Europe and the EU

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!

View from my accomodation on the Workaway program

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.

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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’!

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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.

The Pros:        

  • 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.

The Cons:

  • 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.

Vopnafjordur in East Iceland meeting the locals

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.

 

How you can travel the incredible beauty of Iceland on a tiny budget using websites that all you to access free food and accommodation in exchange for light work. Welcome to the Workaway Program and HelpX volunteering.

15 Comments

  1. Toni

    August 20, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    How interesting! Some really great points on how to battle the accommodation struggle. These are really good options though and one day I may look into using them. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Sara Essop

    August 20, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    This is fascinating. I didn’t know about HelpX and Workaway . Good to know.

  3. Michelle

    August 20, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Interesting, first time I’ve heard about these websites. Thanks for sharing! I think I might try that in the future.

  4. Sally from Passport & Plates

    March 14, 2017 at 1:26 am

    I’ve heard of both of these but I’d never thought about using them in a place like Iceland (no idea why!). I’ll have to test them out next time I’m on the road.

  5. Stephanie

    March 14, 2017 at 2:46 am

    This is an interesting approach to travel. I just read about teaching abroad in Fiji, and got all excited until I saw it was Volunteer, AKA you PAY to go and make no money. Haha In Australia a lot of people would work in the hostels for free rooms. I think I would be better suited for this type of arrangement. I do want to go to Iceland so hopefully it works out. I also dream of having a home in NYC where I can host visitors and hopefully visit them in my future travels.

  6. Cori

    March 14, 2017 at 4:51 am

    WOOFing is really popular, too. Lots of my friends have used various sites to travel long term. It’s a great way to stretch your savings, although like anything the experiences can vary wildly.

    If you have a place of your own, home exchanges are great. I’ll usually CouchSurf if I’m traveling alone and do home swaps if I’m traveling with someone else. Home swaps don’t tend to get you the life long friends that CouchSurfing brings, but you still get the chance to meet locals, learn their favorite spots, and stay in a comfortable home.

  7. Candy

    March 14, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    This was such an interesting read because I’ve never heard of HelpX or Workaway. This is definitely a great way to travel if you are flexible and open minded.

  8. Jo

    March 15, 2017 at 1:07 am

    I have just started using workaway and i am booked for 2 solid weeks in the jungles of Borneo – I love it 🙂 Its fun and easy work which I would love… I am looking forward to it. What sort of work did you do in Iceland and did you still find time to explore?

    1. Danni Lawson

      September 29, 2017 at 10:15 pm

      How were the jungles? That sounds amazing. I’ve used HelpX and Workaway four times, and I always offer my skills in teaching and childcare. That’s just what I’m good at though, there are so many hosts looking for more physical skills like construction skills, or general handiness.

  9. Sara

    September 30, 2017 at 10:09 am

    I have never really thought of doing work away or any of that, because I teach abroad already and that works for me. Do you need to be qualified to do certain things? Are you just thrown into work you have no idea how to handle? I can’t imagine working on a farm lol but sounds like some fun experiences.

  10. Katie

    September 30, 2017 at 10:21 am

    I love these ideas! I’ve been traveling for 1 year and haven’t tried anything like this, but I’m running out of money so makes sense!! 🙂

  11. Clazz

    September 30, 2017 at 11:18 am

    I’ve only used HelpX once but I’m considering using it again – it can be such a great way to experience new things as well as saving money! It’s amazing what you can do – I’ve seen things like helping out with training huskies in Canada, to working in a hostel in a country you might never have considered visiting, to cleaning on a sailing boat. So many opportunities out there if you know how to look for them!

  12. Ari

    October 1, 2017 at 7:28 am

    I swear by workaway. I haven’t yet done more than a month in one place with it, but I could see how if it was a good fit, it could be really fantastic to really get a feel for 1 place by living there 3 months and being adopted so to speak into the local family culture. Sonhonestly though, they moved from reykyavik to a small town and that didn’t bother you? Had you chosen this one in particular for proximity to life in Iceland? Mostly all the population lives in the capital I’ve been told.

    1. Danni Lawson

      October 1, 2017 at 9:59 am

      Thanks, Ari, glad you’re enjoying it. You’re right, the move shocked me quite a bit, because I’m a city lover. But the new location was incredibly beautiful, and had some other English speaking volunteers, and a better room for me so I decided not to be uptight and ended up loving it. I did think it was important to mention though, because the culture of workaway is often super relaxed, with hosts not confirming arrangements until a few hours before you arrive and crazy stuff like that haha! Has that been your experience too?

  13. Tayo

    October 1, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Never heard of these websites before although childcare isn’t really for me so hopefully there will be other options to check out. Thanks for sharing!

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