Travelling long-term isn’t as expensive as most people think, but it does require funds. While saving hard before you leave might garner enough to pay for the whole trip, many travellers find it convenient to work while they’re on the road.

Turner from Around the World in 80 Jobs has some interesting stories to tell when it comes to finding work overseas: from becoming a tequila harvester to a festival toilet cleaner. If you have some, make sure to add them to the comments below. And if you’re ready to make some of your own stories, keep reading:


The easiest way to work on the road is to volunteer. You probably won’t make much (or any) money, but accommodation and sometimes food is often included, which considerably reduces your travel costs. Organisations like WWOOF match volunteers with hosts who require help on their farms. Some organisations are free to use (or just require a small joining fee) while others charge astronomical amounts — somewhat negating the idea of trying to save money!


Where to work

If you want to work, not just volunteer, first consider what kind of work you can do. If you can continue doing your existing job on the road, excellent — you probably won’t need a visa and will just have to talk to your boss or clients to make it work. It’s not recommended that you start a business while you travel, it’s just too stressful. Instead, start well in advance and see if it’s making money before you go. Otherwise, you’ll just have to choose a job that requires your presence in person — popular choices are bartending, office work or teaching English. If you aren’t skilled in one of these areas, a short training course before you go might strengthen your chances of finding work.

Then, decide which country you’d like to work in. You’ll need to do a bit of research to see how hard (or easy) it is to work in your destination of choice.


Work visa passport page
Check if you need a visa to work

Firstly, do you need a visa or work permit to be allowed to work in your destination? In some cases, the answer is no — for example, New Zealanders and Australians can work in each other’s country without any form of visa, and Europeans can work in other Schengen states. If you’re travelling further afield though, you’ll probably need some form of paperwork — and there might be more than one option to choose from.

Many countries offer working holiday visas to travellers aged 18-30. If you’re eligible, it might be a good option, although you can usually only work in each place of employment for a limited time (such as three months). If you’re planning to stay in one place for a longer time, you could consider a work visa, but that usually requires an offer of work, which might be hard to come by. Some student visas also allow you to work part-time while you’re studying, so if you’re planning to go to school while you’re away, this could be a good choice.

Make sure to look through all the options carefully and choose the visa that suits you best. If it’s expensive, weigh up how likely you are to use it before forking out.

Wages and cost of living

That’s another thing — how much are you actually going to earn in your destination? Do some research online to find out what the average wage is, and what people in your line of work can expect to earn. We didn’t do this when we went to Malta, and were surprised at how low the wages were — and how high the cost of living was. Six months of work funded our day-to-day lives, but we only saved enough for about another month of travel after that. If we’d done some research into what wages we could expect to receive, we would have chosen another destination.

Will you make enough money?

In contrast, the wages in the UK were more reasonable — but we still didn’t save much, because of the cost of living. Once we’d paid the rent and bought food for the week, we didn’t have much left over. Luckily, we found a happy balance in Australia — although the cost of living was high, our wages were even higher, and we managed to save a substantial amount.

Hit the internet

Next up, you need to find a job. How hard you look will depend on how committed you are to working. Either way, do a search on the internet to get some ideas about possible employers, and either make contact with them before you go or make a note of their details so you can drop in after you arrive. If you’re interested in a long-term contract, apply in advance as they might be able to help with (or completely organise) your visa. This is often the case with English-teaching jobs.

Of course, if you’re not too worried about what kind of work you do, you can just show up and see what work is on offer. It is worth making sure you do it legally, though — although under-the-table work is sometimes available, it’s not worth the stress of being caught — the punishment could be severe and there’s always the chance of being ripped off by an employer who takes advantage of your illegal status.

Working while travelling is a great way to make a bit of money and also get immersed in your destination. It just takes a bit of preparation.

Your thoughts on "How to work while travelling"

  • Very timely post! Every college grad should be reading this. Sometimes, people think it's far too hard to travel but really it's a matter of good planning. Thanks for the inspiration! What are the wages and costs of living in Spain or where you are now? And how do you normally go about finding jobs / what kind of jobs do you look for?

    on May 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm Reply
    • Spain has an unemployment rate of 24% right now(highest in the western world and twice that of Places like Iran) Good luck getting a job!

      on June 8, 2012 at 11:10 am Reply
  • Nice article, Linda! One of the main things I like about the work you do here is spreading the word that the regular 9-5 of work and 2 weeks of holiday a year is not the only option, and this did a good job of outlining the various alternatives. Just wanted to point out a small factual error, however. You said: "Europeans can work in other Schengen states", while in fact the case is that all European Union citizens can work in any other country which is a member of the European Union without a visa. There are countries that are part of the EU but have not signed the Schengen Agreement (UK, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus), and others which are part of Schengen, but not the EU (Switzerland and Norway). What we need is a nice Venn diagram showing the overlap between the EU, Schengen and Eurozone, as these three things so often get confused and conflated! For example:

    on May 12, 2012 at 8:58 am Reply
  • I am a big fan of volunteering whilst you are abroad. I have found that I get more from the experience than the people that I am helping - and at the same time there is minimal expense (if you chose the right volunteering opportunity!)

    on May 13, 2012 at 5:48 am Reply
  • Working while travelling is without a doubt the best way to keep yourself travelling for longer. You don't need to save up so much to get away, and you get to work as part of a team to do something and so make stronger friendships along the way. Thanks for the tips.

    on May 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm Reply

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