Is Worldpackers safe? User review and safety tips
When I talk about how cool it is to volunteer in exchange for accommodation using a platform such as Worldpackers, one of the most frequently asked questions is: but is Worldpackers safe? It’s normal for first-timers to feel apprehension; I also wondered about safety before my first experience of this type.
In this article, I’m going to talk about why I think Worldpackers, one of the leading work exchange platforms in the world, is reliable. I’ll also give you safety tips so that you can avoid unforeseen events and challenges in this type of exchange.
Is Worldpackers safe?
Yes, Worldpackers is safe. This platform was created in Brazil, the country where I live, and I’ve already visited their headquarters in São Paulo. I know a good part of the team, which has been working there for years, and for the past few years I got to see how serious and committed they are to providing a good experience for travelers.
Worldpackers was created in 2014 by two friends who left their jobs in the areas of accounting and investment to backpack around the world. After years on the road, they founded the platform with the purpose of “democratizing meaningful travel experiences through a collaborative mindset”, as they describe it.
Since its creation, Worldpackers has provided work exchange trips to tens of thousands of travelers in different parts of the world. Just before writing this article, I read an article from the company’s CEO on Linkedin in which he celebrated the more than 2 million members from all countries in the world and 7.691 hosts from 137 countries.
Each host has their own rules, but in general, the exchanges entail about 20 hours volunteer work a week for accommodation and other benefits. Besides from having a place to sleep, you can often get extra benefits like meals and free tours, classes, bikes available to use around the area and much more.
Going on this type of trip is not only very cheap, but it can also be very enriching. However, just because Worldpackers is safe, it doesn’t mean that all work exchange trips are a bed of roses.
For starters, on any trip there’s a risk that something will go wrong. Even if you hire a renowned agency and stay in 5 star hotels that doesn’t guarantee that everything will work out, right? However, there are several factors that make Worldpackers safer than doing a work exchange on your own or through other platforms.
Furthermore, there are some tips to increase the chances of your experience being successful. My trips through Worldpackers were all amazing and I make it a point to say that this wasn’t due to luck. It was because I chose the placements that interested me very carefully and followed the steps that I’m going to share at the end of this article.
First, it’s worth mentioning that the idea of the work exchange is to connect travelers and hosts through a spirit of collaboration. This style of travel has everything to do with the trend of the “sharing economy”.
There are more and more services created to bring together people with complementary interests and needs. And in the world of travel, we find several examples of this trend, such as home exchange sites, shared rides (BlablaCar), room rental in locals’ apartments (AirBnb), among others.
Exchanging work for accommodation is an example of a 100% collaborative scheme, since there is no monetary involvement between the host and the traveler.
In most of these services, incidents are rare, because users can leave reviews on the platforms and the reputation of a host is essential for them to get new clients or volunteers. In fact, nowadays many experts consider our online reputation as a new currency.
It’s kind of like when an Uber driver makes an effort to please you and in the end they ask you to give him a 5 star evaluation. If there were no such evaluation, they might not be so helpful, so it works.
How host screening at Worldpackers works
At Worldpackers, the hosts who offer placements to travelers are not just people with internet access. Someone that wants to be a host has to go through a selection process to ensure that they are aligned with the purposes of the platform and respect the rules of the work exchange.
In addition, each user can rate the experience by giving it one to five stars and writing reviews. So, at least theoretically, the hosts have every interest in providing a positive experience, if only to receive a good evaluation and attract new travelers.
Since Worldpackers has a team dedicated to assisting users, you can (and should) notify the company if a host breaches the agreement. From there, they investigate what happened and, if applicable, remove that host’s registration.
Why is Worldpackers safe
I consider that Worldpackers is safe especially when compared to an alternative used in the past by those who traveled under an exchange scheme: getting in direct contact with the hosts. Some backpackers did this (and still do), either writing to hostels over the internet or knocking on doors when they arrive at their destination.
The Worldpackers platform provides several advantages that make the scheme safer. For starters, as I already mentioned it runs a prior screening of the placements and has a secure communication channel with the hosts.
The website also includes a formal description of the activities to be performed and the benefits obtained, and you receive a formal confirmation when you’ve been accepted. There’s also a support team that you can get in touch with, besides from the Worldpackers Insurance, which I’ll describe in the next topic.
And for those who ask if it is worth investing 49 USD per year (or 39 USD by clicking here or using the Worldpackers JANELASABERTAS discount coupon), my answer is: absolutely! The investment is VERY low if you consider all the benefits. After all, this amount allows you to make as many trips as you want during this period.
As you may know, in many parts of the world this is what you would pay for just one or two nights of accommodation. So even if you go only on a one-week trip, you will already have paid off the investment. And no amount of money can pay for the experiences and lessons you will have during the trip, if you choose the right placement.
The Worldpackers Insurance
The Worldpackers Insurance is a kind of travel insurance that aims to offer more peace of mind to travelers who use the platform. It works like this: if the host does not respect the agreements made through the website, the company guarantees the traveler up to three nights of free accommodation in another hostel in the same city. At the same time, the team helps you look for another work exchange host to receive you.
It’s important to emphasize, however, that the platform does not offer traditional travel insurance, which is very important for those traveling abroad. I highly recommend hiring this service when going abroad, since it provides assistance in case you become ill, have an accident or have your luggage lost or your flight canceled, among other unforeseen circumstances.
Safety tips for using Worldpackers
Yes, I think Worldpackers is a safe and reliable platform and I believe that most people you’ll meet in your travels are good hearted. However, of course there are always risks on any trip. And there are also cases of hosts who exploit travelers, leaving aside the spirit of mutual collaboration that should always prevail.
So, it’s important to take some safety precautions before your trip. The following tips are what I have always put into practice and part of the reason why my work exchange experiences were so wonderful.
1. Check the placement description carefully
When choosing a work exchange placement, consider whether the project seems to be fair to both parties (host and volunteer). Read the description and benefits carefully and choose a job you really want and feel able to do. Use common sense to assess whether the advantages offered are compatible with the workload.
2. Read the reviews
Pay close attention to the reviews from prior travelers who went to the same placement. This is one of my favorite features of Worldpackers and it has already helped me to discard hosts that didn’t meet my expectations, as well as to find others that had amazing reviews and I also found to be excellent.
3. Send a message to prior travelers
Another good feature of the platform is being able to write a private message to anyone who left a review about a host. I usually do this to find out more information about the place and the host. After all, when writing a public assessment, I believe that many people tend to summarize their impressions or leave aside issues that are more delicate.
I only skip this part if I find the comments very comprehensive and I don’t have any specific questions, because I don’t want to ask people to simply repeat what they have already written on the page.
4. Clarify any doubts with the host
One of the advantages of being a verified Worldpackers member (that is, paying the fee) is being able to communicate with the host that is offering a place. And you should take advantage of this feature!
Take this opportunity to feel the host’s “vibe” and clarify all the doubts about practical issues such as the specific roles to be performed, the structure of the place, how to get there from the nearest airport or station etc.
5. Research the host on other websites
I find the information about the host provided by Worldpackers very useful. Still, I like being extra cautious so I also Google the host, be it an individual, institution or company.
I check to see if the place has a website, social media profiles and reviews on Google itself and on accommodation booking sites like Booking.com (in the case of hotels, hostels and inns).
Thus, you have a better chance of finding out if the place really corresponds to what is shown in Worldpackers, in addition to getting more information to decide if that placement really interests you.
6. Keep your family and/or friends informed
Whatever your style of travel, I think it’s important to always keep someone you trust informed about your itinerary. I usually share with my family the contact details and address of the placement and its link on the platform, just in case.
7. Have a “Plan B”
Another recommendation is to prepare yourself in case the experience is not exactly what you expected. As I said, Worldpackers is safe, but it’s impossible to be 100% sure about the success of each experience.
I recommend keeping a cash reserve, researching ways to get to other places from where you are and taking a look at other lodging opportunities nearby. Oh, it’s also worth having a simcard with internet access.
8. Start close to home
If this is your first work exchange experience and you’re unsure of yourself, why not start close to home?
For those who live near a tourist destination, ecovillage or something like that, even a short holiday can be enough to experience your first work exchange. You don’t have to go far to live enriching experiences, and by doing this, you’ll gain more confidence to explore abroad as well.
9. Don’t let irrational fear stop you
If you’ve taken all these steps but still feel anxious or insecure because this is going to be your first trip alone, or because it will be a different scheme from what you’re used to, the advice is simple: focus on the best, prepare for the worst and relax. It will be worth it!
Are you still wondering “is Worldpackers safe”? Was this article helpful, or do you have any more questions? Ask me in the comments section!
Disclaimer: I get a small commission from every Worldpackers membership purchased with my promo code or link, which is one of the ways I monetize the work I do in this travel blog. I only recommend products or services that I have already used and approved. :)