Work Exchange: How to Travel the World for Free

Apr 12, 2017Reading Time: 4 min

According to recent studies, the average traveler will spend $271 per day on food, lodging, entertainment and transportation for an international trip. On a recent trip to Europe, I was determined to eliminate those costs. And guess what? I did.

Don’t believe me? Let me introduce you to work exchange.

By definition, work exchange is the exchange of services by a traveler for accommodation and food from a host. The work can vary extremely based on an agreement, but many programs follow the average of 20-25 hours per week.

There are many work exchange opportunities out there, but I’ve narrowed it down to three of the most popular programs, including the one I participated in. Keep reading to see if one of these could be the right choice for you!

$29 membership fee
Membership is good for 2 years

Per WorkAway’s website, this program allows people from all over the world to connect and find volunteer opportunities without spending thousands of dollars for someone else to do it for them. The process is simple: Hosts create profiles detailing their location, what they need, what they will offer in exchange and how long of a stay they are expecting from volunteers. Travelers create a profile highlighting their skills and services and what they are searching for in an experience. This program allowed me to:

  • Be a nanny for a 2-year-old boy in Cork, Ireland (1 month)
  • Share my marketing expertise at a hostel in Sligo, Ireland (3 weeks)
  • Help a professor edit a book in Edinburgh, Scotland (10 days)


  • Minimal membership fee that is good for two years
  • Jobs vary extensively
  • Feedback and reviews included in profiles
  • Many hosts live in major cities and tourist locations


  • Airfare not included in price
  • Not all hosts provide three meals per day



$30 membership fee per country
Membership is good for 1 year

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) was developed to help passionate volunteers connect with organic farms and organizations to build a more sustainable environment. This program is perfect for people (known as wwoofers) looking to get down and dirty, learn invaluable skills, live a sustainable lifestyle and meet amazing people around the world. Jobs can include anything from building and maintaining gardens, providing new water sources, and selling organic produce at local farmers’ markets.


  • Learn how to grow and produce your own food
  • Work with many people at a time
  • Often stay in unique accommodation such as tents, yurts or cabins


  • Each country has its own WWOOF website, making it not user-friendly
  • Locations are often far from cities or main tourist attractions
  • Each country requires a separate membership


$21 premier membership fee
Membership good for one year

HelpX started along the same path as WWOOF in that its focus was organic farms. However, this program has recently added variety jobs such as working on boats, helping in hostels, B & B’s, and housesitting. HelpX does require helpers to be 18, however, families are welcome if they are all up to the task! HelpX has thousands of international hosts available as well.


  • Jobs often take place in well-developed farms and markets
  • Hosts are required to offer very detailed profiles for travelers


  • Website does not allow you to search all countries at once
  • Premier and free memberships can make searching limited
  • Website is incredibly dated


I was blessed with incredible work exchange experiences and I actively continue to use these programs to travel with a very small budget. My next adventure will be as a WorkAwayer in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada where I will be working at a backpacker’s hostel on the lake!

Happy budget traveling!