Backpacker jobs: ideas for making money on the road

By Carmen Recavarren
Posted on 18 January 2017

Hostels - Work

Good, honest work…

Even when you’re staying in cheap hostels to keep your costs down, there’ll be times when money gets tight. How can you make enough cash to keep up your travel? Nobody wants to go to the Bank of Mum And Dad too often, and travel writing and photography – the dream careers for many travellers – can be brutally tough to make money from if you don’t already have a reputation or a few good contacts.

Thankfully, those aren’t the only two options. While the bloggers who’ve ‘made it’ have a high media profile, the reality is that most travellers earn a buck through fairly ordinary jobs. The work may not always be glamorous, but it’ll expose you to new people and another side of life in your chosen destination. Just make sure – this is really important – that you’ve got the right visa for whatever you choose to do. There’s a useful section on visas on Legal Nomads blogger Jodi Ettenberg’s “Resources for Digital Nomads” page.

Without further ado, here are a few sure-fire ways of making money when things get tight…

Work in a hostel

People come and go in hostels, but have you ever thought about asking to stay and working in one for a while? They need people on reception and behind the bar; they need people doing accounts and cleaning. All sorts of things need to be done to keep a hostel running, so see if you have anything in your skill set you can offer up for a wage.

Pamper prince or princess

Haircuts and massages may not be most people’s first thought when they get to a hostel, but if you can do either and you’re willing to ply your trade in hostels worldwide, do it. Keep your prices low-ish and people will flock your way. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want a massage after lugging a backpack thousands of miles or sitting on a train or plane for days?

Keeper of alcohol

The king of backpacker jobs. If you can pull a pint and know your mimosa from your martini, you can take on any bar in the world. You go to the heart of the action, learn all about the people around you and make some amazing memories.

Quick note: some countries require you to have a certificate to prove you know how to serve alcohol legally. Canada’s bar tenders, for example, must all have a Smart Serve certificate before they step behind a bar.


Obviously teach what you know. Yoga or tango, English or recorder – if you have a skill, you can probably teach it at beginner level at the very least. You don’t need to know the ins and outs in detail. If you’re willing to offer English conversation classes, for example, you can get loads of worksheets and resources online to help you, but many people just want to have a native speaker of English to practice on.

Talk to local bars and offer your services – a yoga class in the morning might open their business up for morning custom, a tango class in the evening might draw the crowds when it might otherwise be quiet. An English conversation evening would keep the wine flowing on a Tuesday that is usually dead.

Get on the commission buggy

Approach local tour operators offering local activities and suggest they pay you commission for bringing in the punters. If you’ve got the gift of the gab and can show usually-very-willing tourists to the activity they want to do with a company you’re willing to recommend, you could make yourself a tidy bit of cash.

Just look at the skills you already have and play to your strengths. If you haven’t set off yet, maybe do a day course in something you’ve always fancied trying. You might just come back a pro!