What is it about?
We’ve all been there: you’re falling for a country so much that you’d like to spend the entire summer there (or winter). Here, I will provide a solution to your problem: working at a hostel. You not only get to live in a country and make a decent living, but you also get to meet lots of new cool people, and at the same time, you’re connected to all the touristic events. What’s not to like?
There are lots of people, especially working in hostels, who used to be travelers and then happened to have a crush on some place and remained there. The good news is that there’s an ascending market for jobs in hostels because of the increasing number of people who ask for this kind of service. It’s partly why there are niche hostels, from the very popular party ones to chill-out-hippie and family hostels. Truth is, Europe’s starting to appreciate this kind of accommodation more and more and this translates to more jobs for those who’ve always dreamed of wandering through mother Europe. The ‘deal’ we’re talking about is just as simple as this: search for a hostel in need of more staff, pack, go there and either volunteer (just food and accommodation) or ask for a paid position. Either way, visit for free.
How to make this come true?
First of all, start with the beginning: search on the online platforms. The trick is, and this applies particularly to very famous destinations, there’s a big chance for the hostels in the biggest cities to have listed their working opportunities. Some of the most popular sites to begin your search are HostelWorld, Hostelbookers, Booking.com. Of course, this depends on the competition. If you’re interested in a big city but you’re not looking for work in the peak season, you may not find the offers online. The early summer is the best period to look for hostel jobs, but you can do it sometime else as well.
Either way, if you didn’t find a hostel looking to complete their staff where you want to go, the best solution generator is The European Union Federation of Youth Hostels Associations. According to this institution, the best alternative is looking for individual hostels for summer jobs opportunities, since there is no central database. Among the reasons for which they’re suggesting this, is the fact that some of the hostels which didn’t post their offers online may offer you better opportunities than the ones that did.
So what you should do is just look for hostels and call or email them personally. This way, you communicate that you’re actually interested and this is not just some Sunday idea. And since you’re already perceived as being serious, it wouldn’t kill to let them know a little about your previous experience in anything that’s related to the field, from waitressing to cleaning or customer service. Heck, just tell them you’re willing to work and learn, hostel staff are generally travelers, and they appreciate honesty.
Another thing to be taken into consideration is speaking the language – if not fluently, at least conversationally decent. English is a must, especially if you want to work at reception, but it’s preferred for you to have some knowledge of their own language. It’s both a sign of interest in their culture and a necessity as an employee.
As about the specifics, there are some countries regarding to which you’ll have to ask for information at your consulate or embassy, but it’s really nothing serious to worry about. The procedure isn’t as complicated as it may sound. But there are some glitches. For instance, Switzerland doesn’t allow visitors to volunteer, England and France only allow the visitors to volunteer for a period of 90 days, after which there are visa and special work requirements.
But supposing you found a hostel, before accepting an offer try to research some of their life-style specifics, along with the costs that come with those. For instance, the tourism related figures and the cost of living are very important. Traveling through volunteering in a hostel isn’t that much about poetry and if you don’t do the right things at first it will be hard to enjoy it. And since this kind of beats the point of going abroad, don’t let yourself put off by this little research you have to do. After all, it’s your dream we’re talking about and it would better be worth some effort.
What to do?
About the types of jobs, there’s really a variety of things you can choose from. Depending on your personal and professional experience, you can be anything from cashier to reservation desk officer or waiter. Since most of the hostels won’t pay if you ask to volunteer, you may be required to work part-time in your alternating days. But it’s not necessary.
For instance, if you’re accustomed to the service sector, you can ask for a paid job and even for a management position. Of course, this way the procedure would have to be a little more professional before you actually get to have the job. For managing positions, it’s really necessary to have some prior experience with hostels, otherwise nobody would hire someone who’s unqualified. You have to show some perspective of how the hostel is run and to understand the key aspects of the job.
Even if you don’t find the kind of offer you think is best suited for you, you can accept a post on the reception for a couple of months, starting from the premise that they’ll promote you once they see your experience. For many of the hostel owners, it’s hard to tell who’s good for the position and who’s just good with words, so you have to give them time. Plus, it’s the traveling experience you’re looking for, isn’t it?
Where am I going?
If there’s no special place you’re looking for and you haven’t decided where but you know you want to, here are some possibilities.
– Eastern Europe. Romania, Bulgaria, Poland or Ukraine are not very old on the hostel scene so they won’t be very eager to pay you. But if you’re willing to volunteer, you’ll have some amazing experiences. They’re pretty open to new cultures and they love tourists. Not just the mix of cultures, but the chance to make a foreigner speak nicely of their country is one of the best things they could think of. It’s not just the image they’re talking about (essentially because media’s not very easy on them), but it’s the experience. So yes -they may not be able to literally pay you, but they’ll be as hospitable and sweet as they know to. The countries are also quite cheap, so that may make up for the lack of salary
– As about the ex-Yugoslavia and Greece, there’s a good chance you won’t find any opportunities here. They’re more bitter than the rest, but once you’ve got a job there you’re going to be treated with respect. Turkey is another possible destination. Due to their growing tourism you’ll most certainly be accepted to volunteer, but you shouldn’t expect to be paid properly, and your role there will be just to make sure the hostel’s cut multicultural environment off their must-have list. You’ll be treated nicely, they’re good fellas, but you won’t make profit. The good news is for most of these countries you don’t have to worry too much, since they’re not the most wealthy nations in the EU, the prices are decent and you won’t be spending much.
– Western Europe. Here’s where there are most of your chances to get a paid position. Of course, most of the hostels offer the possibility to volunteer, but if you’re going for a longer period of time, you should ask for the paid one. Of course, saving up some money from this business is quite an impossible mission. But you’ll have the possibility to see the country, visit the most amazing places and not starve in a carton box while at it. As about any country between Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal or Italy, if you happen to speak their official language and have some experience in the filed, they’ll be more than welcome to hire you for good. If you don’t speak the language, there’s still hope! If you’re a native English speaker (or at least speak it fluently), there’s a good chance you might get a job, especially in a multicultural environment.
Still in doubt? Basic Pros and Cons
Pro: You’ll meet wonderful people, from different environment and cultures and it will be just pure bliss to share stories and experiences.
Con: You may not always have time to talk to them as much as you’d like to, because of your job. Also, some of them may not be interested to talk to the employees, depending on how smug they are.
Pro: You get to visit as much as you wish in your free time outside your shifts. And the costs are less because you don’t have to pay for food and accommodation.
Con: If it’s peak season, there’s a good chance you’ll be working more than you’d expect.
Pro: You can offer people invitation to your country and even get some yourself, this way starting a small network of people who visit each others’ countries. Or just have some meaningful contact with different individuals.
Oh, and the biggest one of all: You get to spend time in that city you love so much, and live an enriching experience which you will carry along forever.