For years I used HelpX and WWOOF when Workaway was still growing and Worldpackers, Hippohelp, Volunteers Base didn’t exist. At this point, I’ve successfully connected with hosts on the former three platforms and have TRIED to connect with hosts on two of the latter three.
I’m here to give you reviews of all the work exchange sites to help you choose which work exchange platform is best for you!
I’ve done work exchanges in over 23 locations in six countries around the world… and counting! It’s one of my favorite ways to travel and to live. I highly recommend it!
For more about work exchanges, see Work Exchange: Budget Travel’s Crown Jewel.
WWOOF... HelpX… Workaway… & More –
Which do I choose?
I often have a membership to more than one platform. I also find that hosts (who usually pay nothing to join) will often list themselves on more than one site. Don’t be fooled by “free” memberships. In nearly all cases these allow you look, but you can’t contact hosts in any organization without paying.
The platform you choose will depend on your travel, or education, or lifestyle goals. If you have very little interest in farming, WWOOF is probably not the platform for you. It is the original work-exchange network, however, so let’s start there:
Officially World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (but sometimes called Willing Workers On Organic Farms), WWOOF was the original work exchange network. It’s made up of several chapters around the world, all with their own rules and membership fees. You don’t have to love farming to be a wwoofer – remember work exchanges are also about cultural exchanging! However, if getting dirty just isn’t your cup of tea, move on to Workaway or HelpX.
Cost: Up to $72 (56€) a year, depending on which WWOOF organization you join. I usually pay around $40 (35€) for a one-year membership to whichever chapter controls the area I want to WWOOF in.
Pros: If learning sustainable farming skills is high on your list, WWOOF is the best place to start. With “organic farming” in it’s name, most WWOOF hosts tend to at least be attempting to farm organically. bAlthough I’ve stayed with WWOOF hosts in cities usually doing gardening and odd jobs like helping restore a classic yacht. Additionally, thanks to its age, sometimes WWOOF offers opportunities in areas where other work exchange networks are still gaining a foothold. WWOOF turns 50 in 2021!
Cons: Since it started before the internet, its infrastructure isn’t optimized for the modern world. Most crippling are the regional divisions – you could go to Europe but need to pay for one-year memberships in three different WWOOF organizations, all run in different ways with different interfaces and (usually lack of) technologies. cThe reason WWOOF hasn’t magically streamlined with the efficiency of the world wide web: the leaders for each of dozens of organizations would have to gather, agree on a single model, go back home, get all the hosts to agree to stay involved when they change everything, and then find themselves out of a job once all WWOOF organizations were operating on identical systems. When I contacted WWOOF USA to complain about their terrible “free” previews in 2019 (they’ve improved the free host previews since!), they said they’ll give you your money back if you don’t find a host within 30 days. Worth asking them if that’s still the case if you’re on the fence about a membership.
Workaway was sort of the kid brother to HelpX for a long while, but they’ve grown up and surpassed HelpX in many ways!
Cost: $56 (48€) for 15 months for a couple, $44 (37€) for 15 months for one person if you use this invite link. Otherwise prices are for one year. See Pros for COVID caveat.
Pros: As of early 2021 they are still giving folks an extra six months on membership due to COVID (so with this invite link a “year” membership will actually be good for 21 months.) Thanks to a few years of being the only work exchange platform with all the modern bells and whistles and a beautiful user interface, Workaway finally got hosts to sign up in droves. They out-competed HelpX for awhile. They are very focused on fairness and safety. Workaway is careful about hosts, manually reviewing every application and profile update. Update 2021: I love that Workaway is now requiring business hosts to offer a wage. I’ve long felt uncomfortable about for-profit businesses using exchange labor. Other Workaway pros: they offer many organic farming opportunities. Unlike WWOOF, one website covers the entire world. The platform has a cool resume-gap feature: you can generate a letter of reference for future job/school applications based on feedback from hosts! They also have good content, including – e.g. – how to talk about travel skills on a resume.
Cons: I think it’s a bit cheeky that Workaway charges a different price for your profile based on how many people are using it. It’s becoming industry practice, but I still love that at least HelpX doesn’t do this. They’re also charging industry practice prices (HelpX is not), but at least have a well-developed community and website to show for it. I guess if you’re primarily seeking organic farming opportunities, then sorting through the confusing WWOOF networks might be preferable to using Workaway.
Worldpackers has changed dramatically in the last four years. I used to hate their business model. It has completely changed and they are now innovative industry leaders.
Cost: $39 with a discount code for the Solo Trips Plan, otherwise $49 USD (43€)
a year for 15 months, as of April 1, 2021.
(Use code HALFTHECLOTHES for a $10 discount or click any Worldpackers link.)
Pros: As of April 2021, they are extending their memberships an additional 3 months. They spent the first year of COVID updating their host base and added a “greater chance of approval” filter in 2021. There is more support for newbie travelers with this platform than any other. If you are nervous about traveling, this is the platform to start with. They’ll connect you with experienced travelers and have lots of logistics advice. They also verify hosts, aiming to provide a network of responsive hosts instead of thousands of mostly-inactive listings. Verification also means increased safety (and fewer horror stories!) for travelers. They are also the only platform that covers a few nights of accommodation if you end up with a bad host situation. And they help you find a new host! Their inventory of opportunities has increased enormously in the last few years. The user interface is beautiful. Unlike WWOOF, one membership covers the entire world.
Cons: Their user interface & system offers lots of possibilities (a pro!) which makes the whole platform a little bit harder to understand (the con). The proportion of hostels and businesses (vs. homestays and farms) is higher on this platform than on others. This is a con for me, because I’m personally not a fan of work-exchangers-as-employees model. When hosts are trying to run a business, I think they can’t help but be more rigid in their expectations. Rigid expectations easily lead to disappointing experiences for all involved. That said, you know you best. If volunteering to do a normally-paid position makes sense to you, go for it!
If you are drawn to any of their academy programs, use the same discount code – HALFTHECLOTHES – to get $10 off them as well.
HelpX stood as my favorite work exchange website for years. Instead of WWOOF’s focus on growing the organic farming movement, the HelpX network just focuses on cultural exchange between people needing help and people wanting to help. To be sure, there are plenty of farming opportunities on HelpX.
Cost: $12 (10€) a year, but you can only get a two-year, $22 (20€) subscription. It’s actually a good thing. Their price for two years is the same or less than most other platforms for one year!
Pros: It’s one affordable membership good for two years that allows you to access hosts world wide. Second, it’s full of variety: there are farms, but also a couple in a small town needing help renovating an apartment, farmers in remote mountain valleys who need childcare, and business owners who need staff. dFor the record, I don’t really recommend working for a business via HelpX unless they’ve got tons of amazing reviews. Work exchanges are fun because they’re about culture and community. If the business owner is just trying to get out of paying for labor, the experience will generally be mediocre. And what the owner is doing may actually be illegal in some countries. It used to be the work exchange site with the highest number of users and the most diverse range of experiences, which is why I kept renewing my membership!
Cons: Update 2021 – HelpX has FINALLY invested in their digital infrastructure and has my vote once again. It’s the most affordable, though in at least one way you do get what you pay for: I don’t have anything positive to say about interactions I’ve had with their admins over the years. They range from non-responsive to curt – a sharp contrast with Workaway and Worldpackers fierce dedication to building community. Other con: there are places – e.g. Africa – that don’t offer bounteous HelpX opportunities.
HippoHelp Review Hippo Help Review
HippoHelp thought that other platforms felt outdated, unnecessary complicated or too expensive (I don’t disagree!). Why Hippohelp? A combination of branding research and “who doesn’t love hippos?” The site was free until Google raised their price 14Xs for the maps on which Hippohelp depends.
Cost: $13 (12€)
Pros: The map is the foundation of the platform, which is incredibly helpful. I can’t tell you how laborious it was to find a geographically suitable farm in Italy using their WWOOF’s archaic documents. And I hate that when I login to HelpX that I have to click two or three times to find a map view of a region. With HippoHelp, you can’t not look at a map. Also, if having 9,000 tabs open drives you crazy, this platform has your back. The founder explains, “If you, for example, click on a hostmarker, the information appears on the same screen instead of in a new tab, making it easy and fast browsing through all hosts in an area.” They encourage you to complete your profile before looking around at what’s available, but I was able to click past the prompts so I could have a look around before committing the time it takes to fill out a profile. Another bonus: you can use the app to find fellow travelers to meet up with!
Cons: It was brand-spanking-new as of mid-2017, so it’s still early in the game. The areas I want to work exchange don’t have many hosts right now. And the overall numbers are inflated when zoomed out. I couldn’t get just hosts to appear on the map. Once I zoomed in to an area with 13 markers, I found that many of them were travelers.
Volunteers Base Review Hippo Help Review
This is a free site I first heard about via the comments section on this page.
Cost: Free. For everyone.
Pros: It’s free! Maybe there are more pros, but I haven’t made a profile there yet.
Cons: When I clicked around looking at listings for the most recent places I’ve traveled, I was disappointed. Nearly all the listings for Peru were businesses. Many for the U.S. were as well. There was no map, which in my experience is critical to helping me decide if I’m interested in a location. There wasn’t even a way to sort by region or state. But… you get what you pay for?!
Remember, just as with house sitting, the right platform is really whichever one is used by the host with whom you want to work exchange!
Have another work exchange website you want to share? Tell us in the comments!
And don’t forget to check your travel insurance policy – especially before you volunteer to pick up chainsaw!
Want to take a break from work exchanging? Check out free accommodation for travellers.
Happy Traveling! ♣
Nervous about a new lifestyle?
Read: Grabbing Life by the Handlebars: Retirement Before 30
Or read 24 Jobs to Do While Traveling the World.
Pinnable to your travel and life hack boards:
|↑a||often called wwoofing|
|↑b||Although I’ve stayed with WWOOF hosts in cities usually doing gardening and odd jobs like helping restore a classic yacht.|
|↑c||The reason WWOOF hasn’t magically streamlined with the efficiency of the world wide web: the leaders for each of dozens of organizations would have to gather, agree on a single model, go back home, get all the hosts to agree to stay involved when they change everything, and then find themselves out of a job once all WWOOF organizations were operating on identical systems.|
|↑d||For the record, I don’t really recommend working for a business via HelpX unless they’ve got tons of amazing reviews. Work exchanges are fun because they’re about culture and community. If the business owner is just trying to get out of paying for labor, the experience will generally be mediocre. And what the owner is doing may actually be illegal in some countries.|