I started my nomadic life in 2012. One of the most interesting things that I found while traveling was that one can simply lend some help in exchange of free stay and food. Volunteering was a fancy word for an Indian backpacker for a budget but soon it became a part of my travels.
Volunteering at hostels was one of my favorite activities because it came with an added benefit of meeting new travellers and making new friends. For me, and many of my counterparts, it remained a popular form of travel from a place to another.
Volunteering at backpacker hostels is still popular in 2022 but there are certain things that have evolved and one needs to be mindful of it.
Here are a few tips that I have learned from my experience and will help you when approaching an Indian backpacker hostel for volunteering purposes.
Volunteering Positions at Hostels
Experience matters when you are volunteering at a hostel. Any management won’t simply give you a random task when you apply for volunteering. You can choose from the following positions when apply for volunteering position at backpacker hostel in India.
As a receptionist, you’ll be expected to have good people skills and an eye for details. It is an 8 to 10 hour job where you will be the first person to welcome new guests, look after their requests. As a receptionist, you’ll be the face of the hostel and you cannot afford to be rude under any circumstances.
You won’t find many cafes with bars in India. A few backpacker hostels in Goa and Pondicherry do have bars because of the general environment. Now, don’t fall under the impression that you’ll be the one managing the bar, making drinks, etc. You’ll be working under a head bartender who knows their sh*t and you’ll be the one serving and taking orders. Again, being a good people’s person would be a good qualification to work in this role. Also if you want to learn the ABCs of bartending, this can be a good starting point.
Café and Restaurant Manager
This position is less complex than bartending but more exhaustive. You’ll have to coordinate with the cooks and chefs as well as the guests. You need to have a high attention span and make sure that you don’t mix up the orders.
Travel planning is the most fun job that one can be a part of while volunteering at hostels. There are chances that you also earn some commission everytime you sell a tour or trek plan to a traveller. Here, you get to work with guests and ensure that they find the best experience without any hassles.
Most hostels have their own cleaning staff. It is also not recommended to volunteer at a hostel that expects the volunteer to do all the cleaning. You’ll be working in the cleaning crew, taking care of spills and messes in case the primary cleaning staff is not there.
Some hostels in India also need teachers. You can be someone who teaches Hindi or other regional languages to the foreign guests. Hostels also need yoga and Zumba instructors. English speakers can also volunteer to teach English to the local staff.
Gardeners / Florists
In a recent trend, many backpacker hostels in India have started to grow their own food. If you are someone who likes gardening, then you can lend your services as a volunteer and develop some new skills.
Tips to Volunteer at Backpacker Hostels in India
Finding a place to volunteer at a hostel in India is not that difficult. There are businesses coming up in every corner of the country. But there are shady hostels with unethical practices that will try to exploit you in return of free services. Here are a few pointers that you should keep in mind before applying for volunteering:
Always Keep Your Communication in Written
The first and the most important rule of volunteering anywhere, and not just hostels is that you keep all your communication in written. It is never a wise idea to agree on a verbal basis because it often gives the property managers to exploit you.
Avoid Walk and Volunteer Kind of Situations
It seems very easy to simply walk and apply for volunteering at a hostel. There are chances that one out of five hostel owner would agree to have your services. But it can also misfire because it can lead to confusion and miscommunication. The terms and conditions may not become clear until it is too late. It is also possible that you apply for volunteering on a whim and end up regretting your decisions.
Check Guest Reviews
A hostel is good depending on how they treat their guests. If they are not able to provide complete facilities to their guests, they won’t do much for their volunteers. You should always avoid such properties and not go ahead with volunteering hoping that you can fix their problems.
Always Explain Your Specialization and How You Can Contribute
Ethical and genuine volunteering goes hand in hand. A good, ethical backpacker hostel in India will not agree to add you as a volunteer without knowing your areas of specialization. Take some time to decide your personal areas of interest which will benefit both parties.
Avoid Hostels that Don’t Make All the Terms and Conditions Clear in Advance
Just like walk-in and verbal agreements, there are certain clauses in written agreement that you should be aware of. The hostel may not clarify its terms and conditions in advance when coming to an agreement. Always check out for clauses of ‘depending on conditions’, ‘as long as possible’, ‘subject of availability’, etc., before you sign that document. Also make sure that they are not asking for some deposit money, and if they are then confirm the reason for which they are doing that.
Check Previous Volunteers’ Experiences
Today, it is easy to connect with the traveller who volunteered with a certain place in the past. Most travellers have their own blogs and it is easy to find them by using the exact keywords. If the hostels is genuine, they’ll have testimonials from past volunteers and won’t hesitate to provide contacts / social media handles of their past volunteers.
Volunteering at hostels is an experience worth your time, just make sure that you make your decision carefully and not end up at a wrong place. Volunteer travel can return with a bang in 2022 and it will be the best time to become a part of this exclusive group.