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.
Workaway guide for beginners
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 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
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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!
5. Do I need a visa for Workaway?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PIN THIS GUIDE TO WORKAWAY FOR LATER