Ask the Backpackers: Finding work Abroad

This week’s questions to the backpackers come from Renata Wiles, an Australian politics graduate looking to come to the UK to work and travel. Her questions are all work related so if you’re thinking of working abroad, read on for some top tips and advice. You can find more from Renata on Twitter: @roamingrenata

What kind of jobs have you guys/girls been able to get while travelling, and were you able to get short term work (i.e. just 3 or 4 months)?

Monica – I’ve had a few. I started off working for a hospitality company in Sydney where I was basically a waitress for posh parties. I then worked for a company that did magazine subscriptions over the phone. I then worked in a coffee shop in Melbourne. I then worked on an island off the west coast of Australia. My title was ‘general island hand’ which meant I did everything from taking people fishing or scuba diving, driving people on tours around the island, cleaning, bar work or even making sandwiches. After that I worked for a courier company as an assistant manager. I organised the drivers and made sure everything was delivered on time. After that I worked as a copywriter writing content for newspapers and websites that included Compare the Market or even I did this while I was travelling through Asia  and as you can see, if you’re in the right place at the right time, you can literally do anything!

Beverley – I’ve worked in Event Sales in Sydney, as a Barista/Sandwich hand at a cafe in Melbourne and as a Grape Picker when I did my farm work to get my 2nd Year Visa in Australia.  I’ve found that generally companies will hire you on a short term basis and then extend that if they like you and you’re doing a good job!

Dan – I managed to get a job as the SEO manager for some pretty big firms on the Gold Coast in Australia. They were cool enough with me to let me leave as and when I liked but I got to work at home when I needed too. Also tried my hand at working on a farm before I had to come home. I’d say be up front with the people if they are taking you on and tell them you only need something short term… most of the time this is a benefit to the company as it means they don’t have to pay you a full years worth of wages etc.

Gemma – Mine have all involved teaching or tutoring from two weeks up to two years. My year in France was organised by the British Council but other jobs were a result of applying to language schools or adverts in each country.

Chris – I’ve been going with the fun options! I Oz I turned down  job as a photographer on the Whitsundays in favour for working for Aquarius Hostel in Byron Bay and as the party bus driver for the infamous Cheeky Monkeys Club! Working for accommodation was the best decision I’ve ever made – you don’t necessarily have to make money, it’s more about saving it, and if you pick your hostel wisely you can get some great kick backs like cheap booze and free meals! Lately though I’ve opted to live the dream and work as a surf instructor in Ecuador!


Do any of you have degrees and do you think it helped you get jobs? (/if you don’t have a degree do you think it made it harder?)

Monica – I have a degree in English Language and Literature and this probably did help. Obviously I didn’t need it to serve cocktails but people are a bit more likely to spend a few extra seconds reading your CV when they see you have a degree.

Beverley – I have a degree in Media and Marketing and, although I don’t think it’s essential to have a degree to find a job, I agree with Monica; it definitely makes your C.V stand out against a bunch of others applying for the same job.

That being said, I wouldn’t worry if you don’t have a degree and it’s not essential!

Dan – No degree… no problem! I say that because the type of work I do you can’t really get a degree in. Most of my friends here in the UK have degrees and are now working in Supermarkets. I personally don’t feel degrees are necessary in this day for mid-level jobs. I don’t have one and I’m doing just fine.

Gemma – My degree is in French. Pretty obviously it helped me get a job in France but doesn’t help for much else… for the kind of jobs you might go for while away I doubt a degree is that useful; it’s probably more about your personality.

Chris – Unless you have a specific career path in mind whilst travelling I’d say you don’t have to worry…you’re a backpacker and you can’t really be too choosey about what work you take!


How do you find a job while your traveling? Do you ever try and get a job arranged before you arrive or do you just rock up and try find one once you are there? And if you are only planning on staying a few months are you up front about that when you get the job?

Monica – I found my jobs through websites like Some of them were specifically backpacker jobs so they were aware I’d only be there for a few months. If it seems like a full time position I’d say that I planned to stay for 6 months and if I really enjoyed it there is a chance I’d stay longer. I did try to get jobs arranged before I arrived in Australia but it didn’t work. People would phone me and ask me to go for interviews or ask for my address and without this kind of information it’s unlikely your application will go any further. I’d definitely wait until you’re settled in a country before applying.

Beverley – I also tried to arrange jobs before I arrived in Australia but it was just impossible but I managed to find something within two weeks of being there.  I’d always advise giving the companies you apply for jobs with a follow-up call so that you stand out and they remember you.

Dan – I found my job in Oz after I arrived. I googled for companies in the area, sent them an email asking if they had work for me and then had a few interviews. I was upfront about being a traveller and they were fine about it.

Gemma – I always found asking staff in hostels a good way to find jobs – they recommended local recruitment agencies or companies that were employing at that time.

Chris – I agree with the others, you can try and prepare but you’ll probably end up winging it. Although on this trip I managed to sort my job, accommodation and such like before flying out which took a lot of stress off my shoulders! Never hurst to try and be as


If you are on a working holiday visa and decide you want to stay longer is it hard to get it extended?

Monica – I’m not sure about when you’re working in the UK but I know a lot of people who have done it. Australia has a different system where you have to work somewhere rural for 3 months. Lots of people think you have to work on a farm but I got my 2nd year visa through working on the island.

Dan – I’m with Monica on this one… not too sure about the UK but I did live with a girl who said she got her visa extended very easily while working here.


Have you worked in a country where you don’t speak the language?

 Monica – No. Only as a copywriter and the company I worked for was based in the UK.

Beverley – No not yet, but I’m definitely hoping to!  If you’re looking at doing this you can always look at doing a TEFL course to break you into the language.

Gemma – When I first went to France I could speak it a bit but realised I was nowhere near the level I should be. I soon picked it up & was pretty much fluent by the time I left. If you do want  to learn a language, throw yourself in at the deep end, get a job (i.e. one that doesn’t require you to speak it that well) and you’ll pick it up in next to no time!

Chris – Yup! But I’ve stuck to a place where its very much a backpacker hotspot so I can get along ok. The Spanish School I’m working for gives me free lessons too…but I’m picking more up by just mingling with the locals – which basically translates as I can ask for beer, flirt and talk about surf!

Kirsty – Yes! We’re living in Thailand at the moment. I’ve learnt a little bit of Thai but I really really struggle with the tones! It’s really easy to live here though, most people speak a little bit of English and sign language is a great help!


I’ve heard that with a degree you can often get jobs teaching English, even if you have no teaching experience. Have any of you done this and if so, how did you find it? Would you recommend doing some kind of TEFL course to do this?

Gemma – For most countries (particularly those in Asia) you’ll need a TEFL and if you’ve the time it’s definitely advisable to get it. There are however some places e.g. in China and South Korea where the demand for learning English is so great you can teach without one- as a native English speak they’ll snap you up!

Chris – I’m currently working through an online TEFL course. I don’t really have any plans to teach but I figured it would be a good string to my bow so to speak and it might come in handy down the line. I know in the UK though you can do a one year bolt on course to any degree and use it to teach.

Kirsty – you don’t need either a TEFL or a degree but you it will definitely help. Without a degree in Thailand you cannot get a work permit which means you will have to work here illegally and do visa runs every 3/6 months. Without a TEFL means that anyone with a TEFL would be picked over you. Plus a TEFL really does help to prepare you to teach, especially ones with a few classroom hours!


If you’re just staying/working in a country for a short time (i.e. 3 or 4 months) what do you do for accommodation?

Monica – Usually houseshares or the type of hostels where people stay for a long time. You’ll find these on Gumtree or

Beverley – Houseshares are definitely cheaper than hostels or renting an entire apartment by yourself and you’ll also get to meet new people at the same time!

Dan – I agree with the others; houseshares are the best choice. There was a company in New Zealand I was in talks with who tried to arrange something for me before I got out there.

Gemma – Definitely agree with the above- a houseshare is the only way to go.
Chris – Nah get yourself into a hostel – it will cost more but it’s heaps more fun and you’ll meet tons of backpackers! If you can’t afford to pay for it you can always ask around and work for your bed – couple hours a day cleaning in exchange for a place to kip….the perfect trade off!


If you can answer any of Renata’s questions or you have any you’d like to ask us, just let us know in the comments below.


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