Working on the road: An Introduction

Working on the road: An Introduction

Money. It makes the world go round, and if you’re reading this blog, chances are that you don’t have very much of it. Working on the road, whether it’s legit or under the table, can be quite easy if you know where to go.

Having a visa vs. Working while on a tourist permit

I’m not going to go too much into the pros and cons, or dangers of working without a valid working permit – I know you, you’re a smart kid, but before deciding to work when you don’t have a valid permit, check what the consequences are if you get caught. For instance – in Turkey, you’ll get a slap on the wrist, a 3 year ban from the country, and a free ferry to Greece – not so bad if you don’t have any huge plans for setting up a life in Turkey. But if you’re caught working illegally in the EU, chances are you could be deported back to your home country, given a hefty fine, and banned from the entire EU for up to 10 years.

If you’re a citizen of a Commonwealth country, and are under 30, you’ll be delighted to know that the world is your oyster – many countries will give you a 1 year working holiday permit on a whim. You can get German Working Holiday Visa’s (WHV) at any embassy, if you’re certain nationalities, you can get them while in the country. You can get a dutch WHV at any embassy, but certain WHV’s are only available either in your home country or country of residence (but you can always get someone at home to apply for you). UK Youth Mobility – can only be applied for in your country of residence, to avoid travelling all the way back home to apply, just apply for a Dutch WHV first, and then claim that you live in the Netherlands. Simple.

Working in Hostels

The large majority of small hostels hire guests – backpackers know what makes a good hostel, and can work hard. You’ll either be working on a volunteer basis (i.e. 3 hours of cleaning per day in exchange for your bed and breakfast), or paid – often long shifts (sometimes 24/7) for little money, but you’ll also get accommodation and food with that, and it beats washing dishes at a restaurant. Finding work in hostels is particularly easy during, or just before the peak season – you can either show up and ask for a job (often the best way), or email ahead (this has worked for me once for a paid position, but usually works better for volunteering). If you don’t want to stick around for a long time, offer what skills you have in exchange for a bed for a week – small hostels can’t afford to pay for anything, and love getting their website redesigned, plumbing fixed, or having murals painted.

Want to know more about working in hostels? Read our full post here

Work Exchange Programs

Workex, Helpex, WWOOFING, and many other websites are dedicated to finding volunteers to work in various small companies around the world. You won’t be paid, but will receive a bed, and food, and sometimes other perks. Be careful when choosing – there are some horror stories floating around about being treated like a slave, been given nothing but bread to eat; but there are also great stories of having a great time, learning, and not working all that hard. This type of work will help you to really experience the culture of the area you’re in.

Bar and Hospitality Work

Every year, millions of english speaking tourists flood into places where English isn’t spoken often, and every year, the bars and nightclubbs of that area hire english speaking backpackers. Conditions and pay rates vary – for instance on the Greek Islands, you’ll be paid about 25 Euros per day, but in Rome, you might only get a commission on what you can sell. Remember to demand your pay often – many dubious bosses will forget to pay you if you don’t scream about it (afterall, you’re working for him illegally, and there are a hundred other backpackers waiting to take your place), and never give your passport (or anything) as a deposit or security bond to a prospective employer.

English Teaching

Do you speak english? then you can probably teach it. If you’re looking for a long term position, it will help to have a TEFL or TESOL certificate (these take about a month to get in any big city), once you have this, just go to a major city and apply at major english language schools (there’s actually whole communities dedicated to the subject). If you’re only in town for a short while, a paid position is probably very difficult to get. In many third world countries, English schools are often run on a voluntar


A favourite from way back, busking has been helping people travel the world for hundreds of years. Remember to check with local authorities first to avoid problems later on. Not allowed to busk on the streets? Try asking a bar if you can perform in exchange for a few drinks, and ask the punters for tips. Can’t play an instrument? Can you stand still for hours?

This post is by Alec Bertram (18 Posts)

Alec is a London-based kiwi, dedicated broke traveller, digital marketer, and all-round nice guy. You can get hold of him by emailing him, tweeting him @KiwiAlec, or by walking around London and calling out his name.