Throughout Iran, we haven't needed to pay for accommodation – except when choosing a bit of private time in pansions and hostels – and this is because of two things: firstly the eclipsing generosity of the Iranian people, who are enculturated with a mostly genuine need to host guests/travellers and secondly our magic letter.
Similar to a magic pudding in that it never stops giving; the magic letter is a well translated, brief summary of us and our trip and notes that we often camp out of necessity. It is the key in unlocking the door of hospitality (if it wasn't already flung wide open!). We have offers of hosting multiple times a day on the road after people read our letter and are so interested in us that they'd like nothing more than to take us into their homes to feed us, bathe us, and host us for the night. We regretfully have to refuse most of these offers for reasons ranging from too few kilometres cycled, a host already waiting for us or perhaps not enough shared language – which can unfortunately work against a good experience for all.
Other travellers have a magic letter that includes their particulars: living without money, living sustainably, meeting local people or learning the language. If you have this letter well translated into the language of the country you're travelling in, as well as very basic conversation there's no reason your magic letter won't get you hosted in any place worldwide.
Another alternative to waiting to be invited somewhere is getting ballsy and asking people to help you – it again helps if you have some language of the country you're in and especially a spiel about your predicament in this new tongue, for example: “Hi, my name is Alleykat. I am cycling my bike around the world. I am very glad to meet you. Could I stay at your home for one night please?”. The response is usually positive and confirms a host immediately or, at the very least, helps in finding a host (everybody knows someone who wants a visitor!). At the very least helpful strangers will be able to show or tell you a place to pop your tent and wild camp. Our advice is to be as honest and positive as you can; you can do it!
For more information on free accommodation check out parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series
Free Accommodation: Asking / The Magic Letter (3/3)