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Last updated: 12th August, 2020

international living

A Guide to Workaways

If you’re wanting to experience authentic culture at a low-cost, read our guide to the Workaway programme.

What is Workaway?

Although the term ‘Workaway’ has become synonymous with all work exchange programmes, it specifically relates to the company.

Workaway, owned by VEN Ltd, is an online platform where travellers and hosts all over the world can match up with one another for work-exchange opportunities.

Adults of all ages – hungry for adventure, freedom, education or change – have an opportunity to find a niche where they can work a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation. By the same token, individuals, families, businesses and charities have the opportunity of inviting into their homes enthusiastic Workaway volunteers who are looking to embrace a different culture.

What does it do?

With its huge demographic and geographical reach, the Workaway programme is a beautifully simple concept. There’s really only one service that it provides: a portfolio of profiles and the means to communicate. It’s a facilitator.

Of course, there’s a multitude of services that this platform could provide, or that people might assume it provides – but the Workaway website makes its terms and limitations crystal clear. This company is not an employment agency, it’s not a travel agency, it does not act as a go-between and it does not provide legal services.

How does Workaway work?

You don’t have to sign up to the Workaway programme to have access to the 39,000 host profiles. Each profile includes information about the work, accommodation, eating arrangements and local area. There are photographs to give some idea of the location and the people with whom you could be temporarily sharing your life.

Searches can be filtered according to a range of criteria. Type in a word or a phrase in the search box and see what comes up. Here are some examples of keywords and results:

Single room
● Host in Argentina, looking for help in renovating his property
● Family in Italy, looking for home help and child-minding
● Host in India, looking for help with a new guesthouse project.

Farm work
● Forestry and eco-building in France
● Beekeeping and general maintenance in Poland
● Horse farm in the UK.

Home help in Australia
● Family in Sydney (“We would love for you to come and explore Sydney with us”)
● Family in Numinbah Valley (“Our projects include food gardens and orchards, rainforest regeneration and making native fruit jam”)
● Family in Queensland (“We love learning about other cultures and look forward to providing you with somewhere safe, comfortable, warm and welcoming to help you expand on your cultural experience”).

What else is on the market?

Despite Workaway being a leader in the work exchange industry, sites such as Worldpackers, HelpX and Hippohelp offer similar services. Worldpackers has more of a focus on volunteering, offering different opportunities such as ‘NGO’, ‘School’, ‘Community’ and ‘Eco Village’. You are able to find a volunteering experience that suits you in your dream location. Hippohelp works as a free platform for travelers to meet hosts in the form of a map. Different opportunities are located on the map as markers – just select your marker and request your stay. HelpX is an online listing that hosts anything from organic farms and ranches to sailboats. Offering the trade of work for a short stay with food and accommodation, HelpX can offer a cultural exchange.

Will I get paid when using Workaway?

Workaway hosts are usually looking to offer accommodation and food in exchange for around 25 hours’ work a week.

In some cases, a host is offering paid Workaway jobs in addition to this basic arrangement. This will be clearly stated on the host’s profile. In these circumstances, a Workawayer should abide by the work visa regulations in the host country.

How to send money to yourself

While working away, you might need to send yourself money from home to pay for services, transport or other unexpected costs. This is where international money transfer services can come in handy as they allow you to transfer money from your UK bank account to a local currency one.

PagoFX by Santander is available both as an app and through your web browser and enables you to quickly and easily send money abroad from the UK. Its low costs and real-time mid-market exchange rates (the same exchange rate you’ll find on Google, Reuters or Bloomberg) mean you don’t have to spend a fortune to move your own money. PagoFX also has the backing of Santander, one of the world’s leading banks, so you can be confident that your money and your personal data are being protected with bank-level security.

How do I join Workaway?

To contact a host, you’ll need to sign up to Workaway. As of 31 July 2020, a year’s subscription for a single traveller was €39 (£35.21) and for a couple travelling together, €49 (£44.22 ). Membership begins as soon as payment is received.

Your profile

Take the time to create a really good profile. Be honest about why you want to take part in a work-exchange scheme and the sort of work you’re willing to do. Talk about your particular skills and any new skills that you’d like to learn.

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to contact hosts by clicking ‘contact’ in their profiles. There’s no limit to the number of hosts you can contact, and there’s no restriction imposed by Workaway on the number or duration of trips you take. Your fee is paid, and the world is waiting for you!

Is Workaway safe?

It’s understandable that you might feel a little anxious about travelling to an unfamiliar destination to live with people who are as yet strangers. But shyness is overshadowed by that huge question: Will I be safe?

Many hosts on the Workaway programme have dozens of positive reviews and glowing feedback. A host without reviews is probably new to Workaway; but if you don’t feel comfortable about this, then it would be best to choose a more experienced host.

As with any experience in life things may not always go as expected – even with the most meticulous planning. This is as true if you went to work in another town or city in your home country as it is doing a Workaway, so it’s important you consider the unexpected in your plans. Planning for the unexpected may seem like a contradiction but we’ve got you covered with our article on dealing with emergencies abroad.

Ask away

Workaway is focused on friendship and cultural exchange. If you’re worried about any aspect of your trip – the location, the work, the language etc. – then ask questions. The more you communicate with your host before arriving, the better you’ll be prepared. You and your host will also feel that you have a better understanding of one another.

Take travel buddy

For some, the prospect of travelling alone is daunting, and in certain situations being alone can carry extra risk. So, how about going on a Workaway venture with a travel buddy?

There are lots of Workaway jobs for pairs of travellers. On the host list page, select ‘more search options’ and then filter your search to show only hosts looking for couples. This is a fun way to enjoy foreign travel with a friend, partner or family member.

Although options are limited, there are also opportunities to take part in the Workaway programme as a family. Find these situations by selecting the ‘can host families’ filter in the search options.

Where should I go with Workaway?

Wherever you go, it’s of paramount importance to be prepared. Research your destination, communicate with your host and plan your journey. Here are some of the things you should check before travelling with Workaway:
● Communication: Are you familiar with the native/local language(s)? Do your hosts and other locals speak English? Do you have an appropriate SIM card for your phone?
● Dress: What is the local climate/weather like? Does local law/protocol prohibit certain styles of dress? Do you have appropriate clothes and footwear for the work you’re to do?
● Passport: Do you have a valid passport?
● Visa: Will you need a visa to visit your host country?
● Health: Do you have health insurance? Do you have a supply of any prescribed medication or the means of acquiring it? Will you need immunisations?
● Money: Do you have adequate funds for your time abroad? Do you have the means to transfer money to and from the UK? Signing up to PagoFX before travelling means that you’re ready to send money from the UK in minutes, and gives you peace-of-mind knowing you have a reliable and low-cost service ready to go if you need it.

What to expect 

Expect everything to feel strange. Expect awkward moments and anxious spells. Expect confusion, shyness and doubt.

Well, that’s your host! But you can expect pretty much the same for yourself. Far outweighing the discomfort, though, you can expect the joy of new friendships, fresh experiences, self-discovery and a home away from home.

This article is provided as general information purposes only, and is not intended to cover all aspects of the topic. We recommend that you take professional and specialised advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the content of this publication, as this article is not intended to constitute expert advice. We do not guarantee, explicitly or implicitly, that the content of this article is accurate, complete or up-to-date. The information in this article does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from PagoFX or its affiliates.