Working Holidays and How to Pay for Them

What’s the one thing travelers always wished they packed more of on working holidays?


It makes the world go round and it makes your working holiday run a heck of a lot smoother. There’s more to preparing for a working holiday than just saving up for the plane ticket, and if you aren’t equipped to cover the initial costs —the ones that add up so quickly—you may find yourself dipping into that freshly paid off credit card.

Who's Who? cc Image courtesy of Nadar on Flickr
Who’s Who? cc Image courtesy of Nadar on Flickr

It’s always better to make high estimates in terms of cost, and then find out you have extra dough for a weekend trip to the coast. Here are seven costs you may have missed when planning your working holiday:


  1. Bond and first month’s rent: This will be the biggest upfront cost you face when first getting set up on your working holiday. After putting so much energy into finding the hippest London flat for the best price, you need to have cash or cheques ready to put in that first month’s rent (or risk losing it to someone else). It’s common for the landlord to ask for a bond of six weeks rent as well, so you might find yourself forking over more money than you paid for your plane ticket (for instance, that number in London could easily be around £1000). Once you have a home base though, it makes it much easier to find work and ends up being significantly cheaper in the long run.
  2. Eating and drinking: How much more expensive is it to eat out for each meal instead of buying groceries? Well, let’s say it costs $100 US for a weekly grocery bill for two people and an average of $5 per meal when going out for a budget backpacker meal (an extremely conservative estimate). For two people to eat 3 meals a day for a week in restaurants that works out to $210. More than twice the expense! When working holidaymakers wonder where their money went in those first few weeks, it’s inevitably gone to pubs and restaurants for food and drink. You’ll be eating out all the time while looking for an apartment and then continuing to do so until your kitchen is set up. It’s true, you need to go out to the pub and have a few drinks after a hard day of searching for an apartment or a job, but be sure to put aside a couple extra bucks well ahead of time.
  3. Clothing: Your going to be hard pressed to find an employer who will hire you if you wear surfer shorts and flip-flops to an interview. So if you aren’t packing dress clothes and shoes, you’ll need to fork over some more of that cash to set yourself up looking nice. For a full outfit you’re looking at spending at least $200 and likely more. Then once you get the job, you can’t wear the same dress shirt 5 days a week. Estimate this cost according to your lifestyle and intended job: for the shoeless hippy traveler picking cherries in British Columbia – $20 to buy used work boots; for a tech consultant in New York – $1000 for dress shirts and pants/skirts and shoes to rotate through a week, more if you want to look good.
  4. Mobile Phone and Internet: A phone and Internet access is a must when looking for an apartment or trying to set up interviews for a new job. Even if you bring your own phone from home, you will still need to purchase a SIM card and then top it up as you go (you likely don’t want to get yourself into a contract). Add this to the cost of countless hours in internet cafés and the upfront cost of setting up a connection in your new apartment (if you bring/buy a computer, which is becoming more and more common for working holiday makers) and you’ve got a combo of expenses that might lead to a few weeks of eating rice and canned tomatoes for every meal. Scour the Internet for the best deals on phones for your area; trust me, it’s a popular forum topic.
  5. Transportation: I’m always amazed when I get off the plane and find myself paying 30-something Euros for a shuttle downtown, then dishing out for transit tickets or cab fare; what a way to start things off. And it doesn’t stop there. The first few weeks are a whirlwind of bus and subway trips to look at apartments, go to interviews and run errands. Then when you land a job you have to get there and back each day, not to mention meeting up with friends. If you’re in Toronto, that means at least $3.00 a trip (multiplied by at least twice a day) or an upfront cost of over $100 for a monthly pass.
  6. Initial Accommodation: How long does it take to find an apartment? Sometimes you get lucky in the first few days, but other times you have to stay in a hostel for a couple weeks until the right room comes your way. When that’s the case, you’ll end up getting out the cash each morning and paying for another night. Here’s a tip: try couch surfing. It’s free, you’ll end up meeting locals who might have insider info on apartments and jobs, and might end up with new friends to show you the town. Be safe though, and check ratings and reviews.
  7. The Big Gap: Even after you’ve landed a job, your first paycheque won’t show up for a couple weeks at least. And the money might go quickly to buy second-hand pasta drainers and bath towels. The point is, it’ll take a couple months before you start feeling financially sound so a little extra padding might be a good idea. The moral of the story: you’re not going to run out of packing room by shoving a few more coins into that bank account, and you sure won’t regret it later.

Author Bio: Clay Pearn is a  traveler, writer, and editor from Toronto.


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