Last updated on January 6th, 2019
If you’ve been house sitting locally, you might be keen to broaden your horizons, but perhaps aren’t quite sure how to get started in the international house sitting scene.
Or you may be completely new to house sitting, but want to house sit globally from the outset, as a way to travel overseas and experience new locations and different cultures.
Everything you need to know about international house sitting
Either way, there are some things you’ll need to know about international house sitting, that might impact your choice of destination and the type of house sits you apply for. We’ve been house sitting now for 4 years full-time, and have looked after over 50 homes in 12 different countries, so we now have a lot of experience of foreign house sits to share with you!
A lot of the information will depend on your country of origin and where you decide to go. For instance, an American going to Canada won’t experience so many unknown cultural differences, whereas a Brit heading to Mexico is likely to encounter many!
And there are a lot more things to consider besides culture. You’ll need to assess the costs involved. Not just living expenses, but visas, tourist taxes, flights, internal travel, medical and travel insurance, etc.
In this article we take a look at some of the more important considerations:
- How much will I get paid as an international house sitter?
- Visa requirements
- Transport to and from the house sit
- Other information pre-sit information when applying for overseas sits
- The additional costs of house sitting abroad
- Remote & Off-Grid House Sits
- Enhancing your profile and making house sitting applications
- Where to find international assignments
- Getting a head start on the competition
Some points will only apply to more tropical or exotic locations, but many are applicable to all overseas sits.
1. How much will I get paid as an international house sitter?
If you’ve been used to house or pet sitting locally and charging for your services, you’ll immediately notice a difference when looking at house sits that are advertised internationally.
Most international house sitters do NOT charge for house and pet sitting.
Instead they provide a valued service to pet and property owners, in return for free accommodation. This exchange is built around trust, not money. It’s a concept that’s at the heart of the international house sitting industry.
There’s actually a very practical reason for this too. In most overseas countries it would be considered as “work” if you take payment for house sitting services. And… this would mean you’d need to apply for a work visa, often much more difficult to obtain than a standard tourist visa. So it’s easier for everyone if money doesn’t pass hands.
When passing through immigration you can honestly state that you’re on vacation, traveling, retired or visiting friends. To avoid complications, don’t mention house sitting, even if you are doing it for free.
Are utilities included when house sitting?
In most cases the answer will be yes, but occasionally home-owners restrict use of air-conditioning, or ask you to pay over and above their usual monthly usage. For an off-grid property powered by generator, you may find fuel use is capped too. But generally, if you are offering your services as part of a trust based exchange, the utilities, heating fuel, water, WiFi, and even any contracted cleaning services, will be included.
WiFi and internet
Check what WIFI and internet packages are included if you work remotely. Will you have an unlimited package? If satellite internet is the only option, expect to be frustrated a lot of the time. Unless the home owners are running a business and have paid for an expensive high speed connection, it is likely to be slow and occasionally non-existent.
2. Visa Requirements
One of your first considerations when visiting a foreign country as a house sitter, should be to check if a travel visa is required, and for how long it will remain valid. You need to make sure you can cover the full length of your house sit or sits.
Many countries offer visas as you enter at immigration, but for others you may have to apply in advance for a valid travel visa. The USA, Australia, Canada and some others offer the options of an electronic travel authorization (ETA), which is usually obtained online. Contact your embassy to find out what is available for you and exactly how many days you can remain in the country. Overstaying can result in deportation, hefty fines or worse.
In some countries, it’s quite a simple process to leave and re-enter to renew a travel visa, but always make sure you have the most up-to-date information. We were able to extend our stay in the Caribbean, but we needed a local resident to “sponsor” us for the extension. These are all things to think about on longer term house sits.
This is one situation where we DON’T advise taking advice from friends, forums or Facebook groups. Always check your eligibility for travel before sits so you don’t end up being unable to fulfill your obligation. Immigration rules can change without notice, so stay on top of this right up to the moment you travel.
Never accept an international assignment that is longer than the visa you are able to obtain.
3. Transport to and from the house sit
Consider how you will get to and from the house sit, or from one house sit to another.
- Will you need to hire a car?
- Is their an adequate and safe public transport system in your country of choice?
- Does it run all year round, including low-season?
- How much will it cost you to get from the point of entry to the house sit?
- Is a car included, what type/condition, and how will insurance be handled?
- How easy is it to drive… what condition are the roads, what side of the road?
A remote off-grid house sit might sound like a wonderful experience, but if you can’t easily get to the shops for food, vets, emergencies, it might be less appealing. While house sitting in Bocas del Toro, in Panama, our only mode of transport was a small panga boat in daylight hours. We shopped for food every 10 days!
4. Other important pre-sit information for overseas house sitting
Check online to see if you need vaccinations or malaria medication. For some countries these are mandatory and entry will be prohibited without proper certification. Make sure you leave enough time between jabs and your intended travel date. With Yellow Fever, for instance, you need to allow for 10 days after the vaccine is administered.
Seasons & Climate
Home owners frequently leave their properties and pets to visit family and friends, or to travel, during the low-season. This is often when extreme hot or cold weather occurs. It might also be the monsoon, hurricane or cyclone season, or a time when there’s a higher risk of forest or wild fires.
Do your research and make sure you’re comfortable (and qualified) to deal with these conditions should they arise. Can you handle hot weather? 30+ degrees Celsius in a humid tropical location is fine with a pool and air-conditioning, but if you’re not used to relentless heat and there’s only a fan, it’s a very different story! If you are house sitting alone, could you handle fixing hurricane shutters to a property? Think risk assessment and how you would cope with different situations.
House sitting off-season in a tourist resort may suit some, but others will feel let down by the lack of available (open) facilities and that there are fewer people to interact with.
Is your destination at altitude? Living at high altitude can be problematic and a challenge for some people, and it’s easy to overlook the height of an inland destination in a country that’s unfamiliar.
Tropical jungle, African desert, island bliss, beach and sea – you can experience it all. But remember a holiday is very different to living in an exotic destination. Bugs are blitzed in upscale hotels, but not always in expat homes.
Consider cultural differences, extreme weather conditions, accessibility, driving on the opposite side of the road, daily house sitting chores, snow clearing, gardening duties, location of shops, special dietary needs, insects, spiders, noisy frogs, howling dogs, monkeys, and so on.
Even a country like Australia can be a cultural and environmental challenge. If this is somewhere you are thinking of house sitting, you might want to take a read of our comprehensive guide to house sitting in Australia.
Interview questions tend to increase dramatically when you begin house sitting internationally – especially in exotic or remote locations!
Traveling to a tourist location for a vacation, is very different to living in a community full of foreign speaking nationals, especially if you need to get something fixed at the property, or want to actively socialize within the local community. Ask the homeowner about this, and find out if you’re likely to feel isolated if you can’t speak the local lingo.
On the other hand, this is a great opportunity to learn a new language.
If you do have a language other than English it will be certainly be considered an asset to many home owners (depending on where you are!). So make this a key element of your house sitting profile!
5. The Additional Costs of International House sitting
Make sure you have assessed and are happy with all the costs involved:
- Airfares – Remember last minute long-haul flights are often much more expensive, or available low cost options may involve lengthy layovers.
- Visas and tourist entry or departure taxes – Often these are included in the airfare, but not always.
- Visa extensions – if it’s a long term house sit, you may incur additional costs to renew or extend your travel visa.
- Cost of getting from the airport to the sit and back again – This can be high, especially if you are traveling to a remote location. It’s possible the home owner will pick you up, and that’s something you can discuss.
- Cost of living – Expat locations can be more expensive, especially for food and drink if it has to be imported.
WIFI and telephone costs – WIFI is usually included where available, but you may need to find a phone package or need to upgrade your internet service, which will be covered out of your own budget.
- Travel and/or Medical Insurance – The longer you are away, the more you will have to pay for travel and/or medical insurance. World Nomads are a good option, especially if you need to book mixed locations around the world and over a long period.
- Dealing with home emergencies – When house sitting locally it’s often much easier to deal with a family or personal emergency, than when you’re a long (and often expensive flight) from home. You may find that some international home owners prefer couples, so that one can remain in-situ should an unavoidable situation occur. Make sure you have a Plan B or contingency plan
6. Remote and Off-Grid House Sits
How remote is the property?
If the property is remote, and in an unfamiliar location and climate, you might want to consider carefully your suitability to the house sit.
Is a car included? Personally, We would never accept a remote house sit without a vehicle. How would you get a poorly pet to the vets, or yourself to a hospital in an emergency situation?
Remote living isn’t for everyone. Don’t pick a house sit based on location without considering what it would REALLY be like to live there – especially if it’s a long term sit.
We were recently house sitting in Africa, 40km from the nearest town, and were restricted to two trips a week in the car that was provided for our use. We weren’t able to drive after dark because it was too dangerous (wild animals not people). Could you handle this? The prior house sitters couldn’t.
Remote properties can also be prone to longer power outages when there are electrical problems. If you work online you might need to consider this carefully.
House sitting at off-grid homes
Off-grid properties are not connected to regional water and electrical supply services. It doesn’t however always mean that internet isn’t available. Power comes from solar panels or a generator, and water from a bore-hole, well or a simple rainwater collection system.
A good, well maintained system should run with minimal problems, but there are some basic skills you’ll need to know to efficiently maintain your power and water supply.
If you’re a high power consumer, think twice about choosing a solar powered property. Many off-grid homeowners will specifically request house sitters with relevant experience. Don’t bluff your way into a sit without having the necessary practical experience! If you ruin the batteries on a solar powered system you could be looking at thousands of dollars to replace!
If you work online, seriously consider and ask plenty of questions before accepting a sit that may limit your ability to work consistently or at all!
Having owned (and built) an off-grid property in Panama, we have quite a lot of experience to share on this particular topic. For further reading take a look at this in-depth article: House Sitting Off-the-Grid
7. Enhancing your profile and making applications
Once you’ve considered all or the relevant points above, and done your travel research, it’s probably time to beef up your profile. If there is anything that can be added to help your credibility when applying for overseas sits, now’s the time to get your profile updated.
House Sitting References
One of the first things you need to do is to make sure you have all your local references to hand. If you want to know more about references, how to get them, where to get them and how to make the most of them, then this article will help:
No Experience? Be Creative
Think about where you’ve traveled overseas and what challenges you’ve overcome?
Assess what particular aspects of overseas travel you’ve enjoyed and environments you’ve thrived in. For example, if you spent two weeks traveling in tropical conditions, and loved the heat and humidity, this is valid information.
If you’ve rented a property overseas with a house keeper or a cook for a vacation, it’s relevant. It shows you’re comfortable with house keeping staff which is common in many 2nd and 3rd world countries where labor is cheap.
- volunteered overseas?
- backpacked around a country or continent?
- been on a tour in a remote or exotic location?
- worked or volunteered at an animal rescue centre?
- ever had a rental or Airbnb type property?
- renovated a home or investment property?
Anything that shows adaptability, and how you’ve experienced cultures and environments outside your home country, will help gain credibility. Are you good at DIY for instance – don’t be shy about mentioning any relevant skills.
Don’t get disheartened. There are always home owners who are willing to give new house sitters the opportunity to experience a different location.
Always be honest and explain your reasons for becoming an international house sitter. Talk about your positive personality traits, qualities that would help you in a difficult or challenging situation.
Communication is key – make sure you invest time in thoroughly communicating with the home owner about everything you need to know to be comfortable with the house sit you are applying for. We always request a video chat so that we can really get a full understanding of the house sit and pet responsibilities, BEFORE accepting the assignment. Spend as much time as is necessary, and watch for red flags!
Always personalize your house sitting application. Make sure you read everything in the home owner’s advertisement and see if there’s any way that you can make a more personal connection.
Reassure the home owner of your commitment. This is especially important if flying a long distance to get to the assignment. We always explain that once booked we never back out of a house sit (except in exceptional circumstances). One of us would always stay even in the event of a family emergency.
Once booked, we also send copies of our flight tickets, which serves two purposes:
- To show our confirmed flights and arrival dates
- To demonstrates to the home owner that we’ve invested financially in the assignment. This hopefully deters them from making random changes or cancellations.
If you are financially independent, explain this to the home owners. It will reassure them that you can afford to make the trip and sustain yourselves throughout the assignment.
Include this information in your profile and reinforce it in your personal application letter.
Remember when writing that you are looking to fulfill the home owners needs, not your own personal requirements.
3. Where to find international house sitting assignments
You will find a number of international and country-based websites with house sits listed all over the world.
The main international house sitting websites are:
Which house sitting site will work best for you?
Take a look at our popular post – The Best House Sitting Websites Compared – You’ll find up-to-date information on all of the well-known and reputable international house sitting sites, and the regional sites, along with prices and a feature check-list. We also include all our current offers and discount codes. It doesn’t cost anything to browse, and you’ll probably find yourself drawn to the website that offers the most opportunities in the areas you are looking!
Learn as much as you can about house sitting successfully – you’ll find a wonderful community to network with at the House Sitting Magazine Facebook Group – come and join us here!
8. Getting ahead of the competition
Competition is tough on the international house sitting circuit. Everyone wants to house sit in beautiful Costa Rica, the Caribbean or even Africa. There will be many applicants all trying to secure the most attractive international gigs. Our house sit in Botswana had over 150 applicants!
To help you get a head start, there are a few of things you can do at the outset:
- Review and enhance your house sitting profile (see above)
- Create email alerts on house sitting platforms wherever possible so that you can respond instantly to relevant sits
- If you’re serious, sign up to a few different sites. Maybe one international, one regional to improve your chances.
- Look for house sitting groups on Facebook – identify unfulfilled opportunities.
Consider a last minute house sit that hasn’t been filled or where someone has cancelled. There will be far less competition from long term or professional sitters who’ll have been snapped up long before. Check Facebook groups and pages associated with the major international platforms. They often post last minute sits on social media.
This article is Part 6 of the “Become a House Sitter” series:
- Is house sitting right for me?
- What does a house sitter do? House sitting expectations
- How to find the best house sitting sites for your needs
- House sitting references – all your questions answered
- How to find house sitting jobs consistently
- THIS ARTICLE: How to become an international house sitter
Pin for later: