Keeping Travel Cheap
So, how did I end up in Brighton? Being an international couple comes with a few more bumps in the road. As an Australian, I can only spend 3 months out of every 6 months in the EU (Schengen zone) without a visa. My 3 months were up mid October 2016 and we came face to face with a dilemma. We had planned to go to my home town in Perth for Christmas in December, however, there was a gap of 6 weeks until we had flights down under. So I began my search to figure out what I would do and where I would go for 6 weeks.
My big bright idea: To find a hostel in a country outside the Schengen zone that I could volunteer at who would give me free accommodation in exchange for my help. However, I was also looking for the potential to earn some pocket money to cover my food and to maybe occasionally indulge in some red wine. Of course the more money I can save myself the better and the more money that can stay in the bank account. So my thoughts were maybe this way I would not be saving money but I also wouldn’t be spending any either.
The MAIN GOAL was to be cash neutral for 6 weeks... Challenge accepted.
Finding THE Perfect Job
The hunt begins by first taking a look on hosteljobs.net. This is a free website for users where hostels post travel volunteering opportunities from all over the world. After emailing all the hostels that would be suitable, I unfortunately had no luck. It is a great free site, full of jobs and you should check it out yourself. It is possible to find jobs all year round but it dependant on the season. For example, if I was looking in high season and at the beginning of European summer, it could have been a different story. The hunt continued.
I thought I would then try and approach hostel directly. I had always wanted visit the seaside city of Brighton in the south of the UK. I had heard good things about Brighton from fellow travelers and being in a city next to the beach is like music to an Australian’s ears. Not to mention it is super gay friendly and alternative.
To contact the hostels directly the simplest way of find a list of hostel in a certain area on HostelWorld.com. You can download the app and scroll through all the hostels in Brighton, see their locations and choose which ones would be suitable. A word of advice that has really helped me: Read The Reviews! It is important to read through all the reviews because it will give you a better idea what what the hostel is like and what to expect. You want to make sure the hostel is sociable and the staff you will be working with are friendly. You need to remember that the hostel will be your home and you also want to give yourself the best possible chance of a great experience. The next step was to personally email each hostel, telling them a bit about myself, explaining my situation and asking if they had a live-in position available. Hostels are always looking for backpackers to volunteer so just put yourself out there and some great opportunities will come your way. It wasn't long until a Brighton hostel in a great location had a position for me. Score!
By doing this I was able to secure a job before I even arrived in the UK. This is the second time I have been able to get a job before even arriving in the country, so you can do it too. You will safe yourself from walking to every hostel in a brand new city. If you are thinking about doing something like this, I would recommend doing something similar. You could think about it this way, you don't want to be potentially looking around for a live-in position weeks after arrival, paying for accommodation and eating away at your travel money.
Other Hostel Job Websites
There are also website that you pay to secure a position or to be a member. If you want to secure a job fast you can also check out:
Worldpackers is a community based on collaboration and honest relationships that make travel more accessible to those seeking a profound cultural experience. Through an online platform, we connect travelers - looking to exchange their skills for accommodation - with incredible hosts from all around the world. To secure a position will cost between $20 - $60.
Workaway is a platform to find volunteering, working and cultural exchange around the world. This website integrates and help local communities in over 155 countries. The opportunities can range from working on a pig farm in Sweden, teaching English in rural Vietnam to being the main hostel party promoter in Prague. To secure a position you will first need to pay to sign up which is 29.00 EUR for one year.
My Big Brighton Arrival
I arrived in Brighton by on Flixbus and it was a long 12 hours. On the plus side it was super cheap and with no expensive airline luggage fees; it was worth it. Brighton is a place that is oozing retro chic. Dotted along the streets are cosy cafes with bohemian vibes and vegetarian restaurants around every corner. I have never seen so many independent boutique stores in such a small space in the UK. It reminded me a little bit of Camden Markets in London. Walking through the streets, the walls showcase amazing graffiti art work and buskers adding to the vibe. And of course, the iconic Victorian style of Brighton Pier.
The Brighton Coach station is called Pool Valley. It is quite close to the ocean, it is very small and not well sign posted. It looks more like a bus stop rather than a coach station and it is behind the Brighton YHA Hostel.
My Hostel Home
I had organized to start working at a hostel called The Grapevine North Laine. The reviews said the hostel location was perfect, it had a good atmosphere and friendly staff. I would work each morning from 10:30am - 12:30pm cleaning in exchange for a bed, utilities and wifi. The usual fee is 80 pounds per week. Additionally, if I helped out with reception for a couple hours here and there, I could earn a little pocket money. Making 45 pounds a week is enough to live with if you are good with spending your money wisely. For example, going to Aldi if you need food or drinks instead of the more expensive supermarkets like Tescos saves you a few pounds each shop.
There are a lot of places, all over Europe that hire volunteer workers. Why? Well, the hostel saves money on staffing costs and you save on accommodation. You get to meet loads of new people and it is a win-win situation. I saved around 480 pounds on 6 weeks accommodation while earning 45 pounds each week doing extra hostel duties.
However, it is not always rainbows and butterflies. You have to be willing to clean up after people who are dirty and messy every day. If you are not afraid of a bit of hard work, then this is for you. No matter where you are, you will deal with people who are different from you but those experiences are a catalyst to personal growth. At some point you will be cleaning up after people who do not respect the hostel. This hostel in particular is old and a bit run down but it is cheap and affordable. It also attracts long-term staying young internationals. By the time I left, I knew everyone by name, their story and made some amazing friends.
What Is There To Do?
The Royal Pavilion
The spectacular seaside palace of the Prince Regent (George IV) transformed by John Nash between 1815 and 1823 into one of the most dazzling and exotic buildings in the British Isles.
The Royal Pavilion houses furniture and works of art including original pieces lent by Her Majesty The Queen and a magnificent display of Regency silver-gilt. The Royal Pavilion Tearoom, with its fabulous balcony, overlooks the Pavilion gardens, which have also been returned to their original Regency splendour.
Tickets for Adults is £12.30 and for Concession £10.50. There is also an audio guide in a variety of languages available and costs £2.
Open times from October to March: 10am–5.15pm (last tickets at 4.30pm) and April to September: 9.30am–5.45pm (last tickets at 5pm).
Brighton Dome is the south coast's premier multi-arts venue and conference venue at the cultural heart of Brighton’s Royal Pavilion Estate. Each year, it present and produce over 600 events spanning music, theatre, dance, comedy, literature, spoken word, visual arts, film, digital and more. In addition to the year-round program, May is a very special month. The Dome hosts England's leading and most-progressive mixed-arts celebration, the internationally-acclaimed Brighton Festival.
Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
Brighton Museum houses one of the most important and eclectic collections outside national institutions. Dynamic and innovative galleries - including fashion and style, 20th century art and design, and fine art - feature exciting interactive displays appealing to all ages. In addition to the permanent galleries, there is a continuing program of temporary exhibitions.
Tickets for Adults are £5.20 and £4.20 for Concession. Open hours: 10:00 - 17:00 on Tuesday - Sunday.
The pier opened up in 1899 under the name of Palace Pier. It got renamed in 2000 to Brighton Pier. Walking on the pier over the water is a real pleasure. With lots of rides and attractions you could spend hours on the pier. For a few pounds you can play arcade games and with your small change try your luck on the coin machine in the Palace Of Fun. It is very popular, a lot of fun and has a great atmosphere. Another thing is enjoy some good old fish and chips and look at the view but be careful that the seagulls don't steal your chips.
No Tickets and it is free to wander around. If you want to go on all the rides there are packages also available.
Something For The Romantics - BYOC Bar
For a romantic date I would highly recommend a trip to BYOC. It stands for Bring Your Own Cocktail. It is in the iconic lanes of Brighton (41 Meeting House Lane, Brighton, BN1 1HB). BYOC is set up as a 1920's prohibition bar and it is super cool. It has it all, including an unsuspecting shop front that leads you down into an underground time warp. It is even a good idea for classy pre-drinks before exploring the colorful scene in Brighton.
The Fun Part is that there is no alcohol provided at this bar. Crazy, right? So, you will need to bring your own bottle of spirits as a base for this cocktail madness. BYOC advises that you bring alcohol that is in a sealed and unopened bottle. You can bring as much as you like. However, you and your lovely guest(s) will have a 2 hour time slot at your table. The very experienced bartenders will whip up anything you want to tantalize your taste buds. There is no cocktail menu. Which means each and every cocktail will be unique just for you. The bar has a vast range of syrups, spices, fruits and exotic flavours. BYOC even use egg whites, pepper and anything you can think of.
They can put your cocktail on fire! Shake some cinnamon over the top and watch it crackle and pop. The talented bar staff can even put your favorite flavors in a cream dispenser for a cocktail made of foam. I don't want to give it all away but it is an experience I would highly recommend.
The Price is £25 per person and nothing else to pay for 2 hours for as many cocktails as you can handle. This will cover the staff and all the ingredients. Going on the weekend is guaranteed to be quite busy. So, if you want the whole venue to yourself and your partner, I would recommend going during the week.
OK, so it is a little bit expensive. However, it is a bar that is very unique, really special and super cool.
If you want more details, you can also visit their website.
Day Trip - The Seven Sisters
The Seven Sisters is the name given to the beautiful white limestone cliffs that line the coast to the South of Brighton. It is a gorgeous spot with some excellent views, especially at sunset. The walk along the top of the cliffs is not too strenuous and can easily be done in a few hours. Much of the surrounding area is used as farm land. So you'll likely get to see some sheep and a couple of cows grazing on your nature walk.
It is really straight forward getting to this beautiful place from Brighton. You need to take a local bus number 12, 12A or 13 along the coast and the bus spot is called the Seven Sisters. Please note that you will spend around about an hour on the bus each way and to factor that into your visit. You can get a bus ticket in the bus.
It is worth the trip and a memorable experience. Be sure to take some nice warm clothes with you because it can get quite windy up there. Bring your camera and take some great photos too.
Will I Volunteer At a Hostel Again?
YES definitely! Volunteering at a hostel is a great way of making your travel money last longer. There are so many great opportunities out there like this one. An added bonus is that you will also learn a fair few transferable skills along the way. If you are applying for a job, try to get to know about the place you're applying for the job. A job at a party hostel if you don't think you can handle parties and pub crawls every day probably isn't a good idea. If the hostel is more chilled but you are a wild party animal, maybe you won't like the job either. My advise is to work somewhere you would want to stay as a guest!