Hostel Jobs – How to Travel and Work as a Backpacker

Hostel Jobs – How to Travel and Work as a Backpacker

If you’re looking to meet new people, travel deeper and longer, and learn a new skill or two, then snagging one of the many hostel jobs out there is a great way to do it.

Working at a hostel will help you save money on the road, give you a place to sleep, open you up to a whole world of how to sustain travel long-term, and give you tons of connections and opportunities in the process.

How do I know all this?

Because I have experience working in hostels! In fact, my first experience with hostel work was back in 2017 when I was backpacking Europe as a cook and tour guide in Granada, Spain. That experience opened me up to a ton of working abroad possibilities and gave me valuable insight into the lifestyle of working hostel jobs.

So, if you want to know how to get one of these hostel jobs, the kinds of jobs available, what you can expect for pay, and what it’s like to work a hostel job, then keep reading!

With that, let’s start at the top:

How Do You Get a Hostel Job?

hostel sign on ground with arrow showing direction

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Getting a job at a hostel is quite easy, provided you know where to look. 

Three top methods to get work in hostels are:

Method #1 – Search Online Platforms

Back in 2017 when I got my first job at a hostel, I did it through a hostel job posting platform called World Packers.

World Packers is an online service that shows you all the available hostel jobs in the country or region you’ll be visiting, lets you upload a resume, and then allows you to reach out directly to hostels with available jobs. There are more services than just World Packers out there, but I found their particular platform to be quick, easy, and fairly common-sense as far as logistics go. You can check it out here.

Using World Packers will give you the assurance that you have a place to work and stay when you arrive in your destination, and that you’ll have a support system in case things go awry. On that note, I will say that getting travel work online is really only practical if you know exactly where you’re going to be for a designated amount of time.

If you’re the kind of backpacker that likes to take life one week at a time and see where you wind up, then committing to a hostel in advance probably isn’t the way to go.

For more online work options, check out these 25 Great Remote Job Boards!

Method #2 – In-Person

Blue sign that says "travel cheaper, longer, smarter" with ocean in background

In today’s hyper-online world, it can feel antithesis to just stop into a hostel and ask if they have any positions available.

But, in the hostel and backpacker lifestyle, this strategy will probably land you a job (or at least a lead) more times than not. Most hostels have a constantly-rotating stream of backpackers looking for jobs and are well accustomed to people stopping in to see about opportunities. Plus, showing up in person will show the hostel staff that you have an outgoing, take-charge kind of attitude.

Quick Side Note: Looking for the best backpack for Europe? Be sure to bookmark our handy guide.

Method #3 – Word of Mouth

If you’ve been on the road for a while, chances are you’ve stayed in plenty of hostels and have gotten quite accustomed to the travel scene.

So why not use this sociable lifestyle to your advantage?

When you get to a hostel, ask your roommates if they know of any great hostels or cities in which to find a job. Or, as you would if you were applying in-person, ask the front desk person at your hostel about their connections.

In my experience, the hostel world is a community, and you’d be surprised how easy it is to get a gig just by meeting people and asking around.

What Kinds of Hostel Jobs Are There?

Now that we’ve gone through how to get a position at a hostel, let’s go through what to expect from the work itself.

Some of the most common hostel jobs are:

Job #1 – Bartender

A glass of wine in front of Prague's Czechia's old town

Chances are, if you work at a party hostel that’s not in North America (or somewhere else with equally stringent liquor laws), you may end up pouring a drink or two.

In my experience, the person working the bar was whichever staff member was closest when a guest wanted a drink, but there were some nights — and even mornings — where my mojito making skills were seriously put to the test. To be a bartender working at a hostel, you don’t really need to have prior experience, you just need to be able to make a semi-passable drink and count money.

Job #2 – Party Planner

Crowd of young people partying on a hot summer day on Zrce beach, Croatia

Being an event planner is one of the most common party hostel jobs for backpackers.

Hostel managements are constantly looking to entertain their guests with bar crawls, game nights, music, etc., and they need people who are outgoing, personable, and knowledgeable of the area to lead these events.

If you think you have what it takes to lead a group into a night of wild shenanigans, then try out being a party planner at a hostel. Further to this, I want to mention that if being a party planner at a hostel isn’t quite your scene, there are a lot of companies abroad looking for legitimate event planners.

When I was looking for a gig on World Packers, I saw plenty of ranches and villas that regularly hosted events and weddings that were looking for reputable servers and planners.

Something to consider if you’re into such things!

Job #3 – Tour Guide

Young woman with backpack standing on cliff's edge and taking a photo

Fun story — the same hour I got to Granada to begin my hostel position, I was taken on a guided tour through the old town.

Then, the next day, I was expected to lead that same tour. I was SO lost and tried my best to remember tidbits of info from the night before, but I can only imagine what it would have been like to be a guest on that tour with me.

So yes, regardless of your knowledge of the city you find yourself working in, you just might find yourself giving a guided walking tour.

Job #4 – Cleaning

an orange flower on top of fluffy white towels

While most establishments have dedicated cleaning staff, there are instances where hostels are looking for backpackers to pick up some shifts.

And if you’re someone who isn’t too keen on the spotlight of a party planner or bartender, then this type of gig is definitely something to consider. In this type of gig, you can expect to wash bedding, sweep rooms and common areas, clean windows, and tidy up the bathrooms.

Job #5 – Reception

A person writes in a book with reference papers nearby

Much like cleaning, hostels usually have dedicated reception staff that take care of the day-to-day check-ins and check-outs. 

However, that’s not to say they’re not looking for helpers to give guests a tour of the property, tell them about all of the great things to do in town, and be a point person in case of any questions. In fact, I did just that on most of my shifts.

Just keep in mind, depending on the country you’re in, you may need to speak English and another language to work at reception.

Job #6 – Cook

closeup of a person holding a typical spanish seafood paella

Regardless of whether you’re a gourmet chef or know just the basics of a grilled-cheese sandwich, you may be able to nab yourself a gig as a cook at a hostel.

While hostel kitchens are usually open to everyone, plenty of hostels have themed cook-out nights, parties, and group dining sessions for which they need someone to prepare food. 

If you think you’re up to snuff and know how to make basic fare or the local cuisine, then try this gig on for size.

What’s It Like Working at Hostels?

While every hostel does things in their own way, there are some things you can expect from working hostel jobs:

Expectation #1 – Shiftwork

Young lady paddling the kayak in the calm bay with limestone mountains

As with many hospitality jobs, you’ll be required to be on a certain shift for a specified amount of time every day, and fulfill certain tasks in that timeframe.

All the while chatting with guests and having a good time, of course.

Expectation #2 – Days Off

man working hostel jobs capturing a photo or video of islands across the distance

Given that working at a hostel is a pretty laid-back kind of gig, chances are you’ll get a few days off in a row to either further explore your city, or take off and check out a neighboring one.

While hanging out at the hostel is always fun, you’re working abroad to get a deeper sense of the destination, and taking time to explore and dive into the culture is essential to that process.

Expectation #3 – Lots of New Friends

Incredible spectacular picturesque sity landscape of the Parliament and the bridge over the Danube in Budapest, Hungary, Europe at sunset.

Perhaps the best part about working at a hostel is all the people you’ll meet along the way.

And perhaps the hardest part about working at a hostel is having to say goodbye to those same people.

Of course, this is par for the course with life on the road, but it’s definitely one of the more bittersweet aspects. Expect to make lifelong friends, and expect to have wild experiences with people who were only meant to drop by your life for a day or two.

Either way, you’ll learn a lot.

Is Working At a Hostel For You?

Man with a suitcase stands on the ground while an airplane flies nearby

While working at a hostel can certainly sound like a lot of fun at the onset, I would caution that this communal lifestyle may not be for everybody.

In fact, if you want to work abroad, I’d consider all of these ways to get paid to travel before choosing the best route for you.

Of course, every hostel has different situations for their staff, but in general, I’d consider the following personality traits in case you’re considering this type of work:

Trait #1 – An Outgoing Nature

Overhead shot of shelters on the water in Bacalar Mexico

In all the potential hostel jobs listed above (with perhaps the exception of cleaning staff), the common denominator is that you’ll have to be “on” a lot of the time.

So, if you’re someone who loves to start conversations, understands customer service, feels invigorated by new people, and is always up for a new activity, then working at a hostel may just be for you.

Trait #2 – A Laid Back Attitude

Old car on mediterranean island of Lastovo, Croatia

In my experience, being relatively laid back and not easily stressed is one of the key personality traits to thriving in a hostel environment. At a hostel, every day is a new adventure, plans can switch on a dime, and you may have deal with unruly guests every now and again.

So, being someone who takes things as they come and doesn’t sweat the small stuff is definitely an asset.

Trait #3 – Needs Little Personal Space

White houses against the port in Dubrovnik, Croatia

While this point is true for the hostel experience in general, I will say that if you’re someone who needs a lot of personal space, then this kind of lifestyle is probably not for you.

While working at a hostel, chances are you’ll live in a dorm, be super sociable, and share bathroom and kitchen space with other staff and guests.

Meaning, you won’t have a whole lot of time to yourself.

Of course, not all work in hostels follow this set-up, but it’s something to consider.

That said, if you’re looking for free accommodation that’s a little more relaxed, then check out our guide to House Sitting: How to Travel Without Paying for Housing.

How Much do Hostels Pay?

St Donatus church in Zadar at night - Croatia

Like most answers having to do with money, there is no standard for how much hostels pay backpackers.

In situations I’ve been in, I’ve lucked out and got a standard rate with a commission from food and drink sales added on. But in other hostels, you might work only in exchange for free accommodation. It totally depends on the establishment, the economy of the country you’re working in, and what kind of activities and add-ons the place provides.

I will say though, that no matter what the situation ends up being, as long as you don’t have to pay for a bed, you’re going to save a lot of money on travel.

***

That’s it for my guide to hostel jobs and how to find work as a backpacker!

I hope you learned a few strategies about how to work abroad and what to expect from life working at a hostel.

For more articles about making money abroad, check out:

Happy hosteling!

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Curious about #HostelJobs? As a #DigitalNomad or #Backpacker, working at a hostel is a great way to save money on the road, give you a place to sleep while sustaining your long-term travel, and provides you tons of connections and opportunities in the process. In this article, you’ll get tips on how to land a hostel job, know the different kinds of hostel jobs, what it's like to work at a hostel, how it pays, and if taking on a hostel job is a right fit for you.
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