Australia can be expensive – this is something that international visitors, particularly backpackers, find out pretty quickly: compared to other countries. And in no space is this costliness more acute than in real estate. Australia’s two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are the third and fourth most expensive property markets in the entire world.
Renting and even hostelling while you tour the country can therefore become a big drain on your funds, money that could otherwise be spent on fun and adventure! But what if there was a way to travel Australia and live rent-free?
If you’re willing to get your hands a bit dirty, there is! By getting involved in a Help Exchange, you can swap a little bit of work for a comfy bed, and maybe more.
What is a Help Exchange?
Some people, particularly in small and rural businesses, could use an extra set of hands from time to time. The problem is there may not be enough work to warrant taking on a paid worker, even in a part time capacity.
A Help Exchange, otherwise known as a work stay, work away or WWOOFing, looks to solve this problem. The idea is that you offer a little bit of daily help around the property or business, a few hours a day at most, in return for a bed, some meals or other non-cash payments. In a legal sense this is considered voluntary work, though the rewards for the worker, particularly in such an expensive country, can be great.
It’s slightly different to Couchsurfing, where a bed is offered without the hosting expecting anything in return. This is a more equitable value exchange – one in which you earn that bed, that beer, that breakfast… whatever it is that you’ve agreed to trade your labour for.
How do I find a Help Exchange?
While many work exchanges are organised through personal referrals, like word being passed around a hostel that this person needs that help, there is a way to lock in a free bed that isn’t so reliant on you being in the right place at the right time.
Backpacker Job Board’s Help Exchange category brings together a wealth of work away opportunities for anyone looking to explore Australia on a budget, from local adventurers to international backpackers. It’s simply a matter of scrolling through the listings by location and finding an opportunity that suits.
You’ll be put in direct contact with the person in need of help, and if you’re the right fit, you could be enjoying rent free accommodation in exchange for work in a matter of days or even hours!
Who are Help Exchanges suited to?
The beauty of Help Exchange is that they are for any and everyone! Whether you’re from one town over or the other side of the globe, they’re a great way to explore the country, to meet great people and to help out where you can, all while saving money.
In a country like Australia, to work in exchange for housing can be a particularly good deal. If you get to feel good while you do it, that deal is made so much sweeter.
How does work exchange work?
Help Exchanges allow travellers to trade a few hours of daily or weekly work for non-cash payments, most commonly accommodation, but also meals, drinks and other benefits.
Is this safe?
In a general sense, Australia is quite a safe country. But by using a service like Backpacker Job Board to lock in your Help Exchange, you have the added security of knowing that the details of your arrangement have been logged by a third party, and that if anything were to go wrong, you have proof. You can also look at the profile of the poster, and conduct a bit of due diligence before you accept the role. We recommend that you read our safety guidelines, do your research before accepting and use your common sense.
Is there an upfront fee?
The beauty of Help Exchanges is that they are cash-free – these are genuine, old-school, barter-style trades. Workers also won’t need to pay a fee for using Backpacker Job Board – it’s totally free!
How can I work and travel for free?
Help Exchange/ work exchange/ WWOOFing is a fantastic way to explore Australia, and depending on your arrangement, it may even allow you to do it for free! If you’re lucky enough to secure accommodation and all your meals in return for a bit of work, you could live for weeks without spending a cent!
Do you get paid?
The definition of a work exchange is that you trade your labour for non-cash payment: things like accommodation, food, drink and transportation. That said, there are instances in which the proprietor might give you a bit of pocket money – perhaps for doing a little more work than expected, or for doing a really good job. These instances are the exception however: as a rule, a work exchanger shouldn’t expect any cash payment for their work.
Do you need a work visa?
This is a complicated question. Visitors on tourist visas are allowed to get involved in Help Exchanges, provided it’s not the primary reason for their trip. If you arrive in Australia with a Help Exchange already organised, you may be refused entry into the country. You also shouldn’t work in commercial enterprises, sticking to less formal work like on hobby farms. The work also must be genuinely voluntary, meaning a little bit of pocket money could land you in a whole lot of trouble. If you’re on a tourist visa you need to be careful, but if you’ve got a 417 or 462 visa, the world of Help Exchange is your oyster!