Workaway, Helpx, and WWOOF: What’s the Difference?

It’s been more than two years since I’ve done a work exchange, but these programs will always feel special for me because they’re part of my “origin story” as a traveler. More than three years ago, before I had ever even read a travel blog, Brent reconnected with an old friend who had been WWOOFing in South America. We did some research and read about other programs like Workaway and Helpx, all of which involved volunteering with local families around the world in exchange for free meals and accommodation. It opened us up to the idea that the factor that had always stopped us from traveling before -money- didn’t actually have to stand in our way.

Although we used work exchange as a way to make long-term travel more affordable, I think they’re a great option for short-term travelers as well. Many families are willing to host volunteers for a few weeks or even a few days. It does mean spending part of your vacation working, but if you’re interested in cultural travel and language exchange, traveling doesn’t get much more local than literally living with a local family and sharing in their daily activities.

So what exactly is the difference between Workaway, Helpx and WWOOF, and which work exchange should you sign up for?

Workaway

Working on My Travels - Which Work Exchange Should You Choose?

Workaway is a database of people and organizations located around the world that are looking for volunteers to help them with a huge range of tasks. Some are looking for people to babysit their kids; others need help with farming or the upkeep of a large property, and some are hostel owners that want volunteers to clean rooms and manage bookings.

The basic Workaway arrangement is 5 hours of work for 5 days a week in exchange for food and a room. A two-year membership is 23 Euros for a single person and 30 Euros for couples and friends. Once you sign-up, you create a profile explaining your background and skills and then start browsing the list of hosts. You can email hosts that interest you and start a discussion with them to figure out if you’re a good match for each other.  If you match you can begin your first work exchange.

Helpx

Working With Horses Trough Helpx - Which Work Exchange Should You Choose?

Helpx is a similar database of hosts looking for volunteers to help with a wide variety of projects. Accommodation ranges from farm stays to B&Bs, and there’s even a category for boats (which I regret never investigating!).  Just like with Workaway, you create a profile and send messages to hosts that you’d like to volunteer for.

According to the site, the standard arrangement is 4 hours of work per day in exchange for food and a room. Although, for both Helpx and Workaway, it’s a good idea to verify this arrangement with any potential host because 4 hours is just a guideline. A 2-year membership is 20 Euros for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a single person, a couple or friends.

As you can tell, Workaway and Helpx both use the same model. I signed up for both, but once I started browsing the sites, I realized that a lot of hosts have profiles on both of them. Although volunteers have to pay to register, it’s free for hosts to create a listing, and therefore there’s no reason for hosts not to take advantage of both websites. Since you’ll get a similar selection of hosts on either website, I recommend saving your money and only signing up for just one of the work exchange websites.

The cool part about this is that both Workaway and Helpx allow users to browse the host listings for free before paying for a membership. This means you can check out both sites, and make your decision based on which one you find easier to use and which one has hosts that you’re most interested in contacting.

Personally, if I could do it over again, I’d go with Helpx. The registration fee is a little cheaper (particularly if you’re volunteering as a pair), and I found I preferred browsing their site. The Workaway site looks a little cleaner on first glance, but I find the host profiles are organized better on Helpx, making them easier to skim through.

WWOOF

Pouring Out Feed - Which Work Exchange Should You Choose?

WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) basically invented the work exchange concept as far as I can tell, with early incarnations of the organization dating back to the 1970s. As the name suggests, WWOOF is a database of organic farms and smallholdings owned by people who are willing to provide food and accommodation in exchange for 4-6 hours of volunteer work per day.

The concept seems identical to Workaway/Helpx, but there are a few key differences. WWOOF emphasizes that it provides an opportunity to learn about organic lifestyles; therefore, it could be a better fit if you’re interested in learning about sustainable farming practices while you’re volunteering, as opposed to simply carrying out the menial tasks you’ll often be assigned by Workaway/Helpx hosts. That said, numerous hosts on Workaway and Helpx offer organic farm stays, and I’m sure plenty are happy to teach you about their lifestyle as well.

The main drawback to WWOOF (and the reason I never actually signed up for it), is that each country has its own WWOOF organization, and you need to pay a membership fee for each one. If your trip is going to take you to multiple countries, the membership fees can add up pretty quickly, and your money definitely gets you access to more hosts in more countries on Workaway and Helpx.

 

What Work Exchange Program Would You Choose?

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Jessica Dawdy

Jessica Dawdy is a serial expat who has been slowly working her way around the world since 2011. She’s lived in 7 different countries, doing everything from painting houses to teaching English. Catch up with her travel stories and expat adventures at Ways of Wanderers. Read more about Jessica here.

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74 thoughts on “Workaway, Helpx, and WWOOF: What’s the Difference?”

  1. Wow, this was really helpful! I’m traveling around the world right now and you’re right, it does get expensive to get a membership for each WWOOF organization…I signed up for WWOOF Switzerland but communication isn’t the best, and maybe I’ll sign up for one of the other ones that you suggested 🙂

    – Ava

    1. Moderator, I want to amend my original reply, delete old one and post this one.

      Do NOT sign up with ANY of these paid sites..go to http://www.volunteersbase.com, like the ones mentioned in the article most are private one on one experiences vs. charities looking for volunteers. I think most sites that are like this should be should be free. The volunteer sites mentioned in this article are not costly but It is amazing how much some charitiable organizations charge to work on their ¨projects¨, yes I realize that some monies go to the communities but when it is high, wonder how much goes to the organization and how much to the community.

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  2. I will have to look into HelpX for a job possibly over my winter or summer break. How hard is it to break into these programs? Will people want to hire a teacher with very little manual labor experience?

    1. It didn’t take us too long to find hosts (and we had zero experience too). You’d probably have luck focusing on hostels and B&Bs – then you’re typically doing basic stuff like cleaning rooms and doing laundy, and there’s not really any manual labor to deal with.

  3. Interesting, this is something I’ve sort of been looking into. I want to travel thru Europe next year, except I’ll be doing so with a campervan and my dog…. I don’t know whether or not it’d be worth me doing it for accommodation, even tho’ food would be good. Plus having a dog with me could cause some issues, I suppose, too. Hmm…

    1. you could try volunteering for some of the many animal rescue charities that operate across Europe. They would certainly offer food and a chance to learn the language and culture in return for helping with the animals and maybe offering your van to help transport dog/cats to fosters, airports, neighbouring cities for adoption in return for fuel.

    2. I know this is an old comment. So, for starters, how did your travels go? I hope they went well. If you’re still interested in this kind of thing, I would suggest making arrangements with the host considering you have your own lodging, essentially. That way you could put in a little less work and eat for free, and always have a place to camp.

  4. I recently signed up for workaway and have gotten my first job coming up. I was not aware of helpx and was not too interested in the different fees that come with Woofing.

  5. I signed up to Workaway and Help X but definitely agree with you that Help X is more user friendly. I ended up doing 4 different placements with Help X and although one didin’t work out (the hosts were basically just wanting slave labour and the living conditions were horrible), the other 3 were amazing and I would definitely do it again. In fact, I am planning on using Help X again next summer in Canada and Alaska 🙂

  6. Maybe you want to check out this site.

    Working Traveller – Working Traveller is a new web site that fills two needs:
    1. Hosts that are looking for skilled workers, not just someone willing to pick some fruit. They need an experience receptionist for the high season, a carpenter for the new barn or someone who can do a mean thai massage; and who are willing to pay small amounts of money to have the right skills come to them, at the right time.
    2. Travellers that want to work, who have a skill or want to learn one as they travel to fund their trip and build their references for a good job when they get home.
    There are over 1,000 work posts on the site all over the world from hosts looking for specialist skills that will be traveling to their country.

  7. Hi, and thanks for the post! You write that HelpX membership fee is the same for a single person and for a couple. Does it mean that once I’ve signed up, I can travel both solo and with my partner..or I have to choose my “status” when I sign up? I couldn’t find the answer on their website.. Thanks!

    1. As are they with your hospitality, I’m sure. You make the world a better place to explore one couch at a time 😀

    2. Congratulations!! I think couchsurfing is just an absolutely marvellous thing!!! I have done it a few time and it keeps surprising me!! I think it shows just the most beutiful side of people! I’m glad to hear people join this 🙂

    1. Not a problem. I’ve done WWOOF and Workaway and I am in my mid fifties. Most host appreciate having volunteers with more experience.

      My advice is don’t be too flexible. Flexibility generally works in the host’s favour and detracts from what should a reciprocal arrangement. If they wrote that you’re working only five hours a day then you make sure you work only five hours a day. Or, I kid you not, it will creep up to six or more.

      1. It is important to realise that the hours may vary sometimes because some hosts provide 5-star food and accommodation whereas at others it is very basic.

        We require six hours a day but we provide superb food, all home-grown, prepared and cooked and all organic. All food is genuinely organic with home-made artisan breads, butter, cheeses, yogurt, jams, preserves of all kinds and meals are cooked with love. Our workers describe our food as gourmet or “eating in a restaurant”.

        Three good meals a day, beautiful private bedrooms, no sharing, unless that is your choice. Living on a beautiful family home with private sitting room if people want some space. Full Internet, cable TV, DVDs and a gorgeous 11-metre saltwater mineral pool with Bali hut and resort style living.

        We do all our workers washing and take them out on trips around the area when they are not working. And we are happy to teach them to make bread, butter, ghee, jams, cheeses etc.

        So you can understand that the ‘cost’ of being here is more than in a place with shared rooms in basic accomodation and “cook it yourself food”.

        My recommendation is that you ask what the conditions, inclusions and requirements are, read reviews. And read about the people making the reviews (some you will see the reasons for any problems, should there be a review that is out of step with the rest).

        If your potential host is vague or unhelpful I suggest you keep looking. Also ask for photos of the property, your room etc.

        And then just enjoy! If you come somewhere like this you will always be cared for. Most of our workers come for two weeks and so far, with few exceptions, most have stayed for months, and even then have returned later in their travels.

        Have fun give plenty and you will be very well rewarded.

        Happy travels 🙂

        1. Hi Sharon

          Your place sounds brilliant. The provision for workawayers sounds very well planned and organised. And yes, it sounds like you can expect six hours a day for those conditions.

          A couple of things. Firstly, not every workaway host is as considerate as you. In fact, I would go so far as to say that far too many take advantage. Some do this blatantly, others are more subtle and there’s quite a few saddos who delude themselves that the poor conditions they are providing are part of the ‘experience’.

          Secondly, you’re right. Reading the reviews is helpful. I would also add that the quantity of positive reviews is helpful. The reason for this is that many people are too polite to write a negative review or feel obligated to write only good things about a host. There is also the possibility that the host may not take kindly to receiving a negative review and retalitate with a negative review of the workawayer, wwoofer, etc. I applaude the workawayers who do write objective, honest reviews and I applaude the hosts who are receptive to these reviews and endeavour to improve their provision rather than get defensive.

          So if there is lots of positive, objective reviews rather than sugary hyperbole then go for it.

          Sharon, I wish you well with your project.

          Chris Mac

        2. Hi Sharon. Working with you intrigues me. Can you tell me how I can pm/contact you?

          Thank you.

        3. Hi Sharon
          Your place sound amazing where are you located
          I’m very interested
          Kind regards Daizy

        4. To be honest 6 hours is a bit much because then you wont have much time to do anything else anyways, but if you do some of the workers work as you said like washing their laundry and doing their dishes I think it might be ok, another thing is that it highly depends in what country you are hosting, in some poor countries the hosts even have to charge the workers or they wouldn’t be able to make it.

  8. Wwoofing is usually open to anybody over 18 with no upper age limit, as long as you are able bodied. Another option to consider is HelpStay.com

  9. ¿Has anyone traveled with helpstay.com? I been thinking in buy a suscription but i really want to get sure that the website is safe and not a scam.

  10. Great article. I’m in Nepal at the moment and am doing some volunteer marketing work for a farm/homestay near Kathmandu. They’re already on helpx, but I’ve also just put them on helpstay and workaway.

    Helpstay seems like it’s going to grow a lot… We’ve only been on it for about five days and already we have two people coming to build a website and have two other queries from helpers who want to come.

    In answer to one of the questions above, I don’t think there are any age limitations, just as long as you feel you can do the work. (We have a woman in her 50’s coming to help for three months over the winter.)

    One thing I would suggest to people wanting to become helpers is to fill out your profile, it really helps to get a sense of who a person is when they have a full profile. Also, I’ve had a couple of query emails that just seem like cut-and-paste emails (as though the person was emailing a whole heap of hosts). Those aren’t so great…I think it’s a lot better to write an email that makes it seem you have really read the profile of the host and have specific skills that you could use at their place. This kind of email is much more likely to get a positive response (IMO!)

    Anyway…hope those tips are helpful!!

    1. As a host, I wanted to thank you for pointing that out. We get so many requests that are either form letters (copy pasted to several hosts) or that skip the introductions entirely. We get a lot of these me-me-me e-mails, where the helper goes on about themselves and says nothing about why they are interested in working on our project. Frankly, if you’re not going to show the slighest bit of interest in our project and speak to how your skills would be a fit, don’t waste our time. Or we get the twenty questions right off the bat, with many of the answers in our profile. And there’s nothing like a helper with an incomplete profile asking to see photos of the room they’ll be staying in. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Introduce yourself, say why you want to work with us, tell us what skills you have that relate to the project and when you would like to help. Beware of hosts that try to book you without asking too many questions, most times that’s a sign that you are lining yourself up for a cheap labour stint.

  11. Is helpstay safe? I am looking at opportunities there and wanted to work teaching English. Got a mail from a guy saying I will only be teaching him. It seemed a little suspicious.

    Anyone tried it yet?

    1. Hi, have you received any answer about helpstay? I am also considering helpstay to teach English in China but I want to be sure everything is legit. Thanks

      1. i m considering to do the same in china, acctually i bought fly ticket already… im thinking in workaway…but dont know if they charges you 29.00 dolares just one time or its montly..

  12. does anybody know if workaway charges you 29.00 dolar just for one time,, i mean ,not 29 every month? cause once i ve paid in housesitter,com and they sat that the fee was just 30 dolares, but then later, they charged me that amount, but every month..

  13. where was that category for boat? I’m not finding that anywhere on there, would really LOVE to check that out!
    Looking forward to trying Couchsurfing. I signed up as a host, but I guess not many people really want to visit the area where I live. I don’t think we get many tourists around here.

      1. Hi Lawrence,
        I live in a small town about an hour south of Houston, TX. There really aren’t many travelers passing through.
        Yes, I love meeting people from all over. Thats one of the reasons I enjoy blogging so much.

  14. Just thought I’d add a word of advice. I signed on for a stay with helpx, bought a ticket to Ireland and the people I was to be staying with backed out last minute. I could not make other arrangements at last minute and took a huge loss on my ticket, even with insurance. There is no contract, so you can be told you must leave or cannot stay with no recourse.

  15. thanks for putting up a comparison of all 3 of the big volunteer travel sites! I’m currently in Maui on a Workaway and loving it, but helpx might be up my alley as well!

  16. Thank you, Jessica, for the great writeup and explainations and to everyone else for the added suggestions!

  17. We have used both helpx and workaway for 5 years and are in our fifties. The experiences have been great and agree that helpx is the better site. Initially, I spent time writing detailed emails as suggested by Dos Gringos but in many cases it was frustrating to either not receive any reply or ‘We don’t take helpers in April’ , information that should have been on the host’s profile. A polite ‘no thank you’ would be appreciated as it helps planning trips . The only other negative has been the expectation of hosts to carry out tasks without providing the appropriate tools. Overall it’s a great idea.

    1. Having said that we really only respond to helpers whose emails are clearly unique from other emails who target us specifically. we send a document of what can be expected of us and them and then wait to see if the helper still wants to come. on helpx a host can see how many emaila you have sent with dates and word count. We sont take helpers who spam mass numbers of hosts. hope that helps

  18. Kia ora. I’m a Helpx host here in New Zealand. We’ve been hosts for 5 years and have loved it! I appreciate that some hosts take advantage of their helpers, but I don’t believe it is that common. I also know that some helpers can take advantage of the host. That they appear to sometimes lack the concept of reciprocity in the context of a labor exchange situation. For some travellers it’s all about the free food and accommodation and they are sometimes unwilling to weed, clean, sand, paint or any of the dreary boring tasks that a host might need help with. Hosts might not want to engage, parent or connect with the helper. They might be stingy with food, grumpy and boring. Reviews and profiles can give a lot of information. A good host will get good reviews and so will a good helper. If a helper is traveling alone using public transport then stay in urban centres , there is no risk of getting stuck somewhere unpleasant. If a helper has their own vehicle then they can go and leave anywhere. Ask questions before you commit, don’t commit unless you’re willing to and here’s the big thing for hosts. If a helper commits to coming to a host, then they should come!!!!!! If they change their mind, get a better offer, get sick or anything else that means that they are not keeping their end of the deal then let the host know!!!!. That’s the biggest issue for hosts, the NO SHOW that will get a negative review.

    1. Hello farm girl !

      I appreciated your candid review and am interested in learning more about your farm. Is it organic and do you need help from mid September to the end of October?

      Thanks,

      Quinn

  19. Verity McKeon

    Do you need a working visa to helpx even though you’re not technically earning? I’m from England and I’ve helpxed in Europe before, but mow I’m looking at a few places in America

      1. Technically no, but avoid the topic of working in any way, shape or form when entering the US. Also be careful which hosts you choose. Working for a business is not a good idea. Try to find hosts that not using these sites for cheap labour. It’s not always obvious, but it is much more rewarding to exchange with someone who’s not making money from your labour.

    1. Yes, in many places work visas are required and hard to get with high unemployment rates. I found many host poo-pooed this and when I persisted in my inquiries, wanted nothing more to do with me….raising a red flag that what they were doing was trying to skirt work visa requirements.

  20. Joshua Hodges

    I am in college and taking a semester off this upcoming fall. I am looking to go abroad. Am I too late to sign up for these programs? Does anyone have any other ideas for a semester off abroad? Thanks a lot!

  21. This is a great article! I’ve done wwoof and Workaway, and would totally agree with the differences you described. Looks like helpX is worth a shot as well, thanks for the post! 🙂

  22. Wow. Great article. I am looking to spend some time in Germany. I am fluent in Spanish, Catalan and English. Very eager to learn German! Contact me: r4k1m at hotma1l.com.

  23. We have been helpx hosts for 1.5 years. it started after massive storm damage to our home and grounds. Everyone has to start somewhere so our first helpers we contacted took a chance on us and the first helper to contact us we also took a chance on. we have had 14 sets of helper some individuals and some couples. only had difficulty with 3 and interestingly they were all the same nationality. We have gteat reviews and we have done some great reviewing for helpers. while some people do leave a negative review if you are worried about retributio it can be just as powerful to not leave one at all. Helpers will see few reviews or that reviews have not been left for a while. IT is ok in the initial contact to be very clear about what is expected on either side with the agreement that if there are problema hoth sides reserve the right to cut the visit short. we have loved our helpers and are now part of our international family. we have found that in the majority of cases people are very trustworthy. only thing now is that we dont really have any work left to do so are not taking helpers for now!

  24. A few thoughts on sites like these. Please look carefully at a country’s work visa regulations. I looked into Helpx to visit Ireland. As soon as I asked potential hosts about work visas I was dropped like a hot potato. A quick call to the visa office, and VISAS ARE REQUIRED IF HOUSING IS EXCHANGED IN LEAU OF PAY!!!!! Also, there is very high unemployment in many places like Ireland and officials are clamping down (rightfully) on organizations like these as they are taking jobs from locals. Also, I have spoken to 2 women who showed up as planned to host’s homes and were turned away as hosts “changed their minds.” There is no guarantee, no contract. The risk is on the traveler.

    1. I would caution that if you decide to do a work exchange for a business of any kind, you should have a work visa. Ask the host if they are incorporated in any way.

    2. Oh and that goes both ways: “There is no guarantee, no contract. The risk is on the host/traveler.” I think you’ll find more hosts getting stiffed by no-shows than the opposite.

  25. Thank you, Jessica, for doing the research and sharing your finds. I am a HelpX volunteer and have been for 18 months. I highly recommend that volunteers ask as many questions of their potential hosts, via email or phone, before they actually arrive. This can help avoid problems, especially with accommodation standards.

  26. I am interested in going as a family. 2 adults both aged 38, 2 daughters aged 9 & 4. Is this possible via any site/situation? Thanks! =)

  27. stephen kwagala

    thanks so much for this great information,am new on these sites and i think most of my answers have been answered

  28. Hey,
    This is very helpful. My interests lie in WWOOFING, but Helpx and Workaway seem to be decent websites according to your description. I ll be volunteering on my next trip to Europe and am still deciding upon which platform to chose. I came across another similar platform called Hippohelp. Have you tried it?

  29. Hey,
    The details are very helpful. I was really confused about which of these to take while travelling to Russia next year but have a bit clarity now. Also i came across another platform named Hippohelp. Have you heard of it?

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