Reddit is a great source for getting answers, There is even a dedicated AMA – Ask Me Anything – subreddit for learning more about other people’s lives. Just today, experts, or those with just far too much time on their hands, are providing insights into topics as diverse as working at Walmart, serving in the US 101st Airborne Division, delivering pizza, getting stabbed repeatedly, accidently sleeping with a ladyboy and being constipated.
While there isn’t a subreddit solely dedicated to working in a hostel, the subject crops up from time to time in other travel related subreddits. We tracked down a few answers from helpful redditors below, both on getting and doing the job, paid and unpaid hostel work. All we’ve done is reproduce a varied selection of advice, both good and bad, correct a few typos, and given credit where it is due:
Tips for Working in a Hostel Abroad
South America would be your best bet if you wanted to work in a hostel but they typically pay with free lodgings/food/booze which still saves you a lot of money so you can travel a bit on your days off. I saw flyers everywhere about how they were hiring bartenders and etc. Don’t count on getting a cleaning job in SA, the locals do it a lot cheaper so they typically hire foreigners to be bartenders or front desk clerks and have the locals do other jobs. – chacochaco
If a business is reliant on free labor to remain profitable it is most likely poorly run. Expect semi-organized chaos and an owner who doesn’t really know what they’re doing. – magictravelblog
Don’t be afraid to take the crappy jobs (literally). I started out cleaning toilets and became Assistant Manager. Stay at the hostel you want to work at. – JonoMong
One thing that has not been mentioned is the madness caused by working where you live. The hostel can very easily become your prison. I worked at the bar. Sometimes the bar would run until 4 AM and I would get to sleep at 5-6, sleep until 12-1 (in hostel dungeon/staff room), have a couple hours free before I would get the bar prepared at 5. Also be prepared to DESPISE hostel small talk, “So where you from? What city did you just come from? What city next? Oh really, what hostel did you stay at? Oh, wow, me tooo!” Ughhhhhh! Ok, ok, but you meet tons of great people! – A-Logueaha
I did this in Cusco, Peru for about 6-8 weeks. I worked behind the bar which was great fun, and a really good way to meet people. From memory we had to work every second night, which was a good balance between work and play. I didn’t get paid anything, but got free accommodation (saved me about US$20 a night), one free meal per day, and 50% off all booze. It was a good way to live the dream for a while, but it’s pretty hard on the body. – HairyBeanbags
Where I was it was neither easy or difficult to get a job there. Cleaners would come and go every week, free accommodation for cleaning a few hours a day, being behind reception a new job came up every 3-4 months. The best job in the hostel was the “Entertainment Manager” which I did for around 6 months. I had to take anyone who wanted to go out to a certain bar each night and get them the free drinks available. I got free alcohol every night and free accommodation. Best job ever, if you stick around long enough or are popular enough in the hostel to get it. – PiratePegLeg
I’ve walked into rooms that were supposed to be vacant, but contained horny couples instead. Lots of handjobs in common areas (and shower sex). A drunken Irishman once forgot his key and attempted to break-in with a pumice stone. When that (naturally) didn’t work, he used his fist instead. A crazy South African bouncer/cop-wannabe kid liked to sit next to newer guests and display his ostensibly illegal knives; he was eventually removed when he decided to ‘show off’ his pepper spray in a crowded room. I’ve had guests come to our office because there were homeless people sleeping in their beds. I’ve had to unclog vacuums of condoms, and sacks of weed and various dubious power-like substances. Oh, and we once had a hooker staying with us who ‘disappeared’ for about 3-4 days and left all of her shit behind. – tumbler_fluff
Every hostel I worked at had no signs or website ads looking for workers, most of the time they just appreciate a new face and a helping hand. – zebraphenia
Do it! It’s the best. I spent almost half the year working in Central/Eastern Europe. The jobs usually don’t pay very much, if at all. I think 80 euro a week was the best I ever got, but they will cover most your expenses. The best way is to look for jobs is 1-2 months in advance. If you just show up they will hire people on the spot, but only if they have open positions (people flake out all the time, however, I’ve also seen people wait around for a month for an opening to come up). – MONSTERTACO
I worked at Brodies Backpackers in Edinburgh, Footprints backpackers in Sydney, Australia and finally I was the overnight manager at Kanga House backpackers in the King’s Cross area of Sydney. All three were pretty sweet gigs, and I would highly recommend hostel-work as a fantastic way to earn cash while traveling! Make sure you have a working visa for the country you’re entering though! – spazberryjam
I always arranged spots ahead of time via the internet. You could totally go without a plan, but you’d be taking some gambles on places having openings. I’ve met people who were waiting around for up to a month for openings to pop up for the famous party hostels in Budapest. The jobs were technically volunteer positions so I could do them on a tourist visa. – tabledresser
Honestly, my best tip, is just to walk into the Hostel/Hostel Bar, and ask if they need anyone. Most Hostels (at least in La Paz) have a rather high turnover (2 or 3 weeks), and are always looking for people (and you don´t need to have previous bartending experience to be a bartender here either!). I learned a ton about meeting new people (how to socialize with random strangers, and the like) from my short time working there. – GreenDrake2
My advice is just fucking do it. Half the fun is the unknown. – finners_
View Hostel Jobs Worldwide to find hundreds of hostels that sometimes employ volunteer staff.
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Image courtesy young shanahan.