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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Tiana
Tiana

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! =)

travel4lifeblog
travel4lifeblog

Thanks for sharing a very useful article 🙂 We are currently in South America and didn’t know which organisations to choose 😉

liza
liza

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.

evan
evan

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… Read more »

Dos Gringos
Dos Gringos

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.

Dos Gringos
Dos Gringos

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.

Gillian
Gillian

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… Read more »

El.B.R
El.B.R

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.

hazeldespain
hazeldespain

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! 🙂

Hassan
Hassan

Great feedback thanks for you all guys

Joshua Hodges
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!

Quinn
Quinn

Thanks for the article, Jessica and all the helpful comments!

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