5 Workaway Alternatives to Consider for your Work Exchange

One of my favourite ways to travel for free is by volunteering abroad using Work exchange programs like Workaway.  Workaway is the biggest work exchange website, but there are several other sites like Workaway which work in a similar way, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.  I’ve brought together the five of the most popular Workaway alternatives to compare so you can choose the best option for your work exchange.  We’ll cover Worldpackers, HelpX, WWOOF, Hippohelp & Volunteers Base.

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You’ll also find a $10 discount code for Worldpackers membership if you decide to try them out.

Workaway Alternatives Quick Reference Guide

If you just need a quick answer, here are the best work exchange websites that I’ve found.  Scroll down to read more information about each of the platforms.

  • Workway – Biggest Work Exchange Website

Has the most placements and members so lots to choose from but there can be a lot of competition.  Not great support, questions about how authentic reviews are.  Best for families as you can add children under 18 to your profile.

  • Worldpackers – The Best Workaway Alternative

High level of support, Worldpackers Insurance if something goes wrong (including up to 3 free nights in a hostel dorm) and the chance to earn money as you travel through Worldpackers Programs.  Learn More & Save $10 on Yearly Membership

  • Helpx – For Budget Backpackers

Cheap, good range of placements in Europe, Australia and Canada.  Not as much support as other sites like Workaway and Worldpackers.

  • WWOOF – For Farm Work and Permaculture

Focuses on organic farms in rural areas.  Great for people who want to work outdoors and learn about farming in one particular country.

  • HippoHelp – Free Work Exchange Website For Experienced Travellers

Lack of support means free work exchange sites like HippoHelp and Volunteers Base are best for experienced backpackers who have already done previous work exchanges.  I wouldn’t recommend them for solo female travellers.  In fact, I wouldn’t recommend Volunteers Base at all as it isn’t really free as it claims to be, but more on that below!

What is a Work Exchange?

Let’s start with the basics.  I assume that if you’ve heard of Workaway, you are familiar with the concept of work exchanges, but to be clear; a work exchange means that people offer their time and skills to do volunteer work in exchange for free accommodation and food or other benefits. 

It is also known as a kind of work and travel programme, work-trade or voluntourism, although the volunteer placements are often ‘normal’ businesses looking for an extra pair of hands, not necessarily doing work to help others as you may imagine in the traditional sense of ‘volunteering’.

But, still helping local businesses to survive and thrive is still a valuable contribution to them and the community, and while you can pay a lot of money to volunteer through some organisations, work exchange websites offer the chance to volunteer for free abroad – or almost free at least!

Another way to look at work exchanges is actually to view them as a cultural exchange.  Volunteers still exchange skills for accommodation, but the key element is that the host and the volunteer learn more about each other’s culture.  This often happens after the work is done, during social activities like eating meals together and getting to know one another as you would usually do in a hostel for example.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: How to Travel for Free by Volunteering Abroad

Hands Holding a Globe - Workaway Alternatives
Work Exchanges Offer the Chance to Explore the World

Why Do a Work Exchange?

Usually, this kind of work in exchange for room and board is great for travellers and backpackers who look for international placements as you can save a ton of money on accommodation, but there is no reason why you can’t do it in your own country (although you won’t be paid for it).  So even if you can’t travel abroad right now, you could start exploring your own country then go abroad when travel restrictions are lifted.

The kind of work you do on a work exchange is as varied as the countries and hosts you choose.  You might find work in hostels, on a farm, in a family home or at an NGO.  I did several work exchanges working at hostels, as well as for a travel agency and website developer but there are lots of different options available. 

Work exchanges have many benefits, from saving money to learning more about the culture and getting great work experience for your resume or CV.  You could also learn new skills including learning a new language, and make some lifelong friends along the way.  

I’ve loved doing work exchanges as I travel, and travelling slowly and spending more time in one place also helps to avoid backpacker burnout, which I can definitely tell you is a thing!  As much as I adore travel, travelling non-stop is exhausting so I really appreciated things like being able to unpack and explore a place instead of moving on every few days.

Work Exchange Websites

One of the best ways to find work exchanges is to use a work exchange website to browse available placements.  The best work exchange sites like Workaway, Worldpackers and others offer a platform for individuals, families, businesses and organisations to advertise for help they need.  Potential volunteers sign up to these work exchange platforms to search for suitable hosts and volunteer work exchange placements in countries all over the world. 

If you’re looking for alternatives to Workaway then there may be a reason why you don’t want to do a work exchange with Workaway or had a bad Workaway experience – if so, please do let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear more so I can keep this article up to date!

Now I’ll talk about the work exchange websites I’m aware of, including five Workaway alternatives for you to choose from, then have a recap of Workaway as a reminder of what they offer.

Workaway Alternatives

While Workaway is a great work exchange website, it certainly isn’t perfect, so these alternatives to Workaway may be better for you:

Worldpackers Homepage Screenshot

Worldpackers – The Best Work Exchange Website

Worldpackers is my preferred work exchange site, and in my opinion, it is the best work exchange website out there, beating Workaway in several aspects.

Similar to Workaway, Worldpackers is free to join, and the site is easy to use and navigate.  You can sign in via Facebook for ease of access or download the Worldpackers app.  Check out the video here for more information about how Worldpackers works.

Worldpackers Membership Fee

To contact hosts and arrange placements you need to sign up to become a verified member, which costs $49 USD for one year, or $39 with this discount code

GET $10 DISCOUNT NOW

Volunteer Positions on Worldpackers

Worldpackers started in South America, so they have a lot of opportunities there and have rapidly expanded the number of placements available in the rest of the world, with a network of over 1.5 million hosts and volunteers worldwide. 

There is a wide range of volunteer opportunities available on Worldpackers with hostels, campsites, NGOs, social projects, farms, ecovillages, restaurants, and small businesses, families, again – you name it, they’ve got it.  

Some of the awesome placements include:

I’ve used Worldpackers to volunteer and I love the site and how easy it was to find a placement and get a quick response from hosts compared to previous experiences I’ve had with Workaway.  Check out my full review of my Worldpackers experience here to find out what I got up to.

Worldpackers Support & Standards

What really makes Worldpackers stand out from other work exchange sites (including Workaway) is the level of support they offer to all members.  They have several safety measures in place including 24/7 support to volunteers and hosts, through a dedicated email address on the website to get in touch, or through their app.

All hosts go through a verification process before they are approved to welcome volunteers and should you need to leave a placement due to the host not honouring your exchange agreement, Worldpackers offer their “Worldpackers Insurance” which covers the cost of a bed in a nearby hostel dorm for 3 nights until they find you an alternative placement.

Worldpackers are proud of the fact that a lot of their volunteers are solo female travellers – around 59% apparently – so that is good peace of mind for us ladies!

Earn Money with Worldpackers

Another huge benefit of Worldpackers is the chance to actually earn money while you travel with Worldpackers Programs.  Once you have completed some work exchanges on Worldpackers you can get paid to share advice with other travellers and for creating video or blog content about your experiences.  Not only does Worldpackers save you money on accommodation but it can pay for the rest of your travels too!

I’ve teamed up with Worldpackers to offer all Tales of a Backpacker readers a $10 discount, which means you only need to pay $39 USD for a full year’s verified membership, so what are you waiting for?!  Read more about travelling the world for free, or get your Worldpackers promo code here!

Worldpackers Fees

Cost: $49 USD for 1 year for a solo membership or $39 USD with this discount code 

          $59 USD for 1 year for a couple/joint membership or $49 USD with this discount code

Pros: Good range of opportunities and easy to get a placement.  Excellent support for volunteers including Worldpackers Insurance.  Chance to earn money as you travel

Cons: More expensive than other sites if you don’t have a discount.

GET YOUR $10 DISCOUNT

Workaway and Worldpackers are in my opinion the two best work exchange sites, but for me, Worldpackers just tips the scales for the excellent value of membership (with the discount), their level of support and added extras in their community like the Worldpacker Programs and Worldpacker Academy. I go into more detail about which I think is the best work exchange website in this article comparing Worldpackers and Workaway, if you would like more information.

However, If you are still struggling to decide between Workaway or Worldpackers, the deal-breaker really depends on what work exchange placements are available where you want to go.  I have had several successful work exchanges through Workaway, but because of the sheer size of the network, hosts in popular destinations are often bombarded with requests for exchanges and you might be less likely to get a reply from them. 

Worldpackers on the other hand may have fewer placements where you want to go, but it is easier to get a response from hosts.  I’ve spoken to several people who have had trouble getting responses from prospective hosts on Workaway, and there is nothing more frustrating than paying for a service where hosts don’t respond! 

At the very least, check out the opportunities available on Worldpackers to see what options there are for your chosen destination, and if they have placements then I’d recommend signing up and applying!  You will save a ton of money on accommodation, and you can even make your money back as you travel.

Worldpackers is growing quickly, so check back frequently to see if more hosts have signed up.  You can even earn money by finding prospective hosts to join Worldpackers, so if more members do that then the more Worldpackers will grow.

HelpX Homepage Screenshot - with a group of people smiling and the title Cultural Exchange

Helpx

Help Exchange, or HelpX for short was originally set up in 2001 by a traveller who wanted a better system of finding work exchange placements while backpacking in Australia and New Zealand.  The website has had a revamp and isn’t as old-fashioned looking as it used to be, but it is missing some of the bells and whistles of Workaway and Worldpackers. 

You can browse and search for listings without having to register, but to contact hosts and to read the full reviews of placements you have to upgrade to the premier membership.

Membership is cheap though, at €20 (about $23.50 USD) for 2 years.  This site seems to focus primarily on Australia, New Zealand, Canada & Europe, although there are listings in other parts of the world too.

Once you have searched for a location you see when the profile was last updated – some seem quite out of date (as the website has been going for a long time) but it is always worth contacting them.  In search results, the profiles which have been updated most recently show up first.

Cost: $23.50 for 2 years

Pros: Cheap.  A wide range of opportunities in Europe, Australia, Canada.

Cons: Old website, not easy to see information at a glance.  Not many international placements outside their focus area.

WWOOF Homepage - Workaway Alternatives

WWOOF

WWOOF or World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms does what it says on the tin – working in a similar way to the above sites but solely for placements on organic farms. The farms are offer excellent opportunities to experience rural areas of your chosen countries, but by their nature tend to be more isolated from city centres and offer more basic accommodations than you expect to find in hostels where tourists are.

Most countries have their own WWOOF network, and you have to pay for registration for each country network which tends to be $20 – $30.  If there isn’t a specific WWOOF organisation in the country you’re looking for, there are also WWOOF Independents which are clubbed together on their own website. 

WWOOFer membership for WWOOF Independents is £20.00 for a single membership or £30.00 for joint membership for one year.  There are currently 1020 Organic growers & farmers on WWOOF Independents.

Cost: $20-$30 per country.

Pros: Organic, so great for people wanting to learn more about permaculture and farming

Cons: Payment is per country, so if you are travelling around several countries it can be expensive.

Free Workaway Alternatives

At first look, it would seem that there are a couple of free alternatives to Workaway, however, Volunteers Base claims to be free but actually demands a donation before you are able to contact hosts.

Volunteers Base Review

Due to the lack of transparency on their website, this is my least favourite work exchange platform but I still wanted to include it so you have the correct information. 

The homepage looks professional and claims that the website is free for volunteers and for hosts, stating that “Volunteers Base is a not-for-profit free alternative” to traditional volunteering networks. 

However, when you try to send a message to a host it forces you to make a donation to the site in order to verify your identity. 

 

I don’t have a problem making a donation or paying for a membership if I know the company is legitimate and open about its business, but I really don’t like how Volunteers Base doesn’t make it clear that you have to pay to get verified, why not just be upfront about it? 

I suppose you could just pay 1 penny or something just to get verified, but it isn’t the money, it is the principle of it and personally, I’d rather just sign up to one of the other websites with better customer service and more support.

However, if you want to give it a try then you can browse placements for free, just be prepared to pay a fee to get verified and be able to contact hosts.

*ADDITION* It turns out that my account got verified without making a donation so apparently I can now message hosts if I want to, and I didn’t pay any money.  After all that I don’t think I will be using the site anyway.

Cost: Forced “donation” of your choice

Pros: Good to get a taster if you are a confident traveller and don’t expect to have problems

Cons: Cost is not clear or upfront so it feels underhand.  Not as much screening of hosts or support if you do need help 

HippoHelp Homepage

Hippohelp Review: A Genuinely Free Work Exchange Site

If you are on an even tighter budget, then Hippohelp is actually completely free to join, for both hosts and volunteers and is the only completely free Workaway alternative I have found. 

This free work exchange site emphasises social and cultural exchanges as the key to their work exchange programmes and could be a good way to ‘test’ out volunteering before you sign up and pay for sites like Workaway and Worldpackers. 

There is no fee to sign up, and no hidden fee to get verified.  However, as with any free site, there is more of an element of risk involved as there is no screening process, and if something goes wrong there isn’t a support team to help you. 

Having browsed a few of the placements on Hippohelp in the UK for example, I found that they were often individuals looking for help around the house, and most didn’t have any previous reviews.  As a solo female traveller that would be a big no-no for me, but there may be more suitable options I haven’t found.

It’s certainly worth checking out if you really do have zero cash to spend on travel.

Cost: Free

Pros: Good to get a taster if you are a confident traveller and don’t expect to have problems

Cons: Not as much screening of hosts or support if you do need help 

Workaway Review

Screenshot of the Workaway Homepage

Now you know about the alternatives to Workaway, let’s talk more about the site itself.  Workaway is the largest and best-known work exchange site.  They have placements all over the world with hosts who advertise volunteer exchange positions in hostels, on farms, in private homes – pretty much everywhere you can imagine – that travellers can search and apply for.

There is a registration fee, but then every work exchange is free of charge.  The hosts will provide accommodation and usually some meals but check each individual listing for details.  The site is easy to use, and reviews are provided for hosts and travellers so you can see what other people thought about their experience.

Workaway is offering an additional 3 months if you use this link, so even if you can’t travel at the moment this works out as a really good deal if you are hoping to travel in the next few months – either in your own country or abroad.

Workaway Host Examples Screenshot

You can also set up a joint account if you are travelling as a couple, or link two individual accounts if you are travelling together for a limited time.  The site is easy to navigate and simple to use and costs $46 USD for an individual account or $55 USD for a joint account.

If you are travelling with kids you can now add children under 18 to your Workaway account, either as a single parent with a solo membership or as a couple with a joint membership.  You will need to let potential hosts know that you are travelling with children as some hosts will not have suitable accommodation for kids.

Workaway Reviews

I’ve written my own complete review of Workaway where I go into more detail about this and my own personal Workaway experiences, but one major issue I have with Workaway is their review system. 

While most Workaway reviews posted by volunteers and hosts are positive, there is a major flaw as you can leave a review for anyone at any time,  whether you have even met them or not –  which surely leaves the system open to abuse.

Even if everyone leaves a genuine review, because hosts have the chance to read your review before they write one in return, they can leave you a “revenge” review if you say something about them that they don’t like. 

While the experience might have been mutually poor from both sides, it is hard to be honest about a bad experience when you don’t want to risk getting a negative review that could affect your chance of getting future Workaway placements.

I have also heard from other users when they have decided to leave a bad review for a host that their negative reviews have not been published by Workaway or have been edited before publishing.  It is true that all reviews are screened by Workaway, and that Workaway hides the details of all 1* star reviews, as you can see below.

Example of a Negative Workaway Review
Negative Workaway Review (I’ve hidden the name and profile photo for privacy)

They say that is because they don’t publish abusive reviews but without having all the information it is hard to know exactly what happened, and whether it was the host or the Workawayer that was in the wrong, and so whether to have trust in the host and apply for the placement.  

Workaway Hosts

Getting a response from potential Workaway hosts is also more difficult, and I’ve sent several personalised messages to potential hosts who never reply.  This could be because there are now so many people signed up to Workaway that hosts are bombarded with messages and can’t cope with so many applications.  

I’ve also heard that people had trouble getting to speak to their support team if something goes wrong.  It says that paid members get access to 24/7 support but I couldn’t find a phone number anywhere on their website, just a contact form to fill in so you need instant help for any reason it looks like you would have to wait.

On my account there is a little chat box that appears to be an instant messenger but they are always “away” so if I did need to contact someone urgently I would have to wait!  Having said that, this support is still relatively good compared to the other Workaway alternatives I’ve mentioned above – with the exception of Worldpackers which goes above and beyond all of the others.

Workaway Cost

$46 USD per year (Currently for 12 months PLUS 3 months extra free if you use this link)

Workaway Summary

Pros: Well established, most hosts to choose from.

Cons:  Flawed and potentially misleading review system.  Can be hard to get a response from hosts, not great support.

READ MORE: Worldpackers vs Workaway – Which is the best Work Exchange Site?

Which is the Best Workaway Alternative? 

Workaway and Worldpackers are the most user-friendly work exchange websites, but Worldpackers have the extra bonus of high level 24/7 support if something goes wrong including their Worldpackers Insurance policy, and you have a better chance of getting replies from potential hosts. 

Not only that but with the Worldpackers programs you can also use your Worldpackers experiences to earn money as you travel.  So, in my opinion, Worldpackers is the best work exchange website, and easily the best alternative to Workaway.

I used to use Workaway as my first choice, but now I go to Worldpackers every time.

The free Workaway alternatives like Hippohelp and Volunteers Base are useful to get a taste of volunteering, but as a female solo traveller, I prefer to have a bit more assurance and a better verification process for hosts so I am as sure as I possibly can be that I will have a good experience.

I found HelpX to be a clunky site to use, so the newer websites like Workaway and Worldpackers were much easier to navigate to quickly find the information I was looking for. 

WWOOF is best if you want to focus solely on one country, or on farming and permaculture, whereas Workaway, Helpx and Worldpackers have a much wider range of options for different types of volunteer work in a variety of countries. 

No matter where you travel, or which work exchange site you choose you should always get travel insurance to cover you in case something does happen. Travel insurance from WorldNomads is available to people from 140 countries, and you can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home.  It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities

What do you think?  Have you had any experience volunteering with work exchange sites like Workaway, Worldpackers or HelpX?  Which do you think is the best Workaway alternative?  I’d love to hear what you think, please leave your comments below.

Workaway FAQ

Yes, Workaway is a legitimate website.  I've used Workaway myself to volunteer in several countries around the world and have managed a hostel where we hosted volunteers through Workaway.

However, I have had issues getting responses from hosts who can get overwhelmed with requests from volunteers.  Workaway also never publishes negative reviews with just one star - they show that someone left a 1 star review but don't give any details about what it was or why that happened, so you never get the full story.

Workaway is a legitimate website and I have used Workaway myself to volunteer in several countries around the world and have managed a hostel where we hosted volunteers through Workaway so in most cases, yes you can trust Workaway.

However, I don't like the way Workaway hides the detail in negative reviews, so you can't read any Workaway reviews with just one star, and you don't know the full story behind what happened.

I have also had issues getting responses from hosts who can get overwhelmed with requests from volunteers, so while Workaway is a good site, I prefer to use Worldpackers.

Absolutely!  In my opinion, yes, using work exchange websites like Workaway or Worldpackers is definitely worth it.  For less than $50 you can get a whole year of free accommodation by doing cultural and work exchanges so that is a total bargain!

Not only that, but Worldpackers also gives you the chance to earn money while you travel by helping other travellers and creating blog and video content through Worldpackers Programs.  So not only can you save money while travelling, but you can come out of the experience having more cash!

Work exchanges like Workaway are a great way to travel the world, enjoying unique and immersive experiences without spending much money.  Workaway could be a good idea for you, but alternatives like Worldpackers could be even better.

As with anything in life, nothing is 100% risk-free, but generally speaking, Workaway is safe.  Should you need assistance they have 24/7 customer service on hand to help.

However, if you are a first-time traveller or a solo female traveller, you may prefer to use a different work exchange website like Worldpackers which has even more robust safety procedures.

Worldpackers work hard to maintain a safe environment for volunteers and guests, and they have a dedicated page to safety on their website.  All hosts go through a verification process, and all Worldpackers members are asked to write an honest review after they have completed an experience with a host.

In addition to that, Worldpackers offer 24/7 support in 3 languages from their customer service team, and they offer Worldpackers Insurance which means that should you have to leave a placement because the host has not fulfilled their part of the agreement, Worldpackers will cover up to 3 nights for you at a nearby hostel and their support team will get you set up with another Worldpacker placement as soon as possible.

Workaway is free to browse but to contact hosts and arrange placements you need to become a verified member and pay the £37 registration fee (approximately $46 USD).  If you sign up using my affiliate link you will also get 3 months extra free on your membership.

A year's verified Workaway membership for one person costs £37 GBP (approximately $46 USD).  Using this link to sign up will add an extra 3 months to your membership.

If you are travelling with a friend or partner, you can sign up together for a joint membership for just £44 GBP for the year (approximately $55 USD), and with that, you can apply for work exchange placements together.  Again, using this link will add 3 months to your membership.

If you're travelling with kids, you can now add kids under 18 to your profile, either as a single parent with a solo membership, or as a couple with a joint membership.

 

Workaway doesn't offer discount codes or coupons for discounts or free membership.  However, if you sign up using my affiliate link you will get 3 extra months added to your membership for free.

Workaway is free to browse but to contact hosts and arrange placements you need to become a verified member and pay the £37 registration fee (approximately $46 USD).  If you sign up using my affiliate link you will also get 3 months extra free on your membership.

I haven't seen any way of getting a totally free Workaway account (unless someone gives it to you as a gift) but there are ways to extend your membership for free once you have an account.

You can apply to become a Workaway ambassador which gives you a free extension on your membership, and you can refer a friend to extend your Workaway membership for free once they have signed up.

If you don’t need a visa to actually travel to the country where you want to go, you shouldn’t need a work visa to do a work exchange, as really it is a cultural exchange and you won’t be doing paid for your work.

However, some countries do require a specific visa for volunteering, so check the host listing to see if they mention needing specific paperwork, and check iVisa to see if you do need a travel visa.  Remember, it is your responsibility to make sure you have all of the required paperwork to travel.

Yes, as well as their website, Workaway also has an app where you can browse opportunities, contact hosts and learn more about work exchanges.  Search for the app on iStore or Google Play, but, remember to sign up online with this link in order to get your 3 months extra free.

Yes!  There are several work exchange sites like Workaway which might be better for you.

For me, Worldpackers is the best Workaway alternative, thanks to the high level of support and the chance to earn money with Worldpackers Programs.

If you'd like to become a host on Workaway, you can apply on the Workaway website here.

Like this post?  Pin it to read later:

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3 thoughts on “5 Workaway Alternatives to Consider for your Work Exchange

  1. Josef Bergbauer says:

    Thank you for this excellent summary. We were listed as a host with Workaway for years, but the support is really not good. To reach volunteers, I am looking for another presentation option for our ecological finca in Tenerife. While looking for alternatives I found this compilation and am thrilled. I’ll look into Hippohelp and the other suggestions straight away. Thank you again for this compilation of alternatives from Workaway. All the best, Josef

    • Claire says:

      Great! I’m happy to help Josef, and if you are hosting I believe all of the sites are free for hosts so you could sign up to several different sites to test them out.

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