With some of the countries in places like South-East Asia, a work visa is a legal requirement but like most things there, can be overlooked. A lot of people that I had met who had not saved up a bum-load of cash before leaving like I did, were making small amounts of money working at hostels, bars, travel agencies and even schools in order to fund their Asian adventure. Obviously they weren’t getting paid astronomical amounts and some were just working for a couple of free meals and sometimes a bed to sleep in at night but in a land where ‘the bars are temples, but the pearls aren’t free’ (thank you Murray Head!), every little helps.
One thing to consider when seeking on-the-spot employment in SE Asia is that you are in a country where, unfortunately, they can hire Thai people to do anything, probably a million-times more efficient than you, for a fraction of the cost. Plus, who is going to want to travel half-way around the world on a quest of total cultural immersion, only to be served their first plate of Asian goodness by ‘Dagenham Dave’!
Get Paid to Party!
If, like a vast majority, you have jetted yourself to this bountiful corner of the globe with booze, beaches and boundless bonking as your primary idea of culture, then getting work in the party hotspots is as easy as shooting hallucinatory fish in a Sangsom bucket! Usually you are paid in free drinks, a free bed and in one place I partied, free drugs as a form of payment for your services. The work ranges from pouring drinks for pissed-up partygoers, rallying bar crawls for belligerent backpackers, promoting party nights to tanked travelers and pretty much anything else you can imagine that would be required to ensure that the patrons of your place of employment are making wrong decisions, but feeling oh-so-right about it! The following hostels/bars I have known to offer such work:
- Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand – The Beach Village Backpackers (and pretty much any of the bars in Haad Rin)
- Koh Tao, Thailand – Fishbowl, Maya Beach Club, Lotus Bar (and, again, pretty much any of the beach bars)
- Sihanoukville, Cambodia – Anywhere, literally.
- Nha Trang, Vietnam – Why Not? Bar, The Sailing Club (although this is a little more upper-class, dreadlocked sand-kickers need not apply)
I must warn you however, this line of work is certainly not for the faint of heart or morally compliant – I have heard stories and you will hear them too.
Get Paid to Produce!
Sure, having the stamina to party until sunrise every day whilst getting paid a pauper’s wage could be considered a skill, but if you have creative skills that can produce a masterpiece outside of a cocktail glass, there is hope for you here also. I met a guy in Koh Pha Ngan who arrived at a hostel that was just opening, proposed his skills as their resident DJ and now, he boasts that he opened and closed sets by drum’n’bass legend Goldie and mainstream favorite DJ Fresh (check out his Facebook page). I have also stayed at countless hostels which encourage those who are gifted in the visual arts to contribute some painted murals to their walls in return for lodging and food – an honorable mention for this goes to The Mad Monkey hostels in Cambodia.
If your talents lie in what your dad would call ‘man work’, there is hope in the form of Wwoofing. Sure, this sounds like the speak of a verbally-challenged dog but it actually means unpaid work of the agri/horti-cultural kind. You basically work on the building or maintenance of a number of things in exchange for a place to stay or even just a humble family meal. I mean, you are not going to earn any beer tokens this way but you could save serious dollah on accommodation and food while also doing the whole ‘helping those in need’ part. Generally, you can just walk up to construction or farming in progress and attempt to offer services or you can go to Wwoof.asia and search the classifieds.
Get Paid to Pass-On (Knowledge)!
A great way to earn some extra wedge is to take up some teaching work. Most of the travelers who take up TEFL (Teaching English in a Foreign Language), generally set it up before leaving for their destination to lock-down a wage and to ensure that their potential workplace isn’t just a rape dungeon in an abandoned warehouse – believe it or not, this is genuinely how some people see this beautiful part of the world. I am telling you that this is entirely unnecessary if you are just planning on earning a small amount of ‘keep-you-on-the-road cash’. Admittedly, you more-than-likely won’t be earning as much as the people who planned ahead, as you were hired purely on face-value but you will have the wondrous advantage of having a no-commitment, no-contract way of earning some quick cheddah.
The beauty of most of Asia is its absence of rules in areas that would make most first-world citizens break-out in terror sweats. In this instance, the lack of a background check before taking-up employment in an educational establishment. From what I have come to understand, the people of SE Asia have a very strong belief in first impressions and face value. Let me give you an example, I have heard of backpackers literally strolling into a school of their choosing, asking to see the head of the school, approaching them with the offer of teaching in a polite and professional manner and within minutes, being placed in front of a class of oriental cherubs and starting proceedings with ‘A, B, C’. Unless I have it totally wrong and these principals come pre-programmed with a military-grade paedo detector, the rules seem extremely flexible or non-existant. I’m not for a single-second condoning the possibility that a child molester could get work in a school without any background checks, I’m just saying that it means less fuss if you begin to run low on moolah and need cash in a flash (I agree, probably not the best turn of phrase to use in the same sentence as the words ‘child molester’!)
This is, undoubtedly, the best paid job that you can get as a backpacker here or anywhere else in Asia for that matter. As an ex-teacher in my native land, I can tell you that as soon as I gave up ‘life in the dull lane’ and took up living for the moment, getting back into education was as far down on my list of things to do as getting kicked in the man-parts by lady boys and trying that awful duck-embryo egg delicacy that this lot seem to chow down like Lucky Charms! What I wasn’t aware of, was the difference in atmosphere, respect received and most of all, in the willingness and overall awesomeness of the students. If you could imagine teaching the happiest, most respondent and sweetest kids the knowledge of something that you take for granted every time you open your mouth, you’d be pretty close to how it feels to do the whole TEFL thing.
Teaching a Thai kid to dance ‘Gangnam Style’ in Bangkok
Well, that’s South East Asia covered, let’s move onto…
Unlike SE Asia, you WILL need a work visa in order to gain some collateral in this huge, dusty jungle of a country.
If you are between 18 and 30 years of age, you can obtain a Working Holiday Visa, a one-time pass to live like the Ozzies, work like the Ozzies, play like…well, you know. You apply online, it takes ten-minutes, you pay a few hundred Aussie dollars and ba-da-ling, your e-mail inbox is graced with your confirmation of visa approval. Honestly, it’s harder to sell a fat man cake than it is to apply for this temporary leave to remain. Even if you’re not planning a trip to Australia, sure is nice to know that when you are forced to stop using monetary bills as toilet paper and have to start using the hostel’s single-ply, you have somewhere other than home to build some finances.
Getting one of these is one of utmost importance, as it costs very little but almost guarantees a great return on your initial investment. Check out if you are eligible.
I never really had a huge interest in visiting Australia, it was to be a simple stop-over before continuing onto lands more cultural. I feel that, with every post I churn out, I have to defend my writing by confirming that I don’t have anything against the ‘land down-under’. I like Australia, honestly I do, I just wasn’t all-too interested in attempting to see one of the world’s largest islands as part of my maiden voyage.
See, the beauty of Oz is that you can earn a Donald Trump wage, doing a Donald Duck job. I worked at Sexpo, selling dildos and legal party pills to bored couples and public perverts for three amazing days and earned enough to buy a couple of weeks in China. Then they paid to fly me over to Perth to do the next one, where I earned another couple of weeks in China. Finally, I worked for three months at a winery in the Outback, that earned me enough to buy a small island off the coast of China!
When the hardest part of your workday is wondering if you will top your record of naked ladies spoken to, how much wine you can consume in the scorching sunshine without getting severe heatstroke or just what you plan on spending your new-found fortune on, you begin to wonder why on Earth people complain about going to work!
However, don’t make the unfortunate mistake of heading to Australia with big aspirations and empty pockets, this is a land of opportunity, not of complete magic. I met a girl in Brisbane from Newcastle, who had left Geordieland with little more than a handful of dollars and a ridiculous accent, two weeks later she was on a plane home with a few coins, a heart full of broken dreams and an unchanged, ever-ridiculous accent. The day before she left, she was telling me how she envisioned hopping a flight down-under, working a minimal amount of hours in a day and spending the rest of her time traveling and surfing – oh how foolish she looked, leaving Australia having stayed in one city and not seeing any of mentioned city because she spent all of her time on the hostel WiFi connection, looking for work.
But…I Wanna Sell Dildos to Naked Women and Drink Wine For Money!
When I tell people about my work experience in Australia, people always reply with the same old question: ‘How did you get that job?’ And the job they are usually referring to, is the SEXPO gig.
I had just got into Sydney, with my heart remaining in my previous destination, New Zealand. I checked into a hostel in Kings Cross and just spent my first couple of days making friends in the new, unfamiliar surroundings. One of the most valuable friends to make is the hostel’s day receptionist, as she is the first port of call for any prospective employers wanting to hire from their hostel. Anyways, I had become pretty friendly with the girl behind reception to the point of her passing me any job that came in. When the SEXPO job came about, she handed me the fax, smiled and said ‘I think you will be perfect for this job’. I called, scheduled an interview, went to said interview, blew them away and by that weekend, I was meeting prospective porn stars and selling adventurous couples sex accessories. I became one of their top salesman, which came easy when your primary objective is to flirt with girls and promise them that my product was the ultimate in pleasure-giving apparatus (a promise I have been offering my whole life, with varied results!) On the back of this, they paid to fly me to Perth in order to do the next SEXPO show there, what ensued was a weekend that I will never forget!
Moral of this story is, make friends with people who are worth knowing. Or just the girl behind reception at your hostel.
Making Beds to Rest Your Head
Like Asia, it is possible to get work for your lodging and board but here, competition is fierce. If you didn’t already know, Australia is a stupidly expensive place when you aren’t earning. Hostel beds are as much as 25 USD a night, even the cheapest food can come in at 15 USD a meal and a schooner (a ridiculous beer size, about 3/4 a pint) can be as much as 10 USD. So to shave off 25 bucks for a few hours of washing crusty sheets or scrubbing dirty toilets, is a no-brainer – that’s 2 schooners and a pot to be had there (if you’ve been, you’ll know!)
However nobody does this as their primary way to see Australia because as previously mentioned, you’re gonna need the money rolling in if you wanna roll around the vast land on offer – it just helps a little!
One More Year!
So you have spent the past 12 months in the scorching Ozzie sunshine, drinking ice cold beer from a ‘stubbie holder’, watching Aussie rules football and still having no idea what the hell is going on…yet, you’re not quite ready to return home? Well, for eligible applicants, they give you a second visa in return for a little bit of agricultural work.
Now, before I go boasting about how incredible my three-month farmwork stint was, I want to remind you all that I got very lucky. I also want to reassure you that I am not the only one who had a great experience, however, most people I know have counted it as the worst three-months of their entire travels but what has to be done, has to be done.
Like Asia, the outback of Australia plays by its own rules ever-so-slightly and what some advertise as farmwork when approached by immigration officials, is actually just a run-of-the-mill job that ticks all of the boxes on paper. For example, I met a guy that, through friends-of-friends managed to score a gig redecorating a millionaires mansion with free accommodation, a decent wage and the necessary paperwork to guarantee his second-year visa. I can just imagine the jealousy raging in all of his friends as they scrolled images of him, floating in the pool, re-painting the depth level while they were shoulder deep in cuts and ticks from a long day in the onion fields.
I also got my required work through mutual friends and let’s just say, it was an absolute pleasure to work where I did. While others that I had met were worked like slaves, picking acidic fruits in scorching heat and only getting paid for the amount of produce that they had collected, I was greeting guests and sharing wine in an air-conditioned room while eating fine cheese and warm pastries. Again, remember, that guy and I, we got very lucky!
On the flip-side, I have also met people who, despite the job being back-breaking and arduous, had an amazing experience due to the people that they met and worked with. It really is just a luck-of-the-draw situation, which is true of any job in any country, really. I can count on two hands the amount of jobs that I have had at home which were less-than-desirable in the work itself but were made bearable, or even fun, by the people I worked with.
So where do you find this agricultural work other than through the lucritive ‘friends-of-friends’ framework? The choice of most is Gumtree Australia, however due to the lack of filter and pre-screening of ads, I have some heard horror stories coming from this site. Then again, I have heard some success stories also and I can only imagine that the majority of ads on here are genuine but an air of caution is advised. A google search for regional work brings up loads of prospects and one that I still receive regular work updates from is Jobs 4 Travellers, it costs around 30 AUD to sign up but you receive, on average, three decent job prospects daily. Even though I never got the chance to use it, it really did provide exactly what it advertised.
From what I have been told, the rules for Working Holiday Visa are almost identical to Australia for New Zealand. However as I wasn’t in financial dire straits at that point, I have no idea about how to get work in New Zealand. I was offered some jobs and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about how different things would have been had I said ‘yes’. For anyone who has ever been on the Kiwi Crawl in Queenstown, that would have been me leading you wasty-faces into the beautiful abyss…can you imagine that? No, of course you can’t, because you probably don’t remember anything about Queenstown…(it’s alright, me neither!)