Working abroad

If you’re planning on backpacking for a longer time, you’ll probably need to
find some sort of income to be able to replenish your budget and continue your journey. That’s what’s discussed
in this article.

Juggling in the streets

If you have a skill, use it to your advantage.

Finding a job

If you need a job abroad, you’ll most likely end up in a rather unskilled and
underpaid job, such as dishwashing, handing out flyers, bartending, or cleaning.
This usually happens illegally as well, because in most countries you’ll have
to work through enormous stacks of paperwork before you’re allowed to work anywhere.
This in general isn’t worth the effort if you’re not planning on spending over
two months in one place.

So how do you find jobs like those? Most importantly, you’re going to have
to make it happen yourself. Jobs won’t find you, you’ll have to find them. Ask
other backpackers that have found a job, ask around in hostels, international
pubs, and so on. Simply keep your eyes and ears open and look for jobs everywhere.

A common place where backpackers can find work are places where backpackers converge: e.g. hostels in touristy cities. Usually the larger
hostels are on the lookout for helping staff to clean the floors, serve breakfast,
or sit at the reception. In return for your efforts you usually get free lodging
(meals included), which means you’ll barely have any expenses during your stay.

Other places to find work are in bars, restaurants, with families (babysitting,
painting houses), in discos, beach stands, etcetera. Always keep your eyes open
for ‘wanted’ ads on lamp posts and alike. You can also buy the local paper and
go through the ads. This is another common place to find ads for job openings.
Finally, you can also try finding a job through the internet. For example, see
the resources on the bottom of this page to find a number of websites that
have specialized in finding travellers work abroad.


What is volunteering? Offering your labour in exchange for no or little compensation.
Volunteering can be a great way to get in touch with the locals and to learn about
their culture. Although you won’t get rich from volunteer work, it is usually
a great experience. In many cases you will get some sort of alternative payment
for you work: meals, accommodation, sometimes even some pocket money.

There are various ways for finding volunteer work. One possibility to volunteer
abroad is via WWOOF (World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) where you can
volunteer in exchange for food and accommodation. Chances are also high that you’ll
find many organizations in your own country that are dedicated to organizing volunteer
trips abroad.

Making it happen yourself

If you have some sort of skill (which most of us don’t unfortunately), you
should take advantage from it, and perform on the streets for money. This usually
works best in the larger touristy areas. I once met an American backpacker who
knew how to play the bagpipes and had his whole Scottish-kilt-thingy-outfit together.
He’d simply dress up, stand in a busy street or square, and start playing his
bagpipes. Within an hour or two he’d have enough money to eat and sleep for a
week. There are plenty of possibilities to provide your own income. A few examples

  • Playing the guitar
  • Painting or drawing stills or faces
  • Juggling
  • Selling bracelets
  • Being a ‘living statue’

Teaching English abroad

If you’re fluent in a certain language (English for example), you might consider
teaching that language to locals. This usually only works if you’re planning to
hang around for a few months though. Simply start advertising for yourself in
the streets or in newspapers, and you’re bound to get a number of apprentices.
You can also look around in newspapers or visit schools or universities and hand
in your CV. Obviously, if you don’t know anything about teaching a language: don’t
do it. Teaching languages should only be done by persons who have followed the
appropriate training (a TEFL course, for example – Teaching English as a Foreign Language).


Can’t find a job? Don’t have any skills? A final possibility to sustain yourself
is begging. Depending on the country and city you’re in, you might make more than
enough money to get you through the day. I once met somebody who was cycling around
the world. A few days he’d cycle towards his next stop, then he’d sit in the streets
a few days with his bicycle and a few signs explaining about his world journey,
and was able to continue his voyage for years in this manner. I also heard a story
about guy who missed his plane, couldn’t get a refund for it and was flat broke.
He begged in the airport for a few weeks and in this way was able to buy a new
ticket home. Watch out for the police though, they’re usually not to keen on beggars.

Work resources

  • Anywork Anywhere
    Jobs and resources for work & travel throughout the UK & worldwide.

  • Help Exchange
    Lists places where you can work in exchange for your accommodation and food
    for working holiday makers.

    Gap year Work in exchange for food and accommodation whilst travelling.

    World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Volunteer on farms in exchange for food and accommodation.