Recently, while backpacking in Europe and Australia, I tried a unique way of travelling on a budget by volunteering (in return of free accommodation and food) using a website called WorldPackers — a work/exchange volunteer program, with projects from all over the world.
The drill is… as a volunteer, you work for your host for a few hours every day and in return, you get to eat and stay for free. WorldPackers is perfect for those who want to stay at a certain place for a long time in return of doing some work for them and availing free hospitality. But there is more to it than just staying for free. I found volunteering is a better way of travelling because you get to stay with your host like a family member (particularly if you attend someone as an au-pair) and by doing so you get a chance to learn about their culture and the pace more closely.
My volunteer experience in Rome and Germany (the first time I experienced WorldPackers) showed me a local way of life. As an au-pair, I had a chance to live in the German countryside while staying with a family of four members, in their house. And since they ran a horse farm, and one of my primary duties was to look after their horses, I got to learn horse-riding too. Later, while travelling in Rome and staying with a Roman family, I explored Rome like a local. A few months later, and while travelling in Australia, I volunteered in an Australian countryside and helped a family run an Observatory, which, not let me explore an offbeat location in Australia, but also help me find my fascination towards Astrophotography And Stargazing.
[Read More About The Experiences Here: Staying With A Roman Family | Getting Horse Riding Lessons In Germany | Finding My Love For Astrophotography And Stargazing In Western Australia]
And if I talk about the money I saved, in Rome alone, where it otherwise costs at least 30 euros a night for staying in a budget hostel and about 30 euros on top for food and water, I saved nearly 800 Euros during the two-weeks I stayed with them — forget about all the home-made wine I drank, as the family owned a private vineyard.
Joining Up WorldPackers
I joined WorldPackers for a modest fee of 49 US dollars for a yearly membership (Important: If you chose to volunteer and join the platform, use my special discount code BY CLICKING HERE and you will save 10 dollars straight out).
And speaking of the platform, this is the way how it works: You start by creating an account. All you have to do is sign-up, pay the fee for one year USD 49 (or USD 39 with my referral code), create a profile and write a description about yourself — including your skills and the kind of jobs you’re looking for. Once you have signed up, you can start contacting businesses or local hosts based on countries, cities, and/or type of work. The general gist of each location is that you get a room and board in exchange for a few hours a day (generally about 5 hours).
Each host profile will tell you about the host, and the kind of work they expect you to help them with. Read it carefully and ask for accommodation and job details, weekly routine, and food arrangements before you commit.
If you’re planning to travel the world without spending heaps of money, and moreover get a great experience out of it, hospitality networks like WorldPackers can help you in a big way.
There are people across the world who have been doing this. I have myself met a few people during my travels who have only been travelling using such networks while saving 100% on their food and accommodation — all they pay for is transportation and flights to get from one country to the other.
Other Similar Platforms
There are a number of similar websites offering a different work-exchange prospect. WWOOF, for example, is a popular platform, that matches people looking for work on farms with farmers. Another popular work-exchange volunteer network is Workaway (workaway.info) which works pretty much similar to how WorldPacker does.
And if you are only looking for free accommodation and are going to move between places very frequently I can personally recommend using Couchsurfing — an online (free) directory of local hosts willing to offer a free place to stay to passing travellers. I’ve personally tried Couchsurfing while travelling in Europe for 3 nights in Zurich, and it was a great experience.
Why I Recommend WorldPackers
Since 62% of people using WorldPackers are women, WorldPackers assures travellers’ safety. Any host, before being able to invite travellers, need to go through a verification process, in which Worldpackers Ops team chat with the hosts and ensure they’re offering a safe, Worldpacker worthy experience for the travelers. To make it better, if a traveler has any issues related to their host during their stay, WorldPacker covers 3-nights for the traveler at a nearby hostel and their support team get them set up with another Worldpacker host ASAP (something that Workaway missed and I discontinued using them).
As an Indian nomad and a long-term traveller with a weak Indian passport in hand, I’ve personally tried Couchsurfing and Volunteering (using Workaway and WorldPackers) and recommend WorldPackers for the kind of service it offers. It makes travelling around the world without spending too much money an easy possibility.
Useful: If you decided to use WorldPackers, here’s MY 10 DOLLAR DISCOUNT CODE again for you to save a little more.
Have you tried any other hospitality network that I forgot to mention in the article? Let’s share about it in the comments below!