Work Exchange: Workaway, HelpX or Hippohelp?

Workaway HelpX

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Want to travel but can’t afford to? Work exchange programs like Workaway HelpX and Hippohelp may be the solution. If you want to do volunteer work abroad for free travel and accommodation, have time to offer and basic skills to swap, then you, like us (Gemma and Craig), could experience travel through a local’s eyes while on a budget.

Here are the benefits, the downsides, and the process of work abroad programs such as Workaway, HelpX, Hippohelp and Volunteers Base for those considering work and travel.

What is Workaway, HelpX and Hippohelp?

Programmes such as WorkawayHelpX, and Hippohelp allow travellers to live with and work for hosts worldwide.

Generally, the volunteer does not financially pay the host for the opportunity, and the host does not pay the traveller a wage (salary) for using their time, skills, and experience. 

Workaway, HelpX and Hippohelp differ from housesitting as there is an element of work involved.

Are you in the planning stages of your trip?

Don’t miss out on our guide to how much long-term travel costs.

Workaway and HelpX | Jobs HungaryLearning new skills in a Hungarian village near Eger

Who Are Workaway Hosts?

My personal experience is with the website Workaway.

Workaway hosts come in all shapes and sizes! Some are hostel/hotel owners; others are organic farmers.

Families often need some help with childcare, sometimes stables need people to muck them out!

We have lived in a beach hotel in Nicaragua, with a (mostly) self-sustainable household in the Hungarian countryside.

I’ve volunteered my services as an English native, and we’ve been dog walkers in Granada, Spain.

I like that some of the Workaway hosts we met also travel and work abroad for free, then go home and invite us into their homes and businesses. 

Workaway does not hold the monopoly on travel exchanges; there are alternatives! HelpX has often been mentioned on the road, whereas I’ve not met anyone who has used Hippohelp or Volunteers Base.

Types of Jobs for Work Exchange  

The type of work you do will depend on the host and the time of year. Hostel and hotel owners may expect you to clean, cook, and interact with guests. We’ve planted potatoes, flowers and painted fences (all new to me!)

Craig has made furniture out of crates and fixed water systems (he’s a gas engineer to trade).

I’ve dabbled in social media promotion and website help. Sensible hosts will tap into your skill base and utilise it!

I have seen callouts for the likes of social media strategists on a near full-time basis – don’t do it! Personally,

I think this host was abusing the point of Workaway-style programmes; it’s supposed to be a voluntary position, not stealing a paid job from someone with solid industry experience!

 » Sign up for Workaway here
→ Receive three free months on top of your annual subscription

Workaway, Help X and Volunteers Base | Jobs HungaryPainting wood for the common good!

Workaway Experiences


Hotel help in paradise, aka Las Peñitas. I served customers, helped in the café, took photos, and wrote for the website.

Craig made furniture, fixed water issues, and made a bathroom roof.

Workaway and HelpX | Jobs NicaraguaLife’s a beach volunteering abroad – Craig made that chair out of crates!


After a week partying in Budapest (eating Lángos and drinking pálinka), we moved to the countryside to help a family turn their outhouse into a guest room as well as doing a spot of light farming while eating a ridiculous amount of home-cooked food!

Before the above Workaway placement, I left Craig in Budapest.

I attended an English language programme where I spent about 12 hours a day over five days with Hungarian natives who wanted to improve their language skills.

A fun experience with a very impressive and motivated group of adults!

Some of the volunteers found this programme through HelpX.

  • Duration: 5 days
  • Reward: private hotel room (some people shared), three huge meals, use of the hotel facilities (gym), a tour of Budapest before the programme kicks off

Workaway, Help X and Volunteers Base | Jobs HungarySometimes hosts feed you a lot! Hungarian sour cherry soup – yum


The second last country on our 17-month long-term travel itinerary was Spain. During the 1.5 months in Spain, we moved in with a single parent and four dogs!

Our primary role was to walk our furry friends three times per day and make dinner.

The family child was around at the weekends and I walked him to the bus stop for school sporadically but that was the extent of childcare.

This family were not very transparent in their profile, they sold themselves as a three-person family who required childcare help as the mum was sick, we were a bit miffed at not being notified of the changes before we arrived at the house.

  • Duration: 3.5 weeks
  • Reward: private room, swimming pool, 15-minute bus ride from Granada
  • Have a gander at our tips for Granada, Spain

Granda Dog Sitting I Workaway and HelpX | JobsDog-sitting in Spain, HelpX Workaway = travel for longer 

Essential Information

Hours of Work

Work hours can vary from 2.5 to 5 hours per day / five days per week; anything more than that wouldn’t be worth it (unless it is short-term and unique to you) in my experience.

The expected hours should be stated in the advert, reconfirm on arrival!

The nature of the business might require flexibility, but remember – you are a volunteer, not a paid staff member!

The Hungarian/English language programme took place from 8:30 to 21:30+ with 1.5 hours of free time in the afternoon but it was only for five days and the programme was immersion for the participants!

Does Workaway HelpX and Hippohelp Pay?

Workaway-style programmes do not offer paid work abroad. Hosts don’t tend to pay in cash; a bed and sometimes meals are exchanged for your help.

We’ve had everything from no meals to three meals and snacks.

However, if you want to earn some cash, here are some ways to earn money and travel.

How Long Are Exchanges?

The length of stay depends on the host’s needs and the volunteer’s availability.

Our longest was five weeks and the shortest five days. We initially agreed on two weeks in Nicaragua but extended this to five. Hosts tend to be ex-backpackers too, so they know how backpacking life works, tranquilo!

If you are only in a city for a short period, it might be worth checking out Couchsurfing, where you stay free with a host for a set time, with no work expected.


There is no standard for Workaway, HelpX, Hippohelp or Volunteers Base exchange accommodation.

We’ve slept in a private garden house with bathroom and kitchen, a private room with shared bathroom (and pool!) and a four-bed dorm.

The latter was not great for us as a couple but would suit others.

There are many hostels which offer a bed in their staff dorm, it all depends on their set up.

Sleeping arrangements should be stated in the advert.

If you are staying in a hostel dorm bed, our top tip for privacy is to take a bottom bunk, pack an oversized scarf or flag and tuck it into the bed frame, creating a curtain.

You’ll have to live like this for a while, so your sanity will require privacy.

How Workaway Works

See this link to sign up. 

Pay 36 euro per person or 48 euro per couple for an annual subscription.

You’ll also get three free months added on as you sign up through me! 

Next, create a profile, add some photos / a video, and tick the boxes of the work you would like to do and the countries you are interested in. Be honest!

If you don’t want to get muddy, don’t tick gardening!

A helpful host for both Workaway and HelpX advised us in the comments below that she chooses volunteers based on the details of their profiles and the level of excitement in their pitches.

She also wants to see that you are willing to put the effort in and are not just looking for a free ride! Thanks for the tips, Anke.

Are you a host that wants to help volunteers get the best chance of being chosen? Tell us your tips in the comments below.

Workaway Profile | Workaway, Help X and Volunteers Base

Workaway Profile | Workaway, Help X and Volunteers Base

Workaway Profile | Workaway, Help X and Volunteers Base

Workaway Profile

Searching for Workaway Hosts

There is a search function on the website. Select the continent and country you are interested in.

This will pull up hosts in that area. Check the calendar for availability (green means the host is looking) and read the advert.

Double-check the type of work, sleeping arrangements, hours of work, and perks!

There may also be reviews at the bottom.

If that programme seems suitable, use the email system to contact the host.

Personalise the email; our Hungarian host says he gets many generic emails where the prospective volunteer hasn’t even bothered reading the profile!

Our Nicaraguan friend told us he was inundated with emails, so you need to stand out!

Use the host’s name, tell them why you are suitable for the position, and give your availability.

We also stick our availability in the email header.

Workaway Reviews - Workaway Countries | Workaway, Help X and Volunteers Base

Workaway reviews – for hosts and volunteers 

Another handy function is the ‘wish list’ button, which allows you to store adverts you like the look of for later. However, the early bird catches the worm and all that! Fed up of seeing the same adverts?

Select the last-minute, new listing or updated listing buttons.

This will filter out the older profile.

Workaway Countries | Workaway, Help X and Volunteers Base

Select continents, countries, keywords or go anywhere!

Become a Workaway Host

Unlike Wwoofing, signing up as a host on Workaway, HelpX, Hippohelp, and Volunteers Base is free.

Complete the form online, let the company vet your information (Workaway creates a headline for your advert) then wait on the awesome volunteers to contact you!

Remember to update your calendar regarding your availability *pet hate* Adding images will also increase your likeliness of gaining attention. Our host in Hungary, Robert, is also an avid Workaway volunteer!

How HelpX Works

HelpX offers two levels of membership – free and premium.

You can create a profile for free, and hosts can contact you.

How Hippohelp Works

The new kid on the block, Hippohelp, is a free service, which differs from Workaway and HelpX, with a fee as mentioned above.

Volunteers can sign up using their Facebook account or on the site if they do not have a Facebook account.

The first page is a world map which asks about your status – volunteer or host (we’d love to hear from you if you are a volunteer turned host in any of these programmes; I think this turnaround is very in-keeping with the ethos of volunteering and travelling!)

Like the above websites, there is a profile to complete, which is always recommended to maximise your chances of success.

It does not have to be completed initially to browse options.


Searching for Hippohelp Hosts

The map indicates where volunteer programmes are available; most hosts have profiles once you select the marker and scroll down.

You can also read/write reviews, send messages to find out more information, and save your favourite ’markers’.

Hippohelp is slightly different in that you can use it as a travel buddy service, too.

You can use the markers to find fellow travellers, not just hosts. You can also switch between being a volunteer and being a host.

Workaway vs HelpX vs Hippohelp 

Workaway vs HelpX, HelpX vs Workaway, how do you choose?

Workaway has a more polished website but is slightly more expensive.

Workaway allows you to upload a video and images to your profile. It also runs social activities like photo competitions.

It’s not apparent from the website how many jobs HelpX has on the site, Workaway states ‘1000s of jobs in 135 countries’.

Sonja from Migrating Miss used HelpX to find an exchange in a traditional house in Spain. Here’s her experience. 

The only way in was via Land Rover, which drove over a dry riverbed! The hosts invited multiple volunteers to help clean around the house, cook, plant, etc, which suited Sonja as she was a solo traveller.

Another bonus of volunteering abroad is meeting new friends!

The reason she chose HelpX over Workaway was down to word of mouth; a friend had completed an exchange with HelpX and recommended it.

Sonja also liked how HelpX set out adverts on a map; she said there was plenty of variation in work and hosts were ‘so-so’ at replying (like Workaway then).

Check out her experience of the work exchange in the Spanish countryside!

Volunteers Base – Workaway Alternative

Volunteers Base sells itself as a free alternative to Workaway, HelpX, and Wwoofing. No one pays, the volunteer or the host.

The site covers a variety of positions from farm work to childcare all over the world.

They also claim to check over profiles before they are published live.

I’ve not tried this, but it looks like a legit free alternative to Workaway and HelpX. Have you used Volunteers Base?

Tell me about your experience in the comments below.

I like the idea of paying because there is a level of security with a premium service, and the product in question is you.

Your safety is paramount. 

Las Penitas Nicaragua | Workaway Countries | Workaway, Help X and Volunteers BaseLive here for free! Las Peñitas, a hidden gem in Nicaragua 

Benefits of Work or Volunteering Abroad

  • Local experience. Many programmes allow you to work with local people in their environment so you learn about their culture. We’ve tried heaps of homemade Hungarian food, this wouldn’t happen during the normal hostel hopping type of travel!
  • Hidden areas. Many programmes take you away from the gringo trail; countryside, mountains, islands, and villages that Lonely Planet misses out!
  • Saves money. Volunteering while travelling makes a small budget last longer. We saved £20k for our 18-month career break to travel the Americas and Europe but without Workaway (and this travel blog) we would have been packing our bags for home by month ten!
  • Slow travel. The one night here, two nights there, type of travel is exhausting. We did it for the first three months, resulting in major burn out by Cuba in June! Not only is stopping to volunteer to reduce your carbon footprint, but it’s also a nice way to give back to local communities. Plus, if like me you are a fast fat, there’s more chance you’ll pound those mean streets with your sneaks or hit the gym/pool/sea, when in one place for some time.

Downsides of Exchange Websites

Responses. Don’t get your heart set on one advert; there is a good chance they won’t reply!

Especially if you are applying for programmes in popular destinations like Costa Rica.

For every response we received, I applied for 10 – 15 all over Costa Rica.

I imagine many backpackers get to Costa Rica, freak out at the cost of living/travel and scramble for volunteer work!

There are, however, cool options in the land of Pura Vida, so if you do get one, high five!

Apply for more than one exchange for your desired destinations, but remember, personalise!

Depending on the cost of living of where you are travelling, there may be the chance that it is cheaper to book a hostel room when you measure how much time you work about how much a stay would cost.

For example, in Hanoi, Vietnam, hostel dorms can be found for under £5 per night.

If you work for 5 hours per day with only a bed in the agreement, is it worth it?

Something to consider.

Grey Areas of Workaway,  HelpX and Hippohelp 

A couple of things to be cautious of while considering volunteering while travelling.

Visas – technically you are working so it’s probably best to omit to immigration control that you are about to set sail in Croatia as a chef or train huskies in Canada.

Get travel insurance.

Accidents can happen when climbing ladders, washing sloths or leading a bar crawl!

Double-check that your provider covers manual work and alcohol.

We use True Traveller and couldn’t be happier with the service.

I had to pay the GP and the physiotherapist a visit to Canada and annoyingly had to pay them!

However, I was refunded speedily.

Communication has been excellent from the start, and I am that annoying traveller who asks questions.

Read our comparison guide of True Traveller and World Nomads here.

Las Penitas Nicaragua | Workaway Countries | Workaway and HelpX Days off are made for swinging in hammocks – Workaways = Swingaways

Work Exchange Packing List 

The country will dictate this time of year and how long you have been travelling (or what you intend to do afterwards).

I never travel without the following.

Marmot PreCip Jacket

My Marmot PreCip jacket US / UK is lightweight, folds into its pocket neatly into a day bag and is waterproof.

I think it looks pretty sharp too, I have the electric blue version.

Hiking Boots/Trainers

I prefer trek/hike trainers/shoes over boots, but Craig prefers full ankle support boots.

Trek trainers are lighter and look like trainers so are a little bit more flexible if trying to match the rest of your backpacking wardrobe.

I take my Salomon Eclipse US / UK which I trekked with to Machu Picchu. 

shoes everywhere. They’ve hiked up mountains, volcanoes (and sledged down it) and through rainforests.

Craig was also team Salomon, like the Quests, (for our 5-week Southeast Asia tour and our 17-month career break to travel) but has recently moved over to Scarpa to try out leather boots.


If you travel with expensive electronics, it will be worth investing in security protection for your belongings.

We travelled around 16 countries with this PacSafe net US / UK.


We packed our electronics, passports, and money into one of our day bags, put the bag in the PacSafe net, closed it over securing it against a non-movable bedpost or radiator, and then padlocking.

I’ve not used it on a trip yet and I’m a little miffed at the new flying with electronics laws for travelling to and from the USA as it means I need to put it in hold however at least it will be securer than a regular backpack, everything crossed.

The frame has stainless steel embedded into the cloth to make it splash-proof and the padlock which is inbuilt unlike the PacSafe net is secure (I had to get Craig to work out how to open it the first time).

Other Budget Tips

We cover this extensively in our long-term travel planning guide but here is a summary of budget tips to help get you on the road, or staying on the road!

Budget Versus Destination

Balance your budget against the cost of travel to get to a destination and how much money you will need when you are there. 

Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica and the US are more expensive than some South American countries such as Bolivia and Peru or Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Cambodia.

However, if you live in the States, it might be more affordable to travel closer to home and skip out on an expensive air ticket. 

Here’s a list of the cheapest cities in the US to visit and National Parks to visit in February and March, which is low season for some.

The same goes for European readers, what about an Eastern European inter-rail where you budget stretches?

Budapest is a fun city, and Krakow is where you visit Auschwitz, a day trip that will never leave you.

Cheap Flights

Be cautious of red-eye flights! If they arrive at 3am how will you get to your accommodation?

Once you get to your accommodation can you hang out before check in?

Kick Costly Habits 

If you smoke, have a sweet tooth or drink most days, you will find your budget depleting rapidly!

Try to give up home habits or reduce the amount you do them to save on your travel budget.

Final Words

If budget dictates or you are thinking, ‘I want to volunteer, but I can’t afford it’, maybe you are fed up with the booze cruise type of travel, or perhaps you are looking to engage your brain again, Workaway, HelpX, Hippohelp or Volunteers Base projects are a great way to enhance your travelling experience in exchange for your time and helping hand.

If you want to gain accreditation for working abroad, why not try this cheap TEFL course?

Work exchange conclusion: Workaway is worth it, but iron out the expectations before volunteering abroad!

 Don’t forget to claim your three free months with Workaway here

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Travel and Work: Workaway Countries | Workaway, Help X and Volunteers Base

Over to you, any questions?
What’s your experience?
Is Workaway worth it?

This article contains a advertisement from Hippohelp however, as always, opinions are mine. If you’d like more information on what this means, please read our small print.

61 thoughts on “Work Exchange: Workaway, HelpX or Hippohelp?

  1. Maria Morena says:

    So many issued I had with this platform during my Brazil escapade for a year, hard to count. First you need to be aware, that only volunteers pay a subscription, not the host, but still – as clients – they have less rights than hosts. If you had am extremely bad experience with a host, you can publish a review, but it will be erased to keep an ilusion of a perfect scenery. Many hosts are scammers and even after many reports, their profiles have not been taken down. Even though I paid, I cannot send out copy-paste messages to hosts more than a few, if I do, my account would be blocked for a week Like, seriously? I couldn’t use my account for days that I paid for, and when I wrote a complain, I wouldn’t receive my money back, in fact the contact with the administration is very difficult and seems authomatic, same responses all over again. I really do not recommend this website, there are much better ones, and it’s a pity I can’t even express how I feel on more reliable information sources. I feel terribly deceived and if I knew before, I would choose worldpackers or wooff.

    • Gemma says:

      Hi Maria. Thanks for reading the guide about our personal experience with Workaway. Which platform are you speaking about? There are three in the guide.

  2. Ciaran and Maria says:

    Great read!

    We started workaway travel full time late last year and had an incredible experience in Montenegro just before the lock down.

    I couldn’t believe we didn’t hear about it until very shortly before we left.

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      Such a great way to meet locals eh? I was just saying to someone that Montenegro is still high on my bucket list!

      • Ciaran and Maria says:

        Its incredible!

        We stayed in a tiny village called Virpazar. Its entire tourism flow is based around boating tour on the Lake and has some of the most incredible hikes all within 30 minutes of the village.

        I would absolutely suggest going there if you ever make it to Montenegro.

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