It is believed the idea of a hostel was first conceived in Germany around the beginning of the 20th Century. It was a German school teacher, Richard Schirrmann, who after numerous school trips created dormitory style accommodation for his students. This concept of accommodation took off and the youth hostel movement began and grew to where youth hostels are found all around the world.
However, this movement has morphed in to backpacker hostels which we know and love today. Where youth hostels were aimed at the youth, hence the name, backpacker hostels are aimed at travellers of all ages including couples and families and offer more than just budget accommodation. They are a great source of employment and many travellers have found a job in a hostel to extend their stay in a place they like.
Hostels – more than just accommodation
Hostels have the reputation of providing cheap accommodation and they can do this by packing many travellers into one room, known as a dormitory. Even though hostels still do have dormitory rooms they offer couple, single and family rooms, sometimes with private facilities. Plus, they provide a great atmosphere by including other services. This can include a lounge room to meet other travellers, a communal kitchen to cook meals and a bar to have a drink. Some have a coffee shop or restaurant and an outdoor area where you can sit and relax.
Just like 5 star hotels, backpacker hostels need staff to ensure they run smoothly and to make sure their guests enjoy themselves. This makes them a great source of work for travellers as they travel the world.
Hostel Jobs – Types of jobs in a hostel?
You could find yourself behind Reception
It will depend on the size of the hostel, meaning how many beds they offer as to what staff they require. Of course a small 30-bed hostel will need less staff that might do a variety of things compared to a 120-bed hostel where you might have a specific job. Jobs can include and are not limited to:
- Reception. Where you will meet and greet guests and check them in and/or out and answer any questions they might have, like where is a good restaurant to eat? Computer knowledge will be handy and a great phone manner.
- Housekeeping & Cleaning. All hostels need cleaning from the bathrooms to the bedrooms to the main areas.
- Maintenance. Ensuring everything works properly and undertaking small repairs, if within your scope of expertise.
- Shuttle Bus Driver. Some hostels have a bus because they offer a shuttle service to/from the airport or bus station. And maybe they also run tours for their guests so as well as being the bus driver you will be a tour guide.
- Manager. To manage and train staff and to ensure everything runs smoothly. Undertaking lots of backend jobs such as the bookkeeping & budgeting, sales and marketing, updating the website and ensuring safety and hygiene of the premises is met.
- Social Media and Marketing. To help with social media and marketing of the hostel to bring in guests to ensure income for the hostel to continue operating.
- Bar/cooking staff. If the hostel has a coffee shop and/or restaurant then staff to work in these areas are required. Some hostels provide breakfast so you will need to be around to cook, serve and clean up.
- Party Planner. The hostel may offer in-house activities such as BBQs, drinking nights, cooking competitions, nights out and any other activities to involve the guests.
Pay and working conditions when you work in a hostel
What you receive in return for working in a hostel will depend on the individual hostel. If you don’t have the appropriate visa to work then you can work as a volunteer. This will mean in return for working you will receive accommodation and/or food and won’t be breaking any work visa rules. If you do have the appropriate paperwork to work then you should receive accommodation, meals and a salary.
Accommodation is usually a bed in your own room or in the staff quarters or it could be in one of the dormitory rooms. There could also be extras such as half price drinks at the bar, free use of the Wifi and other facilities such as using the laundry facilities. Depending on where the hostel is you could receive free or reduced cost surfing lessons or a ski pass. If you work a season there may even be an end of season staff party.
Before you agree to work the hostel manager should explain what your job will involve and what hours you will be working. Hostels are usually open 24/7 so you may be required to work a shift of varying hours at different times of the day. Working hours can be anywhere from 20-35 hours per week, but remember, you’re not a slave and just because you’re getting free accommodation doesn’t mean they can take advantage of you. I would suggest you get your terms of employment in writing so you both know where you stand.
How to find a hostel job
Use a booking site such as HostelWorld
Before you start applying for a job in a hostel it is a good idea to consider what type of hostel you’d like to work in. There are all kinds of hostels – party hostels, sport and adventure hostels such as in ski fields, eco hostels in rain forests, small quiet hostels, etc. It’s really worth thinking about what you really want your time at the hostel to be like. It is great going out partying, but do you want to experience that on a daily basis, if so great, if not, then a quieter hostel might suit you better. But how do you tell what type of hostel it might be? Research what services the hostel offers. Does it have party nights at the bar, then this would be a party hostel. Does the hostel only offer accommodation, then this one would more than likely be a quieter hostel.
A great way to do your research and to find a hostel job could be through a hostel booking site such as HostelWorld. Even though HostelWorld is a booking site it provides a lot of information about individual hostels. Check out the hostels in the area where you would like to work and see how many beds they have and what services they offer. Then you can approach the hostel directly for a job. Be aware that the hostel manager will receive many emails per day, particularly bookings, so ensure you email stands out. I suggest your email be short and sweet but advise exactly what type of job you are applying for.
Have an updated CV to hand out
Also attach your CV to your email which should include your name, contact details, employment history and your key skills. Now just because you might not have worked in a hostel before doesn’t mean you cannot. Hostels often employ travellers who have never done this type of work before. And don’t worry about thinking you don’t have skills because more than likely you do. Most of all, hostels require hard-working and organised individuals who won’t crack under the pressure of not working 9-5 hours or cleaning 10 bathrooms in one day. As well, it is part of the manager’s job to show new recruits the ropes.
Ask in the hostel you are staying in
That’s right, if you like the hostel you are staying in and wish to stay longer make it be known to the staff that you would be interested in a job. You never know what might arise. But have that CV handy.
Search for a hostel job online
So there you have it. Hostels are not only cheap accommodation they can be a great place to work. And if you get work they have the added bonus of helping you to extend your stay in different places as you travel around the world.
Sharyn McCullum has travelled most of her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. In her 20’s she went overseas on her own for the first time and found herself in London where she spent 4 years living, working and playing and travelling through many countries. Her travels have inspired her ‘Live Work and Play’ series of working holiday guides and a number of travel websites. She continues to travel regularly and currently calls Melbourne home.