Budget Friendly Adventures: How to Travel For Free with Workaway

Grace Plant
Grace Plant 8 Min Read

Workaway.info is a website where travellers can volunteer their time and skills in exchange for food and a bed. In my opinion, it’s the ultimate cheap travel hack.

This type of exchange allows you to travel the world for a fraction of the cost of a typical international trip. And if you’re the type of person who likes to get under the skin of a place, it’s a great way to forge a genuine connection with the locals and become part of their world for a while. 

How Does it Work?

Each opportunity varies, and it’s down to hosts and volunteers to find an arrangement that suits both parties. That being said, Workaway recommends around 5 hours of work per day, 5 days per week, in exchange for food and accommodation.

The website links you with hosts in over 180 countries, offering diverse opportunities in places like hostels, campsites, organic farms, yoga centers, animal rescues, schools, and more—the possibilities really are endless.

Workaway.info Website

Anyone over 18 can sign up to become a Workaway host or volunteer. All you need is a can-do attitude, a willingness to learn, and a sense of adventure.

Why Do Workaway?

When you volunteer through Workaway you can stay for free in tourist hotspots and off-the-beaten-path locations all over the world. It’s the biggest cultural exchange platform on the internet, and it’s EVERYWHERE. Check the full host list, you’ll be blown away by how widespread it is.

If staying for free isn’t enough of a draw, here are a few more reasons why you should try Workaway at least once:

  • Immerse Yourself in Local Culture

By staying with locals you’re able to better experience a culture and understand how people in your chosen destination live. It can be hard to do that when you stick to hostels and hotels.

  • Practice a New Language

You’re bound to pick up some of the local language (if you’re not already able to speak it.) Some volunteering placements even offer organised language exchange sessions to help you on your way.

  • Learn a New Skill

Always wanted to learn basket weaving? How about bricklaying?

Although some hosts are looking for volunteers with preexisting skills, many are more than happy to help you learn on the job. 

  • Encounter Amazing People

For me, the best part of volunteering while travelling is the kind and open-hearted people I’ve met. 

Working on projects with locals and fellow international volunteers has allowed me to make connections in a way that wouldn’t have been possible on the regular tourist trail. 

How Much Does it Cost?

You can browse the Workaway website for free, but if you want to contact the host you’ll need to sign up for a paid annual membership. 

As of 2024, the membership fee for a single person is £42, and for a couple volunteering together, it’s £49. These prices are for UK-based applicants. In the US, solo travellers pay $44 and couples pay $56.

Once you’ve paid, you can apply to volunteer with as many hosts as you like for a full year. 

Are There Other Cultural Exchange Opportunities Similar to Workaway?

Workaway is the big daddy of cultural exchange opportunities, but it’s not the only player in the game. 

WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is another long-established and hugely popular platform that connects travellers with sustainable agricultural farmers seeking help on their land. 

With WWOOF, you’ll be fed, housed, and watered in exchange for around 4-6 hours of labour, 5 days per week.

Just like Workaway, WWOOFers need to pay an annual membership fee to connect with hosts. But once you’re signed up, you can apply for as many opportunities as you like for a full year. 

UK-based applicants pay £25 per person or £35 per couple. In the US, the fee is $40 for a single membership or $65 for a joint membership. 

But what if you’re really strapped for cash?Are there other ways to find cultural exchange opportunities without forking out for a membership fee?

Up until recently, I thought the answer was no. But then I discovered a Facebook community called Diggers and Dreamers & Offgriders. 

This private group is UK-based, but people frequently share opportunities from all over Europe. Most hosts are looking for practical help on farms, smallholdings, and homesteads (many of which, as the name suggests, are off-grid). In exchange, they’ll give you room and board, and in some cases, they may even offer paid work. 

Because it’s Facebook, there are no fees to pay, so you can find an opportunity for free. The downside is there are no clear guidelines for hosts to follow. So, I occasionally see offers that could be considered exploitative. With this in mind, if you choose to go down this route, make sure you’re being offered a fair deal. 

What If It Doesn’t Work Out?

Of course, there’s no guarantee you’ll have a great experience. You could end up stuck somewhere really boring, the food might be terrible, or you might not hit it off with your hosts. But, without risk, there are no rewards. 

The best way to avoid a potential problem is to read reviews from other volunteers who have gone before you. Both Workaway and WWOOF encourage volunteers and hosts to review their experiences. This gives future travellers an idea of the kind of people they’ll be working with and what might be expected of them before they commit. 

Unfortunately, a Facebook group doesn’t always offer the same kind of reliable feedback. So, if you go down this route, you’re taking a bit of a gamble.

Make Your Next Adventure Free

Workaway – and other cultural exchange opportunities like it – offer a different way of seeing the world. And for me, these kinds of adventures have been even more fulfilling than regular backpacking or holidaying.

So, don’t let money stand in the way of your adventure goals. In 2024, redefine your travels and explore the world for free.

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Grace is a freelance travel writer from Lancashire, England. In 2019, she embarked on a year-long adventure across India where she discovered her passion for crafting engaging travel content. Since then, she’s turned that passion into a full-time career, making her mark in various international travel publications. When she’s not writing and exploring, Grace enjoys foraging for wild plants and fungi and spending time in nature with her border terrier, George.
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