5 Tips to get the most out of Workaway

I’d never heard the term ‘temple’d out’ until I spent a few months in Thailand. Now, Thailand is perhaps my favourite country but there are just soooo many temples. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good temple as much as the next man, but when you’ve seen a 100…

Having done several extended trips now and having spoken to countless people who have done the same, there definitely comes a time when you find that you’re mustering enthusiasm for something that everyone back home would find amazing. When this time comes, rather than feel bad, or ungrateful that you’re not making the most of your time I think you should take the opportunity to do something different and recharge.

For Alex and I the first thing we do is find a city and have a bit of normality, something else you can try and something that’s becoming increasing popular of late is to take part in a  Workaway project.

The basic premise of a Workaway is that ‘Volunteers’ work five-hours-a-day for five-days-a-week for a ‘Host’ (though that sounds a bit creepy now when I write it down, but that’s what Workaway calls it). They do this in exchange for accommodation and sometimes food.

So far we have only done one Workaway, however I have spoken to lots of people on our South American travels who have done several and one couple who have spent an entire year moving from one project to the next.

And of course there are lots of reasons to do a Workaway, not just because you are sick of the sight of temples: they have Workaways in countries that don’t even have temples.

Some great reasons include:

  • it’s a good way to meet new people
  • you can learn new skills – the couple who had done 16 Workaways had moved from one building project to the next as they wanted to learn new construction techniques
  • it’s a fun way to practice your language skills
  • it’s a cheap way to be in a place, so you can explore without having to spend too much money
  • staying longer in a place is a great way to get to know the local people, help in the local community and learn about the culture

From our experience and the people I have spoken to on the road, here are five useful tips that will help you make the most out of the experience.

Five tips for getting the most out of workaway


1. Where will you lay your head?

There is a huge range of accommodation on offer with Workaway. From having your own shiny bungalow, via a room in a nice old couple’s house where you teach them English, through countless hostel dorms, just don’t to a tent in a muddy field. Be sure to ask yourself what you’d be comfortable with – for me I need a roof over my head, we need our own room (as we’re a couple) and I need to know that an internet connection isn’t far away. This means that sleeping in a tent in the middle of nowhere while you help someone to build a new Eco Lodge, though it might sound interesting, is a no for me.

What about you? It pays to be clear before you get there and that way you’re more likely to save yourself and your host time.


2. Let them eat Cake!

There seems to be a huge variation in what food is on offer at the Workaways. Some offer none (which seems like a poor deal to me unless they are letting you live in a palace) right up to three meals a day and all the clean drinking water you can get down you.

Again, ask yourself if what they are offering is fair? Some hostels ask for four hours helping on reception in exchange for a dorm bed. If you want to spend time somewhere, this can be an excellent way of seeing the city without having to spend a fortune on accommodation.

In other places, where perhaps they give you a tent and ask you to help build a lodge, would no food be fair? For me, no, but then tents aren’t for me. The key point here is to be clear that what they are offering is enough to feel like it’s a fair deal.

3. Don’t pin your hopes on just one project

There are thousands of projects all across the world. Currently, we’re looking for projects in Colombia and, as of August 2015, there over 178 to choose from!

Thankfully, the site has a number of search tools that help you narrow down your choices, plus you can make a note of the ones you like the sound off and go back to them later. Many people have recommended collecting at least five different projects and then start writing to them one by one.

We give each project around three or four days to reply and if we’ve heard nothing, or it’s a no, we move onto the next one. Not everyone replies and sometimes they decline, just let this roll over you and keep trying until the right one shows itself.

4. Ask, ask and ask again

It pays to ask lots of questions before you start the project. Make sure you’re clear on:

  • where you’ll sleep, what you’ll eat
  • if food is not included are there cheap places to eat nearby and is there a kitchen
  • how many hours do they expect of you and for how any days
  • and, last, be clear on what you’ll be doing. Some hosts list a huge amount of requirements, and though once or twice a week they might need someone to, say, lead a ‘fun and exciting tour’ the rest of the time you might be cleaning rooms

It’ll save a lot of awkwardness later if you’re ask lots of questions upfront.

5. Talk to other travellers and leave reviews

Workaway is very popular now so take the opportunity to ask other travellers if they’ve taken part in any projects. When you find yourself in any situation where you can chat with other travellers – hostels, buses, any queue where you’re next to the only other tourist waiting in line – ask about Workaway. It’s amazing how many people have done them now and recommendations can prove really helpful.

Plus, when you’ve done a Workaway, remember to leave a review, this is a great thing about this site. You have the chance to review the good and bad about a project so other people can be clear what’s on offer.

On a last note there is a cost to register with Workaway but I think it’s well worth it:

Registering with workaway.info is just 29.00 USD for an individual account and 38.00 USD for a couple account. Accounts are valid for two years enabling you to contact any of the hosts on the host list.

If you take part in a Workaway, let me know your experience in the comments below.

This is the link for Workaway – I could have put it all the way through but I’m much too lazy for that. 

Check out this great video below that's a really fun look at Workaway...

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