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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Danilo Biccari
Danilo Biccari

Thank you for an extremely helpful and well-written post. Much appreciated!!

Caleb
Caleb

Great post! Thanks for the info!

Khaled Nacef
Khaled Nacef

A few months and Im here !

Elli
Elli

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!

Duncan
Duncan

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… Read more »

Katie @ The World on my Necklace
Katie @ The World on my Necklace

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 🙂

rebecca
rebecca

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.

Sammi Wanderlustin'
Sammi Wanderlustin'

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…

christine
christine

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.

Gabe
Gabe

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.

Amanda
Amanda

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?

Jessica Dawdy
Jessica Dawdy

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.

Ava
Ava

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

Jenn
Jenn

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… Read more »

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