When I first arrived in New Zealand in 2015, I knew I wanted to settle down somewhere to work and live for a while – not only to earn money for more traveling, but also because I had the opportunity of up to two years working holiday visa. I wanted to make the most of it, immerse myself in the country and not just pass through.
When you’re traveling any country that you love and are not restricted by time it’s natural to want to stick around for as long as you can and really see and do as much as possible, but that can come with a hefty price tag.
As a fairly new traveler making my month-long trip down the country from Auckland to Christchurch, I soon spotted many hostels offering work for accommodation schemes, or ‘woofing’.
Not knowing how I was going to get set up in a town or city, woofing was an appealing option and I found that the majority of hostels offered some kind of scheme where you would work for two to three hours a day in exchange for a bed, laundry, wifi and sometimes more. Time frames varied – some hostels would want you to stick around for a while, others had a minimum time of two weeks commitment – perfect for someone wanting to stay in a place for a bit longer or for someone like me who needed to find my feet somewhere.
I settled in the beautiful Central Otago town of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island and was lucky to find that the town’s Base Hostel had woofing spaces available.
Woofing is a pretty perfect place to start for travelers and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to get set up somewhere like me, or who just wants to spend more time in a place for a fraction of the price.
As I said before, all schemes vary, but I was required to work three hours a day for a minimum of two weeks, usually from 10am to 1pm, cleaning the hostel after guests had checked out, in exchange for free laundry once a week, wifi and a bed in a dorm room.
We had two woofers rooms – mine was an eight-bed and the other was a six-bed. There were some long-termers, but the turn-around could be pretty quick and you’d have a new room mate or two every few weeks. Most of us became a little woofing family, especially as we were there over Christmas time, and this was great as a newcomer in town.
Only working the three hours a day gave a lot of flexibility with looking for work, with a lot of us working at the supermarket next door in the afternoon, or in bars and restaurants in the evening. The support network of other woofers and hostel staff was also good for getting inside knowledge on where was best to look for rooms, cars or other work.
I lasted just under two months at the hostel before I started getting extra hours at my paid job and eventually found a room in a house. In those two months I made some great friends and managed to save some serious money.
If you’re in the same boat as I was I would highly recommend keeping an eye out in the places you pass through and asking local hostels about their woofing schemes.
In Australia and New Zealand, Base Hostels usually offer the same scheme I was on – a minimum of two weeks, with an upfront bond of around $100 (I can’t remember exactly how much I paid, but it was around that, and you get it back when you leave provided you haven’t broken any rules!)
Other hostels are different but most offer some kind of scheme so it’s worth asking around if you’re wanting to stick around in a certain place for cheap. It’s the perfect way to save money, explore and meet new people – maybe even making some life-long friends from all over the world like I did.