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This Workaway Review is a Guest Post by Travel Blogger Curiously Erin. In this post, Erin will talk about how to travel for free through the Workaway program.
Of all my great passions in this life – lizards, guacamole, singing songs from Hamilton loudly my car – saving money on travel is probably one of the greatest. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to travel for less.
When I heard about Workaway, I was intrigued. In the Workaway program, you volunteer a few hours a day in exchange for a place to stay and sometimes meals and other perks. There are all kinds of Workaway opportunities and they can be found all over the world.
In addition to being a budget-friendly way to travel, Workaway is also an excellent way to find opportunities for cultural immersion and explore some less-touristy destinations. If long-term travel is what you’re after, Workaway might be a good fit for you too!
The following post is an interview I did with Erin from Curiously Erin about her Workaway experiences. Erin’s Workaway Review is packed with helpful information about what kind of opportunities are available and how you can get started.
Originally Published April 2019, Updated 2021
How To Travel For Free: Workaway Review with Curiously Erin
Erin is a long-term budget traveler. She has spent the majority of the past 10 years working various jobs around the world to fund her travels.
Some highlights include teaching skiing to children in Lake Tahoe, California, and spending two years living on a superyacht between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. She loves the outdoors, coffee, and of course, being a slow traveler. Find out more on her blog, Curiously Erin.
What is Workaway?
Workaway is an online platform that links volunteers to various unpaid job opportunities around the world. It’s a community of travelers who are looking to travel longer, reach deeper remote areas, or aid in cultural exchange. Anyone can sign up to be a host, which means you can find opportunities in all corners of the globe.
The platform allows you to search for hosts via the type of work you would like to do or by the places you will be visiting. Each host is different but you can expect to work 4-5 hours per day 5 days a week in exchange for free accommodation and in most cases included food.
Related Post: How to Travel For Free as a House Sitter
What kind of Workaway volunteer opportunities are available?
The volunteer opportunities available on work exchange sites like Workaway are extremely varied. You can find work doing basically anything as it depends on what projects or daily tasks a host wants completed. Hosts can be individuals, families, or even businesses.
Some of the more common positions include:
- Volunteering in a Hostel: Usually with cleaning, reception and escorting the guests on nights out
- Helping in Someone’s Home: Babysitting children, keeping the home clean, looking after property and animals.
- Construction Projects
- Foreign Language Exchange
- Eco Projects
- Self-Sustainable Gardening
The list above is only a small part of what you will find online. New opportunities pop up all the time, so it’s worthwhile to keep an eye on the site until something spikes your interest.
I have been fortunate enough to volunteer in a ski resort in Slovakia helping at the kid’s ski school. Along with providing accommodation and food I was also given a lift pass, ski rentals, access to wellness centers, and discounts at shops owned by the mountain.
What are the Workaway Pros?
I love using Workaway as it has allowed me to travel long-term. Financially I wouldn’t be able to afford to travel as long as I have without it. The main perks of doing the Workaway work exchange program are:
- Free accommodation
- Free food (in most cases)
- You get to live in non-touristy areas
- Cultural immersion
- Language exchange
- You learn new skillsets
- Volunteer on projects that are giving back to local communities
- You are able to travel longer
- New friends
Cons of the Workaway Program?
Saying Workaway is all perfect would be a lie. Of course, there are downsides to everything. A few of the negative aspects of being a Workaway volunteer would be:
- The possibility of not getting along with your host
- The duties at the Workaway are not as expected, you don’t like the work or the tasks are different from what was listed in the profile
- You work more than you get to explore
- Being in remote areas it can be hard to explore if you don’t have a vehicle.
- Hosts can be flakey or unorganized
- You don’t get paid so essentially you do go into your savings
While some of these downsides are unavoidable, the work and host issues can hopefully be avoided if you have good communication and ask the right questions before your arrival.
I know people who have had negative experiences during Workaway programs and stopped doing them completely. Personally, my first Workaway was not a good one but instead of staying three months like originally intended, I left after two weeks. I continued to do Workaway programs and have some of my best travel memories because of them.
Where do you find Workaway volunteer opportunities?
All of the hosts and opportunities are listed online at https://www.workaway.info/. It is free to browse profiles but if you wish to contact a host you must make a Workaway account and pay a membership fee.
How long are Workaway experiences?
The length of a program depends on the host and their needs. While a lot of the hosts have ongoing work they usually have a preferred amount of time they like volunteers to stay for.
Most places would rather have someone who can commit to at least two weeks. This is to ensure the time taken to learn the jobs and fit into the routine is worthwhile. Certain hosts have a limit on how long people can stay while others will want people to stay as long as possible.
The best way to find out is to read the profile completely and see if the length of time they like volunteers to stay for is listed. If not, send them a message and ask.
Where are the Workaway experiences located?
There are over 50,000 opportunities located in 170 countries! Whether you’re looking for a farm stay in Europe, a sustainability experience in New Zealand, or a cultural exchange in Central America, there are likely Workaway programs to suit your needs.
What are the qualifications to join Workaway?
You don’t need any sort of qualification to join Workaway. Just make sure you bring a willingness to be an active participant in someone’s home or business.
Although you receive free accommodation, it’s important to not abuse this opportunity. Workaway is about community and cultural immersion. The hosts are relying on you to help them out.
How do you sign up for Workaway?
As I mentioned earlier, you are free to look at profiles without paying the membership fee. Only when you want to contact a host you must sign up and pay the membership fee. Once you are ready to sign up to Workaway you can follow this link.
From here you are prompted to create a profile and add some photos. Read more about how to sign up for Workaway and why you should here!
Do you have any tips for making a good Workaway profile?
Making a good profile is extremely important if you want to be accepted by future hosts. Think of this section as your unofficial CV. The most important part is filling out your profile completely. Don’t leave any sections blank. It’s better to have more information about yourself than not enough.
Be honest and explain why you are on Workaway and what you like about the program. Include your hobbies and interests and what makes you unique. The main thing to add is your willingness to learn and take part in any task.
Tips For Writing A Good Workaway Application Message
Before you send a host an application message, make sure you read through their profile completely. If there is a Workaway program you really want to be accepted for DO NOT send a generic copy and paste message.
Some hosts receive hundreds if not thousands of messages a year. The first way they eliminate people is if it is a copy/paste message.
My top tips on what to include in your initial communication:
- Add the name of who you are contacting. The name of the host is not listed under a subheading so you will have to do some digging. I like to read through the reviews and try and find it in there.
- Next, tell them why their profile stood out to you – add something from their listing that piqued your interest or puts you in common with them. Eg. “I see you’re a keen bike rider, I love cycling too!”
- Give a brief overview of yourself, your travels and why you will be in their country.
- Add some traits that make you suitable for the position.
- Finally, list the dates you would like to help out. If possible be slightly flexible but still have a time frame in mind.
How much does Workaway cost?
Workaway costs €36 for a single account and €48 for a couples account (which is mandatory if you are applying in a pair – Workaway monitors your email communications).
While this may sound like a lot of money for a budget traveler, it will end up saving you so much money in the long run.
Who is Workaway best suited for?
Workaway is suited to any type of traveler who is looking for a longer more immersive trip. There is no age limit and each host will prefer volunteers who are in different situations, age groups, and length of time a volunteer can stay.
It’s great for solo travelers, couples, and even families. I have met multiple families who travel the world with their children and even pets.
Can you do Workaway as a solo traveler?
Definitely! If you’re a solo traveler, joining Workaway is a great option. You will have the opportunity to meet locals and other travelers through the different volunteer positions you do.
As with anything be wise about going out into remote areas alone. If you will be arriving in a small town ensure the host has previous positive reviews. Let a friend or family member know the details of where you are going and pass on their profile information.
While I was never in a dodgy situation, it occurred to me as I waited at a train station in the middle of nowhere British Colombia that anyone could be picking me up. Luckily, I had a wonderful host arrive and take me to their ranch.
Related Post: How To Make Friends While Traveling Solo
Tell me about some of your favorite Workaway experiences.
It’s hard to pick just one of my favorite Workaway experiences. The first one that comes to mind was working in a hostel/budget hotel when I was a solo traveler in Prince Rupert on the coast of British Colombia. I met incredible people who came through the hotel and made a lot of friends there.
The work was an easy 2 or 3-hour day where I did a bit of housekeeping or gardening. The rest of the day I was free to explore the area. During my two weeks in Prince Rupert, I managed to go on a hike almost daily and met a lot of the locals who also showed me around.
The Workaway experience I am on now is at a villa in Montenegro that runs adventure tours. In exchange for a few hours of work each day with two days off a week, I get to join the tours and have a car for exploring the country. Here I live with my boyfriend in our own eco-cabin on their property in Lake Skadar National Park.
What did a typical day look like when you were doing Workaway jobs?
There is no typical day with Workaway. Each program is entirely different which is why it is suitable for everybody.
Is Workaway Worth it?
I definitely encourage everyone to check out Workaway. It offers a unique way to travel on a budget and have experiences you might hot have discovered otherwise.
If you would like to find out more and read more Workaway reviews, head to their website at https://www.workaway.info/
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- Interview With Nomadic Matt, Budget Travel Expert
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