Workaway Review (What To Expect And How To Use It)
If you are looking to travel long term while not spending a tonne of money then volunteering is a great way to do so. Not only is volunteering a great way to travel cheap and get free accommodation. But you can also gain great experiences with interesting locals. To me this combines all the things that I love about travel.
The platform that I have used the most to find volunteering jobs is Workaway. In this article I will give an in depth Workaway review. Telling you what to expect when using the platform and all the tips you need to have a great experience with Workaway.
What Is Workaway?
Workaway.info is an online platform where you can volunteer with hosts all over the world in exchange for a place to stay. Some hosts will also give you food and in rare cases may even pay you. But every host is different so you will need to read the ad to see what you will receive. You are expected to work for 4-5 hours a day for a maximum of 25 hours a week. But once again some hosts may required less work, it all depends on the host.
There are over 50,000 hosts available in more than 170 countries. So no matter what country you would like to experience there is a high chance there is a Workaway host for you.
There is also a very wide variety of work available. Covering areas such as animal care, language exchanges, gardening, house sitting, boating, farmstays, computer help. So matter what your skills there will be a workaway host out there for you.
How Much Does Workaway Cost?
With workaway you can either sign up as a single traveller for 45 USD. Or you can also sign up as a couple/two friends or families 52 USD. So obviously if you are traveling with a friend or partner it is much cheaper as you can split the cost. The membership lasts for one year so you will have to pay the fee every year if you wish to continue.
Workaway is also welcoming to families signing up and I have friends who have volunteered while they had a baby with them. There will be much fewer hosts who will accept families as often the accommodation will not be suitable. However it is pretty amazing that there are volunteers out there willing to accept young families as volunteers.
Setting Up You Workaway Profile
Once you have chosen the membership that you want the next thing to do is set up your profile. Setting up your profile does not require a lot of hard work. However there are some easy tips that will make your profile stand out from the rest.
You are able to upload a profile picture as well as a selection of other photos. For the profile picture I would recommend just having a simple photo of you smiling. Make sure that your face is clear in the photo, just like for a passport but way more relaxed! For the rest of the photos try and find some that show what you are like as a person and what type of interests you have.
The other part of your profile is a description of yourself. This description does not have to be too in depth because most hosts are fairly relaxed and have to read a lot of applications. So make sure that your description gives them a quick over view of who you are such as age where you are from. Tell them about your interests and what skills you can offer.
Make sure to include all relevant life experience such as how long you have traveled and why you chose to start workaway. Stating all these things will help to show that you are choosing workaway for the right reasons and not simply looking for a free room to stay.
Workaway does not ask for any I.D on order to verify you profile. However you are able to verify your facebook account. This does not give Workaway access to your account but just helps hosts to know you are who you say you are.
For example we babysat for a couple in Mexico so they asked for us to accept friend requests on facebook so they could check out our profile. Most hosts will not do this but we were happy to do so because they were trusting us to look after their child so it was totally reasonable for them to check our facebook.
Once you have completed all these steps and your memberships is paid. Your profile is set up and you are are ready to start applying to hosts. There are thousands of hosts and some hosts can definitely make or break an experience. So in the next section I will go through what to look out for when picking hosts and how to word your application.
Applying To A Workaway Host
Searching for a Host
On the search page you are able to search for hosts by a number of different criteria, such as host type, location, last minute.
If you choose to search by location this is great if you have a specific destination in mind. For example if you want to go to Mexico you can enter that and all the hosts in Mexico will appear. However countries such as Mexico are very large and you may want to be more specific.
When I wanted to search a very specific part of a country I found it easiest to use the map. I found the map the best way to find all the hosts within a certain area of a country because sometimes if you searched by keywords host didn’t appear because their profiles were’t filled out properly.
Searching by host type is also a great option if you really feel like a certain type of job and are flexible with your location. For example at the moment the way I am living my location is very flexible and I would like to do some pet sits.
So instead of scrolling through the thousands of hosts all around the world I will just search for pets sits. This drastically reduces the number of search results and will just show you what you want.
You can also choose the last minute option. This will show hosts that need workawayers right now. So if you are ready to start right away this can be a good option. You can of course combine these different criteria to further refine your search to find a host that is just right for you.
Choosing The Right Host
As I have mentioned before, not all hosts on Workaway are equal and choosing the right host can make or break your trip. I am fortunate because I have never had a bad experience with hosts. However I have met many other people who have had bad experiences so you need to be very selective who you apply to.
The first step is to read the profile of the host in detail. I would generally only send applications to hosts who have a clear profile. They should show clear photos of the accommodation and give a good idea of what the responsibilities and expectations will be. It is important you know what the expectations of you are before you arrive.
If I did apply to hosts who did not make some things clear I would make sure to clarify any questions via email before arrival. This will prevent you from receiving a terrible place to sleep or being expected to work far more hours than you would like.
There are also reviews on Workaway so if you want to be safe it is best to choose hosts that have good reviews. The reviews are also a good place to find out what the accommodation and work is like as Workawayers may be more honest than the hosts.
It is also very important to check what type of accommodation you will receive. Lots of hosts may only have dorms or shared rooms where you will not have much privacy. We found that if you took jobs as a couple we always got our own private room. But the standard of the accommodation can vary drastically from tents to a huge double bedroom. So make sure you know what you will receive to avoid any bad suprizes.
One last thing to check before choosing a host is to check whether the host is still active on Workaway. There are unfortunately a large number of hosts with ads up who haven’t logged into their account for a long time. When you look at a hosts profile you can see when they last logged in.
If they haven’y logged in for a few months or even years then there may not be a point sending an application. This will prevent you from sending a lot of pointless applications.
Sending An Application
Once you have found host that you would like to go to you need to send them a message via workaway. Some workaway hosts will receive hundreds of applications. But there are some simple things you can do to stand out from the crowd.
The first thing is to personalize the application. Make sure you mention the responsibilities required and why you would be good at them. Let the host know that you have read their profile in detail. Do not just copy and paste the same message to every host. They will notice this straight away and you will not get a reply.
Some hosts will even say you have to start you application with a certain word to make sure you have read their entire profile.
The second is to be very clear with your travel plans and when you can arrive. If you have definite plans a host will be more likely to accept you. We talked to our hosts and a lot of workawayers change their plans and cancel stays. So letting them know that you will not cancel on them will help a lot.
If you follow these steps you should have some replies from hosts fairly quickly. We usually found that if we sent about 10-15 applications we would usually get a reply. However we also talked to some other people who sent out far more with no reply. So I think it all comes down to how you tailor you message to the host.
Personal Workaway Experiences
I have done a number of workaways both as a single traveler and as a couple. Below I will give you a summary of what it was like at a few of my hosts.
Hostel Reception and Cleaning In Budapest
The first experience that I ever had on workaway was working in a hostel in Budapest way back in 2012. The hostel I worked at was really nice so all the guests were very happy to be there. This made the atmosphere at the hostel really nice, so when volunteering at a hostel you should try and make sure that it has good ratings.
Especially because most hostels will just give you a dorm bed so you will have to share a room with guests. This can be a bit annoying because you have no escape from guests asking you questions. But usually there are no difficult questions to deal with.
The work at the hostel was quite easy and it was a lot of fun hanging out with all the guests and other volunteers at the hostel. My tasks where to clean for a couple of hours 3 days a week and then on 2 days to work the night shift at reception. The cleaning was very easy as the hostel only had about 25 beds. However the night shift at reception was super tiring. Basically I had to sleep by the reception and if any guests forgot their code for the building. Or if they couldn’t figure out how to enter their code I had to let them in.
So of course because half the guests came home drunk I was letting in people all through the night! So there were many sleepless nights but it was still a great experience.
Baby Sitting In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
This was my first workaway as a couple and it was a very different experience than any others I had done. We were a bit nervous about applying because neither me or us had a lot of experience babysitting.
However when we arrived our hosts were super friendly and relaxed. The hosts were a Canadian couple who had just moved to Mexico. They had a really nice condo in Puerto Vallarta and we had a massive bedroom with our own private bathroom. I won’t lie the babysitting was really tough to begin with. We felt a lot of responsibility to make sure nothing happened to their child and it took a while for her to get used to us.
But after looking after her for a couple of weeks she really got used to us and it was a lot of fun. We babysat 5 days a week for 3-5 hours a day. We even moved house with the family to a new town which was Boca De Tomatlan. So we got to experience living in two very different towns. In the end we became good friends with our hosts and learned a lot about looking after babies! So despite being nervous about applying in the beginning it was a great experience.
Helping With Tours and Property Maintenance In San Pancho, Mexico
The next host that we had in Mexico after babysitting was a very different experience but also super interesting. Our host was Juan a local Mexican guy who ran tours through air bnb. He needed help with marketing his tours and also help with maintenance around the property.
This worked out well for us because Katharina has experience in marketing and I have worked on building sites. So while Katharina was sorting out marketing plans I was outside painting and gardening. This is one advantage of volunteering as a couple because you can bring different skills to your host at the same time.
Juan was also an awesome host in terms of introducing us to new experiences around the area. As he was a tour guide he took us to check out interesting archeological sites that were really off the beaten track. He also took as to beaches away from tourists where we saw whales and heard them singing under water!
He also took us to a few temazcals which was an intense experience. Temazcals are a type of sweat lodge that originated with the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America.
Basically you enter into a tent with a really low roof and sit on the ground. Then red hot rocks are bought into the tent and placed in a hole in the center of the tent. Then the door to the tent is shut and everything goes pitch black. It is so dark that you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Then they start pouring water on the rocks and it starts getting really, really hot! Then there is a lot of singing and chanting and it gets quite overwhelming as it is so loud and hot.
Overall we were glad for our temazcal experience. That was what made our time with Juan special as he was always introducing us to new experiences.
Workaway Review, Is It Worth It?
The short and easy answer is that it most definitely is in my opinion. I found the platform easy to use and there thousands of jobs all over the world. In money terms you will save so much more than it costs to sign up. But saving money should not be the primary reason to apply. It sounds cheesy but the primary reason should be the experiences you gain from the hosts.
We have been on the road for about 2 years. We have stayed in some real nice AirBnbs in some beautiful locations. But we notice it is always the memories from our Workaways we bring up all the time.
I think this is because Workaway will introduce you to new experiences and take you out of your comfort zone and these memories stay with you forever.
So if you want to meet some new people and get out of your comfort zone go for it! You will have a great time and save money while doing so.