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11-Step Guide to Workaway for Beginners

I’ve done three Workaway projects in my time. I wanted to put together a Workaway guide to help you plan your trips, and know a bit more about what to expect.

The three Workaway projects I’ve worked on have all been awesome experience on every one. Workaway is a great way to travel and meet new people and I’d love to encourage more people to join the site. I’ve written this guide to Workaway to help answer any worries you have, and to put your mind at rest. 

[UPDATED: October 2020]

I just want to say now that I have no affiliation with Workaway and I wasn’t paid to write this (sadly). I honestly just love the whole concept of Workaway and I think you should too.

Here are the answers to the Workaway questions I get most regularly from my excellent readers.

Guide to Workaway

Workaway guide for beginners

Need an example of what to ask your Workaway host?

Watch the official Workaway video on YouTube


1. What is Workaway?

I’ve gone into more depth on what exactly Workaway is in another post. But very basically, you work for someone for five hours a day and in return you’ll get your bed and board. Each contract is different depending on the stipulations set out on the site and in your emails beforehand, but that’s the general agreement.

In their own words:

Workaway is a site set up to promote fair exchange between travellers (workawayers) and hosts who are families, individuals or organisations looking for help with a range of activities.

Our philosophy is simple: A few hours honest help a day in exchange for food and accommodation and an opportunity to learn about local lifestyles.”



2. Why do Workaway?

  • Work abroad
  • Integrate into local cultures
  • Learn a language
  • Save money
  • Acquire new skills
  • Make new friends

Workaway is a great opportunity to work abroad without all the hassle of visas and to really get to know a culture rather than just visit the tourist hotspots. Working on a project with them is your chance to see what it’s really like to live in a destination and often to meet the local community.

If you’re travelling somewhere as expensive as Europe for example, like I did, it’s also a great way to save money and keep you travelling for longer. Accommodation there would be around £20 a night – in total I spent around 40 nights on Workaway projects, saving £800, wow.

I also learnt how to lay paths, use a chainsaw, use a sit on mower, clean gutters, work out the Spanish bus timetables, speak a little Italian, even less Czech, plaster, make curry, bake bread and paint in a straight line, among other skills.

Me painting in Conil, Spain

– me painting windows in Spain on Workaway

3. How much money do I need for Workaway?

I get emails asking me how much to save for Workaway all the time, but it really depends on where you’re going, how long for, who you’re working with, your spending habits and the bed and board agreement you have set up.

All I can say is that I barely spent anything on any of my projects.

Signing up to the site currently costs €36 for a single person for a year and €48 if you’re signing up as a couple – a brilliant investment if you plan on travelling for a while.

Reviews of Workaway

reviews of workaway

Follow me on Instagram Stories for the latest from my travels!

4. What was my experience doing Workaway?

I had an absolutely awesome time doing my Workaway projects and would recommend it to anyone.

This is what I did…

  • Conil, Southern Spain: Painting villas, gardening and cleaning.
  • Ceglie Messapica, Southern Italy: Laying paths, pruning trees, building, gardening and chopping wood.
  • Bechyne, Czech Republic: Gardening, cleaning, handyman duties.

All the hosts on my projects were brilliant – some more than others – but inviting people into your home to share your space takes balls, and they all had them.

One of the best things about Workaway was the fact that the hosts totally integrated us into their lives. We met their families and friends, and every time we were pushed out of our comfort zones, we learned something new. 

We also got luxury accommodation, compared to what we were used to after staying in hostels.

In Spain we were just out of season and so we had a luxury villa between us for two weeks.

In Italy we stayed in a lovely room in her house with a private bathroom, and she had a hot tub.

– And then in the Czech Republic we had a room to ourselves in a hostel building they were renovating. In fact, we had the whole place to ourselves. My Workaway review is that, I’m sure you can tell now, it’s a great idea.  

Your Workaway accommodation will totally vary depending on the host, but I can assure you, you can find some really nice places! 

Waiel in Italy

5. Do I need a visa for Workaway?

Nope.

I worked in Europe and didn’t need a visa for Workaway. 

Obviously, check with your local embassy to double, triple make sure, but I’ve never known anyone to need a visa for Workaway. It’s providing a service for bed and board, and most of the time no money changes hands. 

If, however, you are getting paid, or manage to get some paid work on Workaway then you really do need to double check your Workaway visa requirements. You don’t want to get in trouble or have problems leaving the country you’re in. 

Guide to Workaway

6. Is Workaway safe?

Workaway safety was a big concern for me.

I went with my boyfriend at the time and so felt safer with the two of us, but if this is something you’re nervous about make sure to choose a project with plenty of glowing Workaway reviews in the comments section.

Bear in mind that a few of the projects are right out in the sticks and can be difficult to get to and from. If you’re nervous it might be better to choose one in a city location. Once I’d met all my hosts I felt totally safe, but there was always that initial ‘What the hell are we doing?‘ in the run up.

Always check out the Workaway reviews before you even email – that’s what they’re there for. 

You’ll have 24-hour support from Workaway while you’re on a project, that’s what you pay your fees for. With this you can always phone in or email any safety questions about Workaway and they’ll do their best to reply. Now, you can also add videos to your profile, so both Workawayers and hosts can feel safer in the fact they’ve seen the other on screen.

7. What kind of Workaway jobs are there?

You can literally do any job on Workaway, ever. There are a lot of community projects, gardening and general maintenance duties to be done, but if you want something in particular search around.

I can get lost for hours in the wealth of Workaway projects on there.

Workaway jobs

8. How do I choose a project?

If I was going onto Workaway seriously debating doing a project I would take the links of all the ones I found interesting and save them to ‘My host list’. I’d then print this list out.

Then, I’d go through one by one with a fine tooth comb and eliminate some, but I’d write on the print out next to each one why I’d eliminated them – ‘not enough reviews’, ‘have to sleep in a tent’ etc. This will save time if you come back to look at them and you can’t remember why you didn’t pursue ones that look good.

Once you have a few favourites get in touch and tell them a bit about yourself and why you want to work with them. Then sit and wait. When they start coming back to you find out a bit more about them and the project and take it from there.

Check out my advice on what you should ask your Workaway host before you arrive. 

9. Why aren’t people replying to me?

Take a look at the email you’ve sent. Would you let you come into your home and into your life?

If not, think again and rephrase.

Alternatively, it could also be that they’re genuinely just busy. Don’t take it personally and move onto the next one.

Workaway for beginners

10. How long do I have to do the Workaway project for?

Again this depends on the terms and stipulations set out on the project page on site and in your emails. Some projects like you to stay for a few months so you can give a real contribution, while others are happy for you to stay just a week or two.

Try and stay at each one for as long as you can to get as much as possible out of it.

And remember that you don’t have to stay – you’re not paid and there’s no legal contract so if you’re not happy just thank them and politely leave.

11. Is Workaway legit?

Read the comments below. There’ve been a few instances where things haven’t worked out but as long as you have enough money, and an exit strategy, you’ll be fine. I didn’t feel at risk at any of my Workaway projects and I’d totally do it again.

In fact, writing this now I really don’t know why I didn’t do more Workaway jobs while I was travelling full time. Workaway is a fantastic way to travel cheaply. 

I’ve been asked a few times if Workaway is real, and after spending six weeks on various projects, I can say that it most definitely is. 

Check out the Workaway website for more details, and make sure to download the Workaway app too

More sites like Workaway

I haven’t actually used any of these sites a bit like Workaway but they’re the same premise and could be worth checking out. 

Diverbo

WWOOF

HelpX 

Housecarers


PIN THIS GUIDE TO WORKAWAY FOR LATER


63 comments

  1. You need a Visa of course. Depending on the county, you even need a work permit, although the work is not paid in cash. Everything else is illegal immigration.

    I like workaway, but they are on purpose vague on the Visa question which I find quite unfair.

    The differences between workaway, illegal immigration and moonlighting/tax evasion are small.

    1. Hello Peter, thanks for your comment. Coming from London to Europe we were fine with visas but other nationalities may have to look into this.

    2. You’re right Peter and workaway doesn’t want you to know that, just pay your money. Hosts sign up for free so obviously there are many more potential workers than hosts. They protect the hosts and you can’t trust the feedback. If you’re a first time workawayer you’re going to do everything you can to get good feedback to help you get more placements. I’ve just come from one where there were mice running around over my head in a small rv every night and the last night a trap went off. The host left me negative feedback for leaving and it appears workaway has locked my account so I can’t leave feedback for my host outlining the things that are unsafe about the place. Rattlesnakes are a real danger there and they don’t give you one word of advice about what to do if someone gets bitten. They were gone a lot of the time and there was no vehicle so if you had an emergency you’d be in trouble. The area was so remote cell phones didn’t work well and you were 2 hours from a hospital. Those are things you can ask about before setting up an adventure, get the exact number of hours from them too. This place said 3-5 hours after morning chores and then the host told me people always do more than that but I didn’t have to. Ha! I’m sure there are good hosts out there but workaway makes it too easy for hosts to exploit you, especially when you’re so far from home. Think twice and don’t give them any money until you’ve done your research. I wish I hadn’t.

    3. Helpx is the best. I’ve tried both workaway and helpx and helpx is much better, better quality of hosts, the website is better, workaway is tough to navigate, the people (admin) team of workaway are also difficult to talk to, as my friend was charged twice on her credit card, also helpx since is less expensive, more hosts and overall a better quality experience.

      1. Hi Micheal, thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve only ever had a great time on Workaway so it’s good to hear a different point of view. Have to give that one a try next time :).

  2. Pingback: Teaching English Abroad | Simple Adventures
  3. I love that you did this with your boyfriend and that’s what I would like to do as well. I have a question, I know there is a sign up fee on workaway, but do we have to pay for the travel to the place as well?

  4. Hi, I’m from England but I’m interested in working in Asia, North America and Africa, would I need a working visa?

      1. If you use workaway in India on a tourist visa you can be put in jail it is illegal. You cannot do any work free or paid in India on a tourist visa. workaway is misleading their users. !!

        1. Thanks for your comment Raku. I’d suggest that anyone look at the visa restrictions of where they’re looking to do a Workaway, just to make sure.

          1. Sadly, the UK considers workaways etc., to be WORK, even no money changes hands. Thus, it is technically illegal.
            It is so unfortunate, but I’ve been round and round with this and they do consider the exchange to have a work visa requirement …which is impossible to obtain.
            If you are from the EU you still have a little longer to take advantage, otherwise, it will be impossible to do legally.

          2. Oh ok, interesting POV. When I did it it was absolutely fine, but yes, you should always check with your local embassies etc to check you’re not doing anything wrong outside of your visa.

  5. Hi,

    I am travelling to north america you need a visa for anything over three months but its really quite confusing what visa etc I am struggling with this can anyone help me out???

    1. Hey Luciano, the US is notoriously difficult for Europeans. I”d suggest you get onto the visa office and get the latest and up to date information from them, just so you know that it’s definitely right.

  6. Wow this is amazing information! I just found out about Work Away and it seems like a great idea to keep my honeymoon going! We’re going to Southeast Asia and Africa for 4-6 months (4 if we can’t save enough money). Now it looks like it will be closer to 6!! Thank you so much!!

  7. Hello,

    I loved reading this article! I am considering using workaway for a trip to Europe and Southeast Asia that I am taking from September-February. How far in advance should I start contacting hosts?

    1. Hi Kelly, it depends on the host really. Some of them say to contact them nearer the time while others are booked up for months. I’d say to contact them as soon as you know you’re ready. You don’t want to miss out on the good ones, do you?

  8. You never need a visa anywhere to volunteer. Nobody can stop you from giving your time to a cause. you may need a different visa for the time you decide to spend in a country… and thats that! happy travels kids!

  9. Hello!

    A lot of information that has helped me to formulate a little more of a plan! I have just signed up to Workaway this morning, so thank you!

    I do have one small question. How much do you think is a good amount to put in to your Profile information? I don’t want to write an essay as it might scare a few people off but I currently think mine is a bit short. Do you have any guidelines on what is a good length?

    Thanks very much!

    Tom

    1. Hello Katerina, one of the best things about Workaway is that you don’t have to worry about getting a visa. You’re only volunteering so you wouldn’t need a working visa, just the usual visa you’d need for the country you’re going to.

  10. Hey, thanks for the information. I just found out about work away a week ago. I know you have said this before, but this is my question. is the host only covering your food and a bed? Let’s just say that I will go to Europe for 3 months. How much money do you think I have to take with me? Can you work on side to gain some money in case you run out of before your 3 months?
    Thanks,
    Nayely

    1. Hi Nayely, if you’re from the EU then yes, you can. How much money totally depends on your spending habits, such as how much you drink and eat, and the types of accommodation you want to stay in. It’s way too hard for me to put a number on it, sorry.

      Vicky

  11. Hi. I just left a message about workaway and it was deleted so I’ll try again. I believe you need to be very careful and get full information from the hosts. I don’t believe workaway’s feedback system is honest. It’s easy to coerce workawayers into doing more because they’re concerned about their feedback. I’ve been unable to leave feedback about my host and believe the site has blocked me. Thanks. I’m glad you had such great experiences but I think there should be some balance here. I also agree with Peter that you should check about visas. Workaway doesn’t say that isn’t an issue, just that that’s all up to you, it’s not something they can help you with.

    1. Hi Jane, I’m sorry to hear you had a problem and thanks for letting me know. I was fine in all my placements but it’s interesting to know it doesn’t always go to plan.

  12. My first visit to your blog and I’ve enjoyed the content. Thank you for posting so much good information. I’d like to add my “two cents” on the numerous questions about visa requirement. Some countries do require a work visa even if it is for volunteer work. The reason for this (with the workaway and similar arrangements) is that you are being compensated for your labor with room and board. Some countries view that as a foreigner competing with local citizens for a job…. even if it isn’t for wages. My opinion is that if your time in country is relatively brief, simply enter on a tourist visa and discretely earn your room and board… at your own risk, of course. 🙂

      1. Hi Vicky…
        I just found your website… Great information! Thanks for sharing it. I have done some traveling by myself in the past and I love It…!!
        I just came back from a trip around Italy. 4 AMAZING weeks! staying in B&B and hotels with my boyfriend and now I am seriously thinking on going back to Italy by myself and use workaway.com .
        I would love to volunteer for the grapes and olives harvesting this coming fall. (still doing some research)
        I saw you have worked for HavanaClub (Cuban Co) Julian Medina Havana Club Colombian winner 2014 is my cousin (if sounds familiar)
        I would love to have your advise… about the Workaway site in Italy.

        Thank you very much!!! Best of all !!

        Looking forward to hearing from you !

        Kathy M.

        1. Ah what a coincidence! Yes, I know Julian 🙂 I hope he enjoyed his trip around the world. Yes, I worked for a lady down in the south of Italy. I’d definitely recommend the Workaway programme and actually talk about it quite a lot. If you could let me know your specific questions I’d be happy to help.

          Vicky

  13. Hi there! I’m planning my trip to the USA for 2016 (I will stay there for 5 months, approximately) and I was wondering if I need a special work permit or something to be a workawayer. I am from Argentina and have the tourist visa (B2) which is valid for 10 years (and up to 6 months for a single stay), but I cannot find anywhere if that visa is enough to volunteer in exchange of room and board. I tried to check with the embassy but no answer so maybe if you could help me with some info? Thanks!

    1. Ooo that sounds exciting – where are you going? As far as I know you don’t need a working visa to join Workaway, but that could change depending on where you’re from. I’ve only ever done Workaways in Europe and I’m from England so I haven’t even had to consider it. I’m pretty sure it’s fine, as no money is changing hands, but you should check with the Workaway customer services just to make sure. I’d hate to give you the wrong advice.

  14. Whether money changes hands or not for WORK is totally irrelevant.

    In every country that I know – and I’ve been to 60+ – under a normal Tourist Visa (or Entry Stamp) – one is NOTpermitted to WORK

    With a Tourist Visa (or Entry Stamp) – you can be a Tourist – pure and simple – no Business, no Study, no Work. And WORK is any work and that definition is “paid or unpaid”

    If one doesn’t have the right to work (invariably only though nationality or residence – like europeans going to other european countries) – then you need a Work Permit to work. What is called a Tourist Visa is just that for a Tourist.

    If you want to do any type of work, even if you’re just doing research for your business, or gone to write a travel story from a tourists perspective, volunteer etc – then you technically MUST have a VISA and that could be Business, Study or Work depending on what you are going to do.

    The fact that many countries ignore small infractions is just that they ignore it – it remains illegal.

  15. Hi Vicky, Great reading this post as I only recently discovered the Workaway site. I was wondering whether you were with other people during your projects, as in other than your BF. 🙂 And what was their age? I am a good few years older than the standard gap year student, so was just wondering about the demo of the volunteers.

    Many thanks.

    Jaklien

    1. Hi Jaklien,

      There was just the two of us on two of them and then on the third there was a girl from Australia there too. She was younger than us though and we were about 25 at the time. I think if you pick the right project and do the research you’ll be fine. Some people would rather have older people I’m sure – more reliable!

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Thanks,

      Vicky

    1. Hello Abu, as no money changes hands I’m pretty sure you’ll be fine volunteering in Australia but I’d strongly recommend you check with your local visa office to make sure, if you’re worried.

  16. Dear Vicky,

    thank you very much for informing us all!:) I appreciate it a lot!

    Take care.

    Best,

    Jan

  17. Hi. I am Alban from Kosovo and I have a work-away profile. A question for you if you don’t mind. Kosovo is not in EU and it’s people can not move without visas in schengen area. So, do they issue visas for me as a work-awayer after I find a host? Or simply, do they issue “work-away visas”?
    Thank you
    Alban

  18. I’m a Canadian travelling to Australia in the new year and I have an ETA visa already. I just stumbled upon workaway and am looking at maybe doing it for a few weeks. Do I need a visa? I have looked everywhere and no one seems to know the answer.

    1. Hi Jane, it’s my understanding that seeing as no money has exchanged hands you don’t need to have a visa, but I’d strongly recommend checking with your embassy, or phoning Workaway and talking with them.

  19. Informative post! I recently signed up for it and have made contact with some hosts. Because I can only commit to a 1-1.5 week stay, should I be upfront about it through email or once I arrive? There is no minimum stay requirement on their profiles but I’m scared that I might drive them away once I tell them.

    Thanks,
    Lizel

    1. Hi Lizel, it would depend on the person but maybe in your second email? It’s best to let them know asap so they don’t feel like you’ve wasted their time. I’m sure there’ll be loads of places that will take you on for that amount of time. Don’t worry.

  20. Hello.This post was really interesting, particularly because I was investigating for thoughts on this topic last Wednesday.

  21. Volunteering abroad is a serious commitment that takes thorough planning.. Even if it’s just a few weeks or months. A 1 minute Google search answers all the visa and passport requirements. Sometimes the Offices are backed up and it can take months for approval. Loved reading this post and the comments. Hopefully this will answer any other questions. I mean this gently, but if contacting the country your going to Visa and travel department or one in your country isn’t the first obvious choice to quickly figure out what you need to do, then maybe going to a foreign country alone isn’t wouldn’t be a good idea.

  22. Thanks in favor of sharing such a pleasant opinion, piece of writing
    is pleasant, thats why i have read it entirely – Dewey

  23. I disagree with you. I suggest you look at my page on facebook, workaway gap student travel, the real stories.
    The bad hosts that abuse, steal and are abusing the system and reported by workaways, do not get printed. they get deleted while the hosts do not. ALready there is an unfair assessment, clearly the workaways are considered less valuable. There is no information about where their headquaters are or any address. They have deleted many people and not refunded them, including myself, I was with them one week. No reason given. ALthough I have my suspcions. In some countries it is even illegal, ie Germany. Every person has a right to be paid for work. If you choose to not be paid, you are undervaluing yourself , this is not healthy. Secondly, you may not be helping poorer countries or people, see my page and some articles. Furthermore, it is a form of slavery and why would anyone want to help build the dreams of private individuals when you should be buildng your own dreams because they would rather get free labour than have to pay those workmen to buiild their dream farmhouse or house, nice for them! I have had friends who have had hosts steal from them, lie about the locations and the work and leave them stranded. All the nice photos and videos are but one sided and the fact that anything bad written gets removed makes me think this is a government enterprise with an agenda. wake up.

    1. There are always many sides to every story so thank you for your comment.

      For me, I had a brilliant time on my three Workaway placements and they were the highlights of our three-month trip round Europe. I know it won’t be the same for everyone but this blog is about my travels. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you.

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UK Solo Travel and Festival Blogger

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