How To Sleep On The Street

by The Runaway Guide on June 21, 2011

If you want to save some money and think you got what it takes to brave the elements, the homeless, the police and the prostitutes, you may want to consider hitting the streets for a not always good nights rest too. The following guide will offer you priceless tips, from picking the safest spots to turning down pestering prostitutes.

How To Prepare

 In order to prepare yourself for a night out on the street, you should ideally undergo some mental preparation. Getting a good nights rest outside is not as easy as it seems. Since most of us are used to the comfort of out beds and protection of our homes, being exposed to the elements takes some time to get used to. In order to prepare, you should practice sleeping outdoors or on hard surfaces prior to your departure. Additionally, when you sleep on the street, you may sometimes be in public places among people. To get used to this, try sleeping in a 24 hour McDonalds or local train/bus station. In this way, you will be somewhat acclimated when sleeping on the street becomes a necessity.

What to Bring

The most important thing to bring is warm clothing. Regardless of whether you are traveling somewhere with a warm climate or not, you need to make sure that you bring sufficient warm clothing. Because no matter how hot it is in the day, the night will almost certainly be much colder. And once you stop moving, your body temperature will cool. Thus you should plan to sleep in layers. You will find that your extremities, your head and face, along with your legs and feet are the most difficult to keep warm.  Therefore it is a good idea to bring long johns, a full face beanie and warm woolen socks. If you are really struggling to keep warm, try stuffing plastic bags between your pants and long johns. Though the crunching of the bags might wake you, the added heat they provide is worth it. In addition to warm clothes, you should ideally bring a warm sleeping bag, a yoga mat and a flashlight. A space blanked, battery-operated radio, and chemical heat packs are also good ideas. See Staying Warm On The Road.

Where To Sleep

If you’re like me and want to avoid pestering prostitutes, tweaked homeless people and cops all together, it is best to try and walk to the countryside. If the city is too large that you cannot easily walk to a less populated suburb or countryside, than your best bet is to find a dark park. The best kinds of parks are those with slides or the plastic tubes we used to play in as children. These will help to shield you from the elements as well as keep you out of sight. However, if you oversleep and awake midday, you may find yourself in a hot plastic kiddy urine ridden sauna, dripping and suffocating from the heat.

If your going to sleep in the city, the main thing is to keep out of sight. Keep on the look out for nooks in the bushes. However, if you don’t want to encounter crazy homeless folk, try and avoid their usual spots. Stay away from under passes and park benches. 24 hour train or bus stations are also good places to sleep. During the backpacking season in Europe there is never a shortage of fellow backpackers dozing off on the station floor. If you are traveling alone, it is a good idea to sleep close to them. But don’t get to close or you may end up in some awkward positions and awakenings. Additionally, in large cities, there are often 24 hour McDonalds. And so for the price of a burger, you can generally sleep undisturbed and comfortably for a night. Check out The First Time I Slept On The Street.

Staying Safe & Sleeping Sound

Whether you’re a budget backpacker or you’re a broke runaway, sleeping on the street is one of the best ways to reduce your travel costs. However, sleeping on the street does not come without its risks. If you’re not careful and don’t know where to sleep, you could wind up in a territorial fight with a homeless man, get picked up by the local police or even get robbed. Check out How To Avoid Being Robbed. Not to mention, when you sleep the street, you are completely exposed to the elements, with the most common risk being hypothermia. On the other hand, if you are prepared and heed this guide, you will find that there is nothing more liberating, both financially and spiritually, than laying your head down on a beach, a bench or concrete slab for the night.

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

mahmoud baydoun April 21, 2014 at 12:38 pm

hey Leif , i was wondering what do cops do to people who sleep on streets (like the homeless) in general . thanks :)

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The Runaway Guide April 22, 2014 at 10:53 am

Hey Mahmoud! Really depends on where you are.

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Marc February 6, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Leif, any ideas on which beaches are safe to sleep on in Southern California? I’m gonna have a two week layover there and want to be super frugal. Do you know of beaches that are hardly patrolled? I’m thinking anywhere between L.A. and San Diego.

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The Runaway Guide February 11, 2014 at 11:42 am

Hey Marc, Santa Barbara beaches are pretty safe, Ive sleept there before. You just have to go to the south end. Or the beaches around UCSB campus.Between LA and San Diego I’m not really sure, just gotta scope it out when you get there. good luck

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totochto January 14, 2014 at 5:25 am

Thanks – I’m looking for good advice. The person I and 2 others sublet from is suddenly being evicted because of his actions. BTW, MacDonald’s is definitely out – they have launched a nationwide anti-homeless campaign. The have posted hostile signs warning against dining longer than 6o minutes per day and soldered all the electrical outlets shut to prevent phone or laptop charging.

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The Runaway Guide January 20, 2014 at 2:46 pm

O man, sorry to hear it. That’s interesting to know about McDonalds. Any abandoned buildings you can squat in?

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Bella December 28, 2013 at 8:06 pm

I was talking to a backpacker and he said that one day he was very cold because it was winter, so he walked to an airport, snuck in, and went to sleep. Whenever anyone asked him, he just said his flight had been cancelled! Haha! I’d love to run away and backpack around but I’m only 14 so I’m gonna wait a few more years lol!

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The Runaway Guide January 13, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Hey, yea, that works well everywhere. You could hypothetically live in the airport if you wanted. :)

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Shonnea February 26, 2013 at 11:40 pm

WOW!! You are very adventurous!!! I dont think that I would ever have the guts to sleep on a street!! :) It really makes me appreciate my bed!! :D Safe Travels!!!!

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The Runaway Guide March 3, 2013 at 9:45 am

Thanks Shonnea, you can get used to anything really :)

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Ana February 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Thanks for the tips. I’m sure to use them sometime soon. To me, a life without adventure is not life at all. I live in Baltimore at the moment and plan to head west once I’m through with high school. Wish me luck!

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The Runaway Guide February 22, 2013 at 8:08 am

Sounds good! Very good luck to you!

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Indie February 1, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Forget cops, prostitutes, rain, and homeless folk angry to have their turf slept on… what about couchsurfing? free, easy, and you’ll probably even get some new friends out of it!

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The Runaway Guide February 4, 2013 at 3:33 pm

That would just be too easy lol. Yea, I really should include/write a guide on couch surfing. I just feel like everyone kind of knows about it, but I know I’m wrong. Thanks for the suggestion :)

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Mairin December 16, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Hey, I’m in Wisconsin, have you ever been a stowaway on a ship ? need to get to Asia at some point and think ships cargo perhaps seem viable. Any advice?
Thank you

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The Runaway Guide December 17, 2012 at 11:06 am

Ive never done it, though i have tried. If I were you, I would read Jack Kerouac. But these days with all the enhanced security, its going to be tough.

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Karen September 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Hello Leif,

As a young person who is passionate about traveling and having amazing adventures, I absolutely love your blog. You always manage to satisfy my curiosity when it comes to the specifics of backpacking and traveling cheaply, so thank you! I’ve just started blogging myself and I’ve highly recommended you to all my friends, online and off.

Keep on adventuring and sharing!

Karen

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The Runaway Guide September 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Hi Karen,
Thanks a lot! I really appreciate the support.
If you ever need any advice with blogging/traveling, let me know!
Best,
Leif

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leroywatson4 May 8, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Leif,
Hows the flow brother?
Great to finally get around to this space of yours. I love the liberation of sleeping under the stars, in a new land, in the deep darkness of possibility.
I hope Malaysia is treating you to good curry.
I’ve put a link on my blog to this one and also this:
I have nominated your wonderful blog for a ‘Versatile Blogger Award’ (http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/).
I felt humbled in gaining recognition from a fellow blogger, whom I respect, and as a result, have connected with a load more wonderful folk; sharing through words and images this incredible collective experience we are all having.
The ‘turtle’ started small and is maturing slowly, it is nice to hear of people reading and enjoying my reflections on the ride.
See the original turtle post here:
http://leroywatson4.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/riding-effortlessly-on-a-large-green-turtle-nominated-for-a-the-versatile-blogger-award/
Good luck with all……
Peace and Light,
Lee

Keep on rockin’ in the free world brother. I will be here often to share in your adventure.

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Season Junkie April 27, 2012 at 12:39 pm

wow, fantastic post! you take travel blogging to a whole new level!

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The Runaway Guide May 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Hey, thanks. I like your blog as well. Want to do a link exchange?

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Grey April 22, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Hi, I want to run away from home and I am a 65 year old female. I live in the United States and am terribly unhappy with my home situation. Can you give me some hints or direct me to a site that can? I am extremely serious about this.

Thanks,
Grey

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The Runaway Guide April 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I think my site might be the best one for you. Let me know if you have any specific questions.
Best,
Leif

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Vee March 7, 2012 at 6:21 am

Have you been back packing in America? I’ve been thinking of doing this but I live in a small town down south Florida and I’m not too sure how different it would be here than in Europe. By the way, your blog is very inspirational :) And Have you ever been attacked by strangers or anything violent happen? Being a girl, this is honestly my only fear.

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The Runaway Guide March 14, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Hey, while I have been to a lot of states, I have never done proper back packing in the US. I would like to one day.
Thanks for the compliments. I have had a lot of crazy/violent incidents. I will write about some in the future.
It can be dangerous especially if you’re doing it alone and you are a girl.

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LozinTransit February 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm

I slept outside several times during my EuroTrip including a stint with a vagabond who urban camped more often than not. I knew the morning of what I was getting in for and packed a ‘Homeless kit’ expecting the worst, it consisted of a sleeping bag and thermals mostly.

What hit hardest was the fact that “I was only pretending to be poor”. We see no glamour and sense of adventure in prostitutes or the homeless. It was a reminder of the great fortune I’ve had that we sometimes take for granted.

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The Runaway Guide February 28, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Hey, your right, it really gives you a new perspective and makes you appreciate your relative wealth.

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Amy February 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I’m actually a runaway now..I’m 14 I’ve been away from home for about 4 months
I have friends in bunch of cities who can give me some food while I’m there I only stay for about 2 days then leave to the next place..I’m in Toronto right now. I sleep in old houses, abandoned trains,open crates,woods,cars,hotels(rarely) I break in, and since my parents taught me how to drive when I was 13 I sometimes borrow those cars that you can test drive and take off somewhere(away) and leave it(un-damaged ofcourse) ..I have fake id’s that say I’m 17 oh and those late nightclubs I sneak in and get someone to buy my ffood and I sleep in the booths until it closes(5am)I’m actually using some girl’s ipad that’s a runaway too

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The Runaway Guide March 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Hey Amy, you are intense and awesome. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Stay safe,
best,
Leif

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JayJay February 24, 2012 at 4:00 am

Wow just from reading this makes me want to pack my things! I don’t think I could leave my family, though, but in the future this might come in handy if anything were to ever happen. You know, my mom always talks about how homeless people will sleep in the hospital waiting room and even though there are security guards I don’t think they can tell them to go home. You can always act crazy if you didn’t want to get caught. This article is really great, maybe you should write a book about life on the run.

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The Runaway Guide February 26, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Hey, thanks! I’m working on the book!

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Karen Masterson Pacitto January 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Enjoying your stories Leif and very different from the times in Piermont! Safe travels.

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The Runaway Guide February 23, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Thanks Karen!

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Charlotte Splatter December 18, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Hi! My ‘name’ is Charlotte. I am a 14-year-old runaway. I haven’t seen my home in about two years.

I always prefer to sleep in the woods myself. I grew up on a farm, so, when I was little, I would always sneak out at night and sleep in the barn or woods. I think the one time I had trouble with this is when I was staying near Jackson, MS. I was sleeping rather innocently, when a group of burly men that I believed were drunk walked by.
“Oh, look, a chic!!!” I heard one yell, but I didn’t stay around to see if they were even talking about me. I took off as fast as I could, leaving my bag of clothes and food, unfortunetly. I ended up sleeping in a dumpster.

I came back the next day, but my bag was gone.

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The Runaway Guide February 23, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Sounds like you’ve been through it. Thanks for commenting. Safe travels-Leif

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Taylor. November 12, 2011 at 7:35 am

I’ve slept in the woods once before. It was cold, but I had a cuddle buddy. We stayed in a tent. How do you make yourself less appealing to animals?

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laura October 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I really enjoyed reading your story. I want to leave my small country (New Zealand) and go backpacking somewhere more interesting like Europe. How dangerous would that be for and 18 year old girl though?

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The Runaway Guide October 11, 2011 at 3:13 am

Do it! It would probably be better if you went with a friend but if you’re 18, I think you should be ok.

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Will September 29, 2011 at 11:03 am

What about your family?
Have you seen them since you ran away at 16?

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The Runaway Guide September 29, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Yea, I have been back home for bits of time.

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Блог о путешествиях September 26, 2011 at 10:30 am

Thx for this great information that you are sharing with us!!!

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Michelle September 14, 2011 at 12:52 pm

What an interesting post! While I doubt I’d ever do this, I really enjoyed reading your article! :)

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The Runaway Guide September 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Thanks!

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Tom July 30, 2011 at 2:08 am

Cool post , you didn’t mention your age or gender. Doesn’t matter. I’ve done this all over the world in various forms. I even pulled this in Hong Kong. The Mongolian prostitutes were nice and made sure nobody hassled me,

I’ve done this all over the world. Vampire bats in Mexico, Angry farmers in Peru. The most dangerous are bored teenagers. Wild animals in Africa. Insects! Malaria etc,

Don’t forget that whe you are doing this you too are homeless. You and are just one step away. one misstep, and somebody else will have your bag and papers and you will be covered in blood and dirt and trying to explain your situation. Try to get a hotel room in Europe when covered with blood. Still I have done it all over the world. You can even do it in Asia. You won’t be assaulted for sure but it is hard to find a vacant space. Actually people usually you invite to stay in their homes, They have “family values” here.

Don’t forget the homeless people you meet at home, you too were homeless albeit for a day or so.

I always give money to the poor if the seem genuine. Also prostitutes, I don’t know about America or Europe but sometimes they are just kids down on their luck. Just like you if you are homeless.

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The Runaway Guide July 30, 2011 at 10:20 am

Sounds like you have had some interesting adventures. If you ever want to write a post for the site, let me know! When I did this, I was 16 and spent about a year on the street. Some of my best friends were homeless people. It really makes you appreciate beds right?

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Raymond June 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I slept in a park in Florence, Italy once — there was a group of 4 of us though so I didn’t feel too unsafe. You, my friend, are far more adventurous than me… :)

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The Runaway Guide June 27, 2011 at 5:05 pm

That sounds like a pretty fun night. Hope there was some wine in the mix. If I had the money to stay in hostels I would. I sleep the street out of necessity. At first it was rough but we can get used to anything. Thanks for your comment.
Safe travels,
Leif

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Janet June 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm

wow, living adventurously! I have never slept literally on the streets but I have slept outside numerous times when I did a walking trek from south to north of Palawan (over 420 mi). Would sleep on beach huts (no walls), benches, etc. And once, I slept on the ground in the jungle but I don’t think I’d ever be brave enough nor humble enough to sleep on the city streets like a homeless person. I know I’ve been a homeless broke nomad but have been afraid of literally having to sleep on the streets..

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Leif June 24, 2011 at 2:44 am

You’re right, sleeping on the street is definitely a humbling experience.

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