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

  1. 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..

  2. 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..

  3. 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.

  4. ¿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.

  5. 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

    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 🙂

      2. 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

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

        Thank you.

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

      5. 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.

    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 🙂

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