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Five Big Questions First Time Travellers Have Before Going on a Working Holiday

Working holiday visas are, in my opinion, one of the greatest things ever invented.

They allow people under the age of 30 (35 in some countries) to live and work in another country for 1-2 years – giving them the change to travel abroad long term and immerse themselves in another culture.

The working holiday visas available to you depend on where you are from and they are reciprocal agreements. That means that if young people from that country are allowed to work in your country, you will be allowed to work in theirs. For example there are lots to choose from if you are Canadian, quite a few if you are British but not as many if you are from the USA.

Going on a working holiday has a number of advantages. First of all, you will be able to get a job and work as you travel, which means that you can continue to replenish your travel budget as you go along. This means that you will be able to stay in the country for a lot longer and you will get the chance to immerse yourself in the culture, get a place to live and make friends. Rather than a vacation, it’s the full experience of living and working somewhere different – whether that’s at a kiwi farm in New Zealand, a pub in the UK or a ski resort in Canada.

On a working holiday visa in Canada, this could be your backyard! (Banff, Alberta)
On a working holiday visa in Canada, this could be your backyard! (Banff, Alberta)

I have talked to many first time travellers who are planning their first working holiday and they often ask me the same questions. Here are some of the common questions about going on a working holiday visa for the first time:

1.      Where Do I Apply for the Working Holiday Visa?

It depends on the visa itself, but usually you apply on the immigration website of the particular country. You will need to fill out an official application form and provide the supporting documents, which usually include proof that you have enough funds to support yourself and a police check that shows you have a clear criminal record. You will need to send away your passport in most cases, so that the working holiday visa can be placed within it.

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2.      How Do I Find a Job Before I Leave?

First of all, you can start by reading our blog post about how to get a job overseas, which contains a lot of helpful tips.

You can find jobs listed on backpacker websites and work-abroad boards, as well as the online classified website that is popular in that particular country. You can narrow it down to a specific city, but you will have a better chance if you are more flexible about where in the country you choose to work.

Looking for a job in a different country before you get there is similar to looking for a job in your own hometown – you have to have a well written cover letter and resume and you need to put yourself out there tirelessly to many different companies.

The difference is that you will not be able to meet your potential employers in person, so you will need to put extra effort into your electronic application. Craft a well written cover letter and include your perfectly polished CV. If you are asked for a telephone interview before you arrive, install Skype so that you can make long distance calls at a cheap rate.

make money while you travel
Lee looking very enthusiastic about his seasonal retail job at Bond & Bond in Christchurch, New Zealand

Keep in mind that since you are a backpacker who is only going to be there for a few months to a year, you might not be able to find a job in your field of study. The types of jobs that most short term workers get are in retail, customer service, hospitality and farm labour, as these types of jobs can take on short term workers more easily. However, it’s okay if you end up waiting tables or picking fruit on your working holiday even if you went to University to study something else – the working holiday visa is more about giving you the chance to travel long term than finding work in your field.

3.      How Do I Find a Place to Stay?

Once you have found a job in your destination country, you will need to find a place to stay while you are working there. When you first arrive you can stay in a hostel, as they are cheap, comfortable and a great place to meet other people.

You even could stay in a hostel long term, but if you are planning on working in one spot for several months it will be cheaper and more comfortable to get your own apartment.

Consider sharing a room in a house with others, it’s a great way to keep your expenses down and make new friends. When Lee and I lived in Christchurch, New Zealand during our working holiday we stayed in a large student housing complex with a couple of New Zealand girls, a guy from Saudi Arabia, a girl from India and a group of Koreans. It was a lot of fun!

Baking cookies with my Korean house mates in New Zealand.
Baking cookies with my Korean house mates in New Zealand.

Remember those online classifieds you found for getting a job? They are also a great place for finding people who are looking to rent out a room in their house. Of course, watch out for places that require you to sign a six month or one year lease if you are not planning on being there that long.

4.      Should I Get Travel Insurance?

It might seem like travel insurance is a big expensive pain in the butt and you are probably telling yourself that you don’t need it, but you still should. When Lee broke both his wrists in Canada it would have cost him five thousand dollars to pay for his medical care if he had not had insurance! That’s a lot of money, so why take the risk of screwing yourself over financially if anything goes wrong?

Broken Wrists British Columbia Canada
Lee was glad he had travel insurance!

There are a lot of travel insurance options that are designed for young people on working holidays. Take your time and read the fine print to make sure you will be covered for extra activities you might want to take part in, such as surfing or paragliding. Make sure that you save all of the emails you receive with your policy number and details, in case you need to file a claim later.

5.      Is it Safe?

Right now there is a pit of nervousness in your stomach when you think about travelling abroad on your working holiday. Is travelling really as dangerous as people say?

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The answer is yes, it is safe. Most countries that you will be doing your working holiday in, such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Japan, etc. are developed first world countries that are very safe to live in. Even if you are going to a country that is slightly less developed and has some risks, you will still be fine as long as you are smart and use your common sense.

Check out this article on how to avoid 99.9% of travel scams. The key is awareness. If you are aware of what to watch out for, you will have an advantage over anyone who is looking to scam you. Be informed, do your research and know what the safe behaviours are in the destination you are travelling to.

Also, locals are an important source of information for safety as well. If a local person tells you not to walk around alone in a certain neighbourhood at night, you should probably take their word for it because they know from experience.

These are just 5 of the most common questions that people ask us when they are planning their working holiday. If you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments and we will answer them!

About Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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