After having laid out in my last post what WorkAway can do for you and why it’s a great tool to spice up your vacation while being kind to your budget, here is a brief overview of the main contenders in the work for food and lodging market.
WWOOFing was started more than 40 years ago in the UK to connect organic farms with volunteers. Your host might be anything from a sheep farm in France to a coffee plantation in Hawaii. As it did not start out as an online platform, the organization is maybe the most elaborate. Rather than buying access to a global list, you have to become a member of the individual national chapters, both if you want to host and if you want to volunteer. Membership costs somewhere between 0 and 56 Euros. Depending on the chapter, you either receive a (PDF) booklet or access to a database for one year.
HelpX launched in 2001. The focus is the budget conscious traveler, looking to earn his food and lodging anywhere in the world. There are two memberships options: the limited free membership and the premium membership (20 Euros for two years), which allows volunteers to read the hosts’ full profiles and contact hosts directly (instead of waiting to be contacted). I like the map feature as a convenient way to find hosts in a specific area (though not all hosts are displayed in their actual address).
Of the three, WorkAway, which has been around since 2002, is my favorite even though it is a bit more expensive than HelpX (23 Euros for an individual account and 30 Euros for a couple account for two years). For one I do not like the two-tiered system of free and premium. But more importantly the site looks a bit more professional, and the community seems more engaged. Among other things, there is a photo competition offering a monthly cash prize which might help to offset the higher subscription fee.
On WorkAway.info the map search function is a bit harder to find (about half way down on the host list page you can type a city into a search box and see all hosts nearby — if they have entered their address properly).
On both, WorkAway and HelpX, you find farm stays as well as hostels and B&Bs, young families looking for childminders, people wanting to practice foreign languages or in need of a new web presence and renovation projects of all shapes and sizes. (Click here to read about my WorkAway tips & tricks.)
Hippohelp is a new contender in the market. Launched in 2017, the map-based work-exchange platform provides its services completely free to use for both, hosts and travelers, and it aims to be more than just an exchange platform. The “travelmarkers” in the maps feature not only allow you to find hosts but also to meet other travelers in the area, hook up, or share a ride.
Other volunteer exchange websites I stumbled across but didn’t explore in detail:
- Culture Go Go aims to connect native English speakers to hosts who want to learn English
- Volunteer South America tries to bypass the middle-man in voluntourism in (you guessed it!) South America
- The European Voluntary Service offers classic volunteering in social projects around Europe with all expenses paid
And then, of course, there is house sitting. I have not used any of the mentioned sites but check out this Lonely Planet blog post from last fall to learn more: House sitting with TrustedHousesitters.com: Vacation with Friends.