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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Verity McKeon
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

Steph
Steph

I wouldn’t think so, but maybe check with the embassy.

Dos Gringos
Dos Gringos

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.

evan
evan

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.

farm girl nz
farm girl nz

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… Read more »

Quinn
Quinn

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

Argentinian boy
Argentinian boy

Hello Farm Girl, Can I be a helper in New Zealand with just de tourist visa? Thank you!

farm girl nz
farm girl nz

You can!

David Amankwah
David Amankwah

how can I join

Sara Townsend
Sara Townsend

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… Read more »

Gillian
Gillian

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

Picinguaba2010
Picinguaba2010

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

Cassy
Cassy

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!

Maga
Maga

What if I only have a tourist Visa? (Looking for something in Montreal, Ca)

eva1365
eva1365

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.

kkennedyrose
kkennedyrose

Incredibly helpful. Thank!

Capt Jill
Capt Jill

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.

Lawrence Hiun
Lawrence Hiun

hi Capt Jill
which part of the city and country you lived? I have been a CS member since 2011..it’s an amazing experience to meet new people from different countries.

Capt Jill
Capt Jill

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.

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