock Al Parque, Bogotá, Colombia
Like live music but not the price of festival tickets? At Rock al Parque in Simón Bolivar Park in Bogotá, Colombia, you can sing along to some pretty big-name artists for the staggering price of ZERO pesos. The 3-day event showcases a broad spectrum of Latin American talent. And just like Glastonbury, the toilets leave a lot to be desired and you can wade through mud to your heart's content. See the upcoming line-up at rockalparque.gov.co, a Spanish language site.
7 Museum Heaven in Posh Kensington, London, UK
Kensington is home to old-money lords and ladies and the nouveau riche with celebrity status. It is also home to some of the world's best museums – and they are absolutely free to visit. As travel freebies for art and history lovers go, they are the ultimate budget-friendly gift from tourism chiefs. You can spend weeks at the Natural History Museum and look at their collections (consisting of hundreds of thousands of exhibits), or play all day with the interactive exhibits at the Science Museum. Like fashion? See some 5,000 years of human attire on show at the lovely Victoria and Albert Museum, including some of Princess Diana's most spectacular outfits and post-punk stuff designed by Vivienne Westwood. Take the tube to South Kensington. The museums are signposted and linked via a tunnel.
Have you got any of these experiences on your bucket list or have you already ticked them off?