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My Experience in Hostel Volunteering | Hostel Work for Accommodation

Everything You Need to Know About Volunteering in a Hostel

If you’re trying to plan a budget-friendly way to travel the world, look no further! Working in a hostel enabled me to stay in the beautiful country of Albania, gaining valuable experiences and fun memories while also saving money.

Working in hostels for free accommodation is by far the best way to save money traveling and allows you to travel longer. But it’s not always about saving money. The experience’s truly unique.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about volunteering in a hostel.

5 Tips to save money while traveling 

tips to travel longer hostels

Planning a backpacking trip to a new destination can seem daunting, but luckily there are many ways to stick to your budget while traveling. 

  • Book your stay during the off-season

This tip will save you a lot of money. For example, many places in Europe are hectic in the summer, meaning that hotels will be fully booked and prices will be higher for flights and accommodations

If you plan your trip for the fall, winter, or spring, when most destinations are less crowded, you will be able to mingle with the locals, get a more authentic experience, and save money on accommodations.

  • Use public transportation

Many places (outside of the United States) have fantastic public metro systems, allowing you to get around for only a few dollars per day. If you spend money on renting a car, an Uber, or a taxi, you will be spending significantly more money per day.

  • Stay away from fancy restaurants

Depending on the country you are traveling to, eating at fancy restaurants could be very dangerous for your budget. While traveling in Southeast Asia, I eat street food maybe 4-5 days a week. And let’s be honest, street food in Thailand is amazing.

  • Don’t drink too much in bars/cubs

I obviously have to tip you off about this and I’m the worst when it comes to drinking when I travel. The alcohol is really expensive anywhere you go.

If you want to get drunk and have a good night out, go out to the shop, buy alcohol and have some predrinks before you go out.

  • Stay in a hostel.

Hotels or Airbnbs can be hundreds of dollars per night, but hostels are anywhere between $5-$50 per night, depending on your destination. Europe and North America are far way more expensive, but Asia offers stays starting at $3-4.

Speaking of hostels, the best way to save lots of money during your travels is by volunteering at a hostel.

By volunteering, the hostel will let you stay for free, sometimes even providing free meals, which will potentially save you hundreds of dollars during your travels.

So let’s dive in!

Why should I volunteer in a hostel?

volunteering in hostel is fun

Traveling teaches you many lessons and volunteering in a hostel is a great way to travel the world while making new friends, saving a ton of money, and gaining new experiences.

When you volunteer at a hostel, the hostel will pay for your accommodations and may even give you free meals. Volunteering eliminates a significant portion of your travel expenses, so you will have more money to spend on travel experiences. 

When I volunteered at a hostel, I didn’t have to worry about many living expenses. Instead, I could focus on absorbing the culture, making new friends, and having fun.

How to get a volunteering position in a hostel

workaway volunteering

After staying a few nights at a hostel, you can ask if they have any volunteering positions. You can also send cold emails to hostels in the area you want to visit.

In the email, ask if they have any volunteering positions available. The hostel may or may not have volunteering positions, but it is still worth a try either way.

I received my volunteer position at the Wallaby Hostel in Saranda, Albania, through Workaway. Workaway is a great website to find work in a hostel abroad.

This website is a popular work exchange site with hundreds of hosts looking for help. You can find several hostel volunteer jobs that will reward your work in a hostel for free accommodation.

A Workaway membership is currently $44 per year, but with the money you will save by volunteering at a hostel, it is well worth the annual fee. 

Get a free month to Workaway when you sign up using this link!

Other volunteering websites include Worldpackers, Hosteleer, and Hostel Jobs. Don’t limit yourself to only one site; there are multiple ways to get a position in a hostel.

How much can you save by volunteering in a hostel?

drinking rakia in albania

How much you can save will depend on your destination and the cost of accommodations and food in the area.

In the United States, hostels can be over $50 per night, so if you volunteered for an entire month, that would save you a total of $1500 just on accommodations!

Most hostels will give free accommodation and breakfast to their volunteers, so for cheaper hostels in Eastern Europe, you could easily save anywhere between $10-20 per day.

For hostels in larger Western European cities, you could be saving between $40-50 per day. Some hostels offer an additional meal as well as discounted drinks, so you may be saving even more than this.

Depending on the area, you can save a total of $300-$1500 per month.

In Albania, I received free accommodations and breakfast, saving a total of $11 per day. I also received free and discounted drinks through the hostel’s bar partners.

This is a huge deal, especially when you play The King’s Cup every night and some other drinking games.

What are the daily tasks for a volunteer in a hostel?

volunteering jobs

Hostel volunteers who work for accommodation will usually work less than 30 hours a week.

The most common tasks for volunteers include cleaning the rooms and bathrooms, working at the front desk, hosting social events, general hostel maintenance, and socializing with the guests.

At the Wallaby Hostel, I worked five days per week, in four-hour shifts. There were four shifts each day, and each of these shifts was four hours: 7-11 am, 11-3 pm, 3-7 pm, and 7-11 pm.

The morning shift, from 7-11 am involved buying bread and milk for the kitchen, cleaning bathrooms, and serving breakfast from 7 am to 10 am.

After breakfast, I would clean up and put the food away. I was also required to do bathroom checks every hour.

The mid-day shift, from 11 am to 3 pm involved cleaning rooms, changing bed sheets, putting the dirty bedding in the laundry, hanging it to dry, and folding the clean sheets.

I also had to clean out the toilets and take out the trash.

If I had a 3-7 pm shift, I would finish what the previous workers (who worked the 11-3 shift) couldn’t finish. Sometimes this was laundry, and other times this was cleaning the bathroom.

Occasionally this shift also included mopping, if needed.

From 7-11 pm, the night shift included checking on the toilets and working the bar. I would make drinks, play drinking games, and socialize with the hostel guests.

How long is a volunteering commitment?

Hostel Volunteering Albania-5-min

Most hostels will require you to volunteer for a minimum of two to four weeks, but some hostels will let you stay as long as you want.

In my experience, I volunteered for three weeks. This was just enough time to enjoy the area while also gathering enough information to create my YouTube video on volunteering in a hostel.

In my case, I was not required to have a visa or documents to stay in Albania, but this recently changed in September.

Currently, you will need a negative Covid test to get into Albania. You will also need travel insurance to get into Albania. For the best and cheapest travel insurance for backpackers in Europe, check out SafetyWing

The best travel insurance for backpackers is by far Safetywing! It also covers COVID-19.

Is it fun to volunteer in a party hostel?

The short answer is yes!

Party hostels are aimed at travelers who want to experience the nightlife and socialize with other guests and volunteers.

Because of this, you will find like-minded friends who want to go out and explore with you.

Social hostels also typically offer lively experiences for their guests, such as bar crawls. Usually, party hostels are located near clubs and bars, and sometimes even have a pub built into the hostel.

At the Wallaby Hostel in Albania, my friends and I would go to the beach nearly every day to swim, drink, and party.

I would also go out every night to enjoy the vibrant clubs and bars in Saranda. On my days off, I took day trips with my friends to nearby cities.

Volunteering allowed me to explore Albania, party on the beach, and meet a ton of new people – which is the biggest benefit of traveling alone.

Steps in finding a volunteer position online

volunteering infographic

First, you will need to create an account on Workaway. When creating an account, you must enter your email, date of birth, and country of residence.

You will also need to pay the annual fee, which is currently $44. Workaway will need to verify your account after you are finished entering your information, which will usually happen within 24 hours.

Once your account is verified, you can start applying to volunteer positions on Workaway.

Once you start hearing back from different hostels, you may have some type of virtual interview. After you have officially got an offer, you can now book your travel transportation!

Be sure to check if your destination requires travel insurance. In my case, Albania did require travel insurance. Even if your destination doesn’t require this, it is usually best to get some sort of travel insurance- better safe than sorry!

How volunteering will improve your life and skills

eating at restaurant albania

Volunteer tourism has drastically developed in the past few years and more and more people are going overseas to experience a new culture, lifestyle and improve on new skills.

I made many new friends from different countries who taught me more about their local cuisine. Each of us took turns making dinner, and we would sometimes cook together. I am now able to cook all sorts of foods from different countries.

You will also likely be gaining new skills in the areas of housekeeping, bartending, administration, and customer service as you gain new work experiences within the hostel.

In general, volunteering in a hostel will give you work experience as you develop new friendships and explore new places (and your wallet will thank you!).

By being immersed in the local culture, bonding with fellow travelers, creating lifelong friends, and enjoying countless adventures, you will be sure to have an unforgettable experience.

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Catalin Geangos
Catalin Geangos is the founder and previous owner of TravelTrained. He has been to more than 35 countries and lived in a few more before. He was a digital nomad travelling and backpacking extensively in Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam and others parts of South East Asia from 2020 to 2023. He wrote about many articles about his first hand backpacking and partying experiences in these countries. He stayed in many hostels and hotels, met many other backpackers, travelers and locals whom he partied and shared his story with. His articles have inspired travelers, mostly single backpackers, around to world to take the leap to explore South East Asian countries from grassroots and not just the tourist attractions but also the real and happening life on the streets after the sun sets down! He now writes about outdoor gear and hiking.