How to Get a Job in a Hostel and What to Expect When You Do

People will always ask long-term travelers how they can afford to do it, expecting to be told they won the lottery, raided their college fund or robbed a bank. The actual key is to be clever with your money, budget well and pick up work on the road. This can be anything from teaching English to starting your own blog, working remotely or even offering any talents you might have as a service, like massage or hairdressing.

The Great jump at the Great Wall of China
The Great jump at the Great Wall of China.

Being selected for gainful employment isn’t always easy though, particularly if you’re light on relevant skill sets, you’re not tech savvy or there’s nothing that appeals to you. However, there is one great way to prolong your travel and it’s relatively easy to get into, but it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be. We are, of course, taking about working in a hostel.

Would you like to be a hostel receptionist?

We have travelled around the block a few times and we know a thing or two about budgeting, blogging and staying on the road longer. Here we are to guide you through some top-tips for getting a job in a hostel and what to expect from it when you do.

Timing is Everything

First thing’s first – you’re going to need to get the job to begin with, so how do you go about it? Many hostels – particularly the larger chains or summer party destinations – will be fully staffed well before the season, so getting your foot in the door can be tricky. The best piece of advice is and so long as you know where you’re going to be traveling, the further in advance you inquire about a volunteer position the higher the chances of getting on their staff.

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Hands up who wants to work in a hostel?!

That’s not to say you won’t get lucky if you’re a cold caller – it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask. Hostels are likely to have a high turnover of volunteers as travelers come and go, so you never know when you’re rocking up at just the right time. Ask many and ask often and you’ll maximize your chances of getting a job. You can also try work exchange sites to get ahead of the curve.

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Skills and Stuff

Obviously, if you’ve had hospitality experience you’re going to stand a better chance over someone who has never served a customer in their life, but in the hostel game, that’s not everything. Don’t be put off if you’re a first timer, as for the most part, working in a hostel isn’t rocket science – it’s just very hard work.

eTramping with friendly hostel staff in Belarus – you’re going to have to smile round the clock!

If you’re willing to show you’ve got the energy, determination, and gusto to keep the pace in a busy environment, you’re going to be a shoe-in over someone who’s been working behind a bar for 10 years but struggles to get out of bed. A friendly, outgoing, confident nature and a willingness to get stuck in will open many doors for you.

It’s a Dirty Job, but Someone…etc, etc…

Yes, someone has to do it. There’s a common misconception when it comes to hostel work that it’s one big party. You get to throw down with the guests, drink like a fish, stay up all night and enjoy the lascivious activities that can often come with the territory. And while these can indeed be the perks of the job, you’ve got to remember that it’s still a job!

Hostel kitchens – you’ll be spending a lot of time here

You’re most likely to be on the bottom rung of the food chain, which means you’re going to be tasked with all the nasty jobs. If the hostel doesn’t already employ a dedicated cleaner (or even if they do) expect to be cleaning up all kinds of horrible messes, bodily fluids, and stains over the course of your employ. The stories we could tell you about things found in hostel bathrooms would make your toes curl – and YOU’RE the one who gets to clean it up!

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Sheets, Sheets, and More Sheets

Holy sheet – you’re going to be doing a lot of these. Arguably the worst part about working in a hostel is the endless (and we mean endless) changing of the sheets. If you’re in a 30 + bed place then expect this to be 90% of your workload – and you WILL want to murder someone after a couple of hours at it. 

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Expect to be changing A LOT of these!

Removing, washing and replacing bed sheets is the bane of the hostel volunteer’s existence, and if you’re not prepared to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in – you shouldn’t be applying for the job to being with.

Unruly Guests and Ungrateful Managers

You might very well have to put up with both. Most guests that come through the hostel doors are kind and respectful, but you get the odd one or two a week that ruin it for everyone else. When you multiply that by the whole season, you can get pretty sick of the number of people who can potentially rub you up the wrong way.

The delights of cleaning hostel bathrooms will be yours. Several times a day.

You’re living and working there and they can (and will) waltz in with blatant disregard and make your life a misery. If you’re not a tolerant, calm and peaceful individual – this job isn’t for you.

Spotless room in a hostel in Bangkok.

By the same token, you could be working under a really obnoxious, ungrateful, slave-driving manager who will think you’re just there to be abused. They’re getting free labour in exchange for giving up a hostel bed for you to sleep in, but it doesn’t mean they can treat you like a desperate bum. If you ever feel like you’re getting a raw deal – pack it in immediately and go somewhere else. Hostel managers have been known to take serious advantage of volunteers – particularly the younger crowd.

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Perks of the Job

If you can manage to put up with a lot of crap, you’re going to be richly rewarded. And when we say richly, we mean modestly. You’ll be benefiting from a free stay to help you budget, and not spending money is almost as good as making it. The hostel should offer you discounts on food and drink if they provide them and getting money off at the bar is music to many traveler’s ears.

Cez making new friends by KICKING ASS!

Tours and excursions might also be thrown in for free or heavily discounted, and if the hostel has contacts further along your route, the perks can have a welcome knock-on effect.

The Time of Your Life

If you can manage to put up with the rigorously hard work, the odd obnoxious guest and thousands of bed changes, you’re likely to have the best time of your life. You’ll meet an amazing bunch of people during your stay, many of whom you’ll be in touch with forever. Working in a hostel isn’t as easy as you might think, but the rewards, in the end, more than make up for it. And the nightmares afterward will stop…eventually.

Have you worked in a hostel? Tell us some of your horror stories!

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Picture of Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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6 thoughts on “How to Get a Job in a Hostel and What to Expect When You Do”

  1. Avatar of Andrew Boland

    I suppose… it’s hard to say how fair these jobs are. But hey – you can walk out at any time I suppose. I remember in Ks House Japan the staff there, all volunteers I guess were unpaid, one day they were all given toothbrushes and had to clean the corners of the walls/floors.

  2. Avatar of Renuka Walter

    To be honest, I might never stay in a hostel! But yes, I’m curious to know how does it feel to work at one. I mean I’m sure it’s an interesting job, as you get to meet a lot of new people!

  3. Avatar of Shay

    Working in the hostel is definitely not an easy job. But a lot depends on the team you work with – not only your boss but also other volunteers/employees you meet there. If you’re lucky about that, then all the countless sheets you need to change become less painful :)

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