Accommodation tips and ideas for year out, working holiday and gap year travellers.
When you’re planning a working holiday, flexibility is key. Who knows what’s around the next corner; who you’ll meet, where you’ll work or what places you’ll want to explore. However, there’s piece of mind knowing that you have a roof over your head and we recommend that you pre-book at least two nights accommodation at the start of any trip. Once you’ve recovered from jet-lag and found your bearings you can check around to make sure you are in the best location and the best hostel.
Accommodation in 15 seconds
- Book at least 2 nights accommodation for your arrival
- Get recommendations from other travellers
- Book early for Christmas, New Year, festivals and sporting events
- Most hostels have self catering options; don’t eat out all the time!
- A room in shared rental accommodation is great: affordable and social
- Check rental agreements, particularly cancellation clauses and deposit requirements
- Some jobs include accommodation (hotels, theme parks, resorts, pubs)
- Take some simple safety precautions (check fire exits and smoke alarms)
Most people choose to stay in backpacker hostels. Typically these provide simple accommodation at a budget price. You can book them for a night or more at a time (ideal if you are new to a place); or make longer term arrangements. The cheapest option will be to stay in a dormitory room sharing with others. Doesn’t sound great but your money will go further and it’s a good way to meet other travellers. Dorm sizes vary from 4 beds up. Some of the larger hostels also offer single, double and family rooms. Hostels can be independently run or operated as part of a collective (for example HI or VIP Backpackers).
The quality of backpacker hostels can vary enormously. Some have swimming pools, on-site bars, internet cafés, en-suite bathrooms and even cinema rooms. Others are basic and rustic offering only the bare essentials. Most will have a shared kitchen so you can store food and prepare your own meals. Eating out every night will be costly.
If you are on a tight budget, self catering is a great way to make your money go further.
How to book
Most hostels can be booked via an online booking website and there are several to choose from.
Working Holiday Store partners with Hostelbookers.com. They have an easy to navigate, simple to use website and offer some of the most competitive nightly rates available. Unlike other online booking websites they do not charge a booking fee. To book your accommodation you pay a 10% non-refundable deposit and then pay the remaining balance in local currency at check-in. HI/YHA membership discounts are applied to the balance due on check-in.
To choose your hostel you’ll need to look at location, facilities, cost, availability and you may also consider the comments by online reviewers. Once your trip is under way you will get loads of recommendations from other travellers. These face-to-face reviews will be more valuable than anything you read online or in travel guides.
Hostelling International (HI)
Hostelling International, through its regional Youth Hostel Associations, provide the largest global network of hostels. Anyone can book an HI hostel (they are offered by most online booking websites) and if you are an association member you normally get a discount. Annual membership is relatively affordable and you will quickly earn back your investment. You can buy membership in your home country before you leave or during your travels.
Hotels and motels
Hotels are used as a special treat! They aren’t very sociable (guests tend to stick to themselves, very different to the community feel of a hostel) but once in a while you’ll deserve some comforts. If you are booking for the same day, check to see if you can negotiate a better rate. Hotels would rather fill a room than have it empty. They will be most likely to drop prices at the end of the day.
Motels are a basic form of hotel, normally located on the outskirts of town and therefore more convenient if you have a car. If you are travelling as part of a group you may find motels more affordable than you think. In most you will pay a cost per room per night, not per person. The more people you have the lower the cost. Ideal for a road trip.
Once you find work or if you decide to stay somewhere more long term, think about arranging more permanent accommodation. Renting a room in a shared house or apartment (also referred to as sublet) will give you extra privacy, a chance to unpack and a great introduction to local people and a new social scene. In addition it can work out to be more affordable. A few thoughts:
- It may be most economical to take a shared room option
- Know what costs are involved. Does your rent include utility bills; what is the deposit (also known as a bond)?
- Are there other responsibilities like cooking or cleaning rotas?
- What notice period do you have to give if you want to leave? Plans can change suddenly on a working holiday
If you are travelling with a friend or in a group you could consider renting a property in its entirety. At first this seems a great idea, but in reality there are some drawbacks:
- In most cases the minimum lease is 6 months. Find out the consequences if you want to leave before the end of the lease
- You will be responsible for electricity, gas and water bills and for paying any connection fees
- Not all properties will be furnished
- If one of your group has to leave early, you’ll need to replace them or shoulder the extra rental cost
- Don’t commit to a long term rental without seeing the accommodation and find out about the local area before signing a lease
How to find rented accommodation
Here are a few tips for finding rented accommodation:
- Check websites like Craigslist, Gumtree and Loot
- Use a local letting agent for extra piece of mind
- Locations around universities can offer a good option. The area will have a good choice of bars, cafes, shops and restaurants. Accommodation should be at the right end of the budget and you’ll be sharing with people of a similar age
- Notices in shop windows, student bars and in hostels are a good source of accommodation ads
- Always see a written contract. If there are any changes required to the property that will happen after you’ve paid your deposit make sure that these are also detailed in writing (repairs, provision of new furnishings, etc..)
- If you opt for a private let, you need to be comfortable with arrangements for getting your deposit back at the end of the let
- Take photos of the accommodation on arrival and note any damage or marks on furniture, walls or carpets, etc. Highlight them to the landlord or agent (in writing) to ensure that they are taken in to consideration when you leave and claim back your deposit. Be respectful of the accommodation and take care of the furnishings. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if your deposit is kept to cover costs of repairing and damage
Jobs that include accommodation
Resort and hospitality jobs (theme parks, mountain resorts, hotels, lodges, pubs, etc.) may include accommodation as part of a package. This is a great option. The standard will vary and is often basic: shared with other co-workers, cramped and limited facilities. But the low cost, convenience and social environment will outweigh the negatives. If you are looking for this type of work it may be worth staying in a hostel until you’ve got your job. That way you can avoid signing a rental lease only to discover a new found job has an accommodation option.
Safety and security
Be careful when arranging viewings. Tell someone when/where you are going and where possible take a friend with you. Avoid viewings at night.
Check the location during the day and at night. Some places can be very different after dark.
- Know where the fire exits are. Do they work, are they still accessible at night?
- Check windows and locks. Do they work and do windows provide a safe form of exit in case of emergency?
- Does the accommodation have smoke detectors and do they work?
See Staying Safe for more tips on travel safety.