How Worldpackers works: a traveler’s guide

Destinos | 08/02/24 | Atualizado em 02/04/24 | Deixe um comentário

I have done many backpacking trips, but the ones where I exchanged work for accommodation through Worldpackers are among the best of my life. Besides being a super cheap way to travel, it’s also more immersive and potentially transformative. In this article, you will find a comprehensive guide on how Worldpackers works and how to make the most of this type of trip.

In addition to my experience using the platform in my home country (Brazil) and abroad, I’ve met and even interviewed other travelers who are keen of this type of volunteering.

I will answer to the following questions about how Worldpackers works:

  1. What is a work exchange?
  2. What is Worldpackers?
  3. How does Worldpackers work?
  4. Why do a work exchange?
  5. What types of work are available?
  6. What are the working hours?
  7. What are the benefits?
  8. What is not included?
  9. How long does the trip last?
  10. Is Worldpackers legit?
  11. What precautions should I take?
  12. How much does Worldpackers cost?
  13. Why use Worldpackers?
  14. Do I need to obtain visas?
  15. Can I make money?
  16. Is it necessary to speak other languages?
  17. Do I need previous experience?
  18. How to find a good position to apply for?
  19. How can I get accepted for a vacancy?

When you finish reading, if you still have questions about how Worldpackers works, ask me in the comments section!

how worldpackers works

How Worldpackers works: a comprehensive guide

Welcome to this guide, which could also be called “everything you always wanted to know about work exchange and had no one to ask”.

The focus of this article is explaining how Worldpackers works because it is the work exchange platform I like and use the most, but most of the answers also apply to other sites that allow you to volunteer abroad in exchange for accommodation.

1. What is a work exchange?

The basic idea of this type of trip is exchanging work for accommodation: you work for a few hours per day, with at least one day off per week, and in return you get a place to sleep for free during your travels.

However, the exchange usually goes much further than that. Both in a practical sense, since you can receive several other benefits in addition to accommodation, and in more subjective ways, because it can be a great learning experience.

There are several types of hosts on Worldpackers. Many of them are hostels, but there are also hundreds of opportunities in NGOs, inns, hotels, farms, permaculture projects, non-profit schools, holistic centers, camping or glamping sites, individuals’ homes, etc. There are even places like castles and boats.

It is common for travelers to refer to this type of trip as “volunteering”, but the exchange doesn’t always have social purposes. If you want to volunteer for a cause, you can use the filters “Social impact” or “Eco program”, but there are also many opportunities under the filter “Work exchange”, which typically take place in small businesses in the hospitality industry.

The types of work that can be performed also vary greatly, depending on the needs of each host and on your skills. These are skills you may already have or, depending on the position, that you may want to develop. I’ll delve deeper into this further below.

2. What is Worldpackers?

Founded by two Brazilian friends, Worldpackers is a work exchange platform created to connect those who need help with some tasks at their small business, home or non-profit (the so-called hosts) to people who want to make their trip cheaper and more interesting by offering some help (referred to as volunteers, “worldpackers” or simply travelers).

The company was created in 2014. Since then, they have built a community with millions of travelers and hosts in over 140 countries. Their purpose is “to democratize meaningful travel experiences through a collaborative mindset”.

worldpackers homepage

3. How does Worldpackers work?

Now let’s get to the title of this post: how Worldpackers works. It’s actually quite straightforward. Anyone can access the website and explore the vacancies for free, using filters to narrow down the results.

Broadly speaking, it goes like this: you create a profile on the platform and look for one or more opportunities that interest you.

Hosts must describe the conditions of the exchange on their vacancy announcement page on the website, which also has a section where other travelers who have already been there write reviews about the place.

Once you’ve chosen one or more position that you like, you make sure your profile is complete, then send an application to the host. You can also talk to them via the site’s messaging system to clear any doubts.

After that, the host decides whether to accept you and, if so, you decide whether to confirm the trip. Then you just need to arrive at the place on the agreed date.

4. Why should you do a work exchange?

“But should I work on my vacation or sabbatical? What’s the point?”, you may ask. Of course, the specific purpose of the trip is personal, but a work exchange can be very interesting for several reasons, such as:

Save money

I bet the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is the money, since traveling with Worldpackers makes you save on accommodation costs.

But even in this financial aspect, the advantage doesn’t stop there. You can also save money on food, because many hosts offer one or more meals per day or give you access to an equipped kitchen.

The impact of this on your travel budget is usually huge. Together, accommodation and food usually make up around 70% of a traveler’s expenses.

Most hosts also give you access to free Wi-Fi and laundry, and some of them lend you bikes to get around the city and give discounts on tours and events, among other extra perks.

Not to mention the possibility of getting lots of tips from locals, which helps you spend much less than a regular tourist. Traveling with Worldpackers is amazing for those on a budget, especially on long trips.

Live like a local

The advantages of exchanging work for accommodation go far beyond savings. This is also a perfect choice for those who like to travel slowly, staying longer in each destination and immersing themselves in the local culture.

After all, traveling with Worldpackers generally means you spend more time in each destination than a regular tourist. Consequently, you have the chance to visit less touristy spots and mingle with local people.

Having a routine in a different city is one of my favorite things – much more than seeing tourist attractions while rushing from one place to another.

Make friends

I dare say that this is my favorite part: this type of exchange is great for those who want to meet interesting people and spend quality time with them.

One of my trips through Worldpackers, during a 4-month backpacking trip through Europe, had precisely this focus. After traveling alone for a couple of months I wanted to have a group of friends to hang out with more consistently for a while. So I went volunteering in a hostel in Budapest and had the best time – I even met one of my best friends there, who I’ve traveled with in my home country (Brazil) and in his home country (India) since then.

Many experiences of this type allow you to spend time with locals, while in others you meet people from all over the world. And this even applies to projects within your home country. If you volunteer in a hostel in a touristic city, for example, it’s easy to make friends from all over the world and learn about different cultures.

Practice skills or learn new things

Another reason to travel with Worldpackers is to practice skills you already have or develop new talents. Which can even be a cool way to gain work experience in a career you’re just starting out in, for example.

During my trips with Worldpackers I met a guy who wanted to be a photographer and took photos of an eco-project to build a portfolio and a girl who worked in a hostel cafeteria because she wanted to open her own café.

I also did it myself: since I’m a journalist and copywriter, after volunteering in Paraty (Brazil) with social media planning for a B&B I added it to my résumé.

Furthermore, this is a great way to learn things that are completely new to you, like permaculture or cooking, even if just out of curiosity.

I loved spending two weeks in a small town in France helping my hosts with gardening because I had zero experience with it, so I learned a lot. Before traveling, I made sure that the hosts were ok with the fact that I had no prior knowledge of gardening, and they were pleased to teach me what was needed.

Give more purpose to your trip

There are also many people who choose to travel with Worldpackers because they are looking for a purpose for their travels that goes beyond tourism.

This can be working as a volunteer in an NGO, but also in any other project that has a truly collaborative footprint. After all, sharing knowledge and creating connections with people who are not just passing through makes the experience much richer.

Get out of your comfort zone

Traveling with Worldpackers also helps you get out of your comfort zone if you are open to it. Whether doing a task you’ve never tried before, living in a different place than you’re used to or volunteering with people from diverse cultures, the experience can be transformative. It’s a chance to come across other worldviews and challenge yourself.

And the coolest thing is that there are vacancies for different traveler profiles and to meet different objectives. For example, if your focus is to practice another language, you can look for a place where it is spoken.

If you want to spend time in a more peaceful environment, you can search for an ecological project in nature or a holistic community. And if the idea is to party a lot, you can apply for a position at a party hostel.

host types

5. What do worldpackers do?

One of the most common questions about how Worldpackers works is in relation to the types of tasks that travelers can perform. You can find many different tasks on the platform, ranging from very specific skills to more generic ones.

These are the most requested roles at Worldpackers:

Welcomeing and helping guests

This type of vacancy basically consists in working at the reception of a hostel, inn, or hotel. Tasks typically include checking guests in and out, taking them to their rooms and answering questions about the accommodation and the city.

Communication and marketing

If you have experience with communication or are good at it, it’s easy to find hosts who need help in the area, especially with digital marketing. Vacancies may involve functions such as social media management, graphic design, photography, and video.

As I mentioned, I have professional experience in this area and that’s what I chose to do while volunteering at the Budapest Budget Hostel, in Hungary, and at Pousada Brunello, in Paraty. It was super easy and a lot of fun.

Entertaining guests

Those who are extroverted and like to party can do very well entertaining guests. Yes, it seems too good to be true, but several hostels around the world need volunteers to entertain people! This type of role involves everything from playing instruments to being a guide on walking tours and pub crawls.

Renovating and decorating

Do you have manual skills, experience with renovation and construction or knowledge about decoration? You will find many hosts needing help to fix something or give the place a new look.


Speaking different languages, understanding IT, being good at sports: these are some of the skills you can share with others. There are many vacancies for those who know how to teach something like English or football, especially in social impact projects.

Social work

If you are looking for volunteering for social purposes, some other options are teaching, carrying out artistic projects, helping with administrative tasks, and raising funds.

Nature care

Anyone looking for intense contact with nature can look for initiatives with an ecological footprint. At Worldpackers there are many hosts dedicated to permaculture, bioconstruction, organic farming, and environmental protection.

volunteering with gardening through worldpackers

Kitchen and bar

Do you rock the kitchen or drinks, or do you want to learn? Take the opportunity to work making food, helping the chef, washing the dishes, tending bar, making cocktails, or even defining the menu of an establishment.

Website and SEO improvements

Programming skills are also in high demand at Worldpackers. Many hosts need help to create or adjust websites and improve their SEO.

Household tasks

There are also hosts looking for people willing to do a few hours of household chores, such as cleaning homes and taking care of animals or children.

how worldpackers works - tasks

6. What are the working hours?

Many people ask me how Worldpackers works in relation to the working hours that the hosts require. Once again, it depends on each position.

Generally, hosts ask for something between 15 and 30 hours of work per week, with 1 to 3 days off. In some places, time off is in a fixed day, but it can often be negotiated so you can take a trip around the surrounding area, like I did.

7. What benefits does the traveler receive?

Another important point about how Worldpackers works are the benefits that you’ll get in exchange for your volunteer work. They also vary depending on the vacancy and are described on each vacancy announcement on the platform.

Generally, all hosts offer free accommodation. The exceptions are some projects with social purposes, where a fee may be charged to cover the expenses of your stay. In for-profit hosts, however, you shouldn’t pay anything besides the platform’s yearly fee.

The accommodation conditions, which are described in each vacancy, can also vary greatly. It can be anything from camping tents to private suites, but it’s very common for the traveler to share a room with other volunteers.

how worldpackers works

Besides accommodation, the other most common perk offered by hosts is food. Many hosts offer free breakfast, and some also provide other meals, or make food available for you to cook in their equipped kitchen.

It is also possible to participate in tours or parties for free, in addition to receiving discounts in bars and restaurants. In some cases, hosts personally take volunteers to visit interesting places in the region – that happened to me in France.

Other benefits that can be included are a ride from the airport or bus/train station, language, yoga or sports classes, free use of the laundry room, use of bicycles or surfboards, permaculture courses and holistic therapies.

8. What is not included with Worldpackers?

In general terms, anything that is not mentioned as a benefit is not included in that work exchange position. However, as this is also a common concern from those who ask me how Worldpackers works, I thought it was important to highlight some things necessary for your trip that are NOT offered by the host or the platform. Don’t forget to factor these expenses into your travel budget!

  1. Tickets to the location: hosts do not pay for your flight, train ride, bus ride or whatever means of transport used to get to the work exchange location. Some may pick you up at your arrival station or airport, but this is not a mandatory benefit.
  2. Internal transport: there are also hosts who give volunteers a ride to go to the city from time to time or who provide bikes for free use, when their places are located further away. But in general, internal transport in the work exchange city in your off time is paid by yourself.
  3. Visa: hosts and the Worldpackers platform do not offer assistance with visa applications when traveling abroad. However, since this isn’t paid work, it’s usually possible to travel with a tourist visa.
  4. Salary: the exchange of work for accommodation is based on the concept of exchange and collaboration, with no remuneration involved. The idea is that there is no employment relationship between the traveler and the host, so there is no salary.
  5. Travel Insurance: if you are going abroad, I strongly recommend hiring a travel insurance. In addition to being mandatory to enter some countries, insurance is important to avoid hassles and losses if you become ill or have an accident. However, this expense is also not covered by hosts. I recommend checking out the Safetywing Nomad Insurance, which is perfect for nomads and frequent travelers.

9. How long is each Worldpackers trip?

Another frequent question from those who ask me how Worldpackers works is “how long can I volunteer for?”. Once again, the answer is: it depends.

Each host determines the minimum and maximum length of stay for a traveler and states this on the vacancy page. There are positions available from two days onwards, but the most common is that they ask for a minimum of one or two weeks.

Regarding the maximum time, some hosts place a limit of one or two months. But it is often possible to extend your stay once you’re already there, if there is room for you and the host is interested.

10. Is Worldpackers legit?

You may also be wondering whether Worldpackers is trustworthy. The answer, as you can imagine from what I’ve written so far, is yes. After all, the company is over 10 years old and thousands of people from around the world have had positive experiences through it.

Furthermore, it has a qualified team to aid travelers and an insurance that helps you in case of problems (I’ll talk more about this in a moment).

Another important point is that the site brings together testimonials from travelers, and through this review system you can get references for each host. The platform also allows you to message the people who left reviews to get more detailed information about their experiences.

However, the company cannot control everything that happens between hosts and travelers. If someone does not comply with the established agreement, you can claim the insurance and make a report to the platform. Then their staff judges whether to keep this host in the system or not.

worldpackers' main features

11. What precautions should you take when traveling with Worldpackers?

When I talk about how Worldpackers works I always explain that I usually take some safety precautions when traveling through the platform. In addition to reading reviews from other travelers on the site, I sometimes send them messages to ask specific questions about the host, as I just mentioned.

Additionally, I Google the names of the host and establishment. If it’s a hostel, I also check the reviews of the place on sites like

Another tip is to think of a plan B. Look for other accommodation options in the area to know where to go if things don’t work out as expected. And always let someone you trust know where you are.

Finally, I think it’s important to have a local sim card with data and some money for emergencies.

If this is your first work exchange experience and you’re unsure, why not start close to home? I made my debut on the platform traveling in my home country, and only later did I take a trip like that outside of Brazil.

12. How much does Worldpackers cost?

Anyone can search for opportunities at the Worldpackers platform for free. You can see the announcements, with all their descriptions and traveler reviews. This way, you can figure out if there are opportunities compatible with your desires and priorities in the destinations you want to visit. A free profile also allows you to make a wish list, saving your favorite positions for later.

However, to be able to apply for vacancies and talk to hosts, you need to pay an annual fee. Currently, the basic annual plan costs 49 USD per year, or 39 USD if you click here or use the coupon JANELASABERTAS to get a 10 USD discount.

I think it’s a very fair price. After all, 39 USD is the price of a single night in a shared room in a hostel in various parts of the world. You’ll get your money’s worth even if you only go in one short trip.

Furthermore, the fee is only paid once a year and entitles you to travel with Worldpackers as many times as you want during the next 365 days.

13. Why use Worldpackers?

Another important point about how Worldpackers works is that, in my opinion, traveling through the platform offers several advantages compared to those looking for the same type of exchange on their own. For me, these benefits totally offset the investment in the annual fee.

A platform like Worldpackers makes life much easier for both the traveler and the host. To begin with, it’s great to have all the opportunities compiled on the website in an organized way. So much so that I’ve spent many, many hours just playing around choosing jobs that would interest me on an imaginary trip.

And of course, all this curation work has an operational cost, right? In addition to finding hosts willing to make this exchange, Worldpackers carries out a selection process to see if they meet the minimum criteria required by the platform. This can’t guarantee 100% the security and seriousness of the host, but it helps.

Another benefit of using Worldpackers is having the support of the team, which helps travelers with any questions. And in addition to the staff, it is also possible to ask questions from the community of Experts, who are experienced travelers willing to help other people.

Finally, Worldpackers also offers an insurance. It works like this: if the host doesn’t comply with the agreement, the company reimburses you for the price of another accommodation nearby. This way, if you have problems, you won’t be left in the middle of the street unattended. The amount of the reimbursement depends on the plan you choose.

wp insurance

14. What type of visa do I need to travel with Worldpackers?

The type of exchange carried out through Worldpackers and similar platforms does not constitute work, as there are no monetary exchanges involved between the traveler and the host. The goal of the platform, after all, is not to replace qualified labor from residents with foreigners, but to offer temporary help for specific work or to provide support for the establishment’s main activities.

I think it would be great if there were laws and visas regulating this type of exchange around the world, but they don’t exist yet. In principle, then, it is possible to do a work exchange respecting the limits of the tourist visa.

In countries with strict immigration policies, the recommendation of other travelers is not to mention that you are going to do a work exchange. Since the main purpose of your trip is sightseeing, inform immigration about this. If you talk about “work”, even though you specify it is as a volunteer, your entry may not be authorized.

Some countries, however, have specific visas for volunteering that are not difficult to obtain. If applicable, you can present the confirmation of the trip obtained through the Worldpackers platform after the host accepts your application.

15. Can you earn money traveling with Worldpackers?

As I said, Worldpackers’ proposal does not involve remuneration. Anyone who does a work exchange should not be aiming to make a profit, but rather to make their trip cheaper and live fun and transformative experiences.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make money while traveling. Many people who volunteer through Worldpackers work remotely, either as freelancers or with their own businesses. This is my case, for example, since while I travel, I continue to work on this blog and my freelance clients.

There are also those who use their time off from the work exchange to work at another establishment in the destination, play music on the street, sell food or crafts, etc.

If this is your intention, make sure that the extra work will not interfere with what you have agreed with your host. It’s also worth evaluating whether you won’t get too tired and whether you’ll still have time to enjoy the experience. And don’t forget, of course, to respect local laws.

16. Do I need to speak other languages to travel with Worldpackers?

Do you need to be fluent in the local language? It depends on the vacancy. For many opportunities abroad, especially when the role requires contact with the public, English is enough. But for some vacancies a basic or intermediate level of the local language will be required.

After all, fluency is not necessary to make beds, take care of plants or clean bathrooms, for example. But the more languages you speak well, the more opportunities you will have and the more chances of being accepted into competitive positions.

It is worth mentioning that many people use work exchange precisely to learn or practice a foreign language. For this, my advice is to go to an environment where this language is actually spoken on a daily basis.

For example: if you want to go to France to practice your French, it may not be ideal to work at the reception of a hostel in a big city, where most of the conversations will probably be in English.

hostel reception

17. Do you need to have previous experience with the required task?

The level of experience required varies a lot. There are vacancies that even ask for a portfolio, but there are many hosts willing to teach everything to those who don’t know how to do what they’re asking.

Generally, more specific roles such as programming, photography and construction require some level of knowledge. Less specialized tasks, such as cleaning and tidying, usually require nothing more than willingness.

I’ve already done a work exchange both in my area of professional expertise (communication) and in gardening, which was something completely new for me.

The important thing is to be clear about the prerequisites when applying for the position. After all, an important aspect about how Worldpackers works is the need for honesty and commitment from both parties. Don’t lie about your skills!

18. How do I look for a position at Worldpackers?

Finding a good position on Worldpackers is not difficult at all. In fact, it’s so easy that I’ve spent hours and hours saving interesting opportunities to my wish list to maybe sign up one day. This is because the platform has a wide variety of options and a filter that allows you to view only what corresponds to your interests.

To get started, go to the Worldpackers website and click on “Volunteer Opportunities” item. Using the menu, you can greatly customize the search. You can, for example, choose to see all available vacancies in a specific city, or filter only by country or continent.

You can also select the type of trip you want to take (Work Exchange, Social Impact or Eco Programs) and the skills that you have, such as Social Media, Reception or Gardening.

Furthermore, you can view projects according to the period you have available to travel. In this case, the platform only shows hosts who need travelers for that month.

When something interests you, just click on the vacancy to see the full page with the project description. There you will find information such as working hours, tasks to be performed, minimum and maximum period of stay, the benefits offered by the host, type of accommodation, weekly days off, etc.

On this same page you can also see the host’s average score, testimonials from those who have already volunteered on that project and photos of the place. The host’s average response rate also appears, which is especially useful if you’re looking for a last-minute opportunity.

Think about whether that vacancy is aligned with your goals for this trip, whether you can really offer what is being asked for and whether you think that the benefits are compatible with the amount of work required.

you can relax on your free time

19. How can I be accepted for an opportunity?

So, you found some amazing vacancies, but are afraid of not being accepted? If you understand how Worldpackers works and think carefully about your application, it is very likely that you will get the position you want.

Here are some tips to increase your chances of being chosen even in the most competitive opportunities:

Choose vacancies carefully

Look for something that really interests you and that you feel capable of doing. The more that opportunity suits you, the easier it is for you to explain this to the host. And, consequently, it will be easier for him to be convinced and accept you.

Always write a personalized message

Never copy and paste the same message to multiple hosts. When the text is ready and formatted to work with any host, it gives the impression that you don’t have a special interest in that project. Show why this opportunity is particularly interesting to you and why you will value it if selected.

Explain how you can contribute

Talk about how you can contribute to the host. What elements of your background, your current life, your personality etc. match what they are looking for?

Show who you are

Furthermore, it’s worth talking about more personal aspects: explain why you’re traveling and where you’ve been before, talk briefly about interesting life experiences, etc. After all, the Worldpackers experience goes beyond exchanging work for accommodation: stories and experiences are also exchanged.

Be flexible if you can

If you can be flexible regarding the dates and tasks you will perform, you will earn more points, because it makes the host’s life easier. Just don’t forget to be realistic: don’t promise anything that you can’t do.

Proofread your application

You don’t need to write a masterpiece, but it is important to communicate clearly and at the same time sympathetically. Also try to be concise, because the host probably won’t have time to read a super long text.

Don’t forget about your profile

In addition to the application, the host can also view your complete profile on the Worldpackers platform. The more information they have about you, the better. It’s worth it to take the time to create a cool profile.

Make extra effort when necessary

There are some vacancies that are more competitive than average. In this case, it is worth doing extra preparation to stand out from other candidates. You can, for example, record a video introducing yourself.

If the position is for a specific task, such as improving the company’s website, you can already list some points that you would improve, for example. Get creative and show why you’re a great candidate.

Pay attention to the host responses

Imagine being accepted for that position you wanted so much and missing the opportunity because you didn’t see the host’s response? Check your email, visit the Worldpackers website daily or download the app and activate notifications. This way, you guarantee that you will respond on time.

Do you still have questions about how Worldpackers works? Have you ever done this type of work exchange? Tell me in the comments section! And don’t forget to use the JANELASABERTAS discount coupon to save 10 USD off the yearly plan.

digital nomadism

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. When you use them, I earn a small commission to keep producing free, good-quality content and you don’t pay anything extra. In some cases, like with Worldpackers, you even get a discount! Transparency is a core value here.


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