If you are looking for a way to afford travel long-term and to have a unique experience while meeting locals, then you should consider a work exchange for free accommodation.
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What is a Work Exchange?
A work-exchange is a non-monetary agreement between a volunteer and a host. Volunteers will be working for free, for a fixed number of hours and tasks in exchange for accommodation and/or other benefits (ex. food).
It has been proven that slow travelling is the cheapest option as it allows you to absorb the culture, meet local people and understand their way of life. You will not race through a bunch of attractions over a short period, and spend a fortune on living luxuriously.
Work exchanges are a good option because it allows you to cut the costs of living and trade them with your skills and time. More importantly, since you are volunteering, you would not require a work visa to stay, making your travel more flexible and easy!
Where do I start?
There are a few websites that function like a job directory in which you can choose your host, your duties, and how long you are expected to stay with the host.
I have found that some sites offer general help (anything from hostels to home renovations) but there are some specific ones as well such as farm and outdoor work.
I have divided them into two categories: 1) General volunteering and 2) Outdoor work.
Worldpackers is a platform that connects travellers with hosts around the world where you can travel exchanging your skills for accommodation. Besides providing you with a volunteer database, they also have resources from travel experts to make sure you are successful.
Type of Work: Gardening, Bartending, Handyman, Reception, Web Developer, Social Media, Teaching Languages, Painting & Decorating, Housekeeping, Tour Guide, Photography, Animal care, Content writer and more!
- Access the website in three languages: English, Portuguese or Spanish
- Worldpackers verifies every single host to ensure the safety of their travellers. If you need to leave your host for not abiding the rules, WP will help you find a new host or pay for temporary accommodation in a hostel for up to 3 nights.
- Support from the Worldpackers’ customer service team to help you at all times – before, during and after your travels
- WP Trips and WP Pack is a membership of 1.5 years (a bonus of 6 months in 2020). Most sites only offer a 12-month membership.
- Learn about different topics related to travel and volunteering with videos from their WP Academy and Community blog
- WP Academy – Access all courses and guides made by experts – $40 USD for 6 months
- WP Trips – Apply to and contact all their hosts, access to their support team and WP insurance – $49 USD for 1 year and SIX months!
- WP Pack (the best value!) – Full access to WP Academy and WP Trips – $99 USD for 1.5 years
Workaway is a website that partners with hosts to provide free accommodation. They offer a variety of jobs – whether that is renovating a house or teaching at a hostel – the possibilities is endless. You can browse the site for free before a membership to see if something catches your eye. Once you have a membership, you can contact the host directly.
Type of Work: Creating eco gardens, boat sitting, house sitting, baby-sitting, pet sitting, helping to construct natural earth houses, sharing in family cooking, giving a hand with general maintenance, and teaching and practising languages.
- Over 40,000 hosts in 170+ countries
- A volunteer database filtered by countries and regions
- The Workaway team member will personally check your profile and provide advice to enhance it and gain more attraction
- Allow hosts and volunteers to leave personalized reference letters and reviews
- Strong community to other members and travelers who you can connect with
- Single membership: US $44.00 per year
- Dual membership for couples or friends: US $56.00 per year
HelpStay is a website database that provides a variety of volunteer options for all types of people. From house building to taking care of animals, they have it all!
Type of Work: Animals & Environment, Backpacker Hostels & Hospitality, Building & Restoration Projects, Farming & Homesteads, Community Betterment, Teaching & Language
- Unlimited access to over 1000+ volunteer opportunities in over 100 countries
- Amazing filter system on the website to include the country, work type, spots available, minimum of weeks available and other rules (ex. couples).
- Detailed host profile including their organization, task and help required, expected hours of help and accommodation arrangements
- Feedback and reviews for both hosts and volunteers to provide authenticity and credibility
- Free ebook on Voluntering Abroad
- Single membership: Euros $34.00 per year
- Dual membership for couples or friends: Euros $44.00 per year
Outdoor Volunteer Work
HelpX is a popular choice for those who love the outdoors and using their hands.
Type of Work: Organic farms, non-organic farms, farm stays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats
- Focuses mostly on outdoor and seasonal work
- Create your own list of favourite hosts
- Read and write host reviews so other volunteers know more information
- Be able to contact other volunteers via the Helper Companion page
- Free membership with limited features; unable to contact hosts
- Premier Membership with full features: Euros $20 for 2 years for both single and twin memberships
Learn how to create a strong HelpX profile that hosts cannot refuse here.
WWOOF is a worldwide movement linking volunteers with organic farmers and growers. The organization aims to promote cultural and educational experiences through non-monetary exchange and building a sustainable community.
Type of Work: Specifically working alongside farmers with their daily tasks
Website Highlights: WWOOF is organized nationally so you have to decide which country you want to volunteer and sign up for membership in that country. You can see all the destinations on this page: http://wwoof.net/#destination
Costs: The membership rates may change based on the currency exchange of the time. I have provided the cost of a WWOOF membership in the United States for reference.
- Single membership – US $40/ year
- Joint membership – US $75/ year
I’d love to hear your feedback if you have used these services before. Which website is the most user-friendly? Where did you go and what did you do? Leave a message below!
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