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Work in a Hostel in Rio de Janeiro

Living Almost for Free in Brazil

Skyline in Rio overlooking the beaches. A great place to travel long-term.

As an enthusiastic admirer of Brazil, I always look for ways to stay as long as possible in this beautiful country. Usually, money is the determining factor in the length of time I can spend overseas. However, on my most recent trip to Brazil, I could stay three months longer than planned due to my luck finding rewarding employment.

Rio de Janeiro is typically among the most expensive places in South America. In particular, Ipanema tends to be the priciest neighborhood in the city. Due to some luck finding a job at a local hostel, I could stay just one block from Ipanema Beach while spending nearly nothing.

The hostel, which enthusiastically hires backpackers to work in reception and its small bar, allows travelers to eat and sleep for free in exchange for seven work shifts per week. This works out to roughly 30 hours each week and requires at least a two-month commitment. The only requirements for the job are a strong work ethic, basic knowledge of Microsoft Excel, and the ability to speak English. The hostel prefers two backpackers to work alongside the local staff.

Besides free lodging and meals, hostel jobs typically provide workers with several other benefits. At the hostel where I lived and worked, backpackers receive a monthly commission based on the number of tours they sell to guests. This worked out to roughly R$200 per month (US$40). In addition, the position at my hostel allows for VIP entrance to a few area nightclubs and parties and the benefit of participating in tours through the hostel for free or at a considerable discount. These tours include soccer matches, hang-gliding, city tours, and an energetic funk party that lasts all night. These benefits provided plenty of entertainment while costing almost nothing.

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, working in a hostel allows workers to meet and interact with some interesting people. Most of my co-workers were Brazilians, allowing me to continue honing my Portuguese language skills. Hanging out with them gave me additional insight into the culture that deeply fascinates me. Besides co-workers, I met numerous guests from various countries and cultures. These friendships further enhanced rich experiences while abroad.

Although working at a hostel provides the opportunity to spend time abroad while significantly reducing costs, the hostel lifestyle has a few drawbacks. For starters, you are tied down to one location for your employment with the hostel. Although you can get a few days off to travel to nearby places, plan to spend most of your time in the city where you work. In addition, hostels generally provide for limited privacy. If you choose to stay in a hostel, get used to having people around almost constantly.

So, how did I manage to obtain such a great arrangement in an exotic locale? By being in the right place at the right time. Another backpacker was planning to leave the hostel shortly after I arrived, and the owners had yet to find a replacement. I did not need any special visa or work permit. Also, although I already spoke Portuguese, it was not critical to secure the position. The vast majority of our hostel guests were from English-speaking countries. In addition, the Brazilian staff members were available to handle any Portuguese-speaking guests.

Based on my experience and observations, hostels frequently employ guests in exchange for free lodging and other benefits. I know of several hostels in Rio de Janeiro that do this — one of which hires only foreign travelers. Do not let a lack of foreign language skills deter you from this job. Nearly all tour operators I dealt with speak English, the lingua franca of the hostel world. Suppose you are interested in working in a hostel while traveling abroad. In that case, I suggest you contact hostels directly to see if they offer this arrangement. Also, speak with other travelers you meet to see if they know any places that offer such deals. With any luck, you will be able to enjoy a lengthy stay in the location of your choice without spending a fortune. 

For More Information

For further information and to locate hostels near your destination, please refer to the following websites.

Editor's note: You can see our section on hostels abroad for a few more options.

Related Topics
Jobs at Hostels: Extend Your Travels in South America
Jobs Abroad
Short-Term Jobs in Latin America
Travel Jobs Abroad

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