Working for your keep in a hostel is a good way of cutting down on expensive accommodation costs and circumventing local employment visa requirements. Though it can be a grey area many hostels are willing to provide unpaid work in countries where avenues for paid employment are closed.
In return for cleaning, changing beds, laundry, working on reception and all the other small day to day chores involved in keeping a hostel ticking over, volunteer workers can expect in return at least a dorm bed in staff quarters. Free wifi, laundry and any service provided as standard to paying guests should also be expected.
Most hostels will also provide breakfast and perhaps other meals, while two for one beers, free tours and activities and bike hire may be other available perks. Sometimes pocket money is provided and – if work visas are not a problem – a paid job might be offered some time down the road. Bar work, leading pub crawls and selling tours bring their own rewards of tips, free beers and commission.
Work hours vary from hostel to hostel with some expecting two or three hours’ of effort a day, while at others the role is almost akin to a full time job. Some hostels have formal work exchange programmes with information and application online but most jobs will be found through the coincidence of some work needing doing and your face fitting, especially if you have already got yourself known by staying a few nights as a paying guest.
Hostels in need of temporary help will typically want sociable and well-travelled English speakers willing to pitch in where needed. The ability to use a phone and a computer will complete the skill set required for most volunteer hostel workers.
Picking a hostel requires some thought. If you don’t enjoy staying in a party hostel chances are you won’t want or be suitable to work there either. And of course the opposite is also true.
Below are a few first hand experiences by former hostel workers:
* Work at Hotel in Guatemala Jungle – Wade Sheppard, an experienced working traveller, says the volunteers at the Finca Tatin keep the wheels of the place turning, but rarely do the dirty work. He and his wife work through the day for a free bed, good food, and jungle living.
* Things I Will Miss About Working in a Hostel – Kurt and Dayna reflect on their experiences in Ireland.
* When Volunteering In A Hostel Goes Horribly Wrong – Working for accommodation seemed an affordable way to visit Budapest but in the end the job turned out to be the first she ever walked away from.
* Kid in a Hostel – Crystal found it emotionally exhausting as a more permanent resident in Quito to become friends with so many people so fast only to say goodbye.
* Things I Learned While Working in a Hostel – Lock the door otherwise drunk people will drag you to the party and resist giving dumb answers for dumb questions are among the 12 things Pamela learnt from her hostel job.
* Kona: Where we Live – Professional Hobo Nora shows us around the place she was staying in Hawaii in exchange for improving the property.
* Volunteering in hostels – Argentina – Emma’s two volunteer positions added up to a great month in two beautiful places in South America.
Three more useful resources to read are this BootsnAll piece on finding jobs in hostels, the Facebook page of The Hostel Worker (they have a website now too) and this at once amusing and horrifying Reddit post asking staff of hostels all around the world, what is the weirdest shit you’ve ever seen happening amongst backpackers?
The suggestions listed below are merely that. Some hostels we have visited personally and talked to the owners or volunteer workers themselves, others we have seen advertising their requirements on their own or other websites, while a few get on the list due to hearsay and rumour.
Whichever is the case these are not job advertisements and shouldn’t be treated as such. While we believe all these hostels are open to taking on backpackers on a work for stay basis timing can be everything: a position that was available yesterday might be filled today when you turn up, and available again the following day when the person who had the role leaves.
I had originally intended to list a dozen or so hostels for a short feature but kept going and am sure could have found a lot more had I not decided to get on with my life. Just because a hostel isn’t listed here doesn’t mean they are not open to the idea. Just ask them.
Working in Hostels in Europe
Free food, accommodation and pocket money during the high season are the perks for helping out at Taso Guest House for at least four to five to weeks. Any time between March 1 and October 1 Sky Lounge Hostel may give you a bed and let you eat whatever you can in their restaurant if you make their beds and lead pub crawls.
Fun and relaxed people who can party and entertain guests but still get on with the cleaning the morning will receive free accommodation at Funky Donkey. Five to six hours of work a day.
Prague, Czech Republic
It’s the Prague hostel of the Plus hostel network that we have seen asking for help in exchange for a bed and food, but there are others in Florence and Berlin. Hostel One also takes on helpers working in exchange for a free bed.
It is all about being sociable at The Monk’s Bunk. Volunteers are expected to socialise with the guests and have as much fun as possible, including leading the pub crawls. There is also two shifts per week at reception or cleaning – anything extra is paid work. Partnered with the Monk’s Bunk and possible leads are Tallinn Boutique Hostel (aka Viru Backpackers) and Tallinn Old Town Hostel.
Tallinn Backpackers and FeelGood Hostel also hires party people, while in the past we have seen the Australian owned GIDIC offer one week’s accommodation for working three shifts and the chance to make some money selling tours. Knight House, so named because it is found in a 500 year old building once the residence of the Knights of the Livonian order, might also be worth a visit.
Nine volunteers from abroad have contributed to the success of the Igloo Hostel in the past couple of years. Volunteers are welcome for six weeks to six months and receive free accommodation and food allowances.
Paula’s Comfy Corner uses the services of Workaway to recruit their reliable, smiley, hard-working and honest volunteers.
EU nationals can find paid work for €25 a shift at AthenStyle, part of the Famous Hostels association, but travellers on non-EU passports can earn themselves a bed and breakfast, plus half price on other meals and two for one beers in exchange for 24 hours’ work a week. Previous housekeeping or hostel work experience needed with reference.
We were once enticed over to Pelekas from our Corfu Town residence with the offer of a free lunch by one of Sunrock Backpackers Hostel’s former volunteers and are glad to see this backpacker resort are still welcoming volunteer staff. We only enjoyed one meal from the terrace overlooking the bay but participants in their ‘Pay Your Way’ volunteer programme can benefit from free meals and accommodation for a month or two. Work is available on their organic farm or in the hostel itself. The Comfy Hostel Studios may also take on someone to help with cleaning and reception during the peak season.
Youth Hostel Oia’s volunteer programme was created to foster a family feeling and contribute to the social atmosphere of the hostel.
Accommodation volunteers at Hostel Arabas are expected to work under five hours a day making their guests feel cozy and comfortable, doing the shopping and keeping things tidy. Stay over a week and one meal a day is also added to the deal.
Formerly the home of a Baron, the Baroque Hostel accepts enthusiastic young travellers who can work and party hard where necessary. There may be some pocket money on offer too. The Suite Hostel will let you stay with them if you work three hours a day and stay for a month. This youtube video was made by a French worker at the hostel. HomePlus volunteers need to stay four weeks doing night shifts and cleaning for a dorm bed and some food.
Bus Hostel Reykjavik sometimes announce their volunteer needs on their Facebook page. In the past they have sought volunteers to do night shifts ((sleeping shifts from midnight but must have the hostel’s phone at hand etc) in exchange for accommodation and an allowance. Volunteers receive accommodation, breakfast and tours around Iceland.
Achill Island, Ireland
The Valley House Holiday Hostel and Bar in County Mayo uses HelpX to find people willing to help about the place doing light maintenance, painting, gardening, cleaning and serving breakfast.
Aran Islands, Ireland
Well travelled people, who know how long they plan to stay are welcome to work four hours a day for their bed in the Kilronan Hostel.
Rougey Lodge in Ireland’s surf capital is said to provide equipment and lessons along with the usual work for your keep perks.
The Sister Fidelma Bed and Breakfast in Tipperary provides a bed in return for three hours of help a day. One month minimum stay preferred.
HelpX is Letterfrack Lodge’s preferred means of getting year round help with the day to day running of this Country Galway guesthouse.
Kurt and Dayna volunteered with the Green Street Townhouse. An article reflecting on their experiences can be found in the introduction.
Offer to do a bit of cleaning about the place and you may land yourself breakfast and one of the 32 beds in MacGabhainns Backpacker Hostel.
Comeragh Hostel is situated on a family run farm in the process of converting to organic growing, and it is here where volunteers will find themselves helping out in return for accommodation and three meals a day.
Seasonal help for Perugia Farmhouse, a backpacker friendly B & B, is found through Workaway and HelpX.
If you have decided to stay in Riga for at least two weeks and you don’t mind putting in a couple of hours of hostel work a day, then there will be no need to pay for a bed at Cinnamon Sally Backpackers. If you’re good, they might also throw in a free tour too.
Volunteer at Jimmy Jumps House and along with the free accommodation, plus tours, there may also be a chance to earn some coin.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Shelter has two Christian hotels that offer free accommodation in exchange for four hours of cleaning and laundry per day. Volunteers can stay for up to 28 days. The Flying Pig invites applications for paid jobs on their website but they have also been known to offer work for stay positions.
If you are an English teacher, can improve their hostel, paint and decorate or clean then you are invited to contact Amsterdam Hostel Sarphati. The same deal is offered by the similarly branded Amsterdam Hostel Orfeo, Leidseplein and Janson.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
We met a couple of people working for their stay in Paddy’s Palace in Belfast. We have in the past also seen their Londonderry hostel posting their requirements on hostel forums. Other hostels in the group can be found in Dublin, Cork, the Dingle Peninsula and Killarney. On the same road is the friendly Arnie’s Backpackers who want people to work in all aspects of their hostel. Along with a bed and breakfast they also pay £30 per week pocket money. Minimum eight weeks’ stay preferred. They do their recruiting via the excellent HelpX network.
Elsewhere in Belfast Lagan Backpackers are said to exchange work for accommodation. Their HelpX profile also has talk of walking tours and pub crawls in the works. The same people also own Finn McCools, close to the Giant’s Causeway. Vagabonds is also thought to take in volunteers.
Say Oki Doki if you like people and parties and are willing to work for accommodation and pocket money.
Faro’s Hostel 33 sometimes looks for people who want to help in various positions and be part of their family. They provide breakfast and accommodation, plus dinner. Also ask at Casa d’Alagoa to see if they have need of someone to entertain guests, work on reception, cook, clean, make beds or go out onto the streets to entice other people in.
The Gold Coast Hostel sometimes seeks summer help with cleaning or on reception on a work exchange arrangement.
You may be able to stay for free in Lisbon, with breakfast and internet included and a discount on the daily dinners at the hostel and in the bar in exchange for work. Oasis has both a jobs page and other hostels in Spain. EU ID is a must. Elsewhere in the city check out GSpot, a party hostel who look for people with hospitality experience or motivated backpackers wanting to see the other side of the coin. They provide a free Bed in a private staff room with breakfast and dinner included, plus free drinks.
The Lisbon Chillout Hostel might also be open to work exchange staff able to lend a hand in housekeeping, reception or entertainment. Also try LxCorner, Sunset Destination Hostel and Johnies Place, the latter preferring Portuguese or Spanish speakers (along with English).
About 20 miles west of Lisbon is Cascais, a former fishing village that grew into a resort once popular with Portugal’s royal family, where Ljmonade Hostel & Suites may be willing to take on volunteers for a month or so.
Peniche’s windswept coastline makes it an ideal surf spot. The Geekco Hostel says you can stay as long as you want when working for your bed and breakfast, while the Peniche Hostel wants someone for the nightshift.
A bunk, breakfast and some groceries too are the rewards for working in Alma Porto Hostel. The role mostly involves working on the front desk and cleaning for six hours a day with two days off a week.
Peaches is a new hostel that welcomes help with reception and occasional cleaning duties. They offer free accommodation and a small weekly allowance in exchange of 36 to 48 hours of work a week and a one to two month commitment. Also open to having someone to help about the place is X Hostel. They need you to commit a month to entertaining guests, cleaning, painting (street artists welcome), fixing things and just about anything else. They are also willing to work something out with bloggers, SEO experts and web designers. Well travelled people staff the Little Bucharest Old Town Hostel, one of which was Iulia, who relates her hostel jobs on her Pink Moustache blog.
Run by a Romanian/Irish couple Felinarul is a boutique style hostel that may be able to provide relaxed and fun work in the summer hanging out with their guests in exchange for bed, breakfast and dinner. No cleaning is necessary. Couples are welcomed and volunteers should be willing to stay for a month. In Cluj, Transylvania Hostel has created a three to six month internship for EU residents wishing to learn hostel management.
Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
International students who are not fluent in English have been accepted by House of Mark but, despite our previous claims to contrary, a basic level of English is needed to socialise with guests and other volunteers. They have used Twitter to put out a request for seasonal workers, to who they provide free food and accommodation. Successful candidates will be offered one to three months’ work. Elsewhere in the park, the Lazy Duck invites can do people to help out at their small hostel from mid-April to October.
A brief sentence on the website of Royal Mile Backpackers says to go and stay with them and often there are opportunities to work in exchange for free accommodation.
Experienced in managing a hostel? Then the Inverarary Hostel might welcome your input for a week or more in return for travel expenses.
Restricted by needing visas to travel anywhere in Europe the owners of Star Hostel were convinced to start their business to bring the world to them. This includes volunteers to which they offer accommodation and food for a minimum of two weeks.
Close to the roar of the Camp Nou Feetup Yellow Nest employs smiley, dynamic, flexible receptionists for a minimum stay of three months. Accommodation, breakfast, free stay at all of their hostels, a sales commissions every month, and 250€ per month is offered in return. People who understand the difference between a hostel and a hotel are preferred, as is a command of languages, particularly English and Spanish. The job is five days a week, eight hours a day with three different shifts in the morning, afternoon and night.
Other hostels in the group can be found in other cities (one more in Barcelona, two in Valencia and one each in Santiago de Compostela and Seville, plus one at Niagara Falls in the USA), several of which can be experienced as part of Feetup’s Work and Travel programme. Bon Moustache is another hostel in the city with a work exchange programme.
Though I couldn’t find any information on their website the Linkedin profile of one Beatrice Ruscellia says she worked as a housekeeping assistant at Cadiz Inn on a work exchange programme. I see no reason why we all can’t do so too.
Casa Bombo are constantly looking for young spirited, motivated, energetic and fun volunteers to join their team to clean, serve, shop, tend bar and lead guests on walking tours. Food and accommodation flows the other way. Mature and responsible people aged 25+ preferred. Two month commitment essential. Makuto Guesthouse is another place in town to try.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
Accommodation and food is provided for hard work and big hearts at Big Fish Las Palmas. There is another Big Fish in Budapest.
Las Musas Hostel values all types of skills in their volunteers and will send a bed and breakfast your way in return for part time work. Give your preferred start and end dates via the form on their website. Free accommodation for four hours a day cleaning or on reception is the deal from Madrid Meeting Point. Should you still be there after six months there may be a paid job in it for you. Living Hostels (there’s two in the city) are also a good prospect as is Way Hostel.
Malaga’s X Hostel takes on people for general housekeeping, bar work and pub crawl leading. There is another in X Hostel in Alicante, and more across Europe in Bucharest, Budapest, Tallinn and Varna. Hostel Alamos 14 is another place in town to try.
Easy Nerja Hostel invites people to join their volunteer programme and learn Spanish.
Volunteer work at Hostival is only available in Pamplona during the Running of the Bulls because after that they take off themselves to Edinburgh and Munich for the famous festivals held in those cities. Accommodation is basic – just a bed and a shower and toilet because Hostival is temporary overflow festival accommodation – but comes with food and spending money. In return volunteers take care of Hostival’s drunken customers. More details can be found within this advert posted last year.
San Sebastian, Spain
Each year Urban House Hostels offers the opportunity for students and travellers to work with them in exchange for private room accommodation, breakfast, occasional commission, and snack bar profits. Appealing particularly to surfers, there are four Urban House hostels in town.
Before she worked in Cadiz (see above) Beatrice Ruscellia worked at Sevilla Inn. This time the hostel explicitly expresses that they do work exchanges. There is an application form on their website. Triana Backpackers is also worth a try, while Feeling Sevilla provide shared staff accommodation, breakfast and a little pocket money to cheerful and responsible cleaners able to work independently. Similar terms are offered to young people with languages to work on reception.
Hostel Work Exchanges in Asia
Meals and accommodation are provided at Sanya Backpackers for doing basic chores and house-keeping for half a day on the Chinese island of Hainan. A one month minimum commitment is required.
The volunteer programme of the Abraham Hostel began in the first weeks of the hostel’s existence, when a young traveller asked to stay on and help them out. Volunteers contribute to the social atmosphere of the hostel, help serve breakfast, plan and run evening social events, assist at the bar and escort guests to the starting point of the Old City tour. Comprehensive information on the benefits, expectations and qualifications for the volunteer programme are given on the website.
Mitzpe Ramon, Israel
Volunteers have been an important part of the Green Backpackers since they opened in the Negev desert, and they are always happy to accept new volunteers for a mutually beneficial relationship. They offer free accommodation with a decent allowance for food expenses, and in return expect volunteers to work five days a week helping to keep the hostel running smoothly and contributing positively to the atmosphere. If you have a working permit they would be happy to pay a salary.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Florentine Backpackers Hostel frequently use their Facebook page to put a call out for volunteers. Hayarkon 48 and Overstay TLV are also thought to be receptive to taking in volunteer staff.
A helper for cleaning and party organising is occasionally required at J-Hoppers Kyoto Guesthouse. Language, DIY and cooking skills, plus a working holiday visa, are all beneficial to any application. A dorm bed, bicycle and laundry, but not food, are given in return. The related Hana Hostel also allows guests to stay for free by volunteering for a few hours a day. Another half dozen J-Hoppers Guesthouses and Hana Hostels can be found around Japan, including in Hiroshima and Osaka.
Two more possibilities are K’s House and IchiEnSou. Out in the countryside, the Utano Youth Hostel encourages volunteers from all over the world, as does the Amanohashidate Youth Hostel, located in one of Japan’s most scenic spots, in northern Kyoto prefecture.
For an exchange of accommodation Hostel Akari take on staff who can help with cleaning and do some maintenance work.
MorinoKi operates a Working Holiday on Otaru Project (WHOOP) and call their volunteers Whoopers – but don’t let that put you off. Whoopers spend four hours a day bed making, cleaning, gardening, and keeping a daily blog diary. Whoopers should be aged 18 to 35, tidy, creative, chatty creative and like animals. There is an application form on the website.
With high prices for accommodation and few opportunities for getting a work visa, volunteer work exchanges are the way to go to save money in Japan. Khaosan (work exchanges are also offered in their Kyoto, Beppu City and Fukuoka hostels), Yayoda Guesthouse and Asakusa Smile are three Tokyo hostels that encourage volunteers.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
We rested our heads in two places in Kuala Lumpur that said they were open to offering hostel work in KL to suitable passing travellers.
Busan, South Korea
Work exchange positions are available at Kyungsung Hostel and their language café. The minimum stay is one month but two is preferred.
Seoul, South Korea
Within the Seoul Base Camp Hostel the rooms are tents arranged in what was once an abandoned dance hall. They have a guest work exchange programme where for 3 hours of work each day they offer free board and all that their guests are entitled.
There are several Kimchee Guesthouses around town and each invites volunteer helpers to stay short or long term and work three hours a day in exchange for accommodation.
Homey Hostel Taipei offers accommodation in exchange for three hours’ work a day, seven days a week, for a minimum of one month.
Koh Lanta, Thailand
The Facebook page of Clayzy House describes them as: “A little hostel jungle and farm environment created by Neng neng stoned monkey ass who has been created and run Chill out house May 2008-October 2012.” Just in case things aren’t entirely clear from this here is an article by a former volunteer.
Issara, the owner of At Home Sukhothai regularly invites someone to work in his garden and reception area for a period of up to two months. In exchange, he provides a room with a fan and outside bathroom, some meals and a bike.
We stayed in this aptly named cave hotel overlooking the wonderland landscape of Goreme when we visited Cappadocia a few years ago. A few months later, after seeing an advert in our Jobs Abroad Bulletin (JAB), Brandon Fralic emailed from the same room in which we stayed to tell us he had scored the volunteer position and wrote about his experience.
Along with duties running the Fairy Chimney Inn, volunteers are also invited to initiate and implement a small cultural project of their own choosing. Hills Cave Hotel has also used JAB to indicate they are open to the ideas, energy and skills of a long term traveller looking for a working holiday.
Five minutes from Taksim Square, Route 39 regularly take on volunteer staff for breakfast, bar, cleaning and reception work a few hours each day. In exchange is a dorm bed in the staff dorm and breakfast. Elsewhere in Taksim we have spotted Chillout Cengo Hostel offering a bed and food to someone able to stick around for a couple of months helping out their cleaner for three hours a day and Levanten requesting a receptionist to work six hours a day.
Cleaning roles may also be available at Manon Hostel Galata. A couple of TripAdvisor reviews mention that Stray Cat employs volunteers on reception, while on the Asian side of Istanbul try asking at Hush Hostel.
Finding a Volunteer Job in a Hostel in Africa
Agoo, a 16 bed hostel in central Accra, welcomes flexible, social and energetic volunteers prepared to get stuck in over a 24 hour week. Six month commitment required.
Chintsa Beach, South Africa
We have seen Buccaneers Backpacker Hostel mentioned as a place that might welcome talented travellers helping out with treatments in their Beauty Bungalow. If these rumours turn out to be untrue the locally based VA32 could always do with volunteer help from those prepared to pay to join a project.
Coffee Bay, South Africa
Writing in BootsnAll a few years ago Kathleen Schmidt told how she extended her four days to three months by doing whatever needed doing around Bomvu Paradise Backpackers.
Hout Bay, South Africa
Local volunteer projects and language courses are available throughout South Africa and neighbouring countries with All Out Africa but it may also be possible to find work with Hout Bay Backpackers who are part of the same organisation.
Useful Resources for Finding Hostel Jobs
Hostel Jobs, Hostel Management and HostelTravelJobs are all great places to find a job in a hostel, including paid work. For work exchanges only the membership based HelpX and Workaway networks and the free Staydu website mix hostel work in with a great many other ways around the world to work for board and accommodation.