New Zealand Holidays
A gap year can get pricey, but luckily, Australia and New Zealand make it easy to afford one with their working holiday schemes. These two Oceanic countries are among the few that offer a full year's working holiday visa to just about anybody between the ages of 18 - 30 who meets a few basic qualifications.
This visa allows its holders to live and work anywhere in the country for a full year, limited in opportunity only by their own ambition and the hiring policies of whatever job they decide to go for (read an overview in our American's guide to working holidays).
Instead, I want to focus on the types of jobs you can find. Some jobs won't hire backpackers. Many see them as "flighty, " but the opportunities are there, and given the drive and a bit of luck, you'll be making enough money to fund your entire trip and more. Who knows? You may even find a career.
Hostel Concierge or Helper
- Pro: Easy to find on a working holiday visa.
- Con: Not always the best paying or best working conditions.
- Average salary: Minimum wage or a free place to stay
- Where to find a job: Ask at your hostel/look on job boards
Bar none, the easiest job to get in Australia and New Zealand is working in the hostel where you wind up living. The "flightiness" of backpackers is not only taken into account here; it's expected and appreciated in a place with a high turnover rate.
Hostel owners love to hire backpackers because there's a certain amount of understanding between employer and employee - you will work here for a short time, at which point, the person who moves into your bed will take your place. Hostel owners also appreciate the familiarity. If you've been there for some time and have been a good guest, they have no problem offering you work.
The downside to this is the informality of the job. Working in the hostel often involves a simple "work-for-rent" agreement. So rather than sign a contract and earn a biweekly paycheck into your account, you're merely assigned certain chores about the hostel - changing sheets, cleaning the kitchen, quieting down rowdy rooms, or working the front desk - in exchange for not paying to actually stay there. This is fine if you're only looking for a way to extend your stay, but if you're looking to actually save some money, it's obviously not ideal.
Also, keep in mind that many hostel owners actually use a system like this to take advantage of backpackers who are desperate, paying them far, far less than minimum wage for the work actually accomplished. Since it's all off-the-books, there's nothing you can do about it except avoid the situation in the first place. Many "working hostels, " particularly those based around regional work designed to earn a second-year visa (for which Americans are not qualified for), have been criticized for this practice.
- Pro: Relatively easy work and easy to find in-season
- Con: Hiring is usually seasonal and has high turnover rates
- Average salary: -18/hour
- Where to find a job: Pass your resume around in-store
Retail work is the second-easiest work to find in Australia and New Zealand, and far more reliable than the sketchy contract-less hostel work. Retail usually involves a high-rate of turnover regardless of travel plans, plus minimal training, making backpackers perfect for the role. But it does come with its own particular set of pros and cons.
For one, although the turnover rate is high, it's not that high. Businesses have high and low seasons (the high season being summer generally, or leading up to Christmas), and so they hire aggressively leading into the high season and then reduce the team size through the low season due to expected departures.
If you arrive at the wrong time, you may find that businesses in the area aren't hiring, either because they have already filled out their high season teams, or are in the process of reducing the teams for the low season. Many smaller retail stores can operate with a single person manning the shop, which makes it even more difficult.
That said, retail work can be a great idea. It's relatively easy (unless you get an awful customer), especially if you're a people person. The hours are usually very flexible, and it's decent money (Australia has an absolutely ridiculous minimum wage, and even then, it's not uncommon for shops to offer two or three dollars higher hourly). It all depends on what you're looking for.
Server, Bartender, or Barista
- Pro: Better pay, interesting people
- Con: Strange hours, unsavory people
- Average salary: $15-18/hour plus tips (which may be split)
- Where to find a job: Pass out your resume in-person
Restaurant work is similar to retail work, with comparable salaries and ease of finding work. They also deal with the same issues of high/low season hiring patterns, although restaurants need far more people to operate (both front of house and back), which works in your favor when applying. And although the standard in Australia and New Zealand is "no tipping, " many people often will if they feel you've done a good job, which means you can earn even more money than usual.
As a bartender, you may even be allowed to drink and eat on the job as a means of connecting with the customers, which makes the job easier and more fun. Some bars and restaurants (or even hostels, actually) will send you off to flyer for their events, which sometimes means you'll be paid to walk around in a costume and chat up attractive people.
As always, however, there's a trade-off. With restaurants you may work long or odd hours - which is important to keep in mind if you want to dedicate a good chunk of your week to exploring your new surroundings (though sometimes it works in your favor).