Volunteering has long been a way for thrifty travelers to experience new cultures while helping to make the world a better place.
The challenge has always been how to find organizations you can trust.
Enter Worldpackers, a platform that connects travelers with vetted volunteer opportunities in more than 140 countries.
In this Worldpackers review, we'll take a closer look at what the service has to offer and how you, too, can find work exchange opportunities abroad.
But first, if you're familiar with Worldpackers and ready to find volunteer work, you can save $10 on an annual membership (starting at $49) by clicking the button below.
The membership fee does *not* auto-renew by default. So you can pay now and not worry about getting charged again if you choose not to continue.
Membership fees support the administrative costs of running a platform that makes it easy for travelers to find volunteer jobs.
If you haven't heard about Worldpackers yet, continue reading to learn more.
Worldpackers is a collaborative community that connects travelers with volunteer opportunities around the world.
Trade your skills, time, and energy for a place to stay and possibly more, including meals and local activities.
It's a chance to give back to local communities, whether it's a destination you have an affinity for from a previous visit or are there for the first time.
Top destinations include:
- United States
- Costa Rica
These also happen to be some of the most popular backpacking destinations too.
You can make a volunteer experience the primacy focus of a trip or incorporate it into a long journey to one or more of these countries.
Worldpackers was founded by two friends, Riq Lima and Eric Faria. Riq left an investment banking career to travel the world for four years.
Eric, an accountant, moved to the USA to learn English and ended up working at a hostel in San Diego (excellent choice!) before helping to found “International Travellers House, a hostel chain located in California and whose staff was made up entirely of volunteers.”
They both lived a life of travel before they began Worldpackers and saw a need for an online platform to connect travelers with volunteer and work opportunities safely.
How it Works
Signing up on the Worldpackers website is free and easy. It'll allow you to get familiar with how it works and to begin scoping out potential opportunities.
To register for free, click the “Join Community” button on the home page and choose to sign up with your email address or Facebook account.
When using email, you'll also be asked for your name, gender (he, she, neutral), and date of birth.
You'll have the chance to opt-in (or out) of receiving host recommendations, “travel tips, inspiring stories, and upcoming opportunities.”
The next screen asks for your nationality and current location (city, country), information that's used to help connect you with potential hosts.
Then it's on to define, in broad terms, what kind of experience you'd prefer.
There are three types of trips:
- Work Exchanges, where you trade your skills/expertise for free accommodation.
- Social Impact, working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), schools, and social programs.
- Eco Program, where you may live on a farm or participate in agricultural projects.
Then, choose your travel interests, such as professional or personal development, solo or couples travel, English or Spanish practice, backpacking, or digital nomadism.
Now the fun part, which part of the world do you want to explore?
Pick a region that inspires you to want to get up and go! South America has the most experience, followed by Europe and Asia.
And lastly, choose the ways you can help out, which include (but are not limited to):
- Welcoming and helping guests (think hostel reception).
- Building and hands-on chores.
- Communications and marketing.
You'll then be shown opportunities that take your preferences into account.
The search results page has two columns. On the left, there are options to refine your search, including preferred timeframe and skills.
On the right, there are snippets of the work exchange and volunteer opportunities.
An effort was made to make the website easy to use and navigate. Information is easy to find and read. It's well laid out and not too busy.
I saw many opportunities, including a homestay helping with dogs and a family (think au pair), farm stays, working at a children's refuge in Mexico, and hostel jobs.
The opportunities to volunteer and work abroad in exchange for free accommodation are seemingly endless.
One of the best features of the Worldpackers platform is the ability to read reviews from people who previously volunteered at a place you're considering.
Not only can you see their star ratings and written reviews about the experience, but you can also reach out and ask them questions directly!
Worldpackers vets their hosts; however, nothing can beat direct and private feedback from those who previously spent time with the hosts.
If you want to make sure your time is well spent, make the most of this option and ask any specific questions.
Just make sure the answers aren't already available to you on the listing or in the written reviews. Nobody wants to feel like their time is being wasted.
Is WorldPackers Safe?
This is all well and good, but you may be wondering if Worldpackers is safe?
How can you trust that you won't be taken advantage of, or worse, harmed?
These are important questions, especially for women. And the founders know it.
That's why they've put into place a layered approach to ensuring the safety of volunteers. The Travel Safely page on the Worldpackers website outlines their safeguards.
Hosts are verified by WorldPackers before they can join the platform.
Formal agreements are signed by hosts and volunteers before a trip occurs. This contract spells out expectations and responsibilities to ensure both parties are on the same page before anyone goes anywhere.
Host and volunteers leave community reviews after each experience, as you see on Couchsurfing and Airbnb.
You can reach out to past volunteers for any given host to ask questions not answered in the profiles or public reviews.
If for any reason you need to leave your host unexpectedly, WP Insurance means Worldpackers will help you find a new one, or they'll pay for three nights at a hostel in the same city.
Lastly, there's this:
“Reports that compromise the physical, moral, and/or psychological integrity of hosts or travelers may lead to profile deactivation in order to keep our community safe for collaboration.”— Worldpackers
When it comes to online communities, the potential loss of access to the platform and opportunities it affords is one of the best safeguards to ensuring people behave responsibly.
How much does it cost?
While you can search Worldpackers' opportunities for free, you'll need to join as a paying member to contact the hosts about potential stays.
The good news is it's incredibly affordable. Ridiculously cheap, in my opinion.
Just think about how much you stand to save by getting hooked up with free accommodation in major cities worldwide (or farms, if you prefer nature).
- $49 – Solo trips for one year
- $59 – Couples / friends for one year
- $99 – Pack (includes access to online courses for travel planning and becoming a digital nomad, a $78 value)
If you're ready to sign up for Worldpackers, you can save $10 by clicking the button below.
The discount will automatically be applied to the membership of your choice.
And remember, you'll only be charged for one year, so you have the option to decide whether to renew without automatically being billed again.
This article was brought to you in partnership with Worldpackers. Go Backpacking is an affiliate, and we'll receive a small commission at no extra cost if you sign up as a member. This helps to support our site.
Dave is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Go Backpacking and Feastio. He's been to 66 countries and lived in Colombia and Peru. Read the full story of how he became a travel blogger.
Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:
- G Adventures for small group tours.
- World Nomads for travel insurance.
- Hostelworld for booking hostels.
- Rail Europe for train passes.