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If you’re new to the world of work stays and volunteering and you want to find out if the WorkAway platform is safe, you’ve come to the right place.
First off, WorkAway is one of the largest online platforms for listing volunteer placements. It’s a site that has hosts from around the world and travellers from just as many countries who are eager to get out on a new adventure.
But if you’re a newcomer to the travelling world and have never volunteered before, how do you know if this specific platform is safe for users?
In order to see whether or not this platform is suitable for your own travel experience, you should first read its safety features to make sure you’re comfortable with using them. When you’re aware of its features you’re able to make a much more informed decision.
So, let’s take a look to see how safe WorkAway is for its users. What measures do they have in place to help give peace of mind to travellers (and hosts) who use their site?
Not every country will allow volunteering on a tourist visa. This means you should always check the rules of your destination country before travelling.
Just be aware it can be expensive to use some banks from home overseas. So, when you need to transfer money or check exchange rates during your overseas trip, consider using Wise. They have competitive rates and an easy-to-use app.
First, What is WorkAway?
WorkAway is a website that helps travellers connect with hosts to participate in volunteering placements and work stays. It has a monthly subscription and has many features to help streamline your volunteering experience. Is it worth the cost?
What is a work stay? Well, it is a type of volunteering opportunity between travellers and locals of their tourist destination in exchange for free accommodation.
The host has tasks that they need help with and they have a spare room or a bed in their property for a guest.
The guest (traveller) has free time and wants to have an authentic travel experience with locals and wants to save money.
The two parties join forces to create a mutually beneficial agreement. The host receives help to complete their tasks, and the travellers get to help the local community in exchange for free accommodation.
Want some volunteering inspiration? Check these out:
- Why you should volunteer in a hostel & how to do it
- Working as a Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary volunteer
How WorkAway keeps users safe
Before diving in and applying for your first volunteer opportunity with WorkAway, you probably want to see what measures the website has in place to keep users safe.
The great news is this platform takes user safety very seriously. Let’s see what ways they benefit their users to feel they can use them with confidence.
Review Feedback System
WorkAway has a great review system that allows both parties to review each other. What this does is allow future guests and hosts to see if they are suitable to go into an agreement with.
For example, if you have a host that gave a traveller an extremely different experience from what the host had written in their placement description, the traveller can let future guests know. This can help travellers decide if they would like to apply for the same opportunity or not. It’s a great way to keep everyone in the loop of expectations.
On the flip side, if a traveller who is signed up to come and help refuses to do any of the work expected of them, the host is able to put in the review that the traveller didn’t hold up their end of the agreement. This can then allow future hosts to decide if they would like to risk allowing someone into their home or business if they’re not willing to help out.
The review system is a good way to encourage people to do their part in the WorkAway world so that everyone has the best experience.
All profiles are reviewed
In order to keep the Workaway community as safe as possible, every traveller and host that creates a profile on the site is reviewed. These are manually reviewed by the Workaway customer service team who thoroughly check that everything written is appropriate for the site’s community.
If you create a profile that is too vague, the team will message you and ask you to put more information about yourself in it for hosts to see. You need to include information about who you are, where you’re from, where you are travelling to and some of your interests. This allows the hosts to get to know you a little and see if they are happy to invite you to their placements.
Not only that, but it’s a great way for the community of travellers and other hosts to learn a little about you in advance. It also adds more authenticity to each of the community members.
Everyone is ID-verified
There are 3 ways to verify yourself: Facebook, government ID and email.
Another huge way WorkAway keeps its users safe is by verifying each person who makes a profile. This is a way for the site to make their site more trustworthy for everyone involved. When people are verified, it shows they are a real person as they normally need to securely show ID and a self-portrait showing they are the person in the identification document.
This is how the site tries to prevent scammers and those who could be up to no good. Don’t worry, the website allows you to verify yourself securely without having to email any sensitive data or documents.
Plus, each person who is verified gets a clear badge on their profile (per verification) so that the WorkAway community can see it. This makes it much more likely to be approved for volunteer placements since the hosts can see you’re a real person and will make them feel safe and secure in inviting you. When hosts are verified, it also allows travellers to feel confident in the placements they apply to. It helps keep everyone on WorkAway safe.
Although WorkAway doesn’t sell its own travel insurance, it makes sure to highlight its importance to its users. They recommend a few trustworthy travel insurance brands and show a clear chart showing what each platform offers their customers.
Travel insurance is recommended for those who are going on a trip as it’s a way to have peace of mind that if something goes wrong, you’ll have the help and finances to get things sorted. If you get sick or injured while on your WorkAway placement, you’ll be able to contact your insurance company and (depending on what you paid for in your personal policy) they’ll be able to help you.
Please note: Many insurance policies will be invalidated if you don’t have volunteering on your policy. This means if you get sick or injured on a placement and volunteering isn’t on your policy, they will not be able to help you.
Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.
WorkAway Emergency Help
On the topic of insurance, WorkAway has an emergency help service for those travellers who wind up in a tricky situation. The emergency help service helps those where the host is 100% negligent and not holding up their end of the agreement.
As with any insurance-type product, if you are running into any difficulties you should make sure to contact the WorkAway team first before making any drastic decisions and explain what is happening so they can better support you. In order to qualify for the WorkAway emergency service there are some rules to follow:
- All communication arranging the placement MUST be completed within the WorkAway platform.
- Emergency Help Service is available for a maximum of 3 months for any one placement.
- Travellers get one emergency help service per subscription.
- A specific form must be filled out explaining the situation – AFTER contacting the team.
- If/when approved help, your original payment method is used to fund you.
- If sent to a new accommodation, all receipts must be kept for your emergency help case.
If you want to make sure you can always contact someone for peace of mind, it’s a good idea to have a SIM that works at your destination. A quick and convenient way to do that is by ordering an eSIM that can be ordered and downloaded directly onto your phone.
Customer Service – 24-hour support
If you are a traveller heading out on a WorkAway adventure and something happens, you have the opportunity to contact the customer service line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This gives the website community confidence that no matter what country or timezone you find yourself in, there will always be somebody available to answer your call and help you out of a tricky situation.
If the host double books and no longer has space for you to stay after arriving, the 247 WorkAway staff will be able to help you get somewhere safe and secure for the night. Any questions or queries you may have, they’re able to assist you at any time you contact them.
This can give travellers – and hosts – great peace of mind that if there are any issues during the volunteer placements, they have someone to contact.
Ability to report listings
If a traveller feels they have been severely misled, they are able to report the listing to the customer service team. Generally speaking, things at the placement may be a tiny bit different to what’s listed as some tasks are dependent on season, and the weather among other things. These occasions would not be reported.
However, if a listing is DRASTICALLY different to what’s listed such as unsafe conditions or completely unrealistic expectations, then these would be reported to the WorkAway staff.
When a listing is reported, the staff will remove the listing while they investigate. This prevents other travellers from contacting the host or applying to that specific placement during that time. It’s a great way for the WorkAway staff to keep travellers safe and make sure no one else ends up working at a placement that has any issues.
Is WorkAway Safe? The Final Thoughts
When you look at all of the features above, you can really see that the WorkAway website wants its users to feel safe at all times. They have avenues in place for both travellers and hosts to find out about the people they could join into an agreement with before they’ve even been in contact.