First of all: Work & travel is a whole load of fun! And yes, it probably will be the time of your life. But looking at the tanned Beach Boys and Girls that skip along the beach with their surfboards, we often forget the darker sides of such a stay. Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly recommend that you try it. Nevertheless I want to play fair and give you a few facts for your way today so that you can make the most of your time.
Work & Travel – my tips and tricks
Work & Travel organisations | Costs | Child benefit | Bank account and mailing address
Tax number | SIM card | Buying a car | Looking for a job | Travel burnout
>Is a Work & Travel organisation necessary?
The answer depends on how independent you already are. Work & Travel organisations book a flight as well as the first couple of nights in a hostel for you and provide you with a short talk on the working life in a respective country. In addition, you’re also allowed to send post and packages to various offices (I’ll tell you why that’s important later on). It’s definitely advantageous to know how a CV is constructed in New Zealand and which time of the year is best to visit the different regions of Australia. But aren’t these the kinds of things you can find out when browsing the Internet? It’s worth adding that these organisations rarely take your budget into consideration and demand a high service fee as well as book expensive flights. But you can save a lot of money already when booking the flights – your piggy bank will be grateful. :) A big plus to the organisations is that you’ll be travelling with other Work & Travel newbies. You’ll be on your way together from the moment you board the plane and won’t feel so alone. I believe that you can do without an organisation. To be honest, if you can’t book a flight and a hostel or are having trouble finding a connection and organising your travel, Work & Travel is probably not for you. ;)
How much does it cost?
Since we’re on the subject of money… I keep getting more and more questions about how expensive Work & Travel is. This is also difficult to answer: it depends on the kind of stay you are planning. If you want to camp out and don’t care about the parties, you’ll naturally need less that if you wanted to stay primarily in hostels that are the backpacker hotspots. An estimate of €25 per day is usually given, including accommodation, food, sightseeing and transport.
Will I receive a child benefit?
As a general rule you are eligible for child benefit as long as you are still in full-time education. Work & Travel stays don’t count as such, so you have to take into account that you won’t receive child benefit payments for the duration of your stay. However, it’s worth inquiring about this. Things are different with Language Exchanges, as you are still learning during your stay. You or your parents will continue to receive the payments if you provide a matriculation proof from your university, as then your stay will count as education.
You’ve gotten so far, you’re in your new home for the next few months. So, what’s next? Do I have to deal with anything else? But I want to travel! Hold your horses! Even if you want to start travelling as soon as possible, you should plan to spend the first 14 days after your arrival in the city you’ll be staying in – there are some pragmatic reasons behind this.
Opening a bank account and getting a mailing address
No show without the dough. That’s also the case for a Working Holiday Visa. Therefore, I advise you to find a bank and open a bank account as soon as possible after your arrival. It’s not that complicated with the help of staff (don’t forget to bring your passport!) and it’s quite quick. Then you have to wait a good 10-14 days for the Debit card. Now you understand why you can’t just head off straight after arrival? Keep in mind that you’ll need a permanent address to open a bank account! ”William Smith, Sunny Beach Hotel, Brisbane” simply won’t cut it. This is where the Work & Travel organisations come in handy as they allow you to use the address of their office for these official bank issues. There are also services such as MOJOKNOWS for example, that offer a real post address that you can use. As soon as you receive a letter, you will get a notification and a scan of the letter via E-Mail. This way, even if you’re in Darwin you can read and respond to a letter sent to your Sydney address.
Applying for a TFN
In order to work abroad, you’ll need a tax number. It’s called a TFN (= Tax File Number) in Australia. If possible, you should already apply for it in Ireland before you depart, through services like MOJOKNOWS for example. You will pay a tax of 32.5% as a Working Holiday Maker. If you can’t provide a TFN, a big fat 49% tax will be taken from your wages.
It’s best to find out which provider in your destination country offers the best network coverage. There are additional backpacker plans that offer cheap fares for calls abroad. One thing is especially important when it comes to Australia: network coverage all over the country. It’s pretty useless if you only have reception in one city. The country is so big that you’ll probably spend more time in the remote corners than in big cities. And not every operator offers a reliable reception in the Pampa.
Buying a car
Many backpackers hesitate about buying their own car. It costs a lot of money, you have to get insurance and you have to get the fuel on top of it all… Yeah, it might seem a bit discouraging at first, but it’s the car that’s your door to freedom! Don’t forget what regions you need to tour to see the most beautiful sights and in what kind of a remote area your next job awaits you. When it comes to New Zealand, Canada and Australia, it’s the road itself that’s the destination! Last time I checked, there weren’t many busses travelling through the Outback. You’ll also save money if you buy a used car that was already built for backpackers. Don’t you want to experience the ultimate road trip? If you don’t want to purchase a car you have to consider flying through the country. I mean even the flights across Australia can be pretty long, some routes you actually cannot even do by car…
Eventually your travel budget won’t be enough and you’ll have to work. Ask yourself just one question: How do I find a job? New Zealand and Australia are the backpacker strongholds right now. Nowhere else will you meet so many young people with one goal: to find a job. Prepare yourself for the fact that it can take longer than expected to find a suitable position. The struggle for jobs is real! There are job agencies for backpackers in the big cities. Jobs offered there will match your criteria best. One of the most popular jobs is fruit picking (harvesters). Even if it looks idyllic and romantic when cheerful workers sit on a trailer and pick grapes in the sunshine, it’s no picnic. And it’s paid on a piecework basis. That means that whoever manages to pick more bucketfuls of fruit will be paid more. You really have to work hard to earn a sufficient wage – don’t underestimate that. Farmers in Australia count on backpackers during the harvest period just like farmers back home count on harvest workers. Have you ever been curious about the back-breaking job of the harvest workers?
Many pubs in neighbouring places are constantly looking for bar staff. So if you can pour beer the right way and are a nice, outgoing person you should consider a bartender position. Accommodation and board are usually provided. A big advantage: since the locals are not located in the tourist hotspots, you’ll be able to meet the ‘real’ locals. It’s common for the backpackers to stick together and find it hard to get to know the locals.
Yes, it’s a thing. Travel burnout can get you quicker than you might expect. The constant travel, always coming to a new place, new people, having to introduce yourself all over again and form new friendships – it can be quite exhausting in the long run and you eventually find yourself wanting to relax and spend a cosy day on the sofa in yoga pants. Yup, hostels are not ideal when it comes to private space. Travel burnout doesn’t happen to every backpacker, many are simply euphoric. Nevertheless, you should know that it exists and it’s completely normal. You’re not the only backpacker feeling a bit under the weather! If your budget allows, treat yourself to a night or two in a hotel room, order a pizza and binge-watch your favourite TV series in bed. Sometimes you need a bit of a time off your holiday to recharge your batteries and continue to other adventures!
Wow, that’s quite a lot of information to digest! I hope that my honest tips help you with planning your exciting travels. Pack your bags and off you go!