If you have your heart set on long term travel, whether it be a long backpacking trip through Europe or following the gringo trail in South America, finances can be a concern. One great option for travellers is to find work exchange opportunities and volunteer through sites like Workaway. There are a few different sites that one can choose to find volunteering opportunities with HelpX, Worldpackers or Workaway being three of the most popular with backpackers today.
If you’re interested in doing a work exchange on an upcoming trip, this article will breakdown and the main differences between these platforms to help you decide which is best for you to choose!
How do Volunteer Sites like Workaway Work?
Before we delve into which of HelpX, Workaway or Worldpackers is best for your upcoming trip, it’s worth discussing what exactly work exchange sites are and what you should expect when signing up for one.
In a nutshell, these sites are designed to bring volunteers and backpackers together with hosts that are looking for additional help on their projects, typically in exchange for accommodation and possibly some meals. The type of hosts available includes NGOs or not-for-profit organisations, farms or eco-villages and hostels or campsites.
Hosts will list their opportunity on one of these sites including what type of help they’re looking for, what they’re willing to offer in exchange and how many hours one is expected to work.
If there is something of interest for a prospective volunteer, you can then contact the host and discuss with them whether it’s a good fit for you. If you both to agree to move forward, you would then agree on the finer details of your work exchange.
Work exchange sites provide travellers with a number of benefits that they wouldn’t otherwise get if they were simply travelling from one place to another. The most obvious one is that they completely reduce their overall backpacking costs. However, other benefits include being able to learn new skills and put them onto your CV when applying for jobs later down the track and also becoming more immersed in the local culture by getting to know the hosts and their community.
HelpX vs Worldpackers vs Workaway Comparison
Now that we’ve discussed how work exchange sites work, let’s break down and compare three of the most popular sites: HelpX vs Workaway vs Worldpackers. To make the comparison as easy as possible we’ll focus on five key areas: price, range of opportunities, website design, customer support and additional perks.
So if you’re considering volunteering to extend your travels, chances are price might be your biggest consideration when choosing between HelpX or Workaway or Worldpackers. On all three sites, you’re able to browse hosts for free, however, you will need to buy a membership once you get to the point where you are ready to contact a potential host.
The cheapest of the three sites is HelpX who offer a 2-year plan for €20 (approximately USD$22). However, you only get access to one ‘network’ at a time. So for example, as they list Australia & New Zealand as separate networks, you’ll only be able to contact hosts in one of those networks. You do, however, have the option of changing your network in your membership so you could theoretically first find a host in Australia and then change to New Zealand later.
Worldpackers costs $49 for an annual membership however they have been kind enough to offer an exclusive Worldpackers promo code that gives readers of The World Here First a $10 discount. You can access the promo code by clicking this link and using the code WORLDHEREFIRST when purchasing your plan. This means Worldpackers costs $39 for an annual plan.
Workaway is the most expensive of the three options, costing $44 for an annual plan.
If travelling as a couple or with a friend, all three of HelpX, Worldpackers and Workaway offer twin memberships. HelpX doesn’t charge extra for a twin membership so it still costs €20.
A couples membership for Worldpackers typically costs $59 but using our exclusive $10 discount code means it only costs 439 annually for our readers. Workaway is the most expensive for couples with an annual membership costing $54 annually.
Range of Opportunities
If we look purely at the number of volunteer opportunities available on each site, you’ll see that Workaway has the most opportunities, followed by HelpX and then Worldpackers. However, my impression is that HelpX hasn’t removed some older listings (more on that in the website section below) which inflates the number of opportunities.
Furthermore, each site tends to focus on different geographic regions. HelpX predominately only has opportunities in Australia, New Zealand & Europe. Worldpackers is strongest in the Americas, Asia & Europe while Workaway has over half of its opportunities listed in Europe, though they also have opportunities in other parts of the world.
With all sites allowing free access to the host list, I suggest browsing all three and seeing which one has the largest number of volunteering opportunities that interest you before deciding on which one to sign up to.
One of the major differences that I found when comparing Worldpackers or Workaway to HelpX is the website design. Both Worldpackers and Workaway have well-designed websites that allow users to easily filter down their hosts’ lists based on a range of filters such as location, length of stay, types of opportunities and much more.
The HelpX website, on the other hand, looks like it hasn’t been updated in a long time. Apart from being able to filter down based on location, they don’t offer any additional filtering options. This means that you are going to need to scroll for a long time to filter through the various opportunities available on their site.
Furthermore, both Workaway and Worldpackers both have a range of helpful content on their site that gives travellers more insight into what life is like when volunteering.
When using work exchange sites like Workaway it’s important to remember that they primarily act as intermediary agents to connect hosts and volunteers so they might not be able to provide a great deal of assistance while you’re actually abroad, particularly to do with travel costs or legal costs. Nevertheless, it’s nice to know that you will have some support if something goes wrong!
Based on the support that they advertise, Worldpackers appears to be willing to provide the greatest amount of help to volunteers abroad. They have a dedicated support team that prioritises people already on trips and claim on their website that they will help for relocation support in case there are issues between the host and the volunteer.
Workaway also offers a support team, however, their FAQ page appears to put more of the responsibility back on the traveller to make arrangements if something goes wrong with their work exchange.
HelpX doesn’t make any claims about the level of support they offer and with their contact form only located in the footer of their page, I suspect they’ll be more hands-off in their approach.
If you’re still debating between Worldpackers vs Workaway vs HelpX, some of the additional perks that the sites offer might help sway you!
Firstly, both Worldpackers and Workaway appear to have gone to great efforts to build a community amongst their users with a great deal of content available on their websites and the ability to connect with other volunteers.
Worldpackers also allows you to apply for their own insurance that is meant to cover you in case something goes wrong with your host. Essentially this means that if Worldpackers is unable to relocate you, they’ll cover three nights of accommodation so you have time to make new plans.
Please note, that this isn’t a cover for actual travel insurance which you should buy regardless of which work exchange site you use. If you’re travelling on a budget, SafetyWing is an affordable option for travel medical insurance. Alternatively, World Nomads, particularly their Standard plan, is a popular choice for backpackers – you can click here to get a quote from WorldNomads.
One perk that makes Worldpackers stand out when compared to Workaway or Helpx is that they offer volunteers who have at least one positive review the opportunity to earn additional income through their Worldpackers Programs initiative. There are a number of ways volunteers can earn extra income including writing content for their blog, creating video content, supporting other travellers or referring hosts to the platform.
Worldpackers also have a range of online courses some of which are included in the annual membership that can help expand personal and professional development while travelling and help you stay on the road for longer.
The Verdict: Worldpackers or HelpX or Workaway
So what’s the verdict between these three work exchange sites?
In our opinion, Worldpackers offers the best all-round deal, particularly if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities in the Americas, Asia or Europe. Their price is only $39 for an annual plan for singles (as long as you click here to use our exclusive code WORLDHEREFIRST) and they offer great support and some additional perks.
Workaway is another great option, with a plethora of volunteer opportunities available around the world though you do have to pay more of an annual plan.
HelpX is worth considering if you want to volunteer in Australia & New Zealand or want to pay the least amount possible, however, their user experience leaves a bit to be desired.
Before committing to any platform though, it’s important to remember that browsing hosts is free so if you have the time make sure to check them all out and see where you find the great number of interesting work exchange opportunities!
Are you interested in finding sites like Workaway? Which do you prefer of HelpX, Worldpackers or Workaway? Let us know in the comments below!