Last Updated on by Talita
Have you ever wanted to volunteer while traveling the world? What about getting free accommodation & food in exchange for your help? If so, then you’ll love these volunteer/work exchange websites below!
Many people who want to volunteer overseas get put off by the high fees that “voluntourism” agencies charge to place them.
But the truth is, you can volunteer (almost) for free. In fact, you can even get free accommodation and food as you travel by volunteering as part of work exchange!
I’ll show you how as well as list out and compare the 5 best websites to help you find your own volunteer/work exchange position.
What is a work exchange and how does it work?
A work or volunteer exchange is where you “exchange” your time or skills for accommodation, food, and other benefits.
In other words, you only need to pay for your flight because a place to stay and most of your food will be covered! Many hosts even offer a free transfer from the airport/station to your destination.
And at least in my experience, with most work exchanges around the world, you can expect to work about 4 hours per day 5 days a week.
In exchange for your time, you’ll receive accommodation and meals. And the remaining time is yours to do what you like with…including working online/remotely as a digital nomad!
Types of volunteer/work exchanges around the world
Every volunteer position will have a list of the activities you’ll need to help out with and the average time you’ll be expected to work per day or week.
Generally, the work is fairly simple (it is volunteer work, after all) and, as I said above, normally doesn’t take more than 4 or 5 hours of your day.
Here are a few examples of the type of work you might perform as a volunteer:
- Teach languages/be a language conversation partner
- Provide childcare
- Take care of animals
- Work at the reception of a hotel, hostel, or B&B
- Help out in a kitchen
- Make small repairs or paint
- Help with harvesting, planting, or other farm work
- General work in hostels and hotels around the world
Beyond these options, you might also end up working with digital marketing, social media, article writing & translation, photography, video editing, and much more!
What types of places can you volunteer for a work exchange around the world?
One of the greatest things about work exchanges is that you can volunteer just about anywhere in the world.
To give you an idea…you could work at a ski resort in France, teach English to children in South America, repair a school in Kenya, or help with the olive harvest in the Portuguese countryside.
Here are some more examples of places you may be able to work as a volunteer:
- Farms and ecovillages
- Restaurants and bars
Of course, this list is just the starting point! When you take a look at the websites below, you’ll find plenty of other options and filters to search through.
How long should your work exchange overseas be?
Ultimately, this is up to you and your host!
But generally, each position will note how long they’d like to have a volunteer ( it’s usually a 1-week minimum). Some hosts may want someone for 1-3 weeks, other hosts may only want someone who can commit to 4+ weeks.
So make sure you’re reading through each position carefully to find this info out before you apply.
And of course, the length of your stay also depends on how much time you have available. But if you like, you could hypothetically apply to multiple positions and travel this way for months (or even years!).
How to apply to a volunteer work exchange position
It’s quite simple. First, make sure you’ve filled in your profile entirely with a friendly photo (or two), and a bit of info about you.
From there, just find a position that you’re interested in…and then send the host a personalized message (hint: make sure you read their entire description first!) letting them know why you’re why and how you’d like to help them.
Our personal experience with volunteer work exchanges
Both Nikki and I have done a handful of these work exchanges together or separately – such as on a farm in Mongolia, at a B&B in Portugal, and as an English conversation instructor in the Polish mountains (see company #5 below for how Nikki found this one!).
As with anything in life, some of our experiences here were great, others we didn’t enjoy as much. But all were interesting and allowed us to see new sights and meet interesting people.
But the best piece of advice we can give you after our experiences? Make sure you read the reviews of the host left by former volunteers VERY carefully before you commit to anything 🙂
Comparison table of the 5 best websites for free volunteer/work exchanges around the world
You can find more details about each of these websites below (including their plans and how to sign up), but here’s a table to get you started!
|Membership price||Starts at $49 for 1 year and 3 months||Individual for €42.99 euros or as a group for €51.99, valid for 1 year||Starts at €39 for 1 year||Free plan option||Starts at €20 for 2 years||Free|
|Offers double/couple plans?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Need to sign up to see open positions?||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Offers any type of insurance||Yes, WP Insurance (just to cover problems with the host, NOT health insurance)||Yes, they partner with SafetyWing and provide travel insurance options||No||No||Yes, only Personal Accident Insurance||No|
|Type of volunteer work||All||All||All||All||Organic farming||Teaching English|
|Where you can find positions||All over the world||All over the world||All over the world||All over the world||All over the world||Just in Europe|
|Can you read reviews about hosts from former volunteers?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
What are the best work exchange websites to volunteer for free around the world?
Hopefully, the table above has given you an overall idea of what these companies are like. But now let’s get to the details!
The Brazilian company Worldpackers is a collaborative community that does far more than simply connect hosts with volunteers in more than 140 countries around the world.
Without signing up, you’re still able to see what positions are available (including details like how many hours of work are expected per week, what type of help they need, where you’ll be staying, minimum stay duration, etc…).
But as I said, Worldpackers is more than this. Beyond scoping out volunteer positions, you can also take a look at their Academy, an online course platform with topics ranging from sustainable volunteering to earning money while traveling.
Another benefit of Worldpackers is that they offer support in finding a new volunteer position (and even guarantee up to 3 nights of hostel accommodation) if you have a problem with your host.
One thing I do want to mention: Worldpackers Insurance is NOT health insurance and it only covers this problem I mentioned with hosts above. So travel/health insurance will have to be something that you buy separately.
The Worldpackers “Solo Trips” plan is for anyone who is traveling on their own, and costs $49 with a validity of 1 year and 3 months. If you’re traveling as a couple or with a friend, you can get a $59 “Couples / Friends” plan for the two of you.
The third available plan is the “Pack” plan, which has all the same benefits of the Solo Trips plan but also gives you access to a few of the Academy courses.
HelpStay was established in 2014 as a platform that connects individuals who want to offer volunteer work to hosts and social projects in over 100 countries worldwide, such as farms, artistic retreat centers, hostels, ranches, and schools.
On the platform, helpers can exchange work for accommodation, based on their personal skills. They can view information about the type of service offered and directly contact the job advertiser.
To sign up as a volunteer, it is necessary to become a member of the site, which allows connection with over 1500 projects or families willing to offer accommodation in exchange for volunteer work. It is important to highlight that travel opportunities are unlimited for platform members.
HelpStay membership plans
HelpStay offers two types of plans. One for single individuals, which costs €42.99 per year, and another for couples or friends who wish to travel and volunteer together, costing €51.99 per year.
The second volunteer website on our list here today is Workaway. Workaway and Worldpackers are generally the two most popular platforms out there for work exchanges.
Workaway has positions in more than 170 countries…and they have lots of filters that can help you find exactly what type of volunteer work you’d like to do and where.
As these platforms heavily rely on reviews and comments, Workaway gives out “medals” to certain top-rated hosts and volunteers, which you can use to help you in your search.
There are a few other things that make Workaway stand out from the others on the list. The first is that part of their website is dedicated to those in search of language exchange partners. For example, you could find someone to teach you French in exchange for English.
The second is the community itself. This includes not only their blog that’s full of useful travel tips, but also your ability to get in contact with Workaway Ambassadors who are experienced travelers and can help you with your trip.
Workaway membership plans
With Workaway, you can find plans for single travelers, couples, groups, or even a family (children under 18 are free).
The individual plan costs €39 while the double/couple plan costs €49. These plans are valid for one year.
HelpX is a more “traditional” volunteer exchange site that’s been around for more than 20 years.
Their website is very easy to use, and you can even filter by hosts that already have reviews or those that are accepting volunteers new to the platform.
With HelpX, you can find positions all across the world…and it’s definitely worth checking out alongside the others on our list!
HelpX membership plans
Without a doubt, the one thing that makes HelpX different from the other choices is its plans: in other words, they have one that’s free!
Of course, the free plan does have some limitations because you’re not able to contact hosts directly. All you can do is set up your profile and hope that a host is interested enough to reach out to you instead.
But if you want to give one of these platforms a shot without spending money on a membership, HelpX’s free plan may be a good place to start. And if you like it, you can simply upgrade to a Premier plan (which costs €20 and is valid for 2 years).
5. WWOOF International
The fourth option on our list today is a bit more specific.
WWOOF, or Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is an organization that connects volunteers with organic farms to incentivize environmental education and offer a unique voluntourism experience.
Because of this, by “WWOOFing” you’ll generally have the opportunity to travel to more rural areas, partake in a sustainable lifestyle, and help with community farming activities.
They have more than 12,000 hosts in more than 130 countries registered!
You’ll find the host profiles on WWOOF are a little different than the others on our list. Generally, the host will describe the size of the property, what they produce, how they produce it, and what animals they have.
Finally, WWOOF is the only option on this list that offers Personal Accident Insurance. It’s not true health insurance, but it does give you coverage if there are any accidents during your volunteer stay.
WWOOF membership plans
WWOOF has both single and double membership plans that are valid for 2 years. The single membership costs €20 and the double costs €30.
If you’re interested in volunteering while teaching English and traveling, then take a look at Angloville!
In the countries where Angloville operates (unfortunately, there are not many and they are just in Europe), they have various programs that help the locals develop their English abilities.
You don’t need to have any teaching experience because the idea isn’t for you to teach…but just to speak and help participants practice! That said, if you’re not a native English speaker, you need to have a score of at least 7 on the IELTS.
The length of their programs range from 1 to 8 weeks, and your accommodation will be covered by Angloville.
And as a final note…Nikki spent a week volunteering with Angloville at a lovely “mountain resort” in the Polish countryside, and she had a really great experience that she’d highly recommend!
Angloville membership plans
All of Angloville’s programs are free for volunteers. In other words, you don’t need to sign up as you do for other websites since there aren’t individual hosts for you to contact. Instead, you simply apply for the program of your choice.
Here are the 6 best websites for free volunteer work exchanges around the world:
- WWOOF International
Volunteering overseas is a great way to explore a new place and have the opportunity for a unique experience totally different from your average tourist.
Not to mention, work exchanges are a very cheap way to travel (hello free accommodation!), meet new people, and perhaps even try some types of work that you’ve never considered before! 🙂
And so, if you’re in search of volunteer positions as you travel the world, I’m sure the 5 websites above will help!
And if you have any questions about our experience volunteering overseas or about these companies listed above, just let us know and in the comments area below and I’ll get back to you!
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