Runaway Backpacker Jobs

Most people believe that in order to work abroad, one must first obtain an expensive work visa. While this is true for most types of professional employment abroad, rarely is it necessary for backpacker jobs.

Backpacker jobs are off the record cash in hand jobs, and can be found just about everywhere. While some backpacker jobs can be lucrative and painless, others can be backbreaking and pay next to nothing. Nonetheless, whatever the pay, they are sure to make for some awesome experiences.

In the following guide, you will find a list of various backpacker jobs ideal for actual runaways, intense budget backpackers, and even African immigrants.

1) Day Work On A Luxury Yacht

Crew members cleaning the yachtLike luxury cars, luxury yachts are always in need of cleaning and maintenance and who better for the task than your self. Pay is usually high in Europe, around 15 to 20 Euro and hour, and work generally consists of painting, polishing, cleaning and varnishing. Just head to any port, meander the docks at dawn, and simply ask if there is any day work to be had. For more information, check out How To Work On A Luxury Yacht.

2) Work In An Eastern European Hostel

A backpacker party in a hostelEastern European hostels are ideal for the runaway backpacker because more often than not, their business is run off the books. This means they are accustomed and more willing to hire wanderers like your self. Hostels generally look for people who can clean, bar tend, manage the books, and keep guests happy. Prepare to do a lot of drinking and partying. The pay is generally low but room and board is usually provided. To get a job in a hostel, just send your resume to one of millions of hotels listed on

3) Work The Yachts In Eilat, Israel

A sailing yacht in Eilat IsraelIsrael is abundant with jobs for the migrant worker. And in the resort port city of Eilat Israel, almost every worker is an immigrant or backpacker. All you have to do to get a job is simply ask around. Since workers are constantly coming and going, you can almost always get a deckhand position aboard a party charter boat.

Although you receive free room and board, the rooms are reminiscent of slave bunks and the board is comparable to war rations. The work is grueling and the hours are long, and monthly pay is only around 300$. However, morning swims with wild dolphins definitely make up for it.

4) Work In A Hotel In The Middle East

A budget hotel near the bus station in amman JordanThere are quite a few privately owned budget hotels in the Middle East. You can usually find them around the buss and train stations of Istanbul, Damascus, Amman and Cairo. Though it is not common for foreign backpackers to work here, due to extremely low wages, you shouldn’t be turned down should you approach the manager. If you are hired, expect no more than a few hundred bucks a month. Work, not unlike hostel work, will generally range from acting as receptionist to cleaning toilettes. Talk about some serious cultural immersion.

5) Work On A Farm In Europe

An immigrant farmer picking orangesThroughout history, the farm has always been a haven and source of employment for the nomad. And today, not much has changed. The best way of finding employment on a farm is by asking around. If you’re lucky, a friend of friend will own a farm and be in need of laborers. While some farmers in western Europe will ask for working papers, most will gladly turn a blind eye.

Farm work can include picking fruit, planting trees, erecting fences, or caring for animals. Though it depends on your arrangement, room and board is often factored into your paycheck.  The most lucrative countries for farm work are those of Scandinavia, while pay in the rest of Europe is considerably less and can vary greatly by country.

6) Pick Grapes On An Italian Vineyard

picking grapes in italyIf you enjoy fine wines, and eating fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and olive oil, picking grapes in Italy is the backpacker job for you. The best time of year to seek out work on a vineyard is during harvest, which in Italy is from late August through October. Pay will depend on how many grapes you can pick. So if you’re looking to save up, this will mean a lot of picking. No matter how much you make, the experience is well worth it.

7) Teach English

Japanglish signsWhile you won’t be able to work at a proper school without papers, you can always teach English lessons privately. Believe it or not, craigslist is one of the best ways for students and teachers to connect. This is especially true in Japan, Korea and China, where there is a large demand for private English tutors. In East Asia, it is not unreasonable to charge anywhere between 15 and 50 dollars an hour.

8) Work Construction

an old construction siteNeedless to say, most construction work is backbreaking labor and generally pays minimum wage. To find work in construction, just walk up to any construction site and ask to see the foreman.

Other and potentially higher paying day labor opportunities can be found with private contractors who are working on house construction. To get these jobs, simply be on the look out for houses under construction and inquire.

9) Work A Sail Boat On The Nile

An ancient egyptian sailboat on the nile riverAll along the Nile river are beautiful working replicas of the ancient Egyptian sailboat known as the Felucca. While in the past these vessels were known to transport goods, today they primarily serve tourists.

If you don’t speak Arabic, getting a job aboard a Felluca will prove quite difficult. However, if you do manage to convey your intent and are hired, you won’t regret it. Though pay can be as low as 20$ a month, the experience of sailing the Nile, constantly surrounded by ancient Egyptian temples, and drinking tea with your shipmates is well worth it.

Conclusion: These are only a few of the countless backpacker jobs that lay waiting for you. For more guides on working abroad for the runaway and intense budget backpacker, check out my Work Abroad section.

Good luck & employment filled travels,



Let Me Know What You Think!

  1. Lee says

    Hi! Thanks for all the awesome info!
    I plan on backpacking through Europe either during the Fall of 2012, or the Spring of 2013 and would like to work in a few places to get extra cash so I can travel even longer. Do you think that a Working Holiday Visa (or student Visa, or anything like that) would be a good idea. Or is the ‘under – the – table’ work a better way to go?

    • says

      It really depends on the type of job. Some employers require that you have one, others might be able to get you one when you get the job. But there are many jobs where you dont need a visa, where off the books is the norm. Best, Leif

  2. says

    A great job to do around travelling that doesn’t get mentioned a lot is divemaster or diving instructor. There is the initial outlay for the courses but once they are done it’s not particularly hard to find a job (certainly not for instructors) and you get to work in some amazing places.
    Worth thinking about ;)

  3. Alex says

    Hi! I am extremely impressed and motivated by this site, so thanks. Anyway, I was just wondering how much Japanese/Chinese (depends on where I go) you would need to know if teaching English.

      • Jono says

        Hi Leif,

        I know this is an extremely old post and I apologize but when you say that the employers prefer that you don’t speak any of the language, do you mean they prefer that you don’t know how to speak the language or that the prefer that you refuse to speak the language with the pupil?

        Many Thanks,

        • says

          No, don’t apologize. From my experience teaching in Japan, the head of the school actually prefers that people don’t speak Japanese, that way they won’t be tempted to speak Japanese with the kids. But if you do, it’s no problem.

  4. Boden says

    What are some important languages to know while backpacking in order to get jobs and such? And how many languages do u speak leif?

  5. says

    Haha! I’m sure if I knew any other languages well enough to teach English, I’d do so in a heartbeat. But, I have a slightly more pressing question: what do you know about fake IDs? I’m a touch young to work (turning 15 this December), but with the aid of make-up, anything is possible. I’d like to head to Europe if/when I do run, maybe get a burger-flipping job until I become a citizen and get some legal work (and then there’s the factor of finishing school, but there’s time for that). SO, for that, I’ll need an ID that looks official. Now, I’m not looking to be a brain surgeon, but I think I can work at a bar/club somewhere, or maybe at a fast food joint (ah, the joy). Any tips on where I can get one or how to make one? Thanks so much for the great tips, by the way. I’ve never seen such a great wealth of tips for potential runaways! Keep up the great work. :)

  6. says

    This is a great resource for those who want to explore the world and make a little money to support themselves along the way. Teaching English is usually the first occupation most think of, but it is great that you suggested 9 others.

  7. says

    I would love to try some of the jobs written here :D On my first year in the workplace, I worked as a virtual assistant and even made a short film about it. Might as well blog about the experience. Thanks for this post, Leif!

  8. says

    Original suggestions for backpacker work! Cleaning a luxury yacht for 15 euros an hour sounds pretty good to me.

    I’m itching to find a creative entrepreneurial outlet while traveling. Im hoping that the right project comes along sooner than later.

    In the mean time, just hoping to find a good old fashioned work exchange at a hostel in Mexico next month.

  9. says

    Some great suggestions on this list, I have had friends who worked in hostels and they enjoyed it. Woofing seems to be so popular now as well! I had a friend who worked as a coordinator in Cusco and now she is a resident-so the perks of getting a proper job that allows a working visa are good too. I am so jealous of, she’ll be getting a Peruvian passport soon. But, the hours were brutal and she worked for years at it. I am not so dedicated!

    • says

      Thanks Mica,
      Hostel work is great. I have heard about wwofing but since it’s so organized and you even have to pay a fee, it kind of turns me off. I Like the organic farming in Europe aspect though. Maybe you should join up with your friend?

  10. says

    I worked as a gardener in Eilat, Israel for four months and it was great. The pay was crap and it was hard working in the hot sun everyday, but I got in great shape, and was able to stay away from the cold Canadian winter. Again, no working Visa — just had to make a border run to Dahab, Egypt once a month which was a real hassle…lol… :)

  11. says

    The yacht job and picking grapes is a great option for me. Surrounded by a scenic location, learning new skills (such as sea navigation and wine making) is awesome.

  12. says

    Dude, great guide. Im lovin your site here, it is giving me some awesome info. When I was in Costa Rica I interviewed at a sports booking call center. They offered me the job and it paid between $800-$1000 guaranteed but I ended up leaving the country then. Though I am so amazed as I travel how many opportunities there is to make money and no special visa is usually asked for. Most jobs are under the table or can even be paid to paypal or a bank account. I was even asked by people in Costa Rica to have me teach them english. I stayed with one family for 3 months and helped teach them some english for room and board. It was a sweet experience. I cannot wait to start traveling again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *