Work Exchange Programs

Work for accommodations and meals at hostels across the globe.

These last few months it’s proven difficult to post writing-related content because I’ve been elbow-deep in travel-related content for a quickly-approaching trip to Europe.

I’m aiming for an extremely budgetary trip to Europe. But it’s proving difficult, since mine is a 6 month plan: January 1 to June 30. Even if I get a bed in a hostel for $15 a night, I’ll still pay about $2,700 for lodging alone. I’ve got a few other options in mind, however. Couchsurfing appears to be alive and well in certain parts of Europe, so that’s an option. Then there are the Work-for-accommodation sites. Many hosts offer meals as well! You’ve probably heard of WWOOFing, but there are so many more options, if you aren’t into farming. Here are some reasons to engage in one (or dozens!) of these opportunities:

  1. Gain experiences
  2. Learn new skills
  3. Learn new facts
  4. Meet and work with locals
  5. Save money

Most hosts recognize that volunteers are out to explore while working and saving money, so they tend not to extend working hours beyond 25 a week. I’m extremely hesitant to respond to a post that responds to hours with “VARIES” unless it’s something that looks super interesting, like working with bees or making wine.

But the toughest decision to make isn’t whether to work for housing; the toughest part is choosing which website to use, because there are dozens of options, and they all cost money. This is tricky because you don’t want to spend more money on websites than you would actual places to stay. A friend did suggest that if I pay for $120 worth of these sites and only get two weeks worth of work for lodging it’ll be worth it.

I’ve been scouring the Internet checking out the sites and looking for reviews. I’ve considered these top 5 (see below) for various reasons. (HippoHelp tricked me, so I don’t trust them.) I’ve listed the pros and cons of each. I’ll update when I’ve decided which to use.

Here’s what I’ve learned from the reviewers:

Middle Man Site


Cons 1.     THOUSANDS of hosts

2.     Amazing interface (lots of filters & easy to read)

3.     Reviews

4.     Shows how often hosts respond

5.     Shows how often a host has been “favorited”

1.     THOUSANDS of volunteers (competition)

2.     The website doesn’t allow poor reviews to post

3.     Hosts are not vetted

4.     The site seems to ignore issues with hosts

5.     Hosts don’t always respond

6.     $42/year

Worldpackers 1.     HUNDREDS of hosts

2.     Beautiful interface

3.     Reviews

4.     If volunteers have a problem with a terrible host, the site will set them up in a hostel!

5.     They seem to care about volunteers

1.     Not sure how much competition

2.     Lots in South America (not as many in Europe)

3.     $49/one year

Helpx 1.     THOUSANDS of hosts

2.     It’s been around for a long time (it’s the first online site of this kind? Started 2001)

3.     $22/year

1.     Can’t tell how often a host is “liked”

2.     Not a great interface

3.     Limited space for hosts to write

4.     Have to register to see reviews

5.     No filters except for country

HippoHelp 1.     Mapping interface


1.     Says it’s free, but it isn’t! Charges to read reviews or contact hosts

2.     Terrible interface

3.     Few hosts

4.     $13.23/year

WWOOF 1.     Work on an organic farm!

2.     Almost every country has its own chapter

3.      Typically always includes accommodations and meals


1.     You can probably find organic farms via the other sites

2.     Every country has its own chapter meaning: you must pay for each one. Also: the interface is always different, but most look prehistoric

3.     Different costs depending on country

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