How and Why: Get a Hostel Job!


I have worked in two Hostels so far, and am currently living in one in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

In May last year I started looking for a change, I had started getting bored of my day job as I felt I was just postponing the adventure I really wanted. I never thought that quitting everything, packing up my tiny bag, and jumping on a plane to Madrid a week after handing in my notice would be one of the best descisions I ever made!

I lived as a volounteer in U Hostels, Madrid, for 3 and a half months and in Pauliceia Hostel, Sao Paulo, for 4 months by the time I leave in June. I can sincerely tell you that the experiences I have gained are some of my most valuable and treasured!

I had sent only one e-mail to U Hostels, and with a stroke of luck I was invited to join them. In Sao Paulo I wasn't feeling so lucky so I sent 29 e-mails and received 19 replies offering various positions – which I think is a fairly succesful result! Two months later I am still receiving more offers from the hostels that I had originally emailed.

The Benefits of Working in Hostels

The benefits of working in Hostels can be huge! And the great thing about approaching them this way is that you get offered many various positions and it's up to you to decide which looks like the best opertunity for you! For a few hours of volountary work (or even occasionaly paid work) you will have access to a multitude of things..

From The Hostel

  • Free Accomodation
  • Free Breakfast
  • (Occasionally) Free lunch or dinner
  • Free Laundry
  • Living in the cities hottest locations
  • Free or discounted activities
  • A creative environment where your ideas mean something! 

From The Opportunity

  • Learn about a new culture first hand
  • Gain some of the best friends in your life from all over the world
  • Learn new languages
  • Learn the ins and outs of living in a foreign city from a locals point of view
  • Learn about other peoples stories and cultures
  • Taste new food and drinks
  • Be surrounded by like-minded people who have found opportunity in alternative ways of thinking
  • Open up endless future possibilities through the contacts that you make


  • Money and privacy, you can still get a second job outside of the hostel but you probably stay in a shared room with other staff or guests
  • You can be asked to leave any time as you dont have a contract or rights

How To Do It!

The E-mail

You are a person not a robot – Add exclamation marks where you fancy to make yourself sound full of positivity and energy (If you are not full of positivity and energy and lot working with other people, maybe a hostel job is not for you)!

Attach your CV (if you translate it to their language it shows super effort and they like that, but don't use Google Translate! Make a foreign friend! They know what sounds best and in a locals way of speaking)

Send a picture of yourself

Write a personable “cover letter” (in their language) as your introductory e-mail, this should include:

  • A seemingly personalised compliment (but you're gonna copy and paste this stuff so manke sure it can apply to everyone) such as 'I saw the pictures of the hostel on HostelWorld and I loved the design!'
  • What you would like to gain from the hostel – learning about a new culture, looking for change..
  • Any skills you can offer such as, 'I can take pictures for you, I have worked with marketing and social media, I love painting stuff, I have worked as a bartender and waitor for years!' etc.
  • Indefinite availability is always attractive –  they are not so interested in people who have to leave after 3 weeks, 2 months is much better! But Hostels generally look for someone who can at least stay for a month

(be aware, they will probably hunt you down and stalk you on facebook to see if you look fun)

Keep in mind that CV requirements are different in countries – Brazil in particular does not care about bullshit ‘personal profile’ sections where you write about how good you are at working in a team as well as independantly in various fancy words. These things should be shown in some way through your work experience.

This was my email to all the hostels in Sao Paulo (translated from Portuguese, written by a Brazillian friend):


My name is Gita, I'm English , and a professional editorial photographer and (currently) traveller.

I loved the hostel design I saw in your photos on hostelworld!

I have been traveling in South America for 3 months, learning Portuguese and Spanish, however both are still basic! I spent three months working in a hostel in Madrid last June and in exchange for accommodation and breakfast, I had many great experiences and made many friends from all over the world.

I also have a lot of experience in bars, as a bartender and hostess. Now at this stage I am looking for a hostel or bar that I can work for for about two months in return for accommodation.

It can also do work as a photographer for parties at the hostel for example, it would be amazing!

In my CV attached to this email you can find my professional experience in more detail and you can also also find my portfolio as a photographer on my site .

I would love to join the team! I look forward to hearing from you.

See you later!


Here you can find the CV I sent in Portuguese and here is the English translation.

How to Find Hostels to Apply to

Go on HostelWorld and select the city you want to go to, a date a month in the future (so that fully booked hostels don't get hidden), for one person (as there will be more availability)

Select the Map option and have a look at where the hostels are most condensed, this will generally show you the most popular areas to stay in a city you may not yet know well!

Click on every hostel, check out their ratings, and see how close they are to a metro!

Follow up every Hostels Website, hunt down their email, and email all of them!

Watch the emails come rolling in and choose your favourite hostel that offers you the best oppertunity!

Living here, the most expensive city in Brazil, has turned into one of the cheapest times of living in my life (and not just because I have British Pounds!).

When I was looking for a hostel job in Sao Paulo I had three days to find an offer before my return flight to the UK was scheduled. If I hadn't found some form of affordable accomodation my journey may have had to come to a quicker end.

Affordable accomodation in Sao Paulo to me was about R$750, which is around £150 pounds. Even this was not really affordable to me as most places asked for a minimum contract of 3 months.


Each hostel asks or offers different things in exchange for some work for them. Some require you to work 30 hours a week with cleaning, reception, and other things. Others can ask for help gardening, or building. Some offered free meals or money (up to 300 euros) too. The variety is as vast as the experience you can gain, it’s up to you to decide.


In exchange for accomodation, free laundry, and breakfast, I was asked to work 3-4 flexible 4 hour shifts serving breakfast or night (bar) shifts each week. The management did not mind what we organised between ourselves (8-12 voluntary staff delegated to covering these shifts) as long as someone turned up and did the job (which is the way it should be!).


and is more motivational too.

In many jobs you may occasionally have thoughts like, “Im not paid enough for this” or “If I go outside to clean an ashtray I could just keep on walking”, “Bloody taxes and National Insurance”, “I need to pay rent, bills, and have a life with this money”.

I quickly came to understand that what I gained from working in hostels was an invitation to a whole new culture with a home and benifits too.

The access to new cultural knowledge – The people who stay in hostels are from all over the world. You can learn a lot from individuals about their culture, politics, food you have never heard of (Açaí or Pastel de Choclo anyone?), words that can describe things that are not in our own dictionary, the language, and also I learned about the English culture too.

How Much I Saved

I started living and working in U Hostels, Madrid, on the 14th of June 2015 and I am currently living in Pauliceia Hostel, Sao Paulo.

By the time I leave Brazil on the 8th of June (just under 1 year later) I will have saved approximately £3623 on accomodation through various opportunities and blessings that have come from working and living in Hostels – this amount of money is £600 over the amount of money that I budgeted for my (originally) 3 month trip to South America and now is also more than the amount I have survived on for 6 months in South America.

Calculation Breakdown (Based on how much the hostel equivelant would have cost)

Working and Living in Hostels

U Hostels, Madrid: 97 days @ £19                      = £1843

Pauliceia Hostel, Sao Paulo: 111 days @ £8       = £888

208 days in total = £2731 approximately saved

Staying with Friends (I had met in hostels)

Sao Paulo: 9 days @ £8                                         = £72

Brasilia: 1 day @ £11                                              = £11

Porto Alegre: 1 day @ £8                                      = £8

Buenos Aires: 7 days @ £10                                 = £70

Santiago 1: 5 days @ £12                                      = £60

Pichilemu: 3 days @ £8                                        = £24

Valparaíso: 1 day @ £9                                         = £9

Rio de Janeiro: 9 days @ £9 & 7 days @ £35 (during carnaval) = £326

Santiago 2: 14 days @ £12                                   = £168

Santiago 3: 12 days @ £12                                   = £144

69 days in total = £892 approximately saved

Total Free Accomodation: 277 days

Total Money Saved: £3623


  • No contract with accomodation
  • No Phone Contract (I never could justify paying £35 a month for that shit)
  • No Student Loan
  • No Car
  • No Children
  • No Partner
  • Photography work could travel with me
  • British £££’s are awesome
  • British Passport is awesome (hey England, please don’t leave the European Union)
  • Native English speaker

– As a 23 year old, this is my list of success!

Resources : A great website to check out hostels looking for workers or volounteers : Also helps show you various positions that hostels are looking to fill, however, World Packers often comes with things such as 30 hour contracts and that is TOO MUCH to work volountarily, seriously! It also asks people to pay for their service (around US$30), but you don't have to pay. Just use Worldpackers to see which hostels have available positions and then message them privately ;) : is the shit, for giving you the control and also seeing genuine reviews! : Gives you many opportunities to find hostel work!

If you get many offers, you can also ask your contacts to meet and look around the hostel, it's important to know that you will get along with the people that work there and that the place has a good vibe!

Remember, these are not normal jobs, you have power too because you are offering your valuable skills and time to them, if you get replies - they want you and you are pretty much guaranteed the job! Just act normal for a few hours and then you can unleash your crazy ;)

Final Thoughts

Why should we ever feel trapped or negative in life with so much liberty?

The thing we gotta work through is the illusion of fear. What if something happens? What about this job that I have that pays well? What about my future? What about my career?

Travelling is an investment in yourself! In the end, by quitting everything and leaving the UK with nothing I have had the biggest opportunities in my life!