How to get a job in a hostel (and why you want to)

September 20, 2019

If you’ve got travel in your blood, then you’ve probably at some point wondered how you can combine your wanderlust with an actual paying job. It’s no coincidence that hostels are often staffed with travellers from all over the globe—working at a hostel is one of the best ways to combine your love of travel and meeting new people with making a little money (to fund more travels, of course). If you’re wondering how you can score one of these dream jobs, here’s a bit of insight from the inside.

Perhaps no one knows more about landing a sweet hostel gig (and hanging on to it) like Laura McDonald, who is originally from England but has been working at HI Banff Alpine Centre for the past two years. She got in the door with a part-time gig as a housekeeper, which she did for two months, while holding down another part-time job in town.  

After two months of getting to know the hostel and its staff, she scored a full-time job as a housekeeper, and quickly found herself in the right place at the right time when the rooms division supervisor job opened up, and she got promoted. She’s been working that job for almost two years now and still loves it.

“One of the main things I missed about travelling is constantly meeting new people,” she says. “So I love that here. Even though you’re in one spot, you’re still getting that experience.”

Her advice for others looking to work in a hostel is pretty simple: “If you’re thinking of working for HI, go stay at a hostel first as a guest,” she says. “This is a great way to get to know the place before deciding you want to settle there for a while. A secret tip would be: Always give your best! I had a great work ethic. If you work hard then it pays off. I think this helped when applying for a full-time job.”

Laura says when she first arrived in Canada with her partner, her bank account was running on fumes and she didn’t have a long term plan. “HI Banff helped me become settled in Canada by offering me a place to stay and meet new friends that became family” she says. “Since then I got married in the mountains and plan to stay in Canada forever.”

Landing A Job In Hostel And Making New Friends

Top tips for getting a job in a hostel

Make sure you have a work visa

If you’re coming to Canada from another country, you’re going to need a work visa to work in a Canadian HI. Some countries have working holidaymaker agreements in place with Canada that make it pretty easy for young people (typically under 30) to get a temporary work visa here. You must have your work visa secured before coming to Canada.

Have a bit of travel experience or a love of travel

If you’ve stayed in hostels before or even if you’ve got a never-ending travel bucket list, that shows you’re probably aligned with HI Canada’s mission and values. We love travel, we love meeting new people and we love helping others explore new places. You do, too? Let’s be friends.

Customer service experience helps

Working at a hostel is all about ensuring hostel guests have a fun and comfortable stay, so some previous customer service experience will definitely help get you noticed when you apply for a job. It doesn’t necessarily have to be hostel experience or even hospitality experience (though it helps).

How To Get A Job In Hostel With Customer Service Experience

Be willing to work other jobs

A lot of people think of working the front desk when they think of hostel jobs, and yeah, that’s definitely one of the jobs up for grabs. But there’s a ton more that goes on behind the scenes to keep a hostel running: from housekeeping and maintenance to food and beverage services in hostels that have their own restaurant or bar. Being game for any role can help you get in the door to a job that could lead you to other departments (or help you identify new skills and interests).

Work hard

Like Laura said, her strong work ethic as a part-timer helped her land her full-time job a mere two months after she started, and got her a promotion another two weeks after that. There can be high turnover among hostel staff, as work visas expire, student staff return to school or travellers keep travelling, so opportunities for new roles and promotions can appear any time. HI managers are always keen to promote from within!

Get to know all the perks

A lot of hostel jobs are considered front-line work, and as such, we’re not exactly talking six-figure salaries here. But what lacks in salary and bonuses is made up in some pretty stellar perks. 

  • Off the top, you’re bound to be working with like-minded people who can very easily become your best friends and future tour guides when you visit their hometowns on your next trip.
  • It’s fun. Working in a hostel sure as heck beats telemarketing.
  • HI staff get to stay for free at any HI-owned hostels across Canada, and many affiliate hostels will honour this arrangement, too. That helps a ton when you’ve got a few days off and want to go on a quick road trip.
  • Customer-facing staff like front deskers and food service workers have the opportunity to earn more through commissions and tips.
  • There’s room to grow. HI loves to promote from within—just ask some of our lifers, like the COO of HI Canada’s Pacific Mountain Region, who first started as a front desk agent at HI Vancouver Jericho Beach back in 1991, then became a hostel manager, then operations manager, then deputy executive director and finally Chief Operations Officer. Whew!
  • HI Canada offers professional development opportunities, too—everything from free first aid and food safety training to leadership development—and even staff exchanges where staff from hostels across Canada get to trade jobs with one another for a week.
How To Get A Job In Hostel And Discover Canada

Keep an eye out for job openings

Your best bet to find job vacancies at HI Canada hostels is to keep checking our Careers section. Some hostels also offer a job seekers package or longer-stay deals over the winter months to help you get settled while you get to know the place. Check back here in November for more details.

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