Traveling with Worldpackers: your top questions answered
New to Worldpackers and want to use this website to take the adventure of a lifetime? You're in luck. If you need a basic but thorough introduction to using Worldpackers to travel, read on!
Sep 25, 2019
Since she was born in California, USA, Madelyn has been traveling one way or another-- her love for exploring new places and cultures to share them...
First, let's start with a basic understanding of what Worldpackers is — whether you've randomly discovered this site or had it recommended by a friend, you're probably wondering what exactly it is, and how it works. As both a user and promoter of Worldpackers, I'm here to give you my best explanation of what this website is and how it works!
So, what is Worldpackers?
Worldpackers provides travelers with access to what is essentially a database of hundreds of hosts all over the world who are looking for short and long-term volunteers.
If you're looking to travel on a budget and are willing to commit to somewhere between a week and three months of volunteering, Worldpackers can set you up with a host who will provide you with free lodging (plus other potential perks, like meals, tours, bicycle-access, and parties — just to name a few!).
That means that by becoming a member, you have access to a whole year of free places to sleep while you travel, for just a small membership fee!
By exchanging a few hours per day of your time, skills, and effort for a host, you can gain much more than simply a less expensive way to travel — but a richer life experience as well. You'll also become part of the worldwide community of people who travel with Worldpackers — people who believe that travel is a universal right accessible through the power of collaboration. This is what it means to be a Worldpacker!
It sounds too good to be true! Is it even real?
I can assure you that yes, Worldpackers.com is a real thing!
I've used it personally to create the trip of a lifetime for myself, and so can you!
Last summer, I was looking to gain some experience as a receptionist, as well as a platform to expand my travel writing and become a freelance writer. I found two hostels in Scotland looking for reception work and housekeeping, and my journey began — I became a member of Worldpackers, applied for the positions I wanted, and once I was accepted I embarked on the experience of a lifetime!
I got to trade four to six hours of volunteer work each day in exchange for a free place to stay (with at least one guaranteed day off each week). Without Worldpackers, there's no way that I’d have been able to live abroad for nearly three months — but with the cost of lodging out of the way, my dreams were able to become reality, even on a tight budget!
My hosts gave me even more than a free place to sleep and live: they gave me a temporary little home and family in the hostels I came to love, and the ability to experience Scotland on a more intimate level than I had ever expected!
So, now that you are sold on the idea of traveling with Worldpackers, you're probably asking yourself the following questions:
- "How do I start? How does this website work?"
- "How do I decide which host is best for me?"
- "What is the membership payment for? Is it worth paying?"
- "How do I apply for a volunteer position?"
- "Can Worldpackers help me get a visa or pay for my travel?"
- "Can I apply to a position with my friend so we go together?"
While this isn't a fully comprehensive guide to using Worldpackers, here are my best answers to these top questions I'm often asked as a Worldpackers Expert.
Traveling with Worldpackers: your top questions answered
1. "How do I start? How does this website work?"
The most frequent question I get from people new to Worldpackers is this. I answer a lot of messages from people who want to know how to get started, but are overwhelmed by the choices they find here!
My suggestion is always this: first, browse through all the different opportunities offered here. The world is at your fingertips, so do some exploring!
Check out the ever-expanding library of articles written by fellow travelers and other Worldpackers experts, too! You'll discover a wealth of information in the "Community Blog" section of the website that will help you greatly in understanding more about travel in general, as well as give you some helpful tips for using Worldpackers to see the world and save money while traveling.
Whether you are an experienced traveler or not, explore your options!
Maybe the idea of learning permaculture doesn't excite you very much... but look at a few eco volunteer positions anyway! See what is available to you, and read reviews from other travelers who have stayed with the hosts you are interested in.
You will get a good feel for what you can expect, and you may even discover something that draws you to it even more than your original plan! I started out in this same way, and I'd do it again! I recommend this as the best way to get started to see if Worldpackers is right for you.
Next, as you browse your options, start "favoriting" the ones you like the best. This will allow you to save these hosts on a list that you can return to as you narrow the vast pages of possibilities down to the ones you can really see yourself participating in.
(All you need to do is click on the little heart you will find on the opportunity's page. This will save a host to your favorites list.) As you browse, you can add filters to your search to find positions based on the country you wish to travel to, the amount of time you wish to volunteer there, and the skills they are looking for in participants.
2. "How do I decide which host is best for me?"
The answer is different for everyone. Some people want to find a place where they can learn a new skill to add to their resume/CV when they get back home. Others, like me, want a place where they can use and develop skills they already have, while still having plenty of free time to explore a new country and live like a local while traveling.
When I was dreaming up my own Worldpackers trip, I knew I wanted a quiet place to get away from the stress of life. With this in mind, I chose two peaceful hostels in small towns, one near the sea and one near the mountains.
I knew I didn't want to stay in a big city hostel where I would have to put up with pub crawls, rowdy roommates, and late nights! At the same time, I knew I wanted to be able to meet people and see the country on my days off: so I opted for the hostel experience (instead of farm work), and made sure there was a good bus system nearby!
Consider these 10 questions to ask before traveling with a work exchange. If you're still uncertain, check out these 7 modern sabbatical ideas with Worldpackers. Once you're feeling inspired and ready-to-go, use the following three steps to help you find the host that's best for you.
Decide what kind of trip you want to have, how many hours you want to work, and the type of environment that will suit your needs. This will ensure that you have the best possible experience on your trip!
Once you find a few places that you can see yourself visiting, and are getting exited about specific hosts that you’ve found, it’s time to get serious.
First, you need to create a profile on the website with all the information that a host would want to know about you. If you haven't done this already, get started!
Be sure to give accurate assessments of your skills (don't say you're an expert gardener if you've never even watered a plant before!), and give details about your life experience and any previous travel you've done.
Make sure that people will feel like they know you well by reading your profile.
Don't be afraid to show your personality! This will help you find a good match with a host, and greatly increase the chances that you will be happy when you start your volunteering. They want to pick someone who will be a good fit for their team, and who will add to the experience in positive ways. That looks different for each host... so be yourself!
Once you've created a fantastic profile with a clear picture of yourself (stick with one where they can see your face, like a good selfie rather than a group photo) and lots of information about who you are as a person and worker, it's time to take the plunge... and get out the credit card to pay for a years’ membership so you can apply to those awesome hosts that you are now ready to impress! Although maybe that’s not what you were hoping to hear...
The question you're asking now is guaranteed to be something along the lines of:
3. "What is the membership payment for? Is it worth paying?"
The answer is pretty simple. By paying the membership fee to become a Verified Member, you make it possible for Worldpackers to offer this awesome service to you and others! All of the great things this organization offers you takes people's time and resources! So yes, it's totally worth it!
Need more detail? The services the membership fee pays for includes everything from the typical stuff (maintaining a great website, for example) to the things that are most important for your success as a traveler!
Worldpackers makes sure that hosts are the right kind of people (makes sure they are who they say they are) and that there is reliable and secure support available for travelers if they have a bad experience. That's one of the amazing things about Worldpackers — you have a community of people dedicated to helping one another, and if your host turns out to have been misleading and you find yourself in a bad place, you will have Worldpackers to help you out!
If something goes wrong and the host you go to volunteer for isn't keeping to the arrangement that was made, Worldpackers will help you find another host nearby. Check out this link to learn more about the process of "Worldpackers Insurance."
Not only that, but some of that support is paid for on the pre-travel end of things — so that you can be provided with great travel advice in the form of articles by real Worldpackers like me! And a cool thing about all the content here is that it's all accessible without you having to pay for it before you read it. If all you get from Worldpackers is travel advice, you're getting a fantastic deal!
How much is the membership fee for a year of Worldpackers? The fee to become a Verified Member is currently $49 (US). While it might seem like a large chunk of your hard-earned cash, think about it this way: if you were to spend the whole year (365 days) traveling through Worldpackers, applying and being accepted to new hosts all year, it would cost you a total of $0.13 per night.
We aren't even taking the other perks of a volunteer position into account in this example! If we were to take the cost of staying in the very cheapest hostels available for a whole year, that would come to a total of between $8-$15 per day (depending on where you were staying). That means Worldpackers would be saving you between $3,000 to $5,000 for a whole year of lodging while you travel — at the very least!
I only used Worldpackers for about eight weeks, and it more than paid for itself. At the hostels I volunteered with, each night would have cost me between $21 and $52 for a shared dorm room. For the Worldpackers membership fee of $39 (I was even able to find a discount code for my membership!), I saved $1,640 by volunteering with Worldpackers! That's just $0.69 per night, folks.
It's an amazing deal when you think about it!
4. "How do I apply for a volunteer position?"
Remember all those hosts you added to your “favorites” list while browsing your options? It’s time to write to the hosts and let them know you’re interested!
When you click on any given listing, you'll see a button you can click to apply for it. When you apply to volunteer in a certain position, you will need to tell the host your travel dates — the day you wish to start your volunteering, and the day you wish to end it.
It's important that you more or less know when you want to volunteer with them before you apply. Hosts only need a certain number of volunteers at any given time, so they will not be able to accept everyone who applies... and that is why you want to stand out, not only in your profile (which hosts will definitely look at), but also in your actual application.
When you apply for a position, there will usually be several questions you are expected to answer. The host will often ask you an "ice-breaker" question, just for fun. Answer honestly — there isn't really a right or wrong answer for that one! (I got asked what my favorite kind of weather was.) The host may also ask you why you want to apply for their experience. A good rule to follow is to break up your answer into these three categories:
- Write why you think it would be fun to volunteer with them. Example: you like the location or think the photos they posted on their page make it look like a fun place to work, where you will meet a great team of people.
- Write why you think you will be useful and a good fit for that position and environment. For example, if it involves housekeeping, you should mention your relevant cleaning skills and previous experience. Don't be shy to tell the host why you would help make them successful — tell them why they will love having you!
- Write what you would look forward to learning from working with them. Example: a hostel wants someone who can do laundry, reception, and bartending — and you mention that while you have experience in cleaning and customer service, you've always wanted to try your hand at mixing drinks, and that you'd love to learn to be the best bartender ever!
If you have questions for the host, it’s important to take the time to ask them now, before you've made your travel arrangements to volunteer with them. (Check out these 20 questions to ask your Worldpackers hosts before you commit). Just make sure you know as much as you possibly can before you ask, though — hosts don’t like to have to repeat information that they have already made public, and if you ask them what meals they are providing for you when they've already said they will feed you breakfast and lunch, it will tell them you don’t pay attention!
Don't be afraid to ask questions! Good hosts do like you to ask questions if you have them, though, so don’t be afraid to ask. It shows that you are taking an interest and are putting a lot of thought into making a commitment to them— which can only increase the chances of both of you getting along with one another!
The more detailed you are and the more you show your personality, the more chances you have of being accepted — it’s that simple! Show your passion, be honest about your experience, and then hope for the best!
And don't get upset if you aren't accepted to the first few places you apply to. It's probably not because the host didn't like you as a person: they could have had enough help already, or it could be the "off-season" for their listing, when they don’t need anyone at all!
It's even possible that they were so busy that they didn't even see your application before it expired. That happened to me, but I didn't panic: I applied a second time to the same hostel — and then, when they finally had time to look at their listing, they accepted me!
Understand that every host will have a different interviewing process. Some may only want you to answer the initial questions they ask in the application, and you won't meet them until you show up for the start of your volunteer work. Others may want to interview you by video chat through Skype or WhatsApp, and applying will take longer. This is left up to each host.
Just so you know, some hosts charge an extra fee for you to come stay with them. While they are allowed to do this (as some are social impact groups that may have a fee in order to be able to provide you with food), they are supposed to put this information in the listing, so that you are not surprised by needing to give anyone money when you arrive. If you want to make sure, or know exactly how much they charge, feel free to ask during the interview process so you aren't surprised!
Once you and the host have communicated, if they decide to take you on, they will send you a confirmation. Once you confirm the trip also, you are ready to go and meet them on the agreed-upon date!
Now that you understand how most of this works, let's move onto the final two most-asked questions:
5. "Can Worldpackers help me get a visa or pay for my travel?"
Unfortunately, no. Each traveler is responsible for making their own travel arrangements, payments, and for getting their own travel documents in order.
That means that you'll need to look into what kind of travel visas you will need to be let into the country for your trip, and go about getting them, on your own. While we wish we could, the Worldpackers team is not able to help travelers with any of the things on the list below:
- Legal procedures, such as the issue of visas, passports, etc.;
- Invitation-letters or other documents;
- Transportation and tickets to the host or other destinations;
- Travel costs and/or financial problems during the stay.
6. "Can I apply to a position with my friend so we go together?"
This is a question Worldpackers Experts get asked a lot. It seems like a really great idea to travel with someone you already know — and traveling as a couple (whether you're friends or romantically involved) can be even more amazing when you are volunteering somewhere together. It can definitely be a wonderful way to deepen relationships!
Worldpackers offers a Couple and Friends Plan which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like — a plan for a couple or two friends who are traveling together!
To purchase the Couple and Friends Plan, you'll need to become a Verified Member and pay a one-year fee of of $59 (paid once and valid for one year).
Once you make the payment for the Couple and Friends Plan, you must note the name and email of the person who will be traveling with you. Your guest will only become a Verified Member after accepting your invitation, upon which your plan will officially be verified for both of you!
Once verified, you can apply to any host that accepts doubles. Remember that it's only possible to apply for volunteer positions if both profiles are completed and if both of you fulfill the characteristics required on the position description.
When a host pre-approves you, both of you will receive the notification, but only one of you need to confirm with the host so that the trip for the two of you is confirmed.
If you do not plan on purchasing the Couple and Friends Plan but want to travel as a couple through Worldpackers, you and your traveling buddy must each have your own accounts and profiles, and each of you will need to apply to the host separately.
This means that you will both have to pay the individual membership fees. It's important to remember that hosts need to know exactly who is coming to work with them. While you may know your partner really well, the host doesn't, and they will need to see both of your profiles to figure out if it will be a good fit!
Once you both have your own profiles and memberships, you can apply to the host you are hoping to travel to. Both of you will need to apply separately — be sure to request the same dates, and make it clear in your application that your travel is conditional on the other person being accepted as well. Give them the full name (as it matches your partner's profile) so they know who you are hoping to travel with, just in case they have a ton of applications and aren't sure.
Some hosts do not accept pairs of travelers. While everyone has their own reasons for this, one of the main ones is that when people travel with a friend, it can be hard for them to integrate well into an international team of single travelers, and it can cause an awkward dynamic in the group. If the host you want to visit doesn't take pairs of travelers, respectfully go on to the next host rather than trying to change their mind.
It's best to be open minded and flexible when you apply. Some hosts might not be interested in pairs of travelers while others might be really excited to have you — you'll just need to go for it and see what happens!
Still have questions?
If you still have questions, here is the link to the FAQ's (super helpful for policy stuff).
If you don't find an answer there, feel free to contact any of our Experts — we will be happy to answer your travel questions and help you have the best Worldpackers travel experience possible!