Runaway Backpacker Jobs

by The Runaway Guide on September 16, 2011

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,



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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Linn Kristensen August 11, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Hey Lief!
I love your homepage, and i have got so many ideas from it!
I am planning to travel to Thailand in a couple of months, I saved a bit of money, but not a lot.
I hope to find a job when i get there by asking different places. I speak fluent English, and Scandinavian – and since there is a lot of Scandinavian tourists in Thailand i was thinking that it might be possible. You probably get a lot of questions, but i hope you have some time to answer!! :-)
I do not really know where the best place is to start? Which city is the easiest to get a job in, I was thinking Phuket? And where is it good to meet other travelers?


The Runaway Guide August 25, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Hey Linn, Phuket definitely get’s the most scandinavians and is probably a good bet. I think you might have some luck in Hua Hin as well. I remember there being a few swedish restaurants. The best time to come is going to be from december to march. This is the time when tourism picks up especially with scandinavians. Good luck!


Laila May 31, 2014 at 5:55 am

Hey Lief,

I know this is an old post, but your articles are really bringing the adventurous and wild side of me, I just can’t help it. LOL XD By the way I’m from Philippines particularly in Davao City it’s known as #4 safest city in the world. Let me know if you need a place to stay I can make arrangements for you, it’s for free so don’t worry. I’ll also bring you in one of the best island around ;) Hope you stop by.


The Runaway Guide June 3, 2014 at 4:25 am

Hey Laila,
Sound great! I hope to visit the Philippines this fall! I will definitely take you up on that :)


Scott Chaney April 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm

I’m extremely interested in getting involved with this. How do i sign up for this amazing experience?


The Runaway Guide April 15, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Hey Scott, you only have to sign up with yourself!


Carm July 22, 2013 at 9:46 am

Last year, I ran away from home too and traveled round half of Southeast Asia. I had 150$, none of it left after the first week. I twice did hostel work, taught English and another one you might want to add in your list, work as au-pair/housekeeper. Survived 4 months on the road!


The Runaway Guide July 22, 2013 at 10:13 am

Hey Carm, that’s awesome! I know what you mean about the money going fast in the beginning. I spent 1000$ in 1 week when I first left. But once it ran out, I became really resourceful and started figuring out way to make money. Good on ya! Glad you got in touch.


Euan January 30, 2013 at 8:06 am

Hey Leif

You have created an awesome site here, I’ve been suffering through exams daydreaming about backpacking and reading through this site almost daily….so thanks very much for writing it!

I was wondering how you go about accessing your money whilst on the road as I would expect cash machines to charge a huge travelling fee?

Cheers again


The Runaway Guide January 30, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Hi Euan, thanks, I appreciate it. Glad I could be some help. Yea, cash machines can be a killer, usually around 5 bucks a transaction. I generally try and use my banks atms or just take out the maximum limit each time. Cheers, Leif


Jodie January 21, 2013 at 2:33 am

I just found your site and already think it’s great. I’d love to teach English privately – I’m currently in Tokyo. Any advice on how to set that up?

Jodie :)


The Runaway Guide January 30, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Hey Jodie, thanks! Your best bet is to do some networking. Talk to shop keepers and stuff and let them know your offering english lessons. You could also check out They usually have listings of Japanese people looking to improve their english skills.


Bianka January 3, 2013 at 5:19 am

Hi.I am now officially in love with this website.Can I ask you something?When you first run away did you have any money saved or did you earn some on the way?
Best, Bianka :)


The Runaway Guide January 3, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I saved up 1000$ but it was gone within a week ><


Carol December 29, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Hey Leif,

All this sounds good and possible, thanks for the info!

I’m from Costa Rica and I’m looking to travel/backpack around Europe with my boyfriend (since I’m kind of afraid to go by myself). I know both English and Spanish fluently and I’m looking to go to Italy, although with this economy I heard it was better somewhere like the Netherlands. I want to know how much do you think each of us could save up to get there and survive while we get a job? Also, what are the chances of getting one in the Netherlands? Don’t really know where to start but any and all information would be greatly appreciated! Basically, we just want to travel and get to know the world a little more, we’re practical so I think almost anything would work us. I’m just a bit concerned of getting there and not knowing where to look for a job or a place to crash for a while. Or, in case of an emergency, where to go!

I’ve been thinking about teaching English; however, I don’t have any type of certification or such. Been looking into TEFL, but it’s quite expensive. If we decide to travel it would be until the last quarter of 2013 maybe. So I guess there’s time. :)

Looking forward to a response or advise!

Thanks in advance!


The Runaway Guide December 30, 2012 at 11:22 am

Hi Carol,
Sounds like a great Idea.
If I were you I would try to save up about 1500$ each to be safe.
I think you could probably find a job there pretty easily.
It won’t be the best job or pay very well though.
In the Netherlands, they don’t really need English teachers cause everyone speaks very well.
If you were to teach english, I would say to do it in Spain.
Let me know if you have any more questions,


Ontheball December 17, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Where is this nonsense coming from.??Who put this bullshit together.??.A good excuse for a few adverts that may capture the eye of some gormless unwitting wannabe gap year simpleton who thinks that he is Marco Polo.The jobs mentioned are few and far between.Wake up and be more discerning folks.


The Runaway Guide December 18, 2012 at 1:49 am

haha, hey. I have done all these jobs aside from the most common, the Italian vineyard. I assure you that all of them are possible. More, I hardly make any money from the 3 plugs I have in the sidebar. Stop being so cynical brother.


Lauren Metzler September 26, 2012 at 3:39 am

Hi Leif, I really love your site! I just came across it today and have been reading through all of your posts! I am currently teaching English in Thailand and about to hit up the Philippines…do you have any advice about starting a Travel Blog like yours? I am interested in how you can make a possible income as a newbie blogger. Keep livin the Dream! :D


The Runaway Guide October 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Hi Lauren,
I’m glad you have enjoyed the site! Thanks for the compliments.
That’s sweet that your teaching english in Thailand!
I would be glad to help you set up a travel blog.
E-mail me at and I will help you as best I can.


efrutik September 25, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Any advice on how to get into private English tutoring in Berlin by any chance? Any advice is appreciated!


The Runaway Guide October 1, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Your best bet is to try craigslist for now. If I were you, I would just show up in Berlin and start asking around. You are bound to find some money making opportunity.


Lee July 19, 2012 at 1:04 am

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?


The Runaway Guide August 10, 2012 at 10:27 pm

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


Dante Harker June 11, 2012 at 11:35 am

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 ;)


The Runaway Guide August 10, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Thats not a bad idea, thanks for sharing. Cheers, Leif


Fernando May 20, 2012 at 9:52 pm

How easy would it be for a backpacker to find a job as a bartender?


The Runaway Guide August 10, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Hey Fernando,
You could probably get a bartending job quite easily. I guess though it really depends on the country. I would give it a shot though if i were you. Best,


Alex March 19, 2012 at 11:09 pm

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.


The Runaway Guide March 20, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Employers generally prefer that you don’t speak any of the language, that way your students won’t be tempted to speak to you in Chinese/Japanese.


Jono January 20, 2014 at 3:09 pm

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,


The Runaway Guide January 21, 2014 at 11:02 am

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.


Boden February 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm

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


The Runaway Guide February 22, 2012 at 3:20 am

Hey, I would say English is the most important. Then probably spanish and arabic. It really depends where you want to go. I speak french norwegian japanese and a bit of arabic.


Alyssa October 6, 2011 at 3:11 am

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. :)


Traveling Ted September 27, 2011 at 9:46 am

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.


The Runaway Guide September 28, 2011 at 9:47 am

Thanks Ted, if there are anymore you can think of, feel free to add them bellow.


Micamyx|Senyorita September 24, 2011 at 6:53 am

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!


The Runaway Guide September 27, 2011 at 12:24 am

You should Mica! Let me know if you decide to, and I will help you out. Virtual assistant sounds like a good gig, did you do it in the Philippines?


LAbackpackerChick September 21, 2011 at 10:14 am

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.


The Runaway Guide September 22, 2011 at 3:37 am

Thanks, hostel in Mexico sounds good. Also, if your interested, I know this British girl in India who exports stuff back to the UK, she makes a pretty penny.


Monica Stott (@TotalTravelBug) September 21, 2011 at 2:11 am

Ooo some good jobs here! I managed to work on an island is Australia. Was awesome. So many people think that backpackers just work on bars but there are so many great jobs out there, you’ve just got to be up for a challenge!


The Runaway Guide September 21, 2011 at 2:23 am

Thanks Monica. Workin on an island in Australia sounds like a great deal. What were you doing there?


Mica September 19, 2011 at 9:32 pm

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!


The Runaway Guide September 21, 2011 at 8:34 am

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?


Nomadic Samuel September 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm

That’s a great list Leif, it just goes to show that if one has the will there is always a way to get abroad. I’ve been funding my travels mostly by #7 :)


The Runaway Guide September 21, 2011 at 8:27 am

Nice. Teaching english can make bank. I had some good arrangements in Tokyo for a while.


Raymond @ Man On The Lam September 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm

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… :)


The Runaway Guide September 21, 2011 at 8:30 am

Hey Raymond, thats awesome. I worked down at the harbor for Yacht Eilat. I had a great time there. The Red sea is beautiful and so are the Israeli army girls on leave.


Marky September 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm

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.


The Runaway Guide September 21, 2011 at 8:31 am

Yea brother, you should go for it. Let me know if you need some advice.


flipnomad September 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm

nice list man!!! just to add.. a lot of online jobs too from programming, data entry, virtual assistant etc :-) oh and freelance writing


The Runaway Guide September 21, 2011 at 8:31 am

Thanks Flip! Thanks for adding the online jobs. You oughta write an article on digital travel jobs. Let me know if you do.


Jim September 17, 2011 at 10:21 am

Great stuff Leif. Watch out for those construction jobs though- often very hard men.


The Runaway Guide September 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Thanks, I hear ya, its no walk in the park


James Cook September 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Great advice. I am going to try the private English tutoring I hadn’t even thought of doing that before!


The Runaway Guide September 17, 2011 at 7:26 am

Nice! Go for it, you can really make a some good money. Let me know if you need any advice on it.


Michael James September 16, 2011 at 2:35 pm

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.


The Runaway Guide September 17, 2011 at 7:33 am

Hey, thanks a lot. I appreciate the support dude. Sounds like you had some good gigs in Costa Rica. Yea, there are definitely more cool backpacking jobs than people think.


Pete September 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Great list. I love the idea of teaching English privately!


The Runaway Guide September 17, 2011 at 7:37 am

thanks, let me know if you want any more advice on it.