Free volunteering: How to volunteer around the world without paying ridiculous agency fees

So you want to volunteer abroad? Good on you! We love that you are looking to give back. But you’ve gone online and you’ve seen some organisations CHARGE expensive agency fees for your kindness. How crazy is that? You know us by now, and you know what Workaway stands for, (if you’re new, we are a website that connects volunteers and hosts from all around the globe and allows them to come together; volunteer help for a few hours a day and hosts exchange that for accommodation and food. Simple.) so we’re not here to ramble on about that, what we are here to do is show you how you can volunteer around the world without paying a cent:

host volunteers cultural exchange free

1. Have a little look on Workaway

Get to know our site and what we do, have a look at some amazing projects around the world that are welcoming travellers, other Workaway profiles to get an idea of their experiences and read our blog which has hundreds of free(!) and helpful articles from volunteers’ stories, to tips advice and some of the best and most meaningful Workaway projects in the world. Don’t get too caught up in browsing though. You have some important steps to take before you can start volunteering around the world for free.

2. Sign up

Like what you see? Awesome! Let’s get you started. A yearly membership to Workaway costs a fraction of a night's accommodation in a hotel. Here’s what you get for that:

  • Gain unlimited access to 50,000+ worldwide opportunities in 180 different countries -- from staying with local families or house sitting, to sustainable farms and NGO projects giving back to local communities! 
  • Chat, meet, travel with and stay connected with fellow workawayers around the world
  • Explore nearby friends and hosts on our mobile app for spontaneous adventures
  • Generate an official reference letter to showcase your achievements as a Workawayer
  • Chat and receive support from your personal Workaway advisor on live chat or our 24/7 helpdesk support team 
  • Join our monthly photo competition to share your travel snapshots and get a chance to win a cash prize
  • Be a member of our unique and supportive travelling community -- exchange amazing stories or ideas, and go on a Workaway trip together!
  • Access the site and easily plan exchanges on the road through the Workaway travel app

3. Create your profile

This is your first and most important step! A bad or incomplete profile won’t be interesting to hosts and you may struggle to get any replies. Take time and effort when filling it out. Try to show your personality, skills, experiences and enthusiasm, and include lots of photos showing how fun you can be. Upload a video of yourself to make a stronger impression! While you’re highlighting your favourite qualities of yourself, make sure to be honest too: only available for one week? Say that. Never taken care of farm animals before but very willing to learn? Just let them know! We believe there is a host out there for everyone! Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to start. As soon as you become a member, you will have access to a guide on how to create a good profile, and once you’ve completed it we’ll offer personal tips on how to improve it even more! 

travel the world budget backpacking trips

4. You’re all set! Time to make some plans

Now that your profile is ready, it’s time to get planning! Are you an ocean lover who wants to help clean up the oceans and help with marine conservation? Or are you an aspiring teacher with a huge passion to share your language and culture? It can be overwhelming to dive straight into our long host list, so don’t forget to utilise our filters and check out some more features that will help to narrow down your search to find your ideal hosts:
  • Start creating your personalized host list to save all your favourite hosts 
  • Find hosts and Workawayers on a map in your area, or the area you are planning on travelling to
  • Add yourself to our last minute Workawayer list so hosts can contact you for immediate volunteering opportunities
  • Read feedback left for hosts and contact Workawayers who stayed with them for more info (don’t forget to leave your host a feedback after your visit too!)
Feeling nervous about your first solo trip, or hoping to connect with fellow Workawayers while on the road?
  • Get to know like-minded travellers on the road with our "Meet Other Workawayers" function
  • Add yourself to the "Travel Buddy" list so other Workawayers can chat with you
  • Travelling with a friend? Apply to hosts together by upgrading your account to a couple’s one, or temporarily join your accounts to contact hosts together
playgroup class saying farewell to workawayer traveller

5. Start contacting hosts

Ok, now you’ve found a couple of host projects that you are interested in, and you’re ready to reach out to them!Click the "Contact" button on the host’s profile (or through your favourite host list) and email each host individually. Let them know why you’re interested in staying with them or at their project, highlight your relevant skills and experiences, tell them what you’re hoping to achieve or learn from them and what you’d like to share with them too! DO NOT copy and paste, it’s so obvious and won’t do you any favours. We recommend you email a few and make sure you always put the dates you are available. Do keep in mind some of our hosts are busy people and may be in an area with bad wifi -- but don’t be shy! And don’t hesitate to reach out to hosts and give them a nudge if they haven’t replied yet. We know there are many hosts who’d love to welcome you if they believe you’d make a great guest!

6. Go prepare

You’ve scored your first free volunteer project? Go you! Your journey has begun. Here’s a few tips to think about before you go to make your trip as good as possible:

  • Talk to the host and ask if there is anything in particular you need to bring
  • Get travel insurance
  • Check for visa/vaccinations
  • Stay up to date with the latest travel advice and restrictions for your destination regarding covid
  • Get a sim card for that country
  • Buy some small gifts from your hometown to give to your host to introduce them to your culture
  • Keep an eye out for projects that we can support and help grow through the Workaway Foundation
  • Make sure to have a backup plan in case your plans change, and check out some more advice on our Safety Page to travel safely!
beach and ocean conservation workaway project

You are now well on your way to volunteering around the world, for free! We think you deserve this; you’ve already done something many haven’t done before by offering your time to others in need. You guys rock! Don’t forget to let us know about your amazing experiences and ideas by sending in your blog posts, photos and videos, and sharing your ideas about how we can help the community grow together! 🙂

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About Alicia

Alicia helps run Workaway mission control in Hong Kong, she's also our social media and blogging whiz and helps with design. She has backpacked, travelled and volunteered extensively in many differen... show more...

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