Backpacker Jobs How-to

Karumba, QLD, AU

100_3110How the heck are we doing this?

This article comes by way of a reader.  Travis asks:

“I love to travel and have recently come to the decision that I should spend my youth doing what I love.  I found your blog while searching the internet for how to get it done, and it was like a diamond in the rough.  My tentative plan is similar to your own.  I’m going to be here probably another year.  In that time I’m going to work and save to start my trip.

But my real question comes once I get where I want to go.  That place is Australia and I would like to live and work there for awhile.  Maybe making my way towards Europe if I can really save some good money while I’m there (in Australia).  This is the point where I start wondering if that’s all just wishful thinking.  I’m a little foggy on the whole “working in a foreign country and actually making more money there than I would here in the US” part.  For instance, How do you find a job? Place to live?  If you do why are employers and landlords so okay with the idea that you would only be there for a couple months?”

 So first off this article is primarily focused on the “how.”  If you’re looking for the “why” behind two people willing spending a month of their lives shoveling horse poop, that question is answered over here.

Travis is pretty much is describing the exact plan we ended up doing:

  1. Live & work in Australia for 1 year
  2. Make enough money to go all the way around
  3. Return home with about as much money as we started with.


We’d suggest starting by reducing your current living expenses as much as possible.  Sell your stuff, get a roomie or become a roomie, pay off your debt etc.  See our article on planning a budget

As for working abroad in Australia, the easiest way is to get a work holiday visa.  You pretty much get it if you’re under 31 when you apply and pay the fee (about $360).  You then have 1 year to activate it.  So for example Greg applied 1 month before he turned 31 and activated it 1 month before he turned 32 and stayed in Australia until 1 month before he turned 33.  Here’s the link:

Also, you can apply for one in New Zealand and it’s FREE when you apply online.  Here’s the link:

We did work in New Zealand, but only a little.  We hear the pay is lower and it’s much harder to find jobs.  However New Zealand is, well, as we’ve said before,

“New Zealand is about the most awesome country we’ve ever visited in our entire lives.”

We should note there are a lot of countries around the world that have a working holiday visa program.  You may want to google work holiday visas and see what your options are – people spend years jumping from country to country and making money while travelling.

Once you’re approved, the visa activates when you enter the country and from that point on you have 12 months to live and work in the country.  If you leave the country the clock keeps ticking so be aware of that.  Also, you can only work for a single employer for up to 6 months.

Be aware when you’re on a work holiday visa people see you as a minimum wage employee.  To draw an analogy with American life, work holiday visas are the “illegal immigrant workers” of the southern hemisphere.  Except you’re legally there.

Also, minimum wage is about $15 / hour.  Which sounds awesome right?  Except everything is stupid expensive there so you do need to be very careful with your money.  That being said, it’s totally do-able.  Well, at least we did it.

So how did we get jobs?

Here is a summary with links to the connected blog entries.

All pay is in Australian, which is slightly better than US dollars at the time of publishing

($1.00 USD = $1.08 AUD)

20110319 (3)

1st job – working at a race horse stable

Pay – about $15 / hour.  Discount living quarters provided by company.

Reference –

Thoughts – Sucked.  Horrid hours, pay was low for Australia and they didn’t pay by the hours so we worked for free a lot.  The supervisors were used to working people like slaves and discarding them.  Also, there are now courses you need to take to get the job.  That being said we met some awesome fellow travelers we’ve kept in contact with.

How we got it – Before we even entered the country, Tiffany found the job on the Australian version of craigslist, which is There are other jobs there as well.  Yes, we had the job before we even entered the country.


20110611 (39)


2nd job – Working in a hostel for accommodation

Pay – we worked for 2 hours and got to stay at hostels for free for the night

Reference –

Thoughts – Was fine.  Great way to save $30 / night and live somewhere for an extended period of time for free.  Down side is that it’s hard to hold down a job while doing this so recommended when you’re between jobs.

How we got it – Googled hostels in the areas we wanted to visit, called them and asked about work for accommodation.  It’s a normal thing in Australia.


20110524 (11)

3rd job – fruit picking

Pay – about $60 for 10 hours of work.  We stayed in a hostel during this time.

Reference –

Thoughts – Sucked.  Everyone says how much money there is in this and we found it to be a massive amount of labor for very low pay relative to other work.  We did this for one day to say we did it.

How we got it – The hostel we were working at had a job board.  You can also find this online – it’s a common thing down here.



4th job – working as sailing crew in NZ

Pay – $2000 for 1 month.  Flight to the boat, living quarters & food provided. 

Reference –

Thoughts – We loved it but we like boats.  This is where we had to work on clearing the septic system so it’s not for everyone.  Also in order to work on boats and get paid you require licensing – and in practice that can be flexible.

How we got it –Online – this one was from


5th job – Working at a ski resort

Pay – $19.50 / hour.  Discount living quarters, all food and lift tickets provided by company.

Reference –

Thoughts – Pretty frigging awesome.  Pay was decent; we got to go snowboarding every day for free and our particular mountain had on-resort living for staff.

How we got it – Applied online.  Just google the ski resorts – there aren’t a lot of them.  Off the top of our heads head there is Perisher, threadbo, mt. Buller and Charlotte’s pass.  Note their ski season is the opposite of ours and New Zealand also has a large ski industry.


6th job – Working at an outback bar

Pay – $20.00 / hour.  Discount living quarters provided by company.

Reference –

Thoughts – We did 2 different bars.  First one was horrible and the manager was a jerk.  Second one was pretty cool.  Good managers, some cool locals that taught us how to play cricket and it was on the beach.  It’s a hit and miss thing.

How we got it – In Carins there is a backpacker job recruiter.  She got us both jobs within 48 hours of walking in the door each time.  Obviously, results vary.  You do need to take an online course on responsible service of alcohol (RSA) to get a job serving drinks – it’s about $60 and very easy.

The recruiter we worked with in Cairns, Queensland is Giulia (pronounced “Juilia”).  Please let her know we referred you.

AU contact info
T. +61 (07) 4041 0666

So why exactly would two people wandering the planet spend a year working labor jobs in Australia?  This is why.

About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out!

This entry was posted in Australia, budget travel, Places We've Been, travel, world travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Backpacker Jobs How-to

  1. Pingback: Workers of the World #14

Comments are closed.