This post and the photos within it may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a commission at no extra charge to you.
Last year, I had my first volunteering experience through Workaway, which was truly amazing.
In this article, you will find a comprehensive Workaway review, where I share the following:
- What is Workaway & how does it work
- My Workaway experience
- The pros and cons of the platform
- FAQ covering volunteering abroad with Workaway
Let’s jump right into it!
What is Workaway?
Workaway.info is a volunteering platform for fair exchange between hosts and budget travelers, language learners, and culture seekers.
It allows you to find a host and help a pre-agreed amount of time per day in exchange for lodging, often food, and sometimes other perks.
It is one of the most extensive work trade platforms, with over 50,000 opportunities in more than 170 countries!
Some of the opportunities you will find include:
- Families – Babysitting, helping around the house, cooking, house sitting, etc.
- Schools, Communities & NGOs – Teaching languages, beach cleanups, etc.
- Sustainable projects – Building compost toilets, greenhouses, solar panels, weeding, planting, harvesting, etc
- Farm stays – Animal care, sustainable projects, gardening, general maintenance, etc.
- Hostels & lodges – Doing check-in and check-outs, housekeeping, art projects, etc.
- Animal sanctuaries – cleaning, feeding, etc.
- Others – Teach yoga, help with computers, language, photography, social media, art projects, etc.
It is a unique way to travel the world, even on a budget, meet new people, try new things, and explore new cultures.
How does Workaway work?
It is simple – once you join the platform and pay for the membership, you can create your profile. Then, you can share details about yourself, your experience, and your interests. Once your profile is verified (which happens within 24 hours), you can search for hosts and connect with them.
Is Workaway free?
You need to pay a yearly membership – for a single person is $49, and $59 for a couples account. If you register through this link, you will get one extra month (and I will earn three extra).
Once you pay the membership, you can contact hosts and other volunteers, plus search for travel buddies.
Is Workaway safe?
Yes – Workaway is safe. They review every profile manually to ensure all Workawayers and hosts are verified. They also provide extra verification of the identity of all members via ID to ensure that the platform is safe to use.
I have known and used the platform for more than a year and have never had a negative experience. I only heard of one uncomfortable situation of a fellow traveler, which ended up with the girl leaving the host’s place.
This is a rare situation, but it can happen. Suppose you encounter hosts or Workawayers that are not very transparent.
In that case, if you don’t feel safe, or the conditions are different than what you agreed upon, the team at Workaway promise to assist in finding a new host and to compensate you for up to 3 nights of accommodation in a nearby hostel.
Workaway review & my experience
My first Workaway experience was more than I could’ve asked for. Below, you can see my process of finding my first host and tips on how you can find one.
Step 1: Finding the place & connecting to the host
Within a few weeks of searching for a volunteer place, I found a few I liked and sent a message to each host.
Finding a place can take a while, so make sure you have enough time to search for a host – at least a month. For example, I started sending messages to the hosts in mid-December, and I was planning to arrive at the destination at the beginning of February.
It is essential to send a personalized message and not copy-paste the same one over and over because the hosts will be able to notice it immediately.
Usually, I always read well the whole profile of the host I’m primarily interested in. Then, I work with the information they provide. For example, if the host’s name is written somewhere, I’ll use it. I will also write down all of the skills they need that I can provide.
Sometimes, the host includes a few questions on their profile, so I will always answer them.
Check the calendar on each host’s profile to see when they have free spots for volunteers. Also, if they wrote the minimum and maximum period you can stay, make sure you are available for that amount.
Once, I tried finding a place for just a week, and I couldn’t because the hosts I contacted were looking for a long-term commitment of at least a month.
Step 2: Waiting for their reply & conformation
After contacting 6-7 hosts, I got a reply from half of them. Unfortunately, the hosts with many reviews that offer great work exchanges often get lots of requests, and sometimes, they don’t reply to all the messages they get.
This can be a bummer if you’ve spent lots of time crafting a nice message and you like the place. It nearly happened that I didn’t get a reply from my host.
However, I liked the place, and I made sure they knew that. So, I send a follow-up message a few days after my first message. Then, I waited around two weeks for a reply after my second message.
Two weeks? Yes, that’s quite a long time. However, there were a few crucial factors to consider – it was in December, close to the Christmas holidays, when people are less online. I also found out that the host was preparing for a one-month event (yoga teacher training), and she was swamped with work.
Step 3: Talking with the host
After I got the reply that she was interested in having me as a volunteer, we exchanged Whatsapp numbers, and in the next few days, we had a call.
In that call, I got a lot of additional information about the place, the work, and the schedule. I asked various questions, like if there was a supermarket nearby or a clinic in case of an emergency.
I got a sense of the person I was speaking to and immediately felt more relaxed and excited about my trip.
Step 4: Preparing for the trip
After we talked and we agreed about the volunteering, I had around a month to prepare for my trip.
I started reading about what I needed to enter the country (Costa Rica), and I made a list of the things I needed to bring.
If I had any additional questions, such as how to reach the place from San Jose, I always got great tips and information.
The host also created a Whatsapp group with two other volunteers so we could talk and arrange things.
Step 5: Arriving at the destination
When I arrived, another volunteer was waiting for me. Later that day, I also met the host, and we had a small chat; we agreed to meet the next day with the other volunteers to distribute tasks and make a schedule.
The other volunteer showed me the cabin we were staying in. I had no idea how it would look since most hosts don’t show that on their profile.
I was super impressed by the place we got – a beautiful rustic cabin on two floors with an outdoor kitchen and two bathrooms. There were two rooms on the second floor, with two beds in one of the rooms and five beds in the other.
Since we were just three girls at the time, two of us were in the big room, and one girl stayed in the other room.
I had great luck, and the girls were super friendly. I ended up hanging out with one of them most of the time (and we even went on a trip together to another town).
Step 6: The work & perks
The work and the extra things you might get depend on each host. For example, since I was at a yoga center, I was getting free yoga classes, and since they had a restaurant on site, I was getting 40% off the menu.
The job mainly was social media, writing blog posts, and helping with their website. There wasn’t a strict schedule; we all had weekly tasks and had to do them at our own pace. All it mattered was that each of us finished the functions by the end of the week.
Step 7: Last tips & things to consider
Respect the other volunteers. You will be closely living with people you’ve just met, so make sure you respect others, but at the same time, if something bothers you – say it. Just don’t be mean; if the person is reasonable, you will come up with a solution. I was super lucky; all of us were getting along (we also had two other more that came later).
Respect the rules of the host. For example, we were at a holistic place where it was not allowed to smoke on-site, so one of the volunteers was a smoker and was doing it outside the property. Another rule was not to have friends or other people sleeping over.
Do your job & offer help. This is, after all, a work exchange and not a vacation. So make sure to do your job well, and if someone needs assistance with something you can do, offer your help.
Worldpackers vs. Workaway
Worldpackers is a very similar platform to Workaway. It offers work exchange programs and hosts in more than 140 countries. The Worldpackers membership price is currently the same as Workaway ($49 for a single account and $59 for a couples account).
I purchased both memberships last year, and I noticed a few similarities, but also, a few things are different between those platforms.
Worldpackers offer, in general, volunteering opportunities in fewer countries. They have a helpful filter that allows you to find places with a “higher chance of approval.”
When you write to hosts, you have a pre-determined set of questions that the hosts add, so you have to give more personalized answers, which is helpful.
However, similarly to Workaway, the response rate isn’t super high. In addition, Worldpackers doesn’t have the option to find a travel buddy or Workawayers nearby.
A cool feature that Worldpackers has and Workaway doesn’t is their programs, which allow you to earn money as a content creator, and blogger, but only after you have gotten positive reviews and references on the platform.
Worldpackers also offers insurance which means that if things go wrong, they will pay for your stay at e nearby hostel and help you to find a new host.
All in all, both have great options for free work exchanges, but if I have to choose one – it will be Workaway. It has many reviews when selecting a place, more options, and better filters. It is user-friendly and great for finding travel buddies.
Pros and cons of Workaway
Since using the platform for over e year now, I noticed the benefits (compared to other volunteering websites) and the downsides of Workaway –
Pros of Workaway:
- Offers a lot of different types of volunteer work
- It has over 50,000 opportunities to choose from
- You can find paid work trades
- It is very affordable
- You can create a profile together with your partner or friend
- There is a limit of 25 working hours a week – You often work 3-5h a day, and you have the weekends off!
- It allows you to find a travel buddy and also find Workawayers nearby
- Their filter menu is handy and allows you to narrow your search in the types of work & programs you are most interested in participating
- Workaway has a user-friendly app where you can browse opportunities, contact hosts, and learn more about work exchanges
Cons of Workaway:
- Often, the hosts answer very slowly (or sometimes they don’t even answer – You must be persistent and write the hosts a few times if you see no response
- It is hard to find a volunteer opportunity for two people if you are traveling with someone
- Lots of competition from other volunteers
- If the review is 1*, they hide it, which doesn’t allow you to see what went wrong and make up a conclusion
There are a bunch of Workaway alternatives:
I have an article with the top 12 free volunteering websites, which you can check in more detail.
Workaway paid jobs
Workaway is primarily for cultural exchange, meeting new people, learning new skills, etc. However, hosts are also looking for help with a business and are offering payment for your service, which meets the country’s minimum wage requirements.
If a host offers payment, you can see it immediately on their profile. Some people avoid the Workaway paid jobs since it is often more serious than volunteering (hosts expect more) or don’t want to take away work from local people.
However, it can come in handy and be a practical option in case you are low on cash. Additionally, you might be there for a month or two, so the host can always hire someone long-term if needed.
The paid members have access to 24/7 support through their website. The only time I contacted them was to ask how long I should wait to get a reply for a host.
The Workaway support replied in a couple of hours; they told me that they encourage all hosts to answer all inquiries, and sometimes, the hosts take a bit longer to answer.
They advised I send a follow-up message to the host after 7 days.
Is it worth it to join Workaway?
For me – 100% yes! You can get free accommodation for months by doing cultural and work exchanges for an affordable yearly membership of less than $50.
How do I know Workaway is legit?
Workaway is 20+ years old and is the leading platform for free volunteering, cultural exchange, and working holidays.
It is continuously featured on huge news sites such as The Guardian, Forbes, Lonely Planet, The New York Times, etc., and you can read countless blogs and reviews by travelers and hosts.
You can follow their social media and get constant first-hand experiences from travelers.
What is better than Workaway?
I prefer Workaway, but the answer depends on a couple of things, mainly on the destination you plan to visit.
You can use the search bar of the most popular volunteering websites before purchasing their membership and see if they are comprehensive options for volunteering places at your destination.
Do Workaway hosts pay for travel?
Workaway hosts don’t pay for your travel or transportation. They may pick you up from a nearby destination if it is convenient for them, but that’s about it.
They cover your accommodation, often the meals, and there might be other possible perks, depending on the type of their business and the type of job you will do.
Can I do Workaway without a visa?
Generally, you won’t have to for a visa in order to volunteer; however, this mainly depends on the country you are visiting. Moreover, some countries won’t allow “volunteers” on a tourist visas.
While very rare, it is possible to get turned away at immigration if you say you will volunteer. To be safe, always read the country’s requirements thoroughly. Of course, you can always say you are just a visitor, and your goal is to explore the country.
Is Workaway or WWOOFING better?
WWOOF is one of the world’s first work exchange platforms. Currently, it has over 12K hosts in 130+ countries.
It may be a better option if you are most interested in learning about permaculture and sustainable farming practices since they focus primarily on a work exchange.
The membership is also a tiny bit cheaper than Workaway. You can find more about WWOOF here.
There you have it – my in-depth Workaway review, including my personal experience with the platform.
If you are interested in volunteering abroad, I hope this was helpful, and I encourage you to do it!
For me, it was a beautiful experience, and while it wasn’t always easy to be in a completely new country, far and alone from everybody, the thing you know, it is a positive challenge, and general, and it will help you to grow.
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns; I would love to help. 🙂