WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a network of national organizations. Their goal is to help volunteers to arrange placements on organic farms. Many people tout WWOOFing as a cheap way to travel, but how much does it cost to WWOOF in reality? Everyone’s experience (and therefore costs) will be different. That said, this post outlines five types of costs that you are likely to incur in addition to membership. Rough estimates are given where available.
Do You Have to Pay for WWOOF?
To get involved with WWOOFing, the first thing you have to pay for is WWOOF membership. All other costs depend on your exact trip. You should definitely plan to pay for travel and entertainment. WWOOF hosts provide room and board as part of the exchange.
How Much Does WWOOF Membership Cost?
WWOOFing membership varies around the world. In the USA, for example, there are two option. You can pay $40 for a single WWOOF membership or $65 for a joint WWOOF membership. Joint memberships are suitable if you wanted to WWOOF with a partner or friend. Membership lasts a year and entitles you to undertake unlimited WWOOFing trips, along with other benefits. Make sure you look out for special events that might get you a discount code. WWOOF-USA offers a webinar on a regular basis, and attendees get a discount code at the end of that.
What Other Costs Should I Bear in Mind?
As mentioned, if you’re wondering how much it costs to WWOOF, you have to bear in mind the gamut of costs that you could incur. It is, after all, not just your membership that you have to pay for when WWOOFing. Here are some other costs to bear in mind.
1. WWOOFing Gear
I use the term ‘WWOOFing gear’ loosely here. That is because in reality there isn’t that much you need to get started WWOOFing. What is key, of course, is having the right clothing and footwear. It’s likely the host will provide the rest (or most) of what you need. To get some decent work clothes, you could go all out and spend hundreds kitting yourself out for an entire season. Or you could spend just a few dollars at a thrift store. Whatever you choose, I’d recommend you don’t skimp out on sturdy footwear and weather-protecting outerwear, though. The last thing you want is soggy cold feet and wind-battered skin from working outside all day! Spend a hundred dollars or so on some decent boots and a weather-proof jacket and you should have the basics covered.
Another thing to bear in mind is your sleeping arrangements. Some hosts provide comfortable king-sized beds with all sheets and towels provided. Others will make available a nice patch of grass for you to pitch your own tent. You really need to be prepared for everything! If you’re not sure, ask your host what you need to bring. Remember, too, to bring things like mosquito nets if you’re going somewhere exotic! If you’ve got a trip on the horizon, make sure you check out my list of 15 items that you’ll probably forget to pack (bet you hadn’t thought of #1 yet, but you should)!
Quite obviously, you are going to need to get to your farm once you’ve actually arranged a trip. If you are WWOOFing internationally, these costs are likely to be higher than if you are WWOOFing in your own country, but there are exceptions of course. If you plan far enough in advance, you can secure some great deals on tickets so it’s worth reaching out to hosts a few months ahead of your intended trip if you have a long way to go.
Some WWOOFers find that buying a multi-trip train pass for the year is a very affordable way to get from farm to farm. You could get an eight-segment Amtrak pass for less than four hundred dollars, for example! It’s definitely worth checking out! Finally, don’t forget that the little travel costs add up, too. A local bus here, a taxi there, a train ride to a nearby town… think of these things in advance and budget as generously as you can so you can experience the local area.
3. Immigration Costs
This one doesn’t come up very often, but if you’re planning to go WWOOFing abroad, make sure you take immigration costs into account! Your costs could vary from a few dollars for a one-time entry stamp to hundreds (or even thousands) for a working visa, so take care to figure all this out before you make other plans. Always seek professional advice on immigration if you’re concerned about what you are and are not allowed to do work-wise in a new country. Sometimes, you even need special permits or visas for volunteering. If you need to engage a lawyer to help with immigration, you should budget at least four or five hours worth of their time (at least $500 in most countries).
The usual WWOOFing arrangement is 4-6 hours of work a day for five days a week. That leaves plenty of time for entertainment! Entertainment could mean snuggling up by the fire with a nice book. Or it could mean a trip to a nearby pub for some well-earned calories. However you like to entertain yourself in your downtime, make sure you’re budgeting for it. WWOOF hosts may well provide some entertainment, especially if you’re the only WWOOFer on-site, but at the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to pay for it. Most WWOOFers are too tired at the end of the day to go crazy with entertainment, but it’s nice to have some cash set aside for luxuries here and there.
When you love the work you do, it doesn’t feel like work. For that reason, there are times your WWOOFing trip may feel like a welcome vacation! If that’s the case, you might want to pick up some souvenirs to remember your trip by. Or to give as gifts, of course! If you’re in Vermont, don’t miss the maple syrup! In California? How about a nice bottle of Napa wine? Wherever you end up, there will be some local treats to bring home, so put something aside for those, too.
How Long Should I WWOOF?
For many people, costs will determine how long they WWOOF in any given trip or season. If you have some savings and are able to pay for travel to multiple farms in one season, that’s great! Travel as long as you can! But, if like most people, you’re either working part-time during your WWOOF trip (either remotely or locally) or you’re funding your trip with savings, you will need to think carefully about how long to WWOOF. The answer here will of course depend on your own plans, but know that the hosts could easily make this decision for you. If you look through the host profiles on WWOOFing websites, you will see that many have set periods of time that they like to receive volunteers. Placements can vary from a day to a year, so you really have to look for something that fits your plans and your budget!
Do you get paid to WWOOF?
The short answer is ‘no, you don’t get paid to WWOOF.’ The whole point of the WWOOF organization is to link volunteers with organic farms. The critical word there being, of course, ‘volunteers’. Volunteers should expect to work between 4-6 hours each day for five days a week in exchange for room and board. There are some WWOOF hosts who are able to pay for additional help outside of that arrangement, but you should bear in mind that the assumption will be that no money changes hands while you are on your WWOOF placement.
Does WWOOF Pay for the Plane Ticket?
You should assume you are to pay the full costs of your own travel to the farm, including air travel. Many WWOOF hosts will be happy to help with transport from a nearby station or airport back to the farm, but WWOOFers should expect to pay for all other travel.
So, How Much Does It Cost to WWOOF?
The slightly unsatisfactory conclusion here is that ‘it depends’. When you start thinking about a new WWOOFing trip, costs are likely to be high on your list of concerns. And this is completely normal. The good news, though, is that with some careful planning you can budget for your trip and be left with some spending money to enjoy the local sites!