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Have you ever dreamed to travel the world for free? Volunteering abroad with Worldpackers makes this dream a reality!
So, what is Worldpackers?
Worldpackers.com is a website that allows you to exchange your time for food and accommodation while travelling.
From working in a surf camp in Portugal to helping bartend in Costa Rica or volunteering to teach children in Kenya, there is a host for everyone! You offer your time (usually 20-24h/week) in exchange for food and accommodation.
The duration of the stay varies from host to host and usually lasts anywhere between a few days to a few months. Not only that, but you usually get 1 to 3 days off per week as well.
Signing up only costs $50 USD and you have access to all the volunteer positions you want for a whole year!
But here is the good news, you can save $20 USD and cut down that membership fee to $30 USD just by using our code!
promo code: BACKPACKERSINTHEWORLD
Is volunteering abroad the right way of travelling for everyone?
Of course not. If you are not willing to travel slowly, to get out of your comfort zone and to meet with locals, Worldpackers is not for you.
However, if you dream about exploring the real side of a country through the eyes of a local, or just to save some money while having fun working with other travellers, then Worldpackers is the way to go.
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Why do you like the concept of Worldpackers? What are the advantages of using this platform over regular travelling?
I love that Worldpackers believes travel is a universal right. Travel has not always been accessible to youth, to women, to the budget-conscious, and the Worldpackers platform strives to make travel accessible to more and more people. One of the biggest advantages of using Worldpackers is getting to spend as much time as you want in your dream destinations.
I’ve done ‘regular travelling’ since I was 18, from weekends away to living abroad for years. While I got a good feel for lots of places, it’s not until you live with locals that you truly experience the real culture. Worldpackers offers this experience in a safe and dependable environment, whilst allowing you to give back to these same communities with a work exchange.
Worldpackers helps me keep my travel expenses low, which is amazing since I don’t have a stable career with a consistent income. Aside from making travel affordable, work exchanges allow me to live and work with locals, which is much more immersive and interesting than just staying in hotels and resorts.
What volunteering experiences did you have with Worldpackers and how did they turn out?
I’ve worked with Worldpackers in Mexico and Israel. Both experiences were with top-rated hostels, and couldn’t have been better. In addition to making lifelong friends, I felt that I truly got to experience the local culture of both countries.
I’ve completed 2 experiences so far – once teaching English to adults and the second in a hostel. The English classes were so much fun. It was a friendly, relaxed environment where we all shared stories and practised English through games, videos and social events.
I learnt so much about the city too, as everyone was eager to give me hints, tips and advice. Add that you are on your way to the third one that looks awesome for the unique opportunity to do some that otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to do it.
I worked on a family-run lodge in a small village outside Quito, Ecuador, which helped me improve my Spanish a lot since I was living with the family and working in remote areas. I also worked as a blog article writer for a lodge in the cloud forest of Ecuador, which allowed me to exercise my writing skills and explore the surrounding nature.
My third work exchange was bartending in a fun, party hostel in Cusco, Peru. Here I made so many amazing friends from different countries and had some epic adventures like hiking Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu.
Was it hard to get accepted? Do you have any tips to improve the chances of getting in at the best positions available?
It was not hard to get accepted. Clear communication, transparency, and a positive attitude are musts!
The English school was my first application, so I thought it was really easy. After that, I applied for 4 or 5 before being accepted for my second placement. My advice would be not to think “me me me”. The projects you’re applying to are businesses so you’re going there to work.
Think about what you can offer them. Study the projects individually and think about what skills and talents you can bring to make their project even better.
It’s hard to give advice on getting accepted because everything just needs to work out, and some of it is just luck. Your time frame has to match with the availability of the host, and your skills have to match what the host needs.
I think if you apply to all the hosts that fit you best, and you can describe well why you would be a good fit, the rest will work itself out and you’ll find work easily. Also, don’t get your heart set on just one job; apply to lots just in case one doesn’t work out.
What does a typical workday as a volunteer look like?
At both of my work exchanges, I worked an average of 15-20 hours per week. I’m an early riser, and my hosts were happy to let me take the earlier shifts! They were also super flexible and accommodating about making sure I had several days off in a row to be able to travel and explore local places. I left both my volunteering abroad experieces having seen, done, and experienced all that I dreamt of when I first arrived if not much more.
The school only required 10 hours a week while the hostel was 24. Working at the hostel was much harder due to the rota of 4×6 hour shifts. In one week you could work two-morning shifts, then a night shift, then a late. The days off were rarely together so the weeks felt quite disjointed.
The work wasn’t physically hard, but the constant demands and challenges of life in a busy hostel was certainly eye-opening. Clean and change rooms, keep the bathrooms spotless, ensure breakfast was ready for guests, clean up afterwards, and all the while making sure people checking out had fully paid, checking people in, answering email queries and buzzing people in and out of the front door. All that for one person felt a little excessive. By the end of the shift you didn’t feel like going out exploring, but I definitely had time to wander around and get to know the city.
My work hours were very different for all three work exchanges. I’ll describe them in a brief list:
- Lodge near Quito, Ecuador: I worked only on the weekends, cleaning the rooms and preparing/serving meals all through the day with breaks here and there. I had Monday-Thursday off, and I stayed in Quito with different family members and friends and got to explore the city and surrounding areas.
- Cloud Forest of Mindo, Ecuador: I wrote one article each day, whenever I wanted. So I explored the forest all day, then wrote my article in the evening after dinner, which took me an hour or two.
- Bartending in Cusco, Peru: Worked 4 days per week, 7-hour shifts that rotated between morning, afternoon, and night shifts. I was able to ask for certain days off or coordinate days off with my fellow volunteers if we wanted to take a trip somewhere.
How much have you been able to save while volunteering abroad instead of regular travelling?
Doing work exchanges while traveling cut my travel expenses up to 70%, and sometimes more!
Aside from being able to practice a foreign language in a friendly environment, the money-saving was the biggest bonus.
Free breakfast is always fun, but because you’re mixing with similar minded people you often share other meals. My weekly shopping bill was tiny as everyone chipped in to buy a little something. Throw in some local knowledge and money-saving tips and I saved a huge amount.
I can’t really give an exact number for how much I’ve saved doing work exchanges, but I know it’s a lot. Accommodation is my biggest expense when traveling, and this can usually cost between $5-$20 per night depending on the country.
When work exchanges provide meals, I save even more. In Ecuador, I spent barely any money at all the whole trip because I had all meals and housing covered by volunteering abroad. I only bought cheap bus tickets and a few souvenirs/activities here and there, so I probably only spent about $50 in one whole month of travelling in Ecuador.
Q: We know volunteering abroad is a great way to save some money on the road, but it might also limit the exploring side of travelling a little bit.
Talking about convenience, when would you recommend volunteering abroad and when would you not?
I’d recommend volunteering abroad to anyone who wants to have a profound cultural experience, slow down a bit and really immerse into the local side of a destination. If you want to plan a trip jam-packed with tours and sightseeing, you’re better off just paying for accommodation since you won’t have the extra time and energy to work anyways.
If time is your friend, I absolutely recommend volunteering abroad.
If you have the time to spend 2 or 3 weeks in one location, do it. While it does take away the spontaneity it also helps to focus your visits. If you have 2 or 3 days off per week, you learn to make the absolute most of these days. All the time you’re learning about the area, so when you’re free you’ll know exactly where and when to go (and the cheapest, safest way).
It takes time to get stuck into the projects, so if you’re just spending 1 week in each, I don’t think you’d get the same benefit. It’s also easy to get burnt out. After the hostel, I needed time away from the constant noise and questions and spent a few weeks alone. If you enjoy your privacy then choose your projects carefully. Some offer private rooms, tents, mixed dorms or staff quarters.
I would recommend volunteering abroad when you have more time to spend in a place. If you have at least three weeks, definitely volunteer because you can use the money you save for exploring on your days off.
Volunteering abroad you can always rely on a couple of days off, and usually, your hosts want to help you explore as well; they want you to experience the beauty of their home country and will sometimes even take you to their own secret local places. If you only have a short time to spend somewhere, skip the volunteering so you can see everything you want to see.
Have you ever had any bad experiences while volunteering abroad or with the platform itself?
Solo travelling — especially for the first time — can be intimidating. One of the best ways to feel safe and secure and ease into the travel experience is by doing a work exchange. I personally haven’t had any bad experiences while volunteering abroad or using Worldpackers, and always felt that the safety of the other volunteers and hostelers was a top priority for both my hosts.
I’ve had nothing but great experiences. Whenever I’ve needed to contact them, the team are super-efficient at responding (and it’s never just a copy and paste answer). I think their customer support team is one of their best selling features.
I went to South America at age 19 completely by myself and had no problems at all. I had one little scare, but it was easily cleared up. With my first Workaway near Quito, I was supposed to take a taxi from the airport to the house of the people who ran the lodge, and we would drive to the lodge the next day. It was 11 pm at night, and I arrived in the taxi at the gate to the neighbourhood but no one was there. I was just sitting in a taxi in the dark in a random suburb, and I had no idea where my hosts were.
Luckily, I had their phone number and the taxi driver called them on his phone since I didn’t have a local sim card. They had forgotten to stay home and meet me, so they gave the driver the address to their parents’ house. It was a small mix-up but I was super nervous at the time. Once we arrived at the parents’ house, they welcomed me in and everything was fine. Other than this tiny misunderstanding, I had no problems travelling as a solo female in South America.
Do you have any tips to find the best volunteer opportunities?
Look no further than the incredible Worldpackers blog for inspiration on the best work exchange opportunities, where to go, how to travel on a budget, and more!
My best advice is to choose an experience that suits your personality and needs. If you’re an introvert, look into a homestay, permaculture project, or family-run hostel. If you love meeting new people and want more of a social, party vibe, consider working reception at a city hostel.
Don’t just find something to pass the time. Find a project that genuinely inspires you as it will make your (and their) experience so much more rewarding. I originally approached it thinking fewer hours was better, although now I’m looking for personal fulfilment over just a shorter workday. I probably wouldn’t choose another hostel again, but that’s just me personally. I’d go for something outdoors and hands-on.
I think every job opportunity on Worldpackers is beneficial to someone out there, in some way. Everyone looks for different things when travelling, so I don’t really have any tips for job searching on the website because it’s super straightforward and everyone will search for what suits them best.
Again, the best job positions depend on the preferences of the person applying, but I will recommend hostels for those who want a social experience.
Working with families or small businesses allows a more local experience and you’ll probably learn the language much better, but it can be a bit isolating at times.
Working in a hostel, especially a big, party hostel, is better for those who want to hang out with people their own age and just be around more people in general.
Would you do anything differently?
I only wish I knew about Worldpackers and work exchange earlier on!
Absolutely not. It’s all a learning curve and each project will be different from the next. I learnt so much about the local area, culture and also about myself. I wouldn’t change that for anything.
The only thing I’d do differently is not to buy my return ticket home as far in advance! At the end of my trip, I just wanted to stay longer and go to more places that I’d learned about on my trip, but I already had my plane ticket home booked.
Would you recommend the platform after your experience?
100%. My Worldpackers work exchange experiences changed my life, and are a huge reason I’m now traveling the world full-time as a digital nomad.
If I had more than two thumbs, I’d put them all up. The team are friendly, knowledgeable and all travel addicts themselves. The projects they offer are diverse and cover a huge range of activities, so you’re guaranteed to find something that inspires you. I’ve already signed up for my next two projects!
I always recommend Worldpackers to people. Lots of people my age want to travel but also want to save money for cars and houses and such. I always tell people that work exchanges allow you to travel without spending much money, which is such a game-changer!