How to Travel the World as a Bartender
Traveling is awesome.
It teaches you amazing life skills, you get to immerse yourself in entirely different cultures, you meet extraordinary people, you’re constantly pushing your comfort zones, and it’s insanely fun!
And you know what?
When you’re a bartender, traveling is even better. Because unlike all of those other travellers out there, you’ll be getting paid as you go. That means that you get to travel for longer.
And when you’ve caught the ‘travel bug,’ there’s nothing better than knowing that you can travel for as long as you like!
Not only that, but becoming a traveling bartender is a great way to further improve your bartending skills. Because you’ll be exposed to different styles of bartending, different people, different ingredients, and different bartending techniques.
That kind of experience is invaluable.
That’s why I highly recommend every bartender to engage in some form of travel whilst they’re bartending.
Not only will you have the time of your life, but you’ll become a much more experienced and well-rounded bartender for it.
Here’s how you can do it:
6 Steps to Becoming a Traveling Bartender
Step 1: Figure out where you want to go.
Australia, USA, Asia, Europe, New Zealand, South America, Central America, and Africa. There are so many places you can go and there’s so much you can do (ski seasons, summer seasons, scuba diving, etc). If you’re anything like me, you probably have dozens of different countries you’d like to visit. So the first step in this whole journey is to narrow down your options and figure out exactly where you’d like to go.
There are two considerations you’ll need to take into account when you’re picking a destination:The first is, can you work there? And the second is, do you even want to work there?
Let’s take a look at these two questions in detail.
Can you work there?
For many of us, it’s pretty easy to travel the vast majority of countries in the world. And in most cases, you won’t even need a visa until you arrive.
But when you want to travel AND work abroad, it’s a different story. So first things first, you need to figure out whether or not you can legally work where you’d like to go…
Whether or not you can work in a different country is going to depend on where you’re from (i.e. your nationality). Working visas are different for every nationality (Americans, Canadians, Europeans, etc) because different countries have different arrangements with each other.
Since the majority of you reading this are from the USA, I’m going to focus on you.
If you’re from somewhere else (like Australia or the UK), google searches are your friend. You should be able to find the majority of your answers there, but if you can’t, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help you out.
Working Visas for Americans
When you start looking into different visa options, you’ll quickly find out that one of the best options available to you is a visa called the ‘working holiday visa.’
Basically, these are visas that are available for certain countries that give you permission to work & holiday for a limited period of time (generally 1 year).
If that sounds good to you, you’ve got 5 options:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
There are certain requirement that you’ll need to pass in order to get access to these visas (you can check them out here), but as far as working visas go for bartenders, they’re the easiest option.
Canada is another destination that you easily get a working visa for. And also, don’t forget about your own country. Ski seasons, summer seasons, and Las Vegas seasons are all available to you without even having to think about applying for a visa!
If you’re not interested in any of these countries, don’t despair (I know a lot of you have to go to Europe). Here are a couple of different options you can explore.
You can either get a student visa, or risk it.
Get a student Visa
Getting a student visa is a viable option if you want to live in a different country for a long period of time. Because they’re a lot easier to obtain than normal working visas (very difficult to obtain for the hospitality industry).
The best thing about a student visa is that you can stay in the country for as long as your degree/schooling lasts. And if you’re in Europe, it means you can freely travel to the other countries in the Schengen zone.
But the bad thing about student visas is that you have to study. And in most cases, there will be restrictions as to how much you can work (most of the time, you can only work a maximum of 20 hours).
And that will make it more difficult to survive on a bartending salary.
It also means that you’ll be stuck in the one place for a long time without having the freedom to move on (a part from small trips here and there) when you please.
For these reasons, I don’t recommend taking the student visa approach unless you genuinely want to study there.
Your second option is to take your chances. In other words, travel where you want to go, tell them you’re just visiting for tourism reasons, but go find a job anyway. Disclaimer: if you take this approach you are technically lying to the government and breaking the law. Do so at your own risk – you could be deportated or worse!
For example, in Europe, you have 90 days within the Schengen zone that you can legally spend there on holiday. That’s plenty of time to find work and I’ve met loads of people who have done it before.
If you choose to take this approach, I would definitely suggest that you save up a decent amount of cash before you arrive – in case you are deported (or worse!) or because if you don’t find work, you’ll have to cut your travels shorter than you expected.
In addition to immigration issues, another problem with this approach is that some bars will under pay you. After all, you’re working there illegally so you’re not going to complain…
Pick a different country
Your third alternative is to pick a different country.
The traveling bartender experience is fantastic no matter where you go. So just because you’re first choice is off the cards, doesn’t mean you should give up on it.
Sometimes, you’ll have to make a compromise and choose a different country.
For example, if you really wanted to work in Spain, why not try Colombia, Argentina, or Chile, instead? You’ll still get that Spanish/ summer/ beach experience and after you’ve done some research, you might find that you’d enjoy these countries even more.
You could even pick a different experience altogether. Instead of doing a summer season in Europe, why not try a ski season in America, Canada, New Zealand, or South America??
My point is, the traveling bartender experience is awesome wherever you go and you’ve got tonnes of options. So just because you find out that your first option doesn’t seem realistic, doesn’t mean you can’t try something else.
Do you want to work there?
Some countries are better to work in than others. The reason for that is in some countries, you won’t get paid enough to work as a bartender. So a lot of the time, there’s no point in working there.
In my opinion, it’s much better to save up money when you’re working in higher paying countries and then just travel & enjoy the lower-paying countries work-free! Most of the time, these lower-paying countries are so cheap to travel through anyway, that your money will go a long way.
Of course, there are other reasons you might want to work in one of these countries. For example, for the experience, meeting/working with the locals, learning the language, etc. Just be aware that you won’t be getting paid very well.
As a general rule, first world countries like Australia, Canada, America, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan, parts of China, South Korea, and most of Western Europe are all great places to work as bartenders. In these countries, you’ll get paid enough to survive (if not thrive), have a good time, and save up enough money for an adventure in one of the ‘poorer’ countries.
On the other side of the coin, you’ve got South-East Asia, India, South America, Central America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Africa are more challenging – it can be hard to find good paying jobs as a traveling bartender. All of these countries are unbelievable travel destinations. But as far as working there as a bartender is concerned (for the money), it’s not worth it.
Note: There are exceptions to these ‘general rules’. For example, Argentina, the Czech Republic, & parts of Indonesia, are decent places to work as a bartender. Do some research and you’ll quickly figure out whether or not it’s worth working there.
Step 2: Decide Whether to Travel Alone or With a Friend
Whether you travel alone or with a friend, is a personal decision. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. So you’ll have to weigh them up for yourself and figure out what you’d prefer.
The biggest advantages of traveling with a friend is that you’ll never get lonely and you’ll always have someone to do something with. If you want to go to the pub, beach, or shopping, no problem. You’ve got a friend waiting to accompany you. However, one of the disadvantages is, what if you both want to do something different? For instance, what if one of you wants to travel to Germany and the other wants to travel to France? One of you will have to make a compromise…
That’s probably the biggest advantage of traveling alone. You have the freedom and flexibility to do what you want, when you want. If you want to travel to France, no problem. If you want to quit your job and move to Asia, too easy! The other advantage of traveling alone is that you’re forced to meet other people. Because if you don’t, you will get lonely (one of the biggest disadvantages).
Overall, it really depends on your preferences. Some people prefer having the freedom that comes with traveling alone. Whereas other people prefer to have that companionship. Neither is right or wrong, as long as you’re happy with your decision, that’s what counts. And remember, you can always change it up as you go!
Step 3: Book Your Flight
Step 3 to becoming a traveling bartender is plain and simple – BOOK YOUR FLIGHT!
Traveling doesn’t become real until you’ve booked your flight. So do it as soon as you’ve decided on where you want to go (see step 1) and whether or not you want to travel with a friend (see step 2).
For first time travellers, I recommend booking at least 3 months in advance. That should give you enough time to prepare mentally, so that when your flight does come around, you’re only ‘kind-of’ terrified!
Note: For some visas, you’ll need to have proof of a return flight. But one-way flights are the best. It means that you can extend your travels for as long as you want and you don’t have to adhere to any strict schedules.
Step 4: Research, Save, & Get Some Experience.
You’ll have already done some initial research when you chose your destination, especially if you had to organize a visa. But, there are a few other things you’ll want to find out before you get there:
- The first thing you’ll want to research is whether or not there are any requirements to work as a bartender in your chosen country. Some countries require bartenders to attend (and pass) an alcohol awareness program in order to legally work. You’ll want to find this out before you arrive.
- The second thing you’ll want to research is when the best time of year to go is. It doesn’t matter where you go (outside of major cities), there are peak seasons and low seasons. In the peak seasons, there’s more people which means that there’s more work, making it easier to find a job. And the busy season is usually a lot more fun so I normally recommend going then.
- Finally, it’s always good to research what you can do there. Can you ski or surf? Are there any festivals going on? What about any nearby hikes? It’s good to research these things before you go.
The more money you can save before you go, the better. Because traveling can be expensive… Especially, if you like a drink!
And there’s nothing worse than staring at a near empty bank account after less than a month into your trip and having to cut it short because you couldn’t find work quick enough…
So save as much as you can before you head off.
By experience, I’m talking about getting experience working in the hospitality industry. And if you can, behind the bar.
Whilst you don’t need any experience per se to find a job overseas, it’s a HUGE advantage if you do. Bars all around the world prefer hiring bartenders with experience.
So if you can get a few months of bartending work locally before you leave, you’ll be in a much better position to find a good job.
But like I said, you don’t have to have experience. So don’t let your lack of experience stop you from going. You can always find work in the hospitality industry. But you might have to work as a barback or server first to get your foot in the door.
Step 5: Arrive & Have Fun
D-Day has arrived. It’s finally time to get on your flight and head towards your new home. So get excited because you’re going to remember this experience for the rest of your life!
You’re probably nervous, especially if this is your first time traveling. But that’s normal, so try not to worry about it. And besides, when you arrive, I’ve got the perfect solution to help you calm your nerves…
Have a drink! … Only joking… Well, kind of.
What I’m trying to say is that once you arrive, let your hair down, and have some fun. Because you’ve probably spent the last few months saving up (read: sitting at home doing nothing), working hard, and preparing for your trip.
So as soon as you get there, enjoy yourself!
Don’t worry about looking for work straight away. You’ll have plenty of time to do that later.
Instead, spend some time relaxing, exploring your new home, going to the beach, making new friends, and taking the entire experience in. I mean, you’re probably somewhere you’ve never been before…
How cool is that??
Once you’ve have some fun and settled in, then you can start looking for work. But you should wait at least 1-2 weeks before you even think of looking (unless you didn’t save up very much – in which case, start looking for work now!).
Step 6: Get a Job
This is what separates normal travelers from traveling bartenders. Traveling bartenders get a job and spend a lot longer living in the one place. And although that might sound depressing, it’s not.
In fact, it’s my favourite part.
I find that moving from place to place too quickly get’s old. It’s much more fun to take your time and really getting to know a place (i.e. live and work there).
And the job that you end up getting will likely become one of the best and most memorable parts of this whole experience. Especially if you’re traveling alone.
Because the people you work with become your family. You work with them, you party with them, you go on trips with them, you argue with them, you laugh with them, and you even cry with them (I swear it only happened once)…
It’s no wonder everyone becomes so close!
The key to landing a job overseas is simple: apply to as many bars as possible. At the end of the day, finding bartending work is a numbers game. The more bars you apply to, the better your odds are at landing a job.
There are a few different strategies you can use when you’re looking for work (you can check some of them out here). But the most effective strategy is to simply print off your bartender resume, hit the pavement, and apply for work at every bar you can find.
Step 7: Keep on Traveling!
When you start traveling, it’s almost impossible to stop.
“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life” – Michael Palin.
So keep on traveling until you’re ready to go back home. It’s one of the best parts about being a traveling bartender. Not only will you have the time of your life, but you’ll develop amazing life skills and even better bartending skills. And these skills will help you in all of your future endeavours.
So make sure you take advantage of it.
Now, I want to hear from you!
If you’ve ever traveled as a bartender before, or if you’ve got some ambitious traveling plans, let everyone know in the comments section below.
I’m sure we can all benefit from them. And to be honest, I’m looking for some new travel ideas!
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