Working Holidays: Exploring The World On A Budget

Learn about unique methods for traveling abroad that do not break the bank.

Working Holidays: Exploring The World On A Budget

This pandemic has been rough on all of us, with many people cancelling their plans and more or less putting their lives on a pause. However, it seems like we have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. With the ever-increasing amount of people getting vaccinations, better treatments for the diseased, and lockdown measurements slackening every day, brighter days are hopefully just around the corner.

Naturally, you may want to go abroad once this is all over, see a new country, meet new people etc. After all, at least for the majority of us, it has been far too long since we could enjoy a proper holiday abroad. Admittedly though, it is not always possible for us students to plan a trip that costs us an arm and a leg. If you want to get the best out of your holiday abroad while not breaking the bank here are a few options that you can keep in mind whilst planning your next trip. Broadly speaking, I would call these opportunities as “working holidays,” and you too can learn how to make use of them after going through the short guide I provided for you below!

Work and Travel

I believe this is the most well-known working holiday type that one can think of. The USA’s work and travel program is, to my knowledge, recruiting university students from all over the world, and they sure are recruiting plenty from the Russian Federation. You can spend a few months in the USA, mostly during summertime, working and getting paid like any other worker, and then spend a few more weeks according to your plan to see the likes of Hollywood, Disneyland, and The Big Apple before coming back home. Admittedly, most of the jobs you can apply to are minimum wage ones, but due to the rather generous tipping culture of the USA, most of my friends ended up saving tons of money after a few months of working, despite spending a lot of cash there to see the nearby cities/landmarks etc. You can work in amusement parks, restaurants, hotels, resorts, retailers, pubs, fast food chains, cafes, and the like as a part of this program. Do make sure to get in touch with a nearby office that specializes in this to get more information on it, but admittedly, they do charge a hefty fee for applications most of the time. In most cases you can make more money than what you spent, and some more on top of that, but to attempt this you have to have some cash laying around to begin with. A do-it-yourself cash-free option for beginners would be finding a hostel to work in. This is not the same as an actual work and travel program, but it is free. Most hostels all around the world let their workers stay for free with them and pay you for the time you work in them, mostly tending to the information desk and helping with menial tasks such as cleaning etc. In any case, do check out the link below to get more information on the work and travel program of the USA.

Teaching and Training Abroad

This is a very general category and does require a lot of initiative on your part. However, more than likely it is the best option for you if you have a passion for teaching what you already know and love. A good friend of mine from Czechia was the one to broaden my horizons by telling me of this option. He happens to teach tennis during summers in various parts of the world. For example, he was a tennis trainer in some of Turkey’s best beach resorts, places where it can normally cost hundreds of Euros per night to stay at if you were to go there as a guest. Not only did he stay there free of charge, but also was paid for his time working with the guests. Now I write “work” here liberally, but as long as you love what you teach, and especially in the case of sports, there is a good chance that this whole “ordeal” will feel like a hobby to you. After hearing Henry’s story, I did more research into this sort of working holiday and realized that many hotels and resorts all around the world are more than happy to accommodate a few trainers, bartenders, and animators with an international background, often asking for their employees to speak a certain language. For example, for Russians it should be relatively easy to find a job in one of the many resorts in Antalya, as they certainly need Russian speakers to work with their mostly Russian speaking clientele. Do not be afraid of mailing even some of the top resorts for such opportunities, you never know what could happen!

Language Exchange

This is one of the most interesting options I came upon during my research for this article. Do not confuse this with teaching a language, which I will mention later on within the part on volunteering. What I refer with “language exchange” here is basically a glorified homestay where the host wants to teach their own language/culture to a guest and learn that guest’s own language/culture at the process. Most of such posts I have seen are completely free of charge, and the only expectation on the host’s part is the ability to converse with their guest for a few hours per day. Sadly, I do not have a friend or relative who used such an opportunity to go abroad yet, but the comments I read online indicate that the majority of people that did use it are quite content with it. If you are okay with staying with a foreigner, enjoy speaking about your language and culture, and wish to spend next to nothing in your time abroad this could be a great opportunity for you. There are many websites where you can find such homestays (with reviews of hosts from previous guests to help you decide which one is reliable/trustworthy), and you can find a few of them below to get you started in your research. Some websites may charge a small fee for registration or subscription etc. but depending on your target country such fees could be extremely reasonable compared to the actual cost of accommodation in that destination of yours.


The only true limit to volunteering is one’s imagination, that is what I realized after spending hours trying to find information and websites that fit this category. I intend to apply to some such programs myself this summer, so it was exceptionally easy and enjoyable to carry out the research for this section. Apparently, you can volunteer almost anywhere in the world, do pretty much anything you can imagine, and often get a free accommodation for it! In fact, some projects even offer other goodies like meals every day, or even trips on weekends to nearby landmarks. You can teach English to school children in Africa, help the elderly in Europe, protect wildlife in Australia, plant trees in South America, build schools in Nepal, well, you get the picture. There are numerous ways of finding such volunteering positions as well, hundreds of organizations with different focuses and opportunities in each. A small percentage of such organizations may charge you an application fee, but in most cases, these are nothing compared to the actual cost of accommodation in your target country, just like the case with language exchange I mentioned before. If you want to move around, but also help people out simultaneously, this is the way to go. Make sure to check out the links I provided below to get a head start in your search, looking for that perfect volunteering opportunity of your dreams.

Exchange Programs

Well, I suppose this part is quite self-explanatory, but it would be wrong not to include this opportunity in this guide. If you want something more academic, and also something that you can really only do as a student, I cannot but stress the usefulness of studying abroad for a semester, or two! Certainly, this means that you will be gone for a long time, and thus spend a lot of money, but a proper research into funding opportunities can really help you battle with such costs. HSE offers its own endowments for certain partner institutions, and there are also FIRST+ and Erasmus+ scholarships that we are all more or less familiar with. I would like to point out the importance of these opportunities enough. Back in my undergraduate years I won my university’s endowment of around 150.000 roubles for my first exchange semester abroad in Canada. 2 years later, I won the Erasmus+ scholarship to study at HSE St. Petersburg for a semester which covered my transport costs and provided a monthly stipend of 700 Euros on top of that. As someone without the best socio-economic background, these aids greatly helped me to get out of my own university, explore the world a bit, and get in touch with professionals of my field all around the globe. Furthermore, even if you could not get a scholarship, being an official student in a country often entitles you to cheaper student accommodation, transportation, and even meal plans, so that the entire “trip” could cost far less than it would if it was just a casual holiday abroad. I guess finding a placement in a research centre or attending a summer school abroad can also be considered as a part of this category, so make sure to check out such opportunities every now and then as well.

Thank you for reading this little guide I put together. I hope that it was useful for you to plan your future travels abroad, and I truly hope that soon enough all of us can put these plans into action!

Text by
Mustafa Serdar Karakaya