If you’re looking to meet new people, travel deeper and longer, save money, and learn a new skill or two, then snagging one of the many hostel jobs out there is a great way to do it.
My first experience with hostel work was back in 2017 when I was backpacking Europe as a cook and tour guide in Granada, Spain. My hostel work experience opened me up to a ton of working abroad possibilities and gave me valuable insight into the lifestyle of working in a hostel.
To help you land a hostel job I put together this epic guide:
Let’s dive in!
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How To Get a Hostel Job
Getting a job at a hostel is quite easy, provided you know where to look. There are basically three ways to get hostel work: 1) go in person and talk to a manager, 2) find out openings through word of mouth, or 3) or search online platforms that post hostel work opportunities.
I’ll cover the last one first, since it’s the simplest method:
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 Worldpackers.
Worldpackers 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 Worldpackers out there, but I found their particular platform to be quick, easy, and fairly common-sense as far as logistics go.
If you want a more detailed explanation, check out Vanessa’s full Worldpackers review, or her super detailed comparison of Worldpackers and Workaway (where she explains why she also chose Worldpackers over Workaway).
✨ You can check out Worldpackers here. If you decide to try out their membership (TOTALLY worth it, btw), be sure to enter code TRAVELLEMMING at checkout for $10 off!
Using Worldpackers will give you the assurance that you have a place to work and stay when you arrive at 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.
Apply In Person
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.
📚 Related Reading: Looking for the best backpack for Europe? Be sure to bookmark our handy guide.
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.
👉 Planning a big Europe backpacking trip? The truth is, even if you land one of these hostel jobs, you’ll still need to have money saved in advance. Check out our budget planner for backpacking Europe for the full lowdown!
The Different Types of Hostel Work
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:
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. No wonder so many of the best places to backpack are in Europe. 🙂
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.
Being an event planner is one of the most common hostel jobs for backpackers.
Hostel management teams are constantly looking to entertain their guests with bar crawls, game nights, musical performances, hiking trips, etc., and they need people 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. Or, if you want something a little more low-key, then do a search for hostels looking for reputable servers and planners.
When I was looking for a gig on Worldpackers, I saw plenty of ranches and villas that regularly hosted events and weddings that had gigs available.
👉 Pro Tip: If you want great hostel jobs, Europe is a solid choice. Specifically, if you want to save even more money, then consider traveling to one of these inexpensive destinations in Europe!
Even if you’re foreign to the area, hostels are often looking for charismatic people to lead walking tours.
Leading a walking tour is a great way to meet the guests, get to know the area, and give yourself a crash course on your host city’s history.
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.
👉 Pro Tip: Making sure you have travel insurance is essential to working abroad in a hostel. Our guides on annual travel insurance and digital nomad travel insurance are essential in either securing a great policy or deciding if you need additional coverage.
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 hostel job is definitely something to consider. While being a cleaner, you can expect to wash bedding, sweep rooms and common areas, clean windows, and tidy up the bathrooms.
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, give them tips about things to do, and be a point person for questions. Just keep in mind that, depending on the country you’re in, you may need to speak English and another language to work at reception.
Whether you’re a gourmet chef or only know the basics of a grilled-cheese sandwich, you may be able to work as a hostel cook. While most hostel kitchens are open to everyone, some of them have themed cook-out nights, parties, and group dining sessions. Thus the need for a hostel cook.
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.
👉 Taking a day trip? Though many places in Europe, Asia, and South America have great bus systems, renting a car abroad is sometimes the best way to get around. Discover Cars is my personal go-to for comparing rates.
Tips for Working at a Hostel
While every hostel does things its own way, here are some tips for what you can expect from working hostel jobs:
As with many hospitality jobs, you’ll be required to work a certain shift for a specified amount of time every day and fulfill tasks in that timeframe. All the while chatting with guests and having a good time, of course!
Having Days Off to Explore
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 explore your host city or take off and check out a neighboring one.
While hanging out at the hostel is always fun, chances are you’re working abroad to get a deeper sense of the destination. Taking time to explore and dive into the culture is essential to that process.
Making Lots of New Friends
Perhaps the best part about working at a hostel is all the people you’ll meet along the way. And 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 while backpacking, 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 be in your life for a day or two.
👉 Pro Tip: Another great way to save money while traveling is to follow our tips for getting cheap international flights. Bookmark that page for when you’re ready to book your trip!
Is Working At a Hostel For You?
Though working at a hostel can certainly sound like a lot of fun at the onset, I will caution that this communal lifestyle may not be for everybody. Every situation is different but, in general, consider the following personality traits in case you’re considering this type of work:
Trait #1 – An Outgoing Nature
With all the 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.
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 be a great fit. However, if you need a lot of alone time and generally feel drained by being around new people (which there’s nothing wrong with of course!), then a job at a hostel may not be for you.
Trait #2 – A Laid Back Attitude
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 to deal with unruly guests every now and then.
Being someone who takes things as they come and doesn’t sweat the small stuff is definitely an asset.
Trait #3 – Needing Little Personal Space
Whether you’re working or staying at a hostel, if you’re someone who needs a lot of personal space, then this lifestyle is probably not for you.
While working at a hostel, chances are you’ll sleep in a dorm, be part of every social activity, and share bathroom and kitchen space with other staff and guests. Meaning, you won’t have a whole lot of room to yourself.
Of course, not all work in hostels follow this setup, but it’s something to consider.
👉 Pro Tip: 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?
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 hostel jobs, you might work only in exchange for free accommodation. It totally depends on the establishment, the economy of the host country, and what kind of activities and add-ons the place provides.
I will say though, 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.
👉 Read Next: Guide to Safety in Hostels
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 the hostel work life. For more tips on making money on the road, check out our posts on 23 Popular Digital Nomad Jobs, What to Pack for Digital Nomads, and Productivity Tips for Digital Nomads.
Happy hosteling around the world!
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