I’ve worked abroad a few times. Just like most people who do it, I seek labour to help me fund the rest of my traveling – hostels, food, drink, transport, and everything else in between. It can add up to be a pretty big bill.
I’ve taught English, handed out flyers on the street and sold promotion packages. Soon (fingers crossed…) I’ll either be employed in a bar, or on a farm.
To work, officially, you need a work visa. But there are PLENTY of places who will overlook this small detail. In fact, of the three jobs abroad I have held up until now, only one required any proof that I was legally eligible to work. One. The others? They’ve decided to take the calculated risk, which of course means that you do too.
My Thai working visa was organised through a company called CIEE – the people who also found my teaching placement. I paid them a fee (which I found to be very reasonable) which covered all the costs of my visa, plus a great deal more, and it took away the headache of going through all the paperwork myself. Not bad. Because CIEE handled my paperwork, I don’t know much about obtaining a work visa for Thailand. What I understand is that you must first have a non-immigrant visa on your passport. Then to obtain a work permit, it seems that you must have a job lined up with an employer who will in effect ‘sponsor’ you and provide a contract with your job description and the dates that you will be employed.
In Thailand, my English teaching job was very official. I filled in any number of forms, got a fancy stamp in my passport, got a whole new booklet (my work permit) that looked a lot like another passport and signed a document every month when I received my salary.
We never came across any real problems, and I received my salary in cash which made things a lot simpler. The only hiccup was that my original contract ended on the last day of school. Of course it would; why not, right? The problem? Once my contract was over, I was no loner authorised to stay in the country and would have to either leave, or at least do a quick hop over the border to get a new entry visa as a tourist. The issue: it would mean missing the last week of school to get to the border and back. Luckily, we were able to have our contracts extended as long as the other teachers and I promised not to demand a salary for the extra month which, in theory, we could probably have done.
After teaching, and a couple of months of traveling through Laos and Cambodia, I was back in Thailand and looking for ways to save my dwindling pile of money. Now, of course, I had no valid work permit and nor did my traveling friend. So what did we do? We landed on Koh Phi Phi and quickly became one of the many travelers you see there handing out flyers for the various bars, advertising free buckets (of alcohol), free barbeques, Thai boxing, and any number of incentives to drive traffic. We were paid in cash at the end of each night, no questions asked. The problem is, the island had a slight run-in with the law and, as a result, the police (usually bribed to look the other way) took our photos and shut the bars down early. Luckily that was the worst that happened. I still got paid.
In theory, you are taking the risk of getting in trouble if you do this. But in my own experience and from what I’ve seen, the benefit outweighs the risk. It’s more often the company (i.e. the bar that hired me) that deal with the problems. The police know that you’re going to be gone soon anyway. Spending time getting you in trouble is rarely worthwhile for them.
Now I’m spending time in Australia, and again looking for ways to support myself and enable my traveling.
Before I arrived here, I obtained a Working Holiday Visa which was incredibly easy. Australia does all of their visas online, which means no need to send your passport anywhere. All I did was apply online, make a quick appointment at the doctors for a chest x-ray, and presto – a visa confirmation in my Gmail inbox. Simple as that.
Unlike the Thai visa, I didn’t have to have a job lined up for me. The Working Holiday Visa allows you to seek any kind of work after you have entered the country for up to six months at a time. Much easier.
When I first came here back in May, I stopped in Byron Bay for about a week. While I didn’t work there, I became good friends with quite a few people who did. Everyone I met worked in the hostel where I had a bed – Aquarius Backpackers. I don’t think that their work required a Working Holiday Visa, although most of them had one and often held a second job in bars and offices in the town. I would strongly recommend looking for hostel work to anyone traveling around Oz. It doesn’t require much work (at Aquarius, it was two hours a day) and your pay is in the form of free accommodation. It’s perfect if you’re running low on money and looking for ways to ease the pain. With free accommodation, you’re saving anywhere from $20 – $40/night. That’s pretty good if you ask me!
For the last month in Sydney I worked for Redhot PR, selling promotional packages for Sydney’s top hair salons on the street, in shopping centres, on the beach. Just about anywhere. The pros: they also promote bars and big events, which meant free club entry, and free tickets to things like the Space Ibiza party I went to on New Years Day. They also sent me to Melbourne for a week to work, paying for my flight and accommodation. Plus, every Friday they provided drinks and a small party in the office before we headed out for the night. They certainly piled on the added bonuses.
The cons: technically we were not allowed to sell inside shopping centres, the airport, or anywhere else, which meant spending the day dodging security guards and occasionally getting kicked out. There was no hourly wage, which meant all of my income was commission based. This could be seen as a good thing, as it meant your potential salary is completely unlimited. The difficulty is, if you’re having a rough day, you’re not on your game – you come home with nothing. A lot of people are fantastic at this job. Myself – I had a great start, but I quickly got worn down and eventually it became impossible for me to stay. You’ll find, in Sydney at least, that there are a LOT of jobs like this. My advice – give it a go, and try to stick it out for one week. If, by then, you don’t see the potential, at least you tried, but a week should be enough time for you to see whether you have what it takes.
Next on my list is either bar work or farm work, so we’ll see how it goes!