Top 10 gap year jobs

Are you planning a gap year or a career break abroad but not sure what options are available to keep the money rolling in whilst exploring the culture of a foreign country? Read on for the Lonely Planet’s top 10 jobs abroad…

Leading tours
Get paid to sightsee in a foreign country by leading tour groups. Working every day with locals also allows you to gain a deeper understanding in to a country’s culture. Tour leaders are responsible for the smooth running of the trip and the satisfaction of your group. Most operators require their leaders to speak a foreign language and to sign up for two or more seasons. The pay is generally not great, but whatever you do earn will be in addition to free accommodation, return air fare and often free meals.

Teaching English
If you’re reading this, then you already possess the prime qualification required for rewarding work overseas. The phenomenal popularity of the English language has created a huge demand for teachers. Those with formal teaching qualifications and experience can make a good career out of teaching, feted by foreign schools which pay airfares and look after work permits and paperwork. English teaching can also pay well, it’s possible to come home with savings after a year of work in Japan or South Korea.

Most education providers require you to have completed a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course; for more information visit

Au pairing
Get comfortable with a foreign culture by living and working with a local family. Au pairing may not pay well, but most use it as an opportunity to master a language. Essentially, you have to love children, but most employers also prefer to employ single people with no dependents, who are aged between 17 and 27. You’ll need to prove that you’ve spent time caring for children – a job that’s not short on responsibility.

Working in ski resorts
Working in a ski resort is less a job, more of a lifestyle. You’ll likely end up skiing all day and partying all night. Though competition is stiff , there are loads of opportunities to work in resorts from instructing on the slopes to working behind the scenes in a chalet. You’ll need international instructor qualifications to work as an instructor, where the pay is modest but the cool factor’s high. Chalet staff cook and clean and though this work carries less kudos and cash, there is usually a great camaraderie among workers.

Journalism is probably the best known of the ‘proper jobs’ in which you can ensure some money dribbles into your account. If you’ve got a nose for news and can write, pitch a story to the editor responsible for the relevant section of an appropriate newspaper or magazine. You need to be contactable and be able to deliver on your pitch. Pitch your travel stories to major newspapers or magazines, as these will have a budget for freelance stories.

Waiting/working in a bar
Whether you’re working the floor taking food orders in a bustling cafe or pulling pints in a village pub, this is people-focused work. Though the hours can be long and the pay not great, you’ll likely come across a lot of locals, and tips can plump out an average earning. Most establishments require that you have some experience, particularly for working in a bar.

Cooking/working as a kitchen hand
If you’re a maestro in the kitchen, you could secure work as a chef in a restaurant or a hotel. Those without qualifications can still get in the kitchen prepping food, flipping burgers or doing the washing up. Working in restaurants and hotels often puts you in touch with other travellers, and offers a casual environment in which to earn a bit of cash. While washing up might not make you wealthy, it will give you soft hands. is probably the best site advertising kitchen-hand jobs in major Western cities.

Farming work
If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty there is loads of labour that allows you to work outdoors – improving your tan while you work. You might pick up work fruit picking or planting crops; in all cases long hours and physical exertion are involved. Farm wages are generally low, but accommodation is thrown in and you’ll have few opportunities to fritter away your earnings. You don’t need any particular skills, just endurance and determination.

Get that warm and fuzzy feeling from doing something positive for someone or something you care about while gaining an insight into a foreign place and chalking up experience. Volunteering opportunities are many and varied, and can include professional placements, joining an expedition and administration for a nongovernmental organisation. Costs to the volunteer also vary according to the activity and length of stay, but bank on contributing to food and sundry expenses.

The website lists hundreds of volunteering opportunities around the world.

Crewing a yacht
Working for your passage can certainly put the wind in your sails. Getting on board a yacht will likely get you into nooks and crannies that most of us only dream about, particularly around the islands of the Aegean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. Apart from some nifty knot tying, you need to work well in a team and under pressure. Tasks vary according to the vessel, but generally involve rigging, cleaning and maintenance. It’s common for crew to contribute a small amount of cash to cover food and sundry expenses.

Don’t forget to pack your gap year insurance!
You can purchase great value gap year insurance direct at 24/7 travel insurance. For a 2-month trip in Europe, will cost you just £14.17* – a small price to pay to really enjoy your gap year all the more!

* Premium £14.17 includes Insurance Premium Tax based on an individual aged under 36 taking out a ‘Standard’ Backpacker 24/7 travel insurance policy for 2 months in Europe. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press (January 2011) and are subject to change.