Finding Work while Traveling
If you are new to this travel game, let me fill you in on something.
Finding work while traveling is pretty easy.
If you are interested in finding paid work while traveling, read on. Otherwise check out our guides on work exchange programs like WWOOF, Helpx and Workaway.
If you are interested in immersing yourself in a culture, definitely check out our guides on teaching English anywhere in the world, or more specifically, teaching English in Hong Kong.
One of the best places to find work while traveling? The travel industry!
The Travel Industry (and I’m including the hospitality industry in this as well) is kind of a big deal. People know it. Considering it’s massive size and multifaceted structure, it’s difficult to put an exact number on just how much profit tourism annually accumulates. Most reports put that number somewhere around 1.5 trillion dollars a year. Trillion.
So, travel is a popular industry. And popular industries generate lots of employment opportunities. People like to travel. They like to go on vacation, see new places, try new foods, and get hammered while doing it. This is a good thing though, because the impressive size of this industry is what enables the nomad to do what they do best. To continue traveling. There are a lot a lot a lot a lot of employment opportunities in the travel industry, especially when you link it with the hospitality industry, which , for this section, I am doing.
In this section, we’re going to look at a few different job options.
1) Bars and Restaurants
3) Cruise Ships
Although they can have similar angles, each category will explain different ways to find some work, with or without a Work Visa. There may be other niches of the hospitality industry to find work in, but these three above are proven means to an end, and the information provided here will inform you how to get started.
Bars and Restaurants
Ah yes, the restaurant industry. Personally, we’ve had a long, crazy history together. My first job was bussing tables at an Outback Steakhouse in my hometown in South Florida. Fast forward ten years later, anytime I needed a job or money, it’s typically via this industry. I can smell the booze just thinking about it.
But you know what else I can smell? The cash.
The restaurant/bar industry can be quite lucrative depending on where in the world you are. I’ve traveled and lived extensively across the US, working at dozens of restaurants in three different States. I know this industry well. Heed my advice.
So, if you are traveling in the US, the money is just too good to pass. I saved $10,000 two consecutive seasons in SW Florida working at an independently owned sports bar. If you are looking to travel, move fast, work hard, and play hard, restaurant and bar work may be a match made in heaven.
Outside the US, opportunities still exist, but you need to know what to expect and where to look. I do not pretend to be an expert, as I have never personally tended a bar outside of my home country. But as always, I want to give myself the best chances to find a job while traveling. I’ve researched and accumulated the best information on the web to prepare myself to find this kind of work, just in case.
To Visa or not to Visa
Not the credit card company, I’m referring to the Work visa. Work visas enable you to legally live and work in a country, be on payroll, and guaranteed the minimum wage of the country.
Australia and New Zealand are the exception. These neighboring countries have a stellar system in place that allows citizens of other countries of the world to apply for a seasonal work permit. The process is easy, affordable and completely legitimate. Hell, they basically encourage it. I’ve known plenty of people that have worked seasonal jobs in Australia, mostly in bars or farms. Some people say work is easy to find, other the opposite. But the process still exists and is a very popular way to legally travel and work in a new, exciting country. If you are looking for legal work in Australia or New Zealand, start with BUNAC. They are legit and have a fabulous reputation.
Some country’s work visas are easy to get (New Zealand, Australia) and some are a complete pain in the ass (Europe, South America). But regardless of whether or not you have a Work Visa, finding a job in a bar can still be very simple.
Not looking to travel to the lands down under? I understand. It’s pretty well known that if you want to find work under the table elsewhere in the world, bars are the way to go. Bars have high employee turnover rates, and are typically looking for someone to help out with bar tending or bar backing.
My first experience realizing this was in the Algarve of Portugal, in a town called Lagos.
Lagos (pronounced lah–goosh) is a very very popular tourist town in South Portugal (a country which did quite well in our Must Visit 2016 Guide). It is located near gorgeous beaches, stunning cliffs, and most famously, a hard core party scene. I’ve been to a lot of places and have seen a lot of people party, but Lagos really set the bar high. The bars don’t close til four or five, if at all. The streets are flooded with intoxicated Brits, Americans and Aussies; all frolicking and flirting to the wee hours of the morning.
It’s quite the spectacle.
Lagos was located about 15 miles from the farm I was WWOOF’ing at, so on some weekends, the volunteers and I would hit the town and inevitably become consumed in the madness. And let me tell you, it is absolute madness. In my time there, I met a lot of cool lads and lasses bartending, a lot of which were American or Australian, none of which were legal.
None of them had work visas. None of them were on payroll. Some of them didn’t even have previous experience. It’s just kind of the way it goes in these parts of the world.
This is not isolated to the madness of Lagos. Europe, Australia, SE Asia, the US and parts of South America are notorious for their party scenes, and bar owners will typically hire seasonal, traveling workers… without documentation. It works for both parties. It works for the traveler because they don’t have to worry about paperwork or visas. And more importantly it works for the owner of the bar. He doesn’t have to worry about paying workers high minimum wages, it’s all cash under the table and whatever tips they make. Also, it’s good to have a crew of employees that can relate to and speak the same language as your seasonal customer base. American bartenders serving American tourists speaking English in Portugal. Is it exploitation? Maybe. But it works brilliantly, and both the bar owner and traveler reap the benefits.
Barcelona, Bangkok, Lisbon, Berlin, the Greek Islands, Istanbul, Mexico City, Rio, Medellin. There is an extensive list of places that have reputations for hiring traveling bar workers under the table.
In Lagos, my curiosity got the best of me. I found myself investigating every bar we hopped to and from. By the end, it was clear that bars in Lagos were predominantly employed by visa-less travelers, with one or two full-time native staffers who kept an eye on everything. All of the bartenders I met were either American, Australian and to a lesser extent, British. Obviously, the Brits could work there legally, but the Aussies and Yanks had to do it the old fashioned way, by asking around. If you morally disagree with it, I can understand your perspective, but it’s the world we live in, and at the end of the day it’s helping the bar owners AND travelers with money.
I don’t really have an intensive “how-to” for this section, I’m just presenting you the facts. Do a Google search using any combination of the words bar, job, work, travel, and you will be pleasantly surprised. It’s one of those great unspoken understandings in travel-life. Although never a guarantee, if you search around larger touristy cities for long enough, you will likely find bars looking to hire bartenders that speak the language of their tourist customers.
First Come First Serve
There are a few ways to improve your chances of getting these kind of jobs. In my investigations in Lagos, I was considering finding bar work myself, and spoke with a lot of the bartenders. They all were very open and receptive, equipping me with a few ways to give myself a competitive edge in finding this type of work.
The most unanimous piece of advice was if you were looking for work in a seasonal city or area, to arrive early. As an example, season in Lagos is from May-August. Winter is a little too chilly, and the entire town hibernates, waiting for the next season to roll around. Most of the travelers I spoke with said they arrived before or during the start of season to increase their chances of finding work. A lot of them stated they weren’t even sure if they would stay in Lagos. They were just backpacking, knew they could use some work, asked around, and when they got a position, decided to then stay and rent an apartment, usually with their traveling bar tending piers!
Most also noted that there is a hierarchy within these bar jobs. A lot of them were first hired to promote the bar. Promoting the bar might sound glamorous, but it’s not. These promotional positions require employees to bring customers into the bars, usually by passing out flyers, offering particular deals, and making announcements when the bar was promoting a certain special. It’s not necessarily the most fun of work, but these promotional positions are typically short-lived. After a few weeks proving they were hard workers and going to stick around, would be promoted to bartender.
I have heard this sort of explanation from many a traveler, in many a places. Lagos, Portugal is not an isolated example. This sort of need for traveling bartenders is international. Please, don’t pack up your bags tomorrow and head to _____ because I said you could get a bar job there. But keep in mind that it is always an option, and a phenomenal way to travel and make some money.
Previous experience in bars or restaurants can obviously give you a competitive edge when looking for work. Like me, a lot of people traveling have some experience in the industry, but if you don’t, worry not.
One thing I consistently recommend on this blog is to increase your chances of success, and in terms of bar work, the best thing you can do is educate yourself on basic bartender knowledge. It’s very easy and all available on the web. Teach yourself how to make drinks. The hardest part about bartending can be remembering the ingredients to the millions of cocktails in the world. Do some basic research. Learn the popular drinks. Mojitos. Cosmopolitans. Long Islands. Margaritas. All of them.
If you get this type of job, the majority of your time will be spent pouring beers and shitty shots of cheap tequila, but this sort of preparation could separate you from anyone else looking for the same job. Perhaps, if you are planning a trip in the near future, consider working at a bar in your hometown to familiarize yourself with the job. Or educate yourself in the art of basic cocktails via Youtube or Google. It will build an inherent familiarity of how to prepare alcoholic cocktails.
Bartending can be an intense, demanding job that will require an immense amount of patience. But if you are looking to find some traveling work, and want to plant yourself in the party scene, this is a phenomenal way to do it. You’ll meet a lot of fun, interesting and attractive people…. they just might not remember it the next day.
Further recommended reading http://www.aroundtheworldin80jobs.com/how-get-a-bartending-job-overseas/
Hacking Hostel Work
Bar work and hostel work are going to be pretty similar, so we might go over some of the same information. They are the two best means to find work while traveling. This is because everything that is true about the traveling bar worker, is true of the traveling hostel worker. Hell, sometimes the hostel worker is a bartender, slinging drinks at the hostel’s bar!
Hostels are vital to the modern travelers needs, as they provide an affordable place to crash, while also putting you in close quarters with, and therefore introducing you to, other travelers. They are fun. And if you want work, are a great place to start.
Hostels hire travelers. Period.
Sometimes the job will pay a bit, sometimes the job will pay less than a bit. But work opportunities are all over the world. typically, you will be offered a free place to sleep, and sometimes free food or other amenities.
What sort of work? Administration, front desk, cleaning, tours, bartenders, the list goes on. Similar to bars, hostels want to hire people that speak the language of their customer base, typically English. And agree with it or not, they also want to keep overhead low. Traveler labor comes cheaper.
As opposed to bar work, putting together a CV (International Resume) could be helpful for hostel work. A lot of travelers look to work in hostels, and if you present yourself in a professional manner and seem like you have genuine interest in staying, you increase your potential to find work, and for that work to pay adequately.
Online vs In Person
There are a few websites that specialize in obtaining hostel work, and enable the traveler to directly connect with hostels looking for help. Sites such as hostelmanagament.com, hosteltraveljobs.com and others, offer this, posting job opportunites around the entire world.
As enticing as it may be to solidify employment before you arrive, I typically recommend doing so in person. Finding hostel work online has had mixed reviews, and frankly, there’s less risk involved finding the same work in person. Sometimes potential employers on these sites will leave ads running for weeks after positions have already been filled. Or maybe the hostel and job descriptions don’t match the realities of that hostel and job. You wouldn’t want to go out of your way on your travels for that kind of let down. Don’t screw yourself. Wait for the right time, when you feel the right energy. Travel on, and when you feel you like it somewhere, then apply yourself to find work. Believe me, it’s easier than you think.
If you are absolutely headed to a destination and need guaranteed work, absolutely, go for it. It could certainly work out. But otherwise, I recommend to just travel, and ask as you move along.
When it comes down to it, hostel work is typically a work-for-accommodation type situation, and if it does offer pay, it’s likely to be meager. But, as emphasized thoroughly in NomadsNation, it could lead to opportunities. While backpacking in Cambodia I stayed at Mad Monkey Hostel in Siem Reap. The hostel manager was a cool young guy from the South in the US, and was making decent money managing for his hostel. He began as a backpacker, traveling through SE Asia, liked Siem Reap, wanted to stay for a bit, landed a hostel gig, and eventually it led to further opportunities. Is the money good in American standards? Likely not. But for Cambodia, the man was doing just fine for himself.
This an ad for a work exchange hostel in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. I don’t necessarily promote finding hostel work online, just because of how many opportunities there are to be found in person, but there are definitely opportunities online, and this post highlights my point about future income potential. The ad states…
“We require a minimum of 8 weeks stay and offer Breakfast, Dorm Bed, Internet, Laundry, and drinks in exchange for 6 daily hours of work. This is work exchange with the possibility of pocket money after 8 weeks to be negotiated.”
Breakfast, dorm bed, internet, laundry and drinks! That is taking a lot of stress off of your personal finances. The ad clearly states it’s a work exchange, not a paid job, but exchanges can be a good thing. Realistically you would just have to pay for whatever bills you have (insurance, phone) and extremely affordable authentic Mexican lunch and dinner. Would you be losing money? Yes. A lot of money? No. Then, notice the offer for pocket money after eight weeks. Opportunity, opportunity.
If you don’t know where Puerta Vallarta is, neither did I, so I google-imaged it.
Um. Yes. Count me in.
Is that ad the perfect solution? Heck no. It’s just another example of the many possibilities you have to prolong your travels.
Hostel work is not something you should rely on for income, but opportunities can certainly present themselves if you position yourself correctly. Think ahead. Be open. Network. Meet people. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask. Finding work while traveling is not for the meek, promote yourself confidently.
Cruise Ship Work
I’ll be honest, I consider myself an expert in most aspects of Independent Travel, but Cruise Ship work is not my strong-suit. Although I’ve looked into the field, it has never been a line of work that I found myself extremely interested in. Lack of interest = Lack of research. But, my semi-mild research has indicated that working on cruise ships can be an absolutely incredible means of traveling the world and getting paid for it, sometimes extremely well.
Like anything, “ship life” will have it’s pros and cons, and it’s own unique set of misconceptions. But like I said, I’m not going to sit here and declare myself an expert. So, if you are interested in this line of work, let me hand you over to the expert. No. The Master.
We love Travel Blogs, and I’ve been very open about my adoration for Derek Baron’s blog WanderingEarl.
His blog is one of our highest recommendation for Travel Blogs, and if you are interested in working on Cruise Ships, his site offers a Pandora’s worth of information. He traveled the world for five years working for Cruise Ships as a tour manager, was able to travel the world, and save an impressive amount of money in the process.
Mr. Baron wrote an extremely popular eBook “Get Paid to Travel; Work on a Cruise Ship.” It’s 175 pages of invaluable information on how to obtain work in this industry, for only $25. I receive no commission, just want to pair you up with the best and most relevant information to satiate your nomadic desires.
There it is. A comprehensive guide on finding work while traveling. Have you worked while traveling? Any advice? Any questions? Comment below!