Work away programs: Secrets to Score Free Bed and Board Across the Globe
If you had all that set up for free and 2 thirds of the day left to do exactly as you please, perhaps even free transport at your destination, how long could you afford to keep travelling? Free bed and board are essentials for any traveller. and the Workaway Program (plus other versions such as HelpX and WWOOFing) can make that a reality!
What’s your greatest expense travelling?
Somewhere to chuck your head down and meals in your belly!
I spent a blissful 2 seasons- the warmer ones that feature actual sunlight- breezing around Iceland. I had my own room in a makeshift dorm, access to all facilities and enough food to sink a battleship in exchange for a few hours a day taking care of a 5 year old. My kind hosts were amazing!
There were times when I felt bored and isolated but I pushed myself to explore as much as I could and network with travel companions through the HelpX site.
A Typical Work for Accommodation exchange
What was it like being a HelpX volunteer?
Duration: Around 3 months work, then I left to travel the island and freelance
Work: Babysitting a five year old weekdays after nursery, I was nicknamed Mary Poppins
Opportunities: My host helped me to hitchhike and see the island more
Rewards: A private room in a dorm and heaps of great food and free time
The summer brought whalewatching, hitchhiking, the midnight sun, the Northern Lights over Reykjavik and a road trip around the entire island sleeping in our car, which I did with another workaway volunteer.
Between my sweet living arrangements and some online writing I had enough spare to hire a car with friends and explore the wildly-uninhabited-and-untouched-even-by-local-standards West Fjords. There was also a week in a cold tent that cost less than 5 euros a night to park. A word of advice, splash out on a tent that knows the meaning of the word ‘waterproof’!
The Need to Know about Work Away Programs
HelpX and Workaway are your gateway to hosts across the world who will be willing to strike a bargain. The details may vary but the most common arrangement is just 4 hours per day light work in exchange for all your meals plus accommodation. I am living proof that you can get this! The sites are free except for a small starter fee- less than the cost of a lunch and all you need to do is search for opportunites and send a few emails.
- Many hosts are flexible and don’t require formal or paid experience.
- Experience life with a local family and immerse into the culture.
- Hosts will often throw in extras such as use of a car or bike to get around on top of the free bed and board.
- An immensely cheap way to travel long term, I love workaway holidays.
- Unlike Couchsurfing, it’s easy to get a place and stick around as long as needed.
- Check with immigration, but in many cases a working visa may not be required for voluntary work.
- Always read the host’s reviews and ask to contact previous helpers that have stayed with them- there be dragons!
- No wages, naturally. Websites like Workaway are not about money.
- The flexible relaxed nature of these communities means you need to be adaptable- my host moved from the capital to a tiny village on the other side of the island and I rolled with the punches.
- Ensure you agree fair work hours and time off to travel- this isn’t a 9-5 so you’re really being paid in your experience and the free bed and board, naturally.
Work away jobs with accommodation
Do you need a work visa?
Usually if no payment changes hands, it’s not considered real ‘work’, but the best people to ask would be the embassy in the country you want to visit. I think you’ll find a tourist visa is fine, which is a huge bonus.
Is there sometimes paid work available?
Yes, but in that case you do need to get a work visa! Any time you work 7 days in a week I would ask for some payment, as that’s hindering your free time. Farms tend to be the hosts who need a lot of help and will pay, so how good are you with sheep?
Which countries can use help exchange programs?
Absolutely any country, it’s 100% global.