Working in a highly social and demographically varied environment was surely always appealing to me! I’ve been working in hostels around Europe, on and off, as a volunteer, a receptionist and a manager, for about 4 year. So I am pretty well informed on what type of job you can get where. Let’s go over it!
Volunteering, paid position or management
For either one of these options, a good place to start is checking booking channels, such as HostelWorld, HostelBookers, Booking.com etc. and list all the properties from your destination city. If there’s a big competition, chances are there are plenty of work opportunities as well. Do some research on some tourism related figures for each place and on the cost of living in that country to see what to expect.
Hostel work – the best European countries for it
1. Let’s start with Eastern Europe: most places here won’t pay you anything at all or if they do it’s just pennies in comparison to what they ask from you. Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, all are pretty new on the hostel scene and if you want to go to one of these places, don’t expect to find a paid position easily; there is some volunteering, but most hostel owners ask for many many hours in return of your bed in a shared dormitory. The same applies for ex-Yugoslavia countries and Greece. The Baltics are a bit better than the rest, they treat their workers with more appreciation and reward them as well. So in most cases, Eastern Europe is pretty OK for volunteering for a short while but nothing more than that, as it’s pretty cheap to live there so you won’t spend much anyway.
Turkey is are quite similar to the above listed. Plenty of work opportunities, due to the huge tourism industry, but if you are not a local, you’ll never get a cut of the profit. Your purpose there is to create a nicer, more international atmosphere to the place and make the business look better in the eyes of a westerner. On the other hand, you will be treated to a lot of diners, tea, free guided tours and so on.
2. Western Europe is a good place to find a paid position in a hostel. Most places offer volunteering positions as well, but if you’d like to stay for a longer time, go for a paid one. Don’t be expecting to save up on these jobs, but enjoy the city you’re in while not going through your travel savings, more relaxed an with less hours of work then in the Eastern countries. If however you happen to speak the official language of any of these countries, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France, even Spain and Italy, do have decently paid opportunities.
3. If you are looking into getting a managing position, you necessarily have prior hostel experience. No one will hire you to run things for them if you do not have a good understanding of how a hostel runs and some experience with all the aspects of the job. Even if you’ve worked in hostels before, it might take some time before you find a new good opportunity and you must stay flexible and accept to start work for a place in a reception position for a couple of months if they ask for it in order to build a relationship with you before they give you more responsibility.
In all cases, if you are looking for a more “serious” job but in a more relaxed and entertaining working environment such as a hostel, you should also think first of Western Europe and especially UK, Ireland (other developed countries too, given you speak the language). There could be some good opportunities even moving a bit to the East, but look for chains of hostels instead of really small businesses, as owners of such places prefer keeping it simple and running everything themselves. There might be in some cases a language barrier as well, but if they do work mostly with international staff, this won’t be a problem for you either.