I’ve been volunteering since my second week of traveling, but I only recently found Worldpackers. I think it’s necessary that I write a Worldpackers review since, in my opinion, they’re so much better than Workaway, the earlier platform I had been using.
Worldpackers was started in February 2014 by a team down in Brazil and has already grown to over a million volunteers worldwide. It’s true that many of the hosts on Workaway also list their project or hostel on Worldpackers, but there are some significant differences between the platforms.
Focus on Community and Eco-Projects
Many people automatically think of hostels or farms when they consider volunteering, but there are so many other possibilities. My first volunteer job back in 2015 was helping to retrofit an antique chest with an internal support chest, cleaning, cooking and teaching English to my host’s daughter. My second and third volunteer jobs both included renovations at a farm. I didn’t work at a hostel until six months of volunteering around Europe had passed (and that one was truly amazing in Tirana, Albania).
Hostels are fun and almost always allow you to connect to more people than other volunteer options. Then again, helping with an eco-project, volunteering at a charity school, grooming horses on a farm in Sweden or assisting at a wellness center is far more fulfilling than making beds or managing a game of beer pong.
Worldpackers puts a lot of attention on community projects, eco-projects and social impact. There are hundreds of these kinds of hosts all around the world, such as helping in a school or NGO, setting up a community garden, working at a holistic retreat, or building a self-sustaining village. Plenty of hostel positions are available too, but I’d say the other jobs are far better if you want to get the most out of volunteering.
An Online Group of Experts
In the short time I’ve used them, I’ve found Worldpackers to be a far better community than Workaway. While you do have the option of contacting previous volunteers in Workaway to find out about their experience, this is encouraged on Worldpackers, and dozens of individuals have been designated as experts. You can go to these experts for knowledge about hosts, advice for your volunteering or anything else related to the platform.
Worldpackers also has a community blog with dozens of articles giving advice on how to volunteer, travel, stay safe, maintain a budget, etc. Not that you can’t come to my blog too for travel advice, but they have some really good articles to get you started with your volunteering.
Better Communication with Hosts
As a note, there is a possibility that Workaway has changed since I used them in this regard, but in the two years that I used Workaway, it was very rare that I would receive replies from hosts. Worldpackers does something similar to Couchsurfing. They give what percentage of inquiries the hosts respond to, and how long it takes them to respond. This way, you can filter out the hosts that aren’t going to get back to you, or at least not count on them if you’re in a hurry to make your plans.
There isn’t a volunteer site out there that offers travel insurance, but Worldpackers does have their own form of insurance. If you run into a genuinely horrible experience with a host, Worldpackers will put you up at a local hostel and help you with arrangements to get to a better host. I only had one truly horrible volunteer experience in France where I would have used this. Most jobs tend to be fantastic, but it’s good to know that the platform has your back.
The biggest beef I have with Workaway is that they won’t display a negative review for a host or volunteer, thus negating the purpose of the review system. Worldpackers understands the importance of an accurate review, whether positive or negative. Although they are a newer system than Workaway and thus don’t have as many reviews, the reviews are all there to let you know what to expect.
Better yet, Worldpacker reviews have a rating system for different aspects of the host. Instead of just a five-star review, you can see the hosts’ rating for the staff, hours and tasks, the site (hostel, eco-farm, etc.), and learning and fun.
Downsides to Worldpackers
I consider Worldpackers a better system than Workaway, but it’s still not a perfect system. As this is an honest Worldpackers review, here are a couple points where I think the platform could be improved.
High Limit to Volunteer Hours
My first problem with Worldpackers is that they have a high limit to how many hours you have to work at the volunteer job – 32 hours a week. In my list of ways that Workaway could be improved, I mention how some hosts are just looking for free labor, putting their exchange on par with that of a criminal (taking something without giving back). I’ve spent nearly my entire life volunteering and I’m all for the system, but I still believe that the exchange should be balanced. Why volunteer for 32 hours a week while living in a shared dorm when you could apply for a work visa and work the same shift while earning 10 times the value of that shared dorm?
Many of the hosts on Worldpackers require the usual 20-25 hours a week of volunteer hours, and some require less, but there are a handful that require more…a lot more. For the sake of all the honest hosts out there that want to keep a fair exchange with their volunteers and hire staff when required, avoid any host that demands you work more than 25 hours a week, unless the value is truly worth it, or it’s something you’re just really passionate about.
As a note, all hosts are interviewed by Worldpackers to ensure their values are up to standards, and that they’re not just looking for free labor. To be fair, the hosts that were requiring more than 25 hours were those running schools, farms or other activities where you were really expected to participate full time, and they always came with three square meals along with several other benefits. So while I still think many of these positions should be paid, WOrldpackers does a lot to uphold their standards.
Fewer Hosts (Except in South America)
The one advantage of Workaway is that they have the most hosts. Workaway started in 2002, and they’ve garnered over 40,000 hosts all around the world to choose from. However, as Worldpackers originated in Brazil, they have the lion’s share of the hosts in South America.
Sadly, neither Workaway or Worldpackers allow you to search for hosts on a map if you’re on the desktop site, although you can access this feature through their mobile app. To my knowledge, the only platform that has a desktop map feature is Hippohelp, but they also have the fewest available hosts.
Limited Review Length
One oddity I found with Worldpackers reviews is that they have a maximum character length, and it isn’t many. While they display all their reviews, you can only write so many words. I don’t know what the exact character limit is, but when it comes to giving an accurate review of a host, you shouldn’t have to squeeze it into a couple hundred words.
Sign up for WorldPackers Now
The price for a Worldpackers membership is $49 a year (€44). That’s a bit more than the $40 (€36) that Workaway charges, but if you click directly on this link to sign up, you can get a $10 discount, bringing the cost to only $39. Join now!
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I believe that giving back in your travels is a huge plus, and I’ll always spend a few months out of every year doing volunteer jobs. Here are some more articles that cover volunteering, the pros and cons, and some of the experiences I’ve had.
- My Workaway Experience in Brussels
- My Original Workaway Story for France
- My Workaway in France – A Story of Worst Case Scenario
- My Adventure with Zanzibara Campground via Workaway
- My First 3 Weeks Back in Europe, Helping on a Farm in Sweden
- My Five Weeks in Sjuntorp Could Have Been Better
- Hostel Workaways in Scotland: Mostly Great Volunteer Jobs
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